What is contour makeup? (2023)

To contour or not to contour – that might be your question, especially if you've watched enough makeup tutorials on the subject or wonder how some people achieve such a sculpted look with added dimension.

Contour makeup is not necessarily a thing, but rather a process. The RMS Beauty team of makeup artists developed this guide to introduce you to contouring, help you understand the basics, and give you some tips on how to do it right.

What is the contour?

Contouring is a makeup application technique that makeup artists have used for decades, but has recently become very popular thanks to social media and tutorials that have helped people learn how to do it themselves.

The contour uses different colors of facial makeup products to create shadows and highlights on the skin and give the illusion of a different bone structure.

Contouring can be done with two different methods:

1. Complete the facial contour or “mapping”. This method is mainly used by professionals or by people who are doing their makeup for a special event or photo shoot. This type of contouring requires a high level of skill and involves applying contour colors to different areas of the entire face and blending them together to create added dimension.


2. Partial contouring. Partial contouring is a method of contouring only one or two features on the face. This is useful if you want to create the look of high cheekbones or a long face.

    For beginners, it's best to start with a partial outline. Learning to fully contour your face takes time and practice.

    What tools do you need to get around?

    You'll need a few different shades of your favorite concealer or foundation to achieve a nice contour look. Contouring requires a light and dark shade of face makeup that you can easily work with, build up, and blend. You'll also need a variety of brushes to apply and blend effortlessly.

    light colored outline

    For clear contours, we likeCorrector RMS Beauty UnCoverup. This not only blends very easily but is also incredibly buildable. This concealer is packed with skin-nourishing oils likejojobaand coconut, which helps it melt into the skin for even easier blending. For a perfect contour, choose a shade slightly lighter than your natural skin color.

    dark outline color

    Your dark contour makeup shade should be half a shade to a full shade darker than your normal face makeup shade. We recommend a partial shade for beginners because it is more forgiving and allows you to build if necessary.

    Crema base UnCoverup de RMS Beautyit's buildable and doesn't sit on the skin's surface, creating a natural look that blends easily and doesn't create weird, noticeable stretch marks. Our foundation is formulated withiron oxidesthat give you a luminous color that looks natural and keeps your skin safe.

    (Video) How To Contour & Highlight For Beginners | Roxette Arisa


    Some tutorials may suggest a whole wardrobe of brushes to properly contour your face, but you only need three, especially when you're just starting to learn how to contour.

    • Foundation brush. Oneangled foundation brushit is your choice for most contouring tasks. It works to press makeup into the skin to help blend it without leaving the contour area.

    Avoid using blush brushes, which may be too light and fluffy for blending a cream or liquid product.

    • Precision brush. TOsmall brushIt is perfect for creating highlights around the lips and under the browbone. It's also pretty much the only way to fully contour the edges of your nose.

    You may want two styles of precision brushes, one with a rounded tip and one with a flat or angled tip, for a fine, precise contour line under the brows.

    • Beauty sponge. one of our favoritesmixing toolsIt's the beauty sponge. The sponge makes blending your makeup easy and also works when wet to help move the product around if you get it in the wrong spot.

    Avoid using kabuki brushes, which are too large and will end up blending your contour makeup too much. Unlike with foundation, you don't want to blend certain contour colors too far from where you originally applied them, or you'll lose the look you're trying to achieve.

    What are the basics of contouring?

    You can easily contour your face with the right tools and a little patience. It's best to practice at home when you're not preparing for the day or an important event until you get it right.

    Grab your tools and let's get started!

    (Video) How to Contour the Mature Face | Contouring & Highlighting Tutorial

    1. Before you start

    Start with freshly cleansed and hydrated skin. It's also a great idea to use a primer to help create a smooth, even skin tone to work with and give your makeup something to set.ReEvolve Radiance Locking Primer de RMS BeautyIt's the MVP, which helps keep skin hydrated, keeps makeup in place, and boosts skin's radiance.

    You'll also want to apply your foundation and concealer before you start contouring. It's best to use a little less than you normally would because your contour makeup will add extra coverage. Use enough to even out skin tone and cover obvious blemishes.

    2. Use your dark contour shadow first

    It is important to move in the correct order. Create shadows first and come back with your lighter shade to create highlights later.

    You can add shadow to various places:

    • Your cheeks: Apply in the hollows of your cheeks, under your cheekbones.
    • Your nose: The dark outline goes on either side of the bridge of the nose and along the edges of the nostrils.
    • Your chin: You can contour it in two ways; slightly above the jawline to lengthen and slim the face or directly below the jawline to create a more sculpted jawline and chin.

    Using your beauty sponge or foundation brush, blend the edges of your contour color into your skin to create subtle shadows in those areas.

    3. Create highlights with your lightest shade

    Once you've blended your darkest contour shade and created your desired shadows, it's time to highlight the areas where we want to draw the most attention for a fully dimensional look. You will apply your lighter shade to areas where light would naturally reflect off your skin.


    Pro tip: Don't be nervous if your makeup looks too dark before you go with your lightest shade. The lighter shade will create highlights and tie the look together.

    • Forehead: apply the lightest shade to the center of the forehead and blend down between the brows.
    • Nose: Use the lightest shade on the tip of the nose and slightly blend the edges to create a longer nose.
    • Eyes: You can use the lighter shade in the eye area, but avoid getting too much of the lighter shade under the eyes, which can make you look like a raccoon. Instead, focus on putting a little in the corner of each eye.
    • Brows: Using the precision brush, draw a thin, precise line of your lightest color directly below the brow bone and extend to the edge, blending slightly downward but not over the lid.
    • Cupid's Bow: Add a dot of your lightest color just above the Cupid's bow and blend to create a more defined, natural lip.

    It's important to wear a color that's not too light, as it can make you look washed out. Also, avoid using a red or green concealer, which will not work to contour your skin.

    tips and tricks

    Be patient and give yourself time to get it right.

    • Avoid method "3". Doing number 3 when applying contour makeup to the temples, cheekbones, and jawline often results in a weird, wavy line of dark makeup that's hard to blend and doesn't create real contour.
    • For a lighter contour, you can use a highlighter or highlighter instead of a lighter contour makeup shade. You can also use a touch of highlighter or highlighter on top of the lighter shade to add extra lightness and shine.

    If you don't get it right the first time, try again. Start with one or two areas to work on and add more as you better understand the method.

    Create the look you love

    Contouring is a solution to sculpt the cheekbones and enhance the natural bone structure. It can be used to create completely different looks with a little practice. RMS Beauty makes contouring easy, giving you the makeup tools and colors that aresafe for your skinand blend easily to create beautiful, believable looks.


    (Video) Common Contour Do's and Don'ts

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    What is considered contour makeup? ›

    Contouring is a beauty trend that has elevated makeup to a whole other level—and for the better. This makeup technique involves using dark and light colors to enhance or slim down the appearance of certain facial features. And it has become a go-to for makeup artists and everyday women alike.

    What is the purpose of contour makeup? ›

    Contour is used to sculpt and add dimension to the face. It's typically applied under the cheekbones to carve out their appearance and on the nose to create a slimmer profile. It can also be used on the forehead to make it look smaller and on the jawline to define its shape.

    What is contour in cosmetology? ›

    Contouring your features involves using light and dark foundation shades to highlight, slim-down or deepen certain features that otherwise won't pop on their own. Previously only used as a stage makeup technique, makeup artist contouring was popularised, and now can be used in your daily beauty routine to look great.

    What contour should look like? ›

    A good rule of thumb is that your contour shade should be about two shades darker than your natural skin tone. Be sure this shade also suits your skin's undertone.

    Is contour just dark concealer? ›

    3. CONTOURING: A concealer 2–3 shades darker than your natural skin tone.

    Is contour a foundation or concealer? ›

    Contouring makeup is usually applied after foundation and concealer. Cream, liquid, and stick contours can be applied directly on top of foundation and then blended out for a seamless finish.

    Is contour the same as foundation? ›

    Foundation covers all the imperfections like acne, pigmentation, redness, dark spots etc. giving the face an even tone. A contour stick gives you amazing cheekbones, jawline and hairline, pointed nose by darkening the areas of the face where a shadow would naturally fall.

    Is bronzer and contour the same thing? ›

    The difference between bronzer and contour is that bronzer is intended to bring a sense of warmth and glowiness to your skin—think golden beauty just back from a balmy seaside vacation—while contour is intended to create subtle or dramatic sculpted dimension.

    Do you use foundation as contour? ›

    When contouring, you can use foundation, cream based or powder products. You can even use a combination of the three, it is all up to you. You want to make sure you have a concealer one to two shades lighter than your skin tone and also another concealer (foundation, powder...)

    Which contour is best for beginners? ›

    Powder Contour

    What is this? For beginners who have just started exploring different makeup products, powder contour is the perfect one to use. Unlike cream and liquid contours, the pigment isn't as harsh, so it's buildable, lightweight, and easier to blend.

    Where do you apply contour makeup? ›

    1. Apply your sculpting shade to the hollows of your cheeks, the temples, the jaw line, sides and tip of your nose. Never forget to blend, blend, blend!
    2. Apply the Highlighting shade on top of the cheekbones, down the centre of the nose, the lip's cupid bow and your brow bone for candle-lit skin!

    How do you explain what contour is? ›

    A contour line is a line drawn on a topographic map to indicate ground elevation or depression. A contour interval is the vertical distance or difference in elevation between contour lines. Index contours are bold or thicker lines that appear at every fifth contour line.

    What are the 5 types of contour? ›

    There are several different types of contour line drawings:
    • Blind Contour. 'Blind contour drawing' is when contour drawing is done without looking at the paper AT ALL. ...
    • Continuous Line Contour. ...
    • Modified Contour. ...
    • cross-contour. ...

    What are the three types of contour? ›

    There are 3 kinds of contour lines you'll see on a map: intermediate, index, and supplementary.

    What are the essentials for contour? ›

    What do you need to contour your face?
    • Contour Makeup Brush.
    • Flat Contour Makeup Brush.
    • Cream Contour Palette.
    • Blending Sponge.
    • Oval Makeup Brush.
    Mar 7, 2018

    What shade to get for contouring? ›

    When contouring, we want to choose shades that imitate the realistic shadows of your face. Select a contour shade 2-3 shades darker to sculpt your features with a similar undertone as your skin. The easiest way to find out whether it is cool, warm, or neutral, is to look at your wrist veins under natural light.

    How many shades do you need to contour? ›

    "For simple contouring, you only need one shade; but for more elaborate sculpting, you need two: A deeper shade to define the lines of the bone structure that you're creating, and a lighter shade to create the shadow," makeup artist Benjamin Puckey tells Allure.

    How many shades darker than foundation should contour be? ›

    Your foundation is a great place to start when beginning your contouring journey. “Think the same tone family as your foundation, but one to two shades darker than your skin; that's about as dark as you should go.

    Should Contour be lighter or darker than your foundation? ›

    The best bet is to choose a contour shade a bit darker than your foundation, and a shade that is similar to how you think shadow on your face would appear.

    Can eyeshadow be a contour? ›

    What Do You Need to Contour? You don't need a special contour kit to achieve this: You can use two shades of concealer or foundation, or bronzer, highlighter, or even eyeshadow or brow powder to contour!

    Does everyone need contour makeup? ›

    Not everyone needs contour, and not everyone needs every part of their face or features contoured. Some people just need the cheeks and not everything else. Not everyone needs the layering of the cream and the powders. It's about editing.

    How do you contour without ruining your foundation? ›

    Apply a Cream Contour Before Applying Foundation

    Blend it into the skin and then apply a light layer of foundation over the top. This will help to soften the colour, give a more seamless finish and ensure that the colour better suits your skintone, removing any overly warm or overly cool tones.

    Do you apply blush after contouring? ›

    Start by contouring with bronzer as your base, paying attention to the hollows of your cheeks, jawline, and hairline. Then flush your cheekbones with blush just above the bronzer to finish.

    What goes on first foundation or concealer? ›

    Applying foundation first creates an even base to reduce overall redness, discoloration and minor blemishes. If you apply your concealer first, you may end up wiping some off when you apply foundation or using a lot more product than necessary, which can create a heavy, cakey look.

    Should I buy bronzer or contour? ›

    The key difference between bronzer and contour makeup is when you would use each of them based on your desired effect. If you want to boost the warmth and radiance of your skin, you'll opt for a bronzer. Contouring is for when you want to sculpt and define your facial features.

    Do I need to contour my face? ›

    The answer is… it's completely up to you. If you don't like what you see then #contour it. If you're not that bothered, then don't do either. Basically, highlighting accentuates features and contouring recedes features.

    What are the steps in makeup? ›

    1. Step 1: Moisturizer. Before you begin applying your makeup, take the time to prep your skin with a high-quality moisturizer. ...
    2. Step 2: Primer. ...
    3. Step 3: Liquid Foundation. ...
    4. Step 4: Concealer. ...
    5. Step 5: Foundation Powder. ...
    6. Step 6: Bronzer. ...
    7. Step 7: Blush. ...
    8. Step 8: Highlighter.

    Do you use powder or cream to contour? ›

    For a grown-up contour, it is best to use cream products over powder. They make it easier to achieve a natural look and are easy to blend and buff with either a brush or your fingertips. They won't settle in lines or cling to dry patches either, rather working in synergy with your base to create a dewy finish.

    What are the 7 rules of contouring? ›

    • All points on a contour line have the same elevation.
    • Contour lines usually do not cross, intersect, or separate.
    • Closely spaced contour lines represent steep slopes.
    • Widely spaced contour lines represent gentle slopes.
    • Contour lines form V's when crossing a valley.

    What is the simplest contour? ›

    Powder contour is the simplest contour to use for beginners, but liquid and cream products are excellent once you've gotten the hang of things.

    Is it easier to contour with liquid or powder? ›

    Powder contour is easier to blend and it's best for oily skin as it keeps it matte. Powder contour can also be combined with your cream product to create an even more dramatic, long lasting effect. When it comes to contouring your face, it's best to start with a solid foundation, yes literally.

    How to contour step by step? ›

    How To Contour: 5 Steps To Perfecting Contouring
    1. Create a Base. After you apply your foundation and concealer, brush on a light layer of translucent powder to your face to create a clean base so the contour can go on smoothly.
    2. Choose the Right Product and Brush. ...
    3. Map Out Your Face. ...
    4. Build Then Buff. ...
    5. Highlight.
    Sep 20, 2017

    Do you contour before or after setting powder? ›

    If you're using pressed powder, it should go on before contouring. A light layer of translucent powder on top of your contouring will help to blend and set it.

    What are contour lines in one sentence? ›

    contour line, a line on a map representing an imaginary line on the land surface, all points of which are at the same elevation above a datum plane, usually mean sea level.

    What are contour lines examples? ›

    In cartography, a contour line (often just called a "contour") joins points of equal elevation (height) above a given level, such as mean sea level. A contour map is a map illustrated with contour lines, for example a topographic map, which thus shows valleys and hills, and the steepness or gentleness of slopes.

    What are 3 qualities of contour line? ›

    Characteristics of Contours
    • Must close on themselves, on or off the map.
    • Perpendicular to the direction of max. ...
    • Slope between them is assumed uniform.
    • The distance between them indicates the steepness of the slope, gentle or steep.
    • Irregular signify rough, smooth signify gradual slopes.

    How many types of makeup contouring are there? ›

    9 Different Makeup Contouring Techniques.

    What not to do with contour? ›

    15 Contour Mistakes To Avoid
    1. Use a Clean Sponge or Brush. This mistake is an easy fix even when you're making it. ...
    2. You're Choosing Shades That Are Too Dark. ...
    3. You're Over Highlighting. ...
    4. You're Not Applying Formula To the Right Areas.
    May 2, 2022

    What is best to blend contour? ›

    Use a wet Beautyblender or dense angled brush to blend out your look. If you're using the punchy pink sponge, tap it over your makeup in circular motions to melt it into your foundation. If you're using a brush, sweep it back and forth until your look is even.

    What is the best concealer to use as contour? ›

    Our best overall pick is Nars Radiant Creamy Concealer, which is available in 30 shades. The beloved award-winning formula covers, corrects, conceals, and contours while diffusing light and leaving a soft, natural finish that lasts up to 16 hours.

    Should contour be darker than skin? ›

    When it comes to contouring, you can sculpt your face with a product meant specifically for contouring, or you can use concealer. Regardless of what type of makeup product you choose to contour with, you should really only go one or two shades darker than your skin tone—otherwise, the end result won't look natural.

    Can I just use a darker foundation to contour? ›

    Use a darker foundation (the one you most likely use in the summer months – two shades darker, ideally) and apply this colour to the hollow areas of your cheeks. It'll add definition without too much striping or streaking, so that you can add shadows that look super-natural.

    Are bronzer and contour the same thing? ›

    The difference between bronzer and contour is that bronzer is intended to bring a sense of warmth and glowiness to your skin—think golden beauty just back from a balmy seaside vacation—while contour is intended to create subtle or dramatic sculpted dimension.

    What is the rule of contour? ›

    Rule #1: Every point on a contour line is of the exact same elevation: that is, contour lines connect points of equal elevation. Rule #2: Interpolation is used to estimate the elevation of posts between contour lines. Rule #3: Extrapolation is used to determine the elevation of points past points of known elevation.

    What are the 5 rules of contour? ›

    General Rules for contour lines Page 2 Page 3 A contour line connects points of equal elevation. A contour line never branches or splits Page 5 Steep slopes are shown by closely spaced contour lines. Contour lines never cross, but they may touch. Hills are represented by a concentric series of closed contour lines.

    Can you use concealer as contour? ›

    Celebrity makeup artist Carolina Dalí says that using a concealer as a contour is a play of light and shadow to brighten and shape the features. "You can use a concealer several shades darker than your skin tone to create dimension and contour the face," celebrity makeup artist Tobi Henney adds.

    Can you use foundation as contour? ›

    When contouring, you can use foundation, cream based or powder products. You can even use a combination of the three, it is all up to you. You want to make sure you have a concealer one to two shades lighter than your skin tone and also another concealer (foundation, powder...)

    What parts do you contour? ›

    Typically contouring takes place on the lower points such as the hairline, jawline, and below the cheekbones, while highlighting sweeps across the higher points such as the brow bone, bridge of the nose, chin, and tops of the cheekbones.

    What shade is best for contouring? ›

    When contouring, we want to choose shades that imitate the realistic shadows of your face. Select a contour shade 2-3 shades darker to sculpt your features with a similar undertone as your skin. The easiest way to find out whether it is cool, warm, or neutral, is to look at your wrist veins under natural light.

    Is it better to contour with cream or powder? ›

    'A cream contour is better for someone with a normal to dry complexion and a powder contour is better for someone with a normal to oily complexion,' says Findlay. What's more, a cream contour stick will generally be easier to apply and blend, so is a good idea for any nervous newcomers.


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