Lazy makeup lovers, pay attention, because single eyeshadows might be the secret to the easiest yet most put-together makeup looks possible. If you usually go all-out, consider this article your chance to pare down.
You can speed up your makeup routine significantly, all with the help of an eyeshadow single that works all over the eye. The best single eyeshadows can make it look as though you spent ages perfecting your makeup, when in reality it only took a couple of minutes at most.
I’ll help you choose the best single eyeshadow color on the market based on your skin tone and eye color! I’ve included a breakdown of the different types of single eyeshadow formulas, and I’ve also listed some of the looks you can create with an eyeshadow single.
I end with a comprehensive, step-by-step guide on how to actually apply single eyeshadows, so you can start rocking easy-breezy eye makeup as soon as possible!
Your Guide to Eyeshadow Singles: Contents
• 17 Best Single Eyeshadows to Get
• Choosing the Right Single Eyeshadows for Your Skin Tone
• Choosing the Right Single Eyeshadows for Your Eye Color
• Single Eyeshadow Formulas
• Inspiring Eyeshadow Single Makeup Looks
• How to Use Single Eyeshadows
I’m starting this article off with the 17 best eyeshadow singles you can get right now, in a variety of unique shades to suit every style, occasion, and complexion.
1. Anastasia Beverly Hills Eye Shadow Single in Noir
We’re starting with a bang, and what’s more banging than a true smoky eye, using the blackest of blacks? This is one of the best eyeshadow singles in deep black, for that intense single eyeshadow look that we gotta admit is not as low-maintenance as what’s to follow.
This particular eyeshadow single is well-pigmented and long-wearing. In addition to rocking it in a smoky eye, you can also apply it as an eyeliner with the help of a damp angle brush. Buy it from Sephora!
2. Urban Decay Eyeshadow in Lounge
It’s difficult to pick the best eyeshadow singles from UD, because there are so many gorgeous options with perfect blendability and exquisite finishes. We settled on Lounge because of its unique duo-chrome effect, which guarantees a fascinating makeup look with a quick swipe of the brush. Depending on how you look at the shadow, it is either a deep brown-red with a green shift or a shimmery green with a brown-red shift. It is available at Sephora.
3. MAC Cosmetics Eyeshadow in Shroom
For that fresh, bright-eyed look, Shroom is probably one of the best single eyeshadows. It works beautifully as a subtle, multi-purpose highlight in the inner corner and under the brow, but it’s also not so bright to look awkward all over the lid. It has the kind of opacity and pigmentation that dreams are made of. Find it at Nordstrom!
4. Make Up For Ever Artist Color Eye Shadow in M748 Coral
Living Coral is the Pantone Color of the Year for 2019, so an eyeshadow single that matches this gorgeous shade is a must-have. This matte shade gives that perfect pop of color for the lid, and can also be used in the inner corner for a pop-art look. It’s heavily pigmented and soft, and while it is quite warm it has enough pink in it to work for those with cool undertones to their skin. Pick it up from Sephora!
5. Stila Shimmer & Glow Liquid Eye Shadow in Jezebel
Chances are no makeup product is as easy to apply as these liquid shadows from Stila, which manage to stay on all day without creasing. While every single one of these hyper-shimmery shades could be used on its own, Jezebel is our favorite for its delightful rose gold hue, which suits both light and dark skin, and gives a flattering shimmer that is just dark enough to work even in the crease. You can buy it from Sephora.
6. Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Cream Shadow Stick in Golden Bronze
Eyeshadow sticks are another creamy eyeshadow single option that is perfect for busy folks who like to do their makeup on the go. The Golden Bronze shade from Bobbi Brown is an excellent choice for a one-shadow look, as it is versatile and rich.
Those with lighter skin can blend it out sheerly for a shimmery and sophisticated look that is dark enough for the crease, while on darker skin it is a perfect golden shade that looks extremely glamorous. It is easy to apply and blend, and it sets quickly and stays put for a while. Order it from Nordstrom!
7. Kat Von D Metal Crush Eyeshadow in Thrasher
A smoky, metallic gold is a perfect shade for a sultry makeup look using single eyeshadows for all eye colors but especially those with gold-flecked brown eyes. This particular shadow from KVD is pigmented yet super-blendable, and can be used on its own to create quite a few different looks. Find it at Sephora!
8. NARS Hardwired Single Eyeshadow in Stud
The best single eyeshadows for those with cool skin tones usually lean towards cool as well, but that doesn’t mean blue or purple. Stud is a cool pewter tone with an intense metallic finish – it’d look extra intense if you apply it damp.
On lighter skin, it has a slightly smoky effect, on medium skin, it is a perfect balanced shade, and on darker skin, it is almost a highlight. The shadow is as creamy and soft as powder shadows can get, with incredible pigmentation. Pick it up from Sephora!
9. Christian Louboutin Beauty Matte Nude Eye Color in Mariza
Talk about drama! These liquid single eyeshadows come in the most astounding container, made to resemble a Louboutin heel. We felt that with a container like this, it’s best to keep things sophisticated, so we’re recommending Mariza – a taupey-rose nude eyeshadow that could work all over the lid or just in the crease. For darker skin tones, it will work beautifully as a medium shade, and it is also perfect to bring out green eyes. Order it online from Net-a-Porter!
10. Giorgio Armani Beauty Eye Tint Liquid Eyeshadow in Cold Copper
The metallic formula of the Armani Eye Tints is luxurious and creamy, but once it sets it does not budge. The shades themselves are opaque but they can get blended down to a sheerer finish.
Cold Copper is our favorite for single eyeshadow looks, since it is warm but not overly so and reflective without being too bright. Apply it sheerly to your lid and slightly thicker in the crease, and feel glamorous no matter your eye color or skin tone. Find it at Sephora!
11. Tarte Chrome Paint Shadow Pot in Steel the Show
For wild nights-out, this cool metallic gray is perfect. It’ll give the eye a smoldering look, especially when applied in a smoky style, but its reflective finish gives a festive brightness. The formula itself sits somewhere between a cream and a powder, and applies to full opacity with ease. It can be purchased from Sephora.
12. NYX Prismatic Eyeshadow in Fireball
If you’d like your single eyeshadows to warm you up a bit, Fireball from NYX is a phenomenal choice. This super-shimmery shade is oh-so-fun to use, with a gorgeous orange-copper tone that works for everyone but makes blue eyes simply pop. You can use it to mimic that Katy Perry copper eyeshadow look! Pop into Ulta to pick it up!
13. Laura Mercier Matte Eye Color in Fresco
Neutral browns are must-have in any makeup lover’s arsenal. For those with darker skin, an eyeshadow single like Fresco will work to brighten up the eyelid, and it gives a very modern matte effect. Those with fair skin can use it to deepen the crease, and it can even double as a brow color or contour shade! This shade is pigmented, but not overly so, so it is easy to blend, and the texture is soft and luxurious. Buy it from Neiman Marcus!
14. Marc Jacobs Beauty O!mega Gel Powder Eyeshadow in O!Yeah
This warm plummy shade might seem dark in the pan, but on the eyes, it glitters and shines with an insanely pigmented metallic finish. On darker skin, it looks bright and silvery, while on lighter skin, it smolders. This eyeshadow single is the perfect complement to green and brown eyes, and since it is so wearable the added bonus is that it comes in an extra-large pan. You can get it at Sephora.
15. Hourglass Scattered Light Glitter Eye Shadow in Foil
Gold eyeshadow has a warm place in our heart. It’s bright and fun in daytime while for the evening it is ultra-glam. It can double as highlighter for those with warm undertones, and it really does seem to suit everyone. It is available at Sephora.
16. Lancôme Monochromatic Eyeshadow in Haute Couture
Sometimes you don’t want a blast of heavy pigmentation, just something subtle and quick for all over. That’s what makes these monochromatic shadows the best eyeshadow singles for some folks. They have a cream to powder formula that works beautifully on eyes, lips, and cheeks to give a monochromatic makeup look that can be created in seconds.
Our favorite shade for an all-over look is Haute Couture, a warm yet muted red jewel tone that would look astounding on anyone with medium to dark skin or green eyes. We also love Eclat as a double for highlighter, and French Affair for peach lovers. It can be purchased at Nordstrom.
17. Givenchy Ombre Couture Cream Eyeshadow in Rose Illusion
A soft rose pink can give that perfect soft touch, especially on those days when you feel particularly feminine and airy, so you simply do not want to overdo your makeup. This eyeshadow single is a neutral pink shade that leans towards slightly cool, which is a perfect all-over shade for those with fair skin who find peaches and rose golds run too warm on them.
For those with darker skin, this shade is a lovely choice for brightening up the lid. The formula itself is creamy with buildable coverage, and it doesn’t crease. Find it at Sephora!
If you’re only going to wear one eyeshadow, the color had better be right. That’s not to say there is only one or two eyeshadows you can wear based on your skin tone, but it just means you should be aware of what kind of effect different colors will have.
For the most part, if your skin is extremely clear or if you are wearing a full face of foundation, then you will find that undertones matter less and that you can get away with eyeshadow colors that would otherwise clash with your skin.
Additionally, no matter your skin tone, very deeply saturated colors (think fire-engine red or banana yellow) tend to be so unique and intense that the skin tone matters less than the skin condition. Instead, I’ll be focusing on how to choose more wearable/ traditional single eyeshadow shades.
There are three kinds of shades you can choose for your single eyeshadow looks: lighter shades to apply only on the lid to brighten up the eye area and add luminosity, medium shades to even out the lid and to add a hint of color or shimmer, and darker shades that will have a smoky effect when applied to your eyes.
A shade that might be very brightening on anyone with darker skin can look medium-toned or even dark on someone with lighter skin.
Best Eyeshadow Singles for Cool Undertones
If you have cool undertones to your skin, meaning that your skin pulls more towards pink than towards yellow with veins that appear blue or purple, then the best single eyeshadows for you will also lean a little towards cool. The obvious shades are lavenders, pinks, mauves and purples, but it also applies to browns or taupes that lean a little towards purple or gray, and metallic silvers, gunmetal, and pewter.
Greens tend to bring out redness and pinkiness in the skin, so they are better avoided, while coppers and rose golds will work well as long as you keep things monochromatic with a similarly warm blush.
Lighter shades that will brighten up your eye area include beiges, creams, and very pale or shimmery pinks, although even champagnes are neutral enough to work.
Best Eyeshadow Singles for Warm Undertones
On the other hand, if you have warm skin with yellow undertones and veins that appear slightly green, then best eyeshadow singles for you would lean towards warm. This includes all manner of rose golds, golds, coppers, and bronzes, especially if you like metallic tones.
Neutral and yellow/ orange-leaning browns are always a safe choice if you like to keep things simple. For smokier looks, it’s better to choose a brownish-gray or gunmetal tone and to avoid grays that lean towards blue.
When it comes to brighter shades to highlight or open up the eye, neutrals like beige or champagne are perfectly lovely, but you can also go for warmer pale shades like light gold.
Overly cool purple or blue single eyeshadows can contrast against your skin in a way that brings out the yellow and makes you appear sallow, while warm purples like mauve or magenta can work well.
Best Eyeshadow Singles for Neutral Undertones
Those with neutral skin tones that have veins that appear blue, and skin that seems more beige with equal amounts of yellow and red tones (or perhaps none at all) can happily live in the middle and play around with all kinds of single eyeshadows.
Best Eyeshadow Singles for Olive Undertones
Lastly there are those with olive skin tone, which refers to those who have a greenish tint to their skin with veins that appear very green. Olive skin can lean towards both cool and warm, but generally doesn’t have any issues with redness in the skin. It’s literally the opposite situation, since green sits opposite of red on the color wheel.
Because of this it’s important for those with olive skin to be careful with red, pink, and even purple eyeshadows, as they can make the skin appear overly green and sickly. Green and earth tones, on the other hand, can have a fabulous effect.
The days of yore when fashion magazines recommended that women wear eyeshadows that sit opposite on the color wheel from their eyes are mostly gone. These days we obsess over metallics and neutrals, and play around with the full color palette.
I’m of the opinion that your skin tone should have a bigger impact on the eyeshadow colors you choose, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t take inspiration from the color of your eyes.
One thing that always applies, no matter your actual eye color, is the following: purple, copper, or mauve eyeshadows can have a really striking effect, but they’re not a great choice after a sleepless night, as they can emphasize any redness in the eyes and lead to a sickly look. Save these shades for when you’re well-rested and bright-eyed, and maybe keep some eye drops in your bag for later on in the day.
Best Single Eyeshadow Colors for Brown Eyes
I think it’s the most fun to start by talking about the best eyeshadow singles for those with brown eyes, since the truth is that almost everything goes! As a blue-eyed gal, I was always a little jealous of the versatility of brown eyes.
Brown is a truly neutral color composed of an equal blend of the three primary colors, which is why it doesn’t show up in the color wheel. Dark brown eyes are particularly neutral, appearing almost black, while lighter brown eyes can appear a little greenish (hazel) or golden.
If you want to bring out particular tones in your eyes, choose an eyeshadow single that sits opposite the tone you would like to enhance on the color wheel. To enhance golden-yellow tones, opt for blues, while to enhance green tones opt for purples or mauves.
Alternatively, just have fun and play around with all the colors, and have particular fun with different finishes like mattes, metallics, and shimmers.
Best Single Eyeshadow Colors for Green Eyes
If we’re playing by the old beauty rules, then the best single eyeshadows for enhancing your green eyes would be shades of purple, red, and mauve. This is because these are the tones most complementary to green, meaning they tend to strengthen the greenness of the eyes.
Additionally, neutrals that lean just a little towards red or purple, like red-based browns and mauvey taupes will also have the same effect. With all of this being said, there is nothing wrong with wearing single eyeshadows that won’t be exactly complementary to your eye color, as that in and of itself can have a smoldering effect.
Play around with other colors, with coppers and earthy greens being particularly interesting.
Best Single Eyeshadow Colors for Blue Eyes
With blue eyes, the effects of complementary colors are most evident. Few looks are as striking as blue eyes surrounded by an orangey copper eyeshadow. Other colors that tend to pair particularly well with blue eyes include rose gold and peach.
Cool tones with a touch of red, like pink or mauve, are a little softer next to blue eyes but they still emphasize blue tones. Neutrals like bronze, brown, and taupe are always a good choice, of course. Lastly, there is something kind of special about a woman with blue eyes who is not afraid to wear blue eyeshadow.
Single eyeshadows come in all kinds of formula, and it is important that you choose the one that is right for you based on your makeup techniques and daily requirements.
Powder Single Eyeshadows
The first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of an eyeshadow single is a little bit of powder pressed into a compact. These shadows are the most common, and for a good reason. Their formulas are fairly simple and they are easy to create and blend. They are best applied with a makeup brush.
The only downside to powder single eyeshadows is that they do require something below them, like an eye primer, concealer, or cream eyeshadow. If they’re not applied over something that they can hold on to, they end up harder to blend, appear less pigmented and crease more quickly.
Cream Single Eyeshadows
This is referring to eyeshadow formulas that have a cream texture. They are thicker than a liquid eyeshadow, feeling a little bit waxy. They come pressed into jars or compacts, or in the form of a stick, which is the most convenient option for most.
Cream single eyeshadows are best applied with a finger or a synthetic brush. While the cream single eyeshadows on our list don’t tend to crease or budge, this is not true for all cream shadow formulas, which do tend to be a little more difficult to keep in place.
Using a cream eyeshadow for your one-shadow look is by far the quickest and easiest route, as it means you won’t need a primer, since the cream eyeshadow already sticks to the eye – if you choose one of the best eyeshadow singles, it’ll do so at full opacity and without fading or creasing.
Liquid Single Eyeshadows
Liquid eyeshadows are runnier than creams, but they actually tend to have a much more intense formula. Because they are so runny, they mattify quickly, which is good for quick single-eyeshadow looks that don’t require much blending, but can be an issue if you like to work slowly and take your time blending.
These formulas are super-easy for some, while others find them too fussy – it really depends on your application style. Like a lip stain, they tend to wear well for a long long time without creasing. They usually come in a tube with a built-in applicator, and you can use a finger or a brush to blend out the edges.
There are a lot of different eye makeup looks that you can create with your single eyeshadows. I list them all, to give you some inspiration the next time you want to keep things simple yet interesting.
Bright-Eyed Single-Shadow Look
With an eyeshadow single you can brighten up your eyes and simply feel fresher, more awake, and ready to face the day. It’s an easy and quick way of feeling a bit more “done” before going out in the daytime, and it’s a perfect work or school eye makeup look.
Choose an eyeshadow single that is a little lighter than your skin tone, or perhaps one that matches your skin tone but also has a metallic finish that gives shine. Concentrate the color on your lid, inner corner, and just below the brow, but keep your actual crease bare.
Light colors are easiest to apply and blend, so this is also by far the quickest way of rocking single eyeshadows. Some lighter eyeshadow singles can also double as your highlighter!
Deceptive Single-Eyeshadow Look
This is one of the most interesting ways of applying single eyeshadows, since it results in an eye makeup look that looks more complex than it really is – that’s why I’m calling it deceptive. It is a technique that is flattering to all eye shapes, and mimics the way eyeshadow is traditionally applied: lighter on the lid, and darker in the crease.
This technique requires a medium-toned eyeshadow single that is just a hint darker than your skin tone, and can have any kind of finish from matte to metallic. Apply the shadow so that it is more blended and sheerer on your lid, and then pack it on a little darker in the crease – the one eyeshadow will end up looking like two different shades!
Sultry One-Eyeshadow Look
This eyeshadow single makeup look makes it seem as though you’ve put in a lot more work than you did, and gives a gorgeous sultry effect to the eye. It’s a little bit like a smoky eye, but softer and easier to create since you’re only using one shade that doesn’t have to be all that dark.
For the easiest version of this makeup look, pick an eyeshadow single that is a little bit darker than your skin tone. Taupes, siennas, coppers, and grays all work beautifully on light and medium skin tones, while a chocolate brown or black single eyeshadow could work well with darker skin. If you’re feeling festive, opt for a darker metallic.
The key elements of this look are to keep the color as dark as possible on the lid, and to blend it and sheer it out towards the crease. It’s also important to use the same shadow as you would a liner all around the eyes, for that extra smoldering touch.
This is also a super-flattering technique for those who have a lid that sticks out rather than being hollow or concave.
Pop of Color Eyeshadow Look
If you’re feeling a little festive or adventurous, try a colorful look! Generally, this look is most exciting and interesting with matte shades, but it can also work with other finishes.
Look for a bright tone, like orange, pink, lavender, yellow, baby blue, or green – pastels tend to work especially well. The trick here is to apply your color of choice very evenly and cleanly all over the lid, and if you like, you can also blend it into the crease.
Recently, a pop of color in the inner corner instead is also becoming fashionable. This is an easy fashion look that attracts attention and stays away from traditional makeup tropes.
• If you’ve already applied your face makeup, lay down a layer of translucent powder under your eyes to help you catch an eyeshadow fallout. Alternatively, do your eye makeup before doing your face makeup, especially if you’re opting for a darker eyeshadow single.
• Starting with bare eyes, apply a thin swipe of eyelid primer, especially if you are going to be using a powder eyeshadow. You can apply the primer with the help of a concealer brush or just using your ring finger.
• Apply the primer from your lash line all the way up to just below your brow, and blend it out to avoid any creasing, especially if you’re using a cream primer.
• Next, dip a flat eyeshadow brush into your single eyeshadow of choice. If you’re using a cream eyeshadow, you can simply use your finger, while a stick eyeshadow or liquid eyeshadow can both be applied directly from the container.
• Tap any excess shadow off of the brush to ensure that you get an even wash of the color over your lid, without any fallout.
• Once that’s done, begin applying the shadow to your eyelid by gently tapping it into your eye. You want to avoid using a dragging or “brushing” motion, as that will lead to a streaky-looking application.
• If you’re using a cream or liquid eyeshadow, use your finger or a sponge to blend the surface of the eyeshadow lightly in order to ensure it’s even and not creasing.
• Next, apply the eyeshadow single to your crease with a rounded shadow brush. First tap the product in at the outer corner of your crease, and then drag out into the center of the eye.
• Lastly, with a clean blending brush, blend out the edges of the shadow. Use small circular motions, and wipe off the brush consistently to avoid a muddy look.
• For a smokier effect, also use the same shade under the lash line and in the inner corner of the eye. Apply it with a thin angle brush.
• If you’ve applied a powder guard below your eyes, swipe it away with a large, fluffy brush.
• Admire yourself in a mirror, and appreciate how quickly you can make yourself look gorgeous with just a single eyeshadow!
Photos via @thesaraengel, @atlantip, @janicejoostemaa, @beautybekky, @byglamjoy