Makeup » How to Apply Liquid Eyeshadow

How to Apply Liquid Eyeshadow

This post may contain affiliate links.

The liquid eyeshadows available in stores now are incredible – they stay in place all day without creasing, and they don’t require eye primer. We’ll explain everything you need to know about liquid eyeshadows: what they are and how they differ from other eyeshadows, how to use them in two different ways, and some tips and tricks so you can make the most of your liquid eyeshadow.

In this article:

What Are Liquid Eyeshadows?

Liquid eyeshadows have a texture that can be compared to lip gloss or foundation. They are more fluid than cream eyeshadows, but they’re still quite thick. Once applied they will dry down or self-set, at which point they will have a more velvety texture. Most liquid eyeshadows come packed in a tube with a doe-foot applicator attached to the lid, much like lip glosses.

They can come in all kinds of finishes, with matte, metallic, and glitter liquid eyeshadows being the most common on the market. Some formulas are sheerer, for a light wash of color that leads to a look that is very popular in K-beauty, while others are super pigmented so they are awesome for a dramatic makeup look. Many liquid eyeshadows can be worn over powder eyeshadows, while others work better as a base under them.

Each liquid eyeshadow formula is a little different. Some formulas are best blended with a finger, while others are easier to blend with a brush. Some set very quickly and tend to have incredible longevity as a result, while others can be played with for a little longer but will usually fade away quicker as well.

As a subcategory of liquid eyeshadows there are eye glosses, which deserve a quick mention. These are eyeshadow toppers that have a glossy, moist finish. They are especially popular with makeup artists who work behind the scenes on the fashion runways, since they lend a really unique, damp look to the eyelid.

However, for day-to-day wear eye glosses are not particularly convenient since they crease very quickly. To date it doesn’t seem like any brand has released an eye gloss formula that manages to stay looking fresh without any creasing for longer than an hour or two, and as a result the glossy eye look hasn’t caught on in the mainstream yet.

Liquid Eyeshadow vs. Powder Eyeshadow vs. Cream Eyeshadow

Liquid Eyeshadow Compared to the Other Formulas

When it comes to choosing a liquid eyeshadow, cream eyeshadow or powder eyeshadow, the thing that matters most is your application style and personal preference. You can make use of all three in a single makeup look or only use your favorites!

Some sources will suggest that some formulas are better for one skin type over another, but we actually don’t think that’s true. Application styles and personal preferences will have a lot more to do with whether you like cream, powder, or liquid eyeshadow better.

These days all of the different makeup formulas are highly researched and developed, so the products that make it to the market and keep selling are usually universal and diverse, with incredible longevity and a flattering finish. No matter your age or skin type you will probably find eyeshadows from each one of these formulas that will work for you.

Cream vs. Liquid Eyeshadow

As we’ve explained, liquid eyeshadows have a texture that is thinner than cream shadow, and they tend to be very diverse. Cream eyeshadows, on the other hand, have a thicker texture similar to a mousse or a balm. Some are thicker and more solid, while others are airier and fluffier.

They usually come in pots, jars, or compacts that rarely include an applicator. They can be applied with a brush or with a finger. Despite the thicker texture cream shadows usually take a little longer to set than liquid eyeshadows, so you can play around and blend them a little more if you need to.

These days both kinds of formulas have incredible longevity so they don’t crease or smudge. They tend to work better as primers for powder eyeshadow, while liquid eyeshadows are a little bit finickier and might be better for applying on top.

How to Apply Liquid Eyeshadow Like a Pro

Powder vs. Liquid Eyeshadow

Then we have powder eyeshadows, which are totally different from both cream and liquid eyeshadows. Most of us are very familiar with these eyeshadows, which are usually made of a mixture of mineral pigments and often a bit of talcum.

Powder eyeshadows can come in the form of loose pigment that can be extremely opaque but also a little messy to work with. They can also come in the form of pressed powders that vary when it comes to pigmentation but are also much more portable and cleaner to apply.

Unlike cream and liquid eyeshadows, powder eyeshadows should be applied on top of a primer or concealer otherwise they will be very difficult to blend and will have poor longevity. However, their benefit is that they are a little easier to work with when creating more complex, multicolor eyeshadow looks and because they are so common and mainstream it is possible to find a powder eyeshadow in almost every color in the visible spectrum.

How to Apply Liquid Eyeshadow Like a Pro

We’ll show you two ways of applying liquid eyeshadow – all on its own or combined with another eyeshadow formula, depending on the look you want to achieve.

Liquid Eyeshadow Uses & Tips

Simple Method

Liquid eyeshadow works beautifully all on its own. You can apply it like this if you just want a simple, one-shadow look, or if you want to use your liquid eyeshadow as a base for powder eyeshadow.

  • Make sure you’re starting out with clean eyes that are well moisturized. If you’re doing makeup in the daytime then a layer of SPF is also very important.
  • Smoothing on a thin layer of eye primer is optional, and you might prefer it for liquid eyeshadows heavy on the glitter. For matte or metallic liquid eyeshadows it won’t be necessary at all.
  • With the doe-foot applicator dot the liquid eyeshadow over your lid and then blend it with your finger with a fluffy brush.
  • If you are using a formula that sets quickly, it’s better to work on one eye at a time.
  • With some liquid shadows you should be able to use the doe-foot applicator to apply the shadow evenly all over the lid, so you will only have to blend the ends, while with others you might find that the applicator holds too much product and that it’s easier to apply to fingers or a flat synthetic brush first and then to pat on the eyelids.
  • Make sure that you end up with a thin, even layer of liquid eyeshadow over your eye.
  • Some liquid eyeshadows (for example, the Huda Beauty Double Ended Shadows) are actually easier to blend with a fluffy brush rather than fingers, so make sure to experiment to see what works best with the liquid eyeshadow you chose.
  • With medium and dark liquid eyeshadows, you can also pull the color up into the crease, although this doesn’t look as great with very light liquid eyeshadow.
  • If you were using your liquid eyeshadow as a primer then make sure to apply it all the way up to the lid. For this purpose, it is better to choose either a light or medium-toned liquid eyeshadow that is either matte or metallic if you’re going for a very glowy look. Glitter liquid eyeshadow won’t work for this.
  • Once you’ve applied liquid eyeshadow all over the eye, you can follow it up with whatever cream or powder shadows you wanted to use.

On Top of Shadow

Some liquid eyeshadows (especially glittery ones) are formulated to go on top of liquid or cream shadow, as “veils” or “toppers”. They are a great way of adding sparkle and shine to a makeup look. They can bring you from day to night – wear a full matte eye to the office, and right before heading to the bar add a bit of a glittery liquid eyeshadow to the lid or inner corner.

  • Start out by doing your eye makeup as you normally would. Apply your primer to clean eyes, and then put your powder or cream eyeshadow on top of it.
  • Once it’s time to apply the liquid eyeshadow, remember that you must be careful not to disturb the eyeshadow underneath it. Instead of dragging it onto the eyelid, tap the product on gently.
  • If your applicator deposits too much color at once, then wipe the excess off on a tissue or use your fingers or a flat brush to apply using a stippling motion.
  • You can also pull the liquid eyeshadow into the inner corner of the eye if it’s a highlight shade.
  • Apply it to the lower lash liner over your eyeliner to add an additional gleam under the eyes and create a more cohesive look.
  • This technique can work over more classic eye makeup looks, to add a bit of glimmer, but it can also be a great way of adding a dark shimmer over a traditionally dark smokey eye.
How to Use Liquid Eyeshadow

Other Liquid Eyeshadow Uses & Tips

  • No two liquid eyeshadows are alike, even if they come from the same brand and range! One color might behave in one way while another might behave a different way. Make sure to experiment with your liquid eyeshadow before wearing it on a critical day, so you know exactly how long it takes to set, how nicely it blends and how well it works with the other products you like to use.
  • Because liquid eyeshadows are usually self-setting they can be a little tougher to use for multi-eyeshadow looks, as they don’t blend with one another as seamlessly as other formulas. It’s better to stick to cream or powder eyeshadows for more complex parts that require a lot of blending and to only use one or two liquid eyeshadows per makeup look.
  • Many liquid eyeshadow formulas can double as primer. Metallic and matte liquid eyeshadows tend to do a better job as primer than shimmery or glittery ones. When picking a liquid eyeshadow to use as primer first consider how it will relate to the shadows you intend to put on top. It is generally better to choose a slightly brighter shade of liquid shadow that is in the same color family as the shades you would like to put on top of it. The exception is if you’re going to be rocking a smokey eye, in which case a dark liquid eyeshadow will be best.
  • By dipping a thin angled brush into your liquid eyeshadow you can use it just like eyeliner! It’s better to choose a synthetic brush and to apply in short strokes. This will allow you to experiment with glitter or metallic eyeliners, although it’ll also work with matter liquid eyeshadow of course! Use it along on the top lash line or use it on the lower lash line to match your eyeshadow look!
  • Some liquid eyeshadows, particularly the “veil” ones, which are meant to go over eyeshadow to give a pearlescent finish, can double as highlighter. Use your fingers or a beauty blender to dot them on the high part of your cheekbone and enjoy a gleam that will not fade throughout the night.
  • This tip comes from Christine Mielke (a.k.a. Temptalia): if you have a liquid eyeshadow that takes a little too long to set you are absolutely allowed to speed things up by setting it very lightly with a translucent powder or a matching powder eyeshadow.

Photos via @laura.craffey, Instagram