Eyeshadow is often the most noticeable part of a makeup look, which means choosing the right color for an occasion can have a significant impact. You can make a statement or subtly enhance your natural features by applying eyeshadow — the essential part is feeling confident.
Your skin tone, eye color, and personal style will play a role in how each eyeshadow color works for you. But different color families are generally associated with different moods, seasons, and occasions. Here, we’ll explore some common eyeshadow color groups to show you how to match just the right color to every occasion.
Neutrals are the “vanilla” of eyeshadows — and not in a bad way — as they match with everything. Whether you’re heading into the office or out on the town, neutrals are a versatile option that often fit many occasions and skin tones. Shades like taupe, nude, brown, ivory, and black can create an effortlessly elevated eye when used lightly or a dramatic glam look when applied with a heavier hand.
In keeping with their inoffensive nature, neutral eyeshadows work well with any season. Autumn and winter are good times to lean into a moodier look, so don’t be afraid to dip into that rarely used darker swatch in your eyeshadow palette. On the other hand, sunny summer days are perfect for a shimmering, lighter neutral shade
Blues, greens, and purples all fall into the cool color family, and unlike neutrals, cool shades don’t often achieve the “natural” effect. Like a statement accessory, they’re perfect for bringing a playful pop of color to your look.
This is why cool-colored eyeshadow is a perfect complement to any event you want to bring a touch of spunk to, like a date night, concert, or party. Because these shades are so bold in nature, cool eyeshadows are especially fun to use for nighttime events.
As with any pigmented color, cool colors are more prone to clashing with other elements of your get-up, like your outfit and accessories. If you’re going for a colorful, vibrant look, this isn’t a problem. But if you’re just dipping your toes in, a neutral-toned outfit can keep your color scheme subtle and balanced.
Oranges, reds, yellows, pinks, and even browns can create beautiful warmth and vibrance. On the boldness scale, warm tones are between neutrals and cool tones: They introduce color to the face without straying far from neutrals.
There aren’t many occasions these cozy colors wouldn’t work for. Deep reds and browns look especially beautiful against an autumn backdrop of similar colors, while peachy shades are great for springtime.
Gold, bronze, and silver are popular metallic shades, but any color can be metallic. Metallic eyeshadow is usually highly pigmented with lots of shine, whereas shimmering shades offer more of a subtle sparkle.
Metallics are the way to go for a glamorous, bright look. Like a shiny diamond necklace, they’re perfect for festive occasions, especially evening events, that call for a little drama. Seasonally, metallic shades are a great fit for winter months and holiday parties.
Highly pigmented metallic shades outside of neutral golds, silvers, and bronzes (think pinks, blues, greens, and purples) can bring an extra element of pizzazz to any outfit.
Other considerations when choosing an eyeshadow color
Like an artist selects colors for a painting, choosing an eyeshadow shade requires selecting one element of a larger look. Whichever color you go with plays off every other component of your appearance. Here are a few things to consider:
- Your outfit. As mentioned, a neutral-colored outfit can balance out a bold eyeshadow. But it’s also another opportunity to experiment with complementary colors. A warm, orange eyeshadow may look exceptionally vibrant against a blue top.
- Your eye color. While brown eyes are especially versatile, green eyes tend to pop with pinks, and blue eyes really shine next to orange tones.
- Your lip shade. If you’re set on wearing a particular lip shade, planning your eyeshadow color around it makes sense. Many prefer to choose one area of focus on the face, meaning a subdued eye would go with a bold lip.
- Your skin tone. What looks subtle on one skin tone may look jarring on another, so do a little experimenting and find out what colors pair best with your skin.
When in doubt, ask yourself how bold you’re feeling
It’s easy to overthink your eyeshadow shade, especially if you’re an eyeshadow newbie. But you don’t need to be a color theory pro to achieve the look you’re going for — you just need an idea of how bold or subtle you want to be for the occasion. Choose colors that match your skin tone for a more natural look. Brighter colors and shimmering shades can add some jazz to an important occasion or when you’re in an adventurous mood.