How to contour face makeup

Nikki ParkinsonBeauty 20 Comments

If you’ve come here looking for a war-painted, extreme, Kardashian-like version of makeup contouring, you’ve come to the wrong place.

Back to Google you go.

I’m not one for fads (oh, you got me … except pineapples) and when it comes to makeup, for me, it’s all about playing with different products to create an end result that looks like me but only a more polished version.

Most days, I’m a low-key, CC or BB cream, mascara and lip gloss kind of girl, but offer me up an event or occasion and I’ll happily slap on a full face.

I sometimes outsource the eye makeup application to a makeup artist while I’m in getting my hair done and then come home to finish off  the face and lips myself.

It’s a cost-and-time effective way for me to get an event or photoshoot look without doing it all from scratch.

So, the face bit? I’ve been asked about what I use so I thought I’d share a little tutorial on how to contour makeup.

It’s a low-key version of contouring that is simple and easy to copy and create using a mix of products, many of which you may already have (or similar) in your makeup kit.

The aim is a fresh finish that enhances the face through sculpting, shading and highlighting.

{Confession: the photo below was taken using the e-portrait setting on my Olympus selfie camera. Complimentary doesn’t come close. I LOVE this camera.}

How to contour + products to use


Create a flawless canvas with a primer and a foundation that’s matched to your skin. Elizabeth Arden Flawless Finish Perfectly Satin 24HR (in Beige when I’ve had a spray tan; Sand when not – do go to an Elizabeth Arden counter and get colour-matched for your skin) has been my go-to for more than six months now. The finish is just that – flawless – and it goes the distance – without looking caked on. Just ask all my friends who I’ve insisted they try it, only to fall hard as well. I use a foundation brush – you get a more even coverage and use less product this way.


Set the foundation with an all-over glow. I use Too Faced Cocoa Powder (in Medium Tan). It’s an oil-absorbing, non-drying powder that smells like chocolate. Winning.


This is when I start my version of contouring using one half of the NARS Dual Intensity blush in Fervour. Using the darker shade (a gorgeous coppery rose), I put on my cheesiest of cheesy grins and hit those cheek apples with a swirl of colour, taking it back up toward the temple (but easing off the intensity of application as I go). I use a blush brush for this (from this set).


I use the lighter shade (a soft pink) as a highlighter. I take an oval/blender blush and sweep the colour along the tops of my cheekbones, down my nose, on my chin and if my eyes haven’t already been given a highlighting lift, I whack some on there too.


The final step is all about the sculpting and I use my old faithful Benefit bronzer/blush, Dallas. The brush Dallas comes with works a treat or if you have a fan brush like pictured, whip that out. I apply using the narrow edge of the brush creating a sculpted line underneath each cheek and along the jawline. I do play with adding Dallas around the hairline on my forehead but I go lightly here as it can make me look like I’ve just forgotten to wash my face for a week.

{Not part of the contouring but I’ve been asked what this lipstick is … it’s Curtis Collection by Victoria Glam Lipstick in Socialite.}

How to contour with makeup - face map

Now, if you don’t have similar products in your kit and you’re keen to play around with a little contouring, I’ve done the hard work for you and found nine contouring palettes that will simplify this technique for you.

You’ll find options from less than $20 through to $72. Many come with specific instructions on how to contour using the colours in those palettes.

Apart from the Napoleon Perdis palette below (that was my first contouring product and so easy to navigate), you’ll notice that the colours are mostly brown and beige, with a little bronze and pale pink thrown in for good measure. But mostly brown and beige.

This is in line with the makeup contouring you’ve probably seen or heard about. The principles are similar to my technique above but with less of a colour pop and more of a light and shading for creating a sculpting effect on your face.

Want to really delve into this makeup trend, take a look at the 10 best contouring tutorials on Youtube.

9 face contour palettes | how to contour face makeup

1. Marc Jacobs Beauty #Instamarc Light Filtering Contour Powder $72 @ Sephora

2. Too Faced Cocoa Contour kit $59 @ Mecca 

3. Smashbox Step by Step Contour kit $66 @ Mecca

4. Sephora Collection Microsmooth Sculpting $29 @ Sephora

5. Clinique Sculptionary Cheek Countouring palette $45 @ Adore Beauty

6. Maybelline Master Sculpt Contour palette $19.95 @ Priceline

7. NARS Contour Blush Duo $62 @ Mecca

8. Napoleon Perdis Ultimate Contour Palette $60 @ Adore Beauty

9. Australis AC on Tour Contouring and Highlighting kit $16.95 @ Priceline

{AH, yes, did you spot that Sephora is now available online in Australia. That’s a win for all of us who don’t live near a store.}

So tell me, do you contour? Fave products to use? What’s your technique? Could you give KK a run for her contouring money?

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Comments 20

  1. Thanks to all things Kardashian my Miss 14 is the contouring queen. She was totally lusting after the sold out Anastacia contouring palette which is the MUST HAVE product of the moment. We went in to the store and she found that it was too orangey for her. Like a foundation the undertone has to be just right. She tried the Kat von D range and because we are both yellow sallow undertone skin it was just perfect as it is more ash than orange. Hope that helps someone else as I have never tried it and am totally clueless. I did find a great range of foundation and concealer their from IT Cosmetics. Pretty flawless natural finish yet hides the dark circles and doesn’t slide around my face with this heat.

    PS the Sephora staff also said the Kat von D eye palettes are the BEST for pigment and colour/eye contouring

  2. Love that you used a pale pink, cool pinks suit me so this would work better for me. I find the browns in the contour kits are often all wrong colour wise for my skin tone. I rarely contour because I am not usually doing anything that exciting but it is definitely a handy trick to have!

  3. Thank you for the writing and demonstrating the most straightforward and user friendly guide to contouring I have read! Looks great on you. x

  4. You have amazing skin Nikki that picture is so beautiful!
    I do have a contour kit the Australis one but haven’t given it a try yet as I’m not wearing makeup ATM because the anaesthetic from my op has made my skin very dry,but I love this tutorial I like your contouring version better than some I’ve seen,thank you Nikki Xx

  5. in a word your skin looks flawless nikki! … stunning!
    yes it’s a good idea to enhance the contours! …
    you’ll like this hun! lately I’ve been putting zinc with caster oil below my eyebrows on my nose bridge to tip and point of chin then applying my cream cake loreal Revlon bronzer and using my magic brush in circular motions to blend the scene! … i’m painting you see! all good thanks hun! love m:)X
    they don’t believe I’m 65! and neither do I! … so winning!

  6. I don’t really think of myself as contouring as that’s a bit scary, but I do use a pressed powder, and bronzer over the BB cream most days. My very oily skin needs the shine toned down before lunchtime.
    I have got into the habit of using my bronzer before I use blush. This is mainly because most days I stop at the bronzer but if I feel like I would like a bit more that’s when the highlighter and blush comes out.
    In addition to the “3” on each side of my face I do like a little a tiny bit of bronzer under my jawbone as this seems to add a shadow that defines nicely.

  7. Hi Nikki, it’s expensive, but I highly recommend Tom Ford’s shade and illuminate for the dry skinned ladies out there. Its a contouring compact that holds a contour shade and a beautiful, dewy highlight shade. Both are solid cream products which I find settle better on my dry/dehydrated skin.

  8. You certainly look beautiful Nikki. And glowing! I love my Bobbi Brown Shimmer Brick, I use it nearly every day. But if I’m doing the whole makeup thing I use Nars Orgasm, Hourglass Ambient Lighting in Diffused Heat and Hourglass Ambient Powder. I’m getting better at it, but would never do the KK thing, I don’t like the caked on appearance. Wouldn’t mind her bank balance though 😀

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