Have you ever noticed how some eyeshadows just look totally “meh” on you, while others make you think, “Wow, I really do have lovely eyes.” That’s a little bit of color theory coming to play. Obviously, placement plays an important part for makeup, but choosing colors that compliment Y-O-U is a big step in the right direction.
Instead of just telling you the colors to choose, I’d like to teach you how to choose. I think learning how to do something opens up a lot more possibilities and who doesn’t want more eyeshadow possibilities? If you said ‘me’ then skip on down to your eye color--no judgment here.
Remember the color wheel? Maybe you are familiar with it or maybe you are staring at the screen thinking “the what?” (I like to imagine a blank stare, and maybe a little bit of drool). Well, the color wheel tells us a lot. It gives us the foundation for color theory. It tells us which colors cancel each other out, which colors will make other colors look brighter, or richer, and so on.
So, here’s the basics: The primary colors are blue, red, & yellow. They are the foundation for all other color. When you mix two primary colors you get secondary colors such as orange, purple, and green. And when you mix two secondary colors you get tertiary colors like blue-green and red-orange.
Colors that are across from each other like yellow and purple, green and red, or blue and orange are called complementary colors. When complementary colors are placed next to each other, they create the strongest contrast for those particular colors.
Another color group is the analogous colors. They are three colors that are next to each other on the color wheel. One will be the dominant color (typically a primary color), a secondary color, and a tertiary color.
So what does any of this have to do with eyeshadow? Basically, by choosing a complementary color you can create a vibrancy to your eye color. By choosing an analogous color scheme you can create a rich, monochromatic look.
I’m sure some of you are thinking “there’s no way I’m wearing red eyeshadow!” but calm down there is a way to use the right colors without looking cray cray.
For green and blue eyes you will find that by using complementary colors you'll be able to achieve a natural look, and by using analogous colors you will be able to get more glamorous looks. The reverse is true for brown eyes — analogous colors will be easier to achieve natural looking makeup and complementary colors will be more dramatic for you.
If you have mixed eye color such as hazel eyes or blue-green eyes, then the first thing to do is decide if you have a dominant color. If yes, then just choose the corresponding category. However, if you have an even mix of color in your eyes, then you get to choose from two categories below as they will both work for you (hooray!)
Find blue on the color wheel. You can see that orange is your complimentary color. You’ll also see that blue, purples, and blue-green are your analogous colors.
Make your blue eyes pop — if you’re ok with straight orange on your eyelid by all means rock it, but if you’re a little more conservative with your makeup then that means you are looking for neutrals with an orange base color. I’m talking the bronze, copper, and warm browns.
Create depth and make your blue eyes mysterious — pure purple and blue may be a little retro for some, which means choosing colors a little toned down or concentrating the analogous color into one thing like eyeliner or mascara may be an option for you. But if you're willing to embrace purple in all its glory, then purple smokey eyes will be great as a night-time look for those baby blues.
When you find green on the color wheel, you’ll see that red is your complimentary color. You’ll also see that, along with green, teals and limes are part of your analogous colors.
Make your green eyes pop — I haven’t seen anyone who can pull off pure red eyeshadow yet, so you’ll have to be a little more creative. A great option is neutrals with a red base.
I’m talking rich browns, burnt coppers, burgundy, and rose tones.
Create even more dimension to your green eyes — teal and lime may be breath taking colors but a little intense for eyeshadow, so combine with a red-brown for a smokey eye or try as an eyeliner.
Where is brown on the color wheel? (I bet that was what you were thinking just now.) Well, technically it could be in many different places, but typically brown eyes are going to have either a red, orange, or yellow base to it — and that's the important part.
Brown eyes obviously have rich color complexities and fall into a range of hues. However, the underlying color can be revealed in certain lighting. Since brown makes up approximately 55% of people's eye color in the world, I’m going to break down 'brown eyes' into three basic categories instead of lumping all browns together (yay, lucky you).
Rich Brown Eyes (Red Base) typically deep/darker in color. The red base in the brown means that green is your complimentary color. Red-violets and red-oranges are your analogous colors.
Make your deep brown eyes mesmerizing — A great option is neutrals with a red base.
I’m talking rich browns, burnt coppers, burgundy, and rose tones (yep, you and the green eyes can share eyeshadow palettes).
Make your deep brown eyes pop — green colored eyeshadows are really going to create the contrast you need to make your eyes stand out. Alternatively, you could also use teals just like your green-eyed comrades.
Golden Brown Eyes (Orange Base) typically medium in color. The orange base in the brown means that blue is your complimentary color. Orange-red and orange-yellow are your analogous colors. The medium tone is the most flexible of all eye colors allowing you to cross a little into alternative colors like blue-based purples, and orange-based reds.
Make your golden brown eyes sultry — A great option is brown neutrals with a blue-purple base. I’m talking deep browns, dusty purples, grays, and orange-based browns tones (the blue eyed gals are your new eyeshadow BFFs since you can use the same eyeshadow colors).
Make your golden brown eyes pop — blue colored eyeshadows are really going to bring out the fire in your eyes. Alternatively, you could also use teals that are more on the blue side for the same effect.
Honey Brown Eyes (Yellow Base) are typically light in color. Hazel eyes tend to fall in this category as well, but there is a hint of green mixed in with the yellow — in which case you'll need to shift a little bit in the color wheel. A yellow base means purple is your complementary color, and yellow-orange and lime are your analogous colors.
Make your honey brown eyes even more sweet — A great option is brown neutrals with a yellow base. Which means golds, sandy brown, green browns, and warm tones (you share similar color compliments as the blue eyed gals).
Make your honey brown eyes pop — purples and lilacs are really going to create depth and bring out the intensity of your eye color.
Who knew there was so much to eyeshadow?! Well, now you do. When in doubt, refer to the color wheel! Not sure where your eye color really falls? Leave a comment below and I will do my best to help you find the right eyeshadow colors.
Now that you are a pro on the right eyeshadow colors, learn what your true eye shape is!
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I am a professional makeup artist and licensed cosmetologist. I absolutely enjoy sharing hair and makeup tips to help others enhance their natural beauty. (Trust me, you're gorgeous.)