Make Your Eyes "Pop" - Basic Eye Shadow Color Theory!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Yo! :) 

So, today I’ve got a nice post for ya! I’m going to be talking about the basics of color theory and how it relates to choosing the best eye shadow colors for your eye color to make them really pop and stand out. I will cover a bit about eye liners as well (look for this toward the end of the post), but, primarily, this will be about eye shadow.
Now, keep in mind that this doesn’t mean you can only wear the colors of eye shadows I suggest here, or that other colors won’t look nice on you, this is just a guide, a very basic one, to what colors should, according to color theory, make your eyes pop the most. So, if you have some favorites, don’t dismiss them just because they don’t fit in this guide. The most important thing is that you feel good in them! ;) Alright, now let’s get started!

First, I am going to introduce you to the color wheel. I know some, maybe even many, of you have already seen or worked with a color wheel. A color wheel is a color wheel no matter if you’re talking about painting a canvas or painting your face (aka putting on makeup) and the same goes for color theory; it is basically the same no matter the application. The color wheel is used to explain the theory of colors and their relationships to one another. Here is a color wheel (click to enlarge):

I’m sure you’ve all heard of primary (red, blue, yellow) and secondary colors (orange, green, purple) from as far back as elementary school…some of us may have thrown out that knowledge in favor of other important information to store in our memories, but I’m sure you’ve all hear of them at some point. ;) We won’t be worrying about those in this guide, but I’m just mentioning those because that would have been the beginning of your color theory education. What we will be focusing on are complementary colors, which are the colors that appear opposite one another on the color wheel – these colors, as the name suggests, complement each one another when placed adjacently. Some of you may even have an understanding of these already. If so, great, you already know what eye shadows will complement your eyes best, you just may not…know.. it! You know it, but you don’t know you know it…got it? If not, don’t worry, just take a look at your trusty color wheel and you’ll find them. So, red compliments green, yellow compliments purple, orange compliments blue, and so on. And this is how you’ll choose eye shadows that will make your eyes pop the most! 

Now, let’s get into that, because you may be feeling I’m crazy right about now thinking, “If I have blue eyes you’re telling me I should wear orange eye shadow?”. Well, no, unfortunately, though it is that easy to find the compliment of blue according to the wheel, it’s not quite that simple when it comes to makeup. If you’re dressing as a cute pumpkin for Halloween, then sure, wear that orange eye shadow and you’ll be adorable no matter your eye color, but not for an everyday look. I beg you, don’t do that…with a few exceptions…but I won’t cover those in this post. If I talk about all the exceptions then we could be here forever, and I’m just looking to help you with some basics at this point. So, let’s get right down to the real advice now and maybe this will all seem less crazy! I’m going to break this down by eye color so you can either find your eye color and follow the guide for your eyes only or you can read right through the entire post, and perhaps, if you don’t already, you’ll have a better grasp on color theory and eye makeup as a whole. :) And remember, these are just the basics. But I’m hoping, once you know these basics, you’ll be able to play with them a little a figure other things out for yourself. If not, then perhaps there’ll be more posts to come, getting more advanced as I go? If you want it, comment in the comments section! ;)

For Blue Eyes
Okay, as I mentioned above, orange is indeed the compliment of blue. This is where you’ll want to start. Now, since wearing highly pigmented orange eye shadows may not be the best choice for an everyday look, you’ll have to make an adjustment by either adding black or white. Black and white are not colors and do not change a color but either shade (Black) or tint (white) a color (See graphic SHADES AND TINTS below). So, let’s think about this. What happens when you add black to orange? If you want to try it, get yourself some markers or paints and simply mix a bit of black with orange. What happened? That’s right – it begins to turn brown and also desaturates the crazy bright orange! The more black you add, the darker brown you’ll get. So then, if you want a softer, more natural look, by adding white to orange you’ll get a peach color. So, for you blue eyed beauties, browns and peaches are your best friends when it comes to eye shadow choices. Here’s a graphic for you to compare:

For Brown Eyes
So, I’m covering brown eyes next since it is, in some ways, opposite of the color theory I laid out for blue eyes (above). Okay, brown eyes are also a little different from blue or green eyes since, if you look at the color wheel, green and blue are easily found. But where’s brown? It’s not there. That’s because brown is a shade. Shades are colors that have black added to them. The opposite of a shade is a tint. Tints are colors that have?…yes, that’s right, white added to them

Here, in this SHADES and TINTS graphic (right), all the colors from the color wheel have been laid out and turned into varying degrees of tints and shades by adding black or white to them so you can visualize shades and tints. (click to enlarge)

Okay, so now that I’ve covered that graphic, I can move on and explain why it matters. If you look at the SHADES and TINTS graphic (right) and find the brown shades, what color do they come from? That’s right, orange! The browns come from adding black to orange. So brown eyes are really a shade of orange and orange CAN be found on the color wheel. Now, what’s the complimentary color (or opposite of) orange? Blue. (see on Color Wheel at top) You brown eyed beauties are lucky (I LOVE deep brown eyes by the way!!) because blue eye shadows are acceptable to wear from even very saturated to very light powder blue or very dark navy blue (and also the range of shadows you can wear is very wide…which will be covered in later posts if you want them!). Most of the time, though, you’ll want to save those very saturated blues an occasional fun look or a night out. But, again, as with oranges for blue eyes, there can be exceptions to making those very saturated blues wearable for everyday looks. Deep navy blues, to add definition and a bit of drama, will look amazing with your brown eyes! (Think Catherine Zeta-Jones or Rachel Bilson.) Here’s a graphic to illustrate just how those blues make your beautiful brown peepers pop:

For Green Eyes
Green eyes are fun because the compliment to green is purple; it’s such a fun color! Again, as with brown eyes, green eyed lovelies are lucky because purple eye shadows, from the very saturated violet colors to the deep shades of plum or the very soft tints of lilac, are all very acceptable to wear. But, once again, the bright violets will mostly be saved for an occasional fun look day or an evening out, and again, there are ways to make those bright violets more wearable for an everyday look. I may cover those techniques in a future beauty post if you guys comment in the comments section to let me know you are interested in it! I’d love to do it for you, I just need to know you want it, so just take a little second to let me know! ;) Okay, so, for an everyday look, the deep beautiful plum shadows will be a great way to add some definition and make your eyes really pop. And then, if you want a softer look for a more casual day, go from some softer lilacs. For you gorgeous green eyed girls, here is a graphic to show how purple loves your green eyes:

For Hazel Eyes
Covering hazel eyes are a must in my opinion because it’s an eye color that a lot of beauty guides skip over and that can be quite frustrating. I have hazel eyes, so I know just how much! The only thing about hazel eyes is that they are tricky. At least that’s how I feel. It seems like it should be easy, because hazel eyes, essentially, are eyes that have rings of, usually, 2 colors that make up the iris (the colored part of your eye). Usually brown around the pupil and green around the edges. Apparently there is little known about why some people even have hazel eyes and it seems that hazels eyes can change color according to what color clothes or makeup is worn, and they can look different from indoors than they do outdoors or different lighting. Crazy, right? So, since hazel eyes normally have green and brown in them, this should be simple, right? Just wear what either makes brown eyes or green eyes pop. Well, it really depends on what color in your eyes that you want to make stand out. Depending on what colors make up your hazel eyes and what color in them you want to highlight, use the guides above for the other 3 main eye colors. But most importantly in my opinion, to make hazel eyes pop, at least tight lined eye liner on, at least, the upper lash line and a very black mascara! In some ways, us hazel eyed ladies are lucky because we have a lot of choices, but also it can be a mixed blessing because there is not that one go to compliment and it can change from day to day or outfit to outfit. Even a lipstick color can affect how your eye shadow and eyes appear. If you haven’t already, you’ll probably need to experiment a bit to find what works best for you. I tend to lean towards browns or purples since the largest part of color in my eyes can look either green or slightly blue-ish. Here is a few graphics that might help fellow complicated-hazel eyed beauties:
Okay, now let’s talk eye liners. This is going to be pretty simple since I just covered all the cover theory for each eye color above. So, black eyeliner, black being a shade and not a color, will work nicely for any eye color. Also, brown eyeliner can be used as a more natural appearing, less dramatic choice. I personally find that I prefer a black-brown eye liner as opposed to just black or just brown…unless I’m going for a winged eyeliner look, then black is a must!!! That look with red lips really makes the green stand out in my hazel eyes! Anyway… we’re talking eyeliner here… okay, so, alternately to black or brown eyeliner, which are the usual suspects, you can opt for a little bit more pop by choose an eyeliner that is almost black but is a hint of the compliment to your eye color as was discussed above. So: 

Black-Brown for Blue Eyes
Deep Dark Plum for Green Eyes
 Dark Navy Blue for Brown Eyes
Dark Eggplant (or Very Dark Forest Green) for Hazel Eyes
These colors should still be dark enough that they look quite dark and almost black when applied to the lash line, but they just have a hint of that color to make your eyes stand out a little bit more than usual.

Okay! That makes for quite a post! I hope this helps some of you out there to make some great eye makeup choices. You may have noticed these types of makeups marketed to certain eye colors that say they make your eye color pop, but they don’t explain the theory behind why it should make your eyes pop. Knowing why can be helpful, and knowing that it is actually theorized can help you to have more faith when purchasing products like these. And also, these are just the very basics! This subject could be expanded on GREATLY! And, as I said, this is just a guide and doesn’t mean you should only wear colors in the color families that I suggested here. There will be many different colors of eye shadows outside of these guidelines that will still look fantastic on you and you will love! Wear them! They make you feel good! And there may be color theory behind why you love them so much and we just haven’t covered it here. But, anyhow, I hope, if this subject is new to you, that this has helped you and you’ll discover certain things look good on your eyes that you didn’t realize would…or at least now you’ll know why they do! :) 

Oh, don’t forget to comment if you want more of these color theory when it comes to makeup posts.

Embrace Your Beauty Eyes! 

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  1. I wish you could do a You Tube on a older woman..prob your Grandmas age...eek, with hazel eyes, and thin eyebrows. Thank you Samantha :)

    1. I know you've suggested something like this a few times in the past, lol, I am trying to think of a way I can at least provide some tips for older women. I have some ideas, but I just have to figure out the details and how to pull it all together. Maybe you'll see something helpful in that area from me in the future... not sure exactly when, but sometime - it's on my list. ;)

  2. Hi!! Love this! You have perfectly captured the struggle and yet fun of having hazel eyes like me! Glad to know I'm not the only one!! Ha!! Can you post some more on hazel eyes? Can you post the colors you use on the hazel eye shadows? Which color is which? Maybe the bright colors that are hard to do like you suggested above? It'd be neat to do a bright color eye liner look without looking like a circus! Lol! Could you post some lip stick and blush colors that complaintment hazel eyes too?! I've also noticed this with my eye! Thanks again! This posts are so rare! I really appreciate it!!

  3. Well I certainly wish I had read this post years ago. I only discovered about a year ago how much I love wearing navy blue for eyeshadow. I have been wearing the grey colours for a long time but not the navy and I love navy. Just wish that a matte navy was easier to find and more common on shadow palettes!


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