How to Highlight and Contour Like a Pro

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Makeup does so much more than just cover up imperfections. Take your makeup to the next level and learn how to bring out your best features, reshape your face and add dimension. I know it may sound impossible, but makeup artists have been using highlighting and contouring techniques for years to make celebrities look stunning. I say if they can do it, so can you. Actually, it isn’t that difficult once you get the hang of it.

How It Works

The basic approach is you usually highlight on the inner sections of your face such as under your eyes, the center of the nose and forehead, middle of the chin and just under your eyebrows. These are typically darker areas that make your face seem puffy or sunken in. By highlighting, your face seems brighter, healthier and fuller.

Contouring has the opposite affect. If you want a more defined cheekbone, you’d contour to create a slimming affect. Contouring typically occurs on the outer sections of your face, such as the outer edges of cheeks, sides of your nose, sides of your forehead and the beginning edges of your chin.

Mixing highlighting and contouring helps to bring out your most prominent features while erasing flaws. For instance, you can draw attention to your eyes while removing dark under eye circles. If you think your nose is too slim, highlighting the center and part of each side helps to widen while contouring the outer edge slightly gives your now wider nose more definition.

Tools Of The Trade

You can either use an illuminator for highlighting or a foundation thats a few shades lighter than your foundation. Personally, I prefer the lighter foundation. Use a sponge to carefully blend whichever highlighter you choose. For contouring, use a bronzer or a powder two shades darker than your usual color. Apply using a medium sized brush.

Get The Look

First, let me tell you that highlighting and contouring like a pro means experimenting. Everyone’s face is different, so play with the techniques a bit to get the right look for your face. Trust me, it’s worth the effort.

Start by lightly applying your usual foundation. This provides basic coverage and gives your face a base. Next, use a sponge to apply the lighter foundation on the center of your forehead. Taper to a thin line as you move down the center of your nose. Continue the line in the dip right above your lips. Apply a finger width’s amount from the outer edge of your eye, underneath your eye, widening to cover the outer edge of your nose. Always ensure it’s even on both sides. Apply a small circle on your chin and under the outer arches of your eyebrows.

Dip your brush in your contouring color. Apply to the outer edges of your chin. Apply in a thin line between the highlighted areas of your nose and over eyelids. Apply to the very outer edges of each side of your forehead.

For cheeks, contour by starting at the cheekbone around the middle of your eye and following your cheekbone towards your ear. Highlight directly under the contouring.

See, it really isn’t that hard. I do recommend being careful if you have oily skin. Highlighting the T-zone can make your skin seem more oily. Instead, a bit of iridescent face powder will help you highlight while absorbing excess oil. Remember, experiment and enjoy finding the new you.


  1. Thank you for the informative post. Can I use a darker foundation or maybe a shade from a concealer palette to contour?

  2. I love this post as contouring and highlighting is the big thing now. However, I have found to my dismay that this thing is left to the experts. lol. I looked positively funny and sick at the same time when I tried it on myself.

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