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How to use Duos, Trios, Quads, Quintets???! (A few basic shapes that work with all eye shapes)

The first thing I always tell people when it comes to eye shadow application is - find your socket line. And learn to separate that from your crease. 

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There is a myth about applying shadows “on/within your crease”. Well that’s fine if you have very defined, even, thick lid folds. But if you have hooded eyes, mono-lids, or smaller lids where the crease is either not visible or not high enough, many eye-shadow looks can be very unflattering or they simply disappear when you open your eyes. 

What to do? Simply replace the word “crease” with “socket line” from today on. If you have mono-lids and hooded lids, it’s important to blend your shadows UP TO your socket line at least. That not only defines your natural contours but also widens the eye. 

  1. Your socket line is where your eyeball dips into your orbital bone. Close your eyes and feel for it.
  2. Flattering eyeshadow looks are all about "creating shadow and light" in the right places. Even if your eye contours aren’t very defined naturally, placing a bit of deeper color along your socket line and a pale shade in the center of your lid will create the illusion of more pronounced contours without making you look too dramatic.
  3. I DON’T recommend creating a fake socket line higher or lower than your natural one. It can go very very wrong unless you’re an absolute pro.
  4. Many times we use brushes that are way too big or fluffy. If you have small lids or eyes, a smaller, round-ferrule pencil brush like the one from 13rushes can make life a lot easier. Go for the flatter, wider brushes if you have a bigger lid space to work with. 

Now that we’ve got that covered, you can get back to the question of “what the heck do I do with this palette that has 2-3-4-5 shades?!” and look at the images above as a reference for where colors go.

Don’t be restricted by the image with the 4 shadow palettes and the labels on each of the shades. It’s there as a reference but the best thing is to look at the eye charts, because you can use any 2 shades in a quad or a 5-color palette as a duo using a DUO diagram.

Steps don’t include liner (optional) and mascara, so you just add them later.

THESE ARE NOT RULES. They’re just basic guidelines for those who aren’t too familiar with eye makeup yet. 

Lastly, when looking for eyeshadow palettes, here are some beginners’ tips:

  1. My palette has one cream/liner/glitter shade! Well, take those out of the equation and see how many regular shadows are left. If there are 3, shadows left, follow the TRIO diagram. If there are 2, follow the DUO diagrams. 
  2. Erm, so what do I do with base/liner/glitter shades? Apply the base all over from lash line to socket bone before you begin (you don’t need to go all the way to your brows unless you want a dramatic look). For glitter shades, you can apply them as a wash all over when you’re done with the rest of your eyeshadows, or down the center of the eye for a “wet look” when you blink. Liner shades are self explanatory!
  3. DUOS: look for those where 1 shade is the same lightness or lighter than your skin color, and 1 shade is darker/smokier. Doesn’t matter if they are metallic, shimmery, matte, sparkly. For most basic daily makeup looks, you just need a light and dark to define your eyes. 
  4. All palettes: make sure there is a "balance of light to dark shades". This means at least 1 softer shade and at least 1 dark shade that is deep enough to act as a definer shade. (There are a lot of palettes where all 3-4 shades are pretty shimmery pastels. Well, sorry but they’ll look nicer on your vanity table than on your face. You need a darker shade there for definition and contouring in order for the palette to look flattering. 
  5. QUADS: What do you do if there are 2 pale shades? Which should you apply on your brow bone, and which as an accent in the center of your eye? The less shimmery/sparkly one on the brow bone, and the more dramatic and reflective one on the center of the eye. If they’re about the same texture, then it doesn’t matter which you use where.
  6. 5-6 SHADE PALETTES: Many people find them overwhelming, but you really don’t need to wear all the colors everyday. You can pick 2-3 shades and wear them as a duo or trio (See diagrams) easily. So they actually give you the most options!

Some Idiot-proof Eyeshadow recommendations:

Duos: Laura Mercier eyeshadow duos. Always well coordinated, with 1 soft/matte shade and 1 darker, richer one. Takes the guess-work out of eyeshadow application.

Trios: A lot of drugstore brands like Wet n Wild Color Icon have pre-coordinated trios with the shades marked out as lid, crease, browbone for you. Just remember “crease” = socket line. In the higher end range, Dior’s 3 Couleurs are beautifully coordinated and easy to use and blend.

Quads: Tom Fords and Chanels have some of the easier to use luxe quads in the market, and L’oreals and Revlons are great in the drugstore range, but if you’re going for the Tom Fords, remember to minus out the sparkle shades. (E.g. 01 Golden Mink is what I’d consider a duo, not a quad, because there are 2 sparkle shades out of the 4, and I’d apply the 2 satin shades using one of the DUO diagrams above, and then decide how I want to apply the sparkles.)

**Laneige Pure Radiant eyeshadow quads (S$40) are a fantastic alternative - not dupes cos there are no exact palette matches, but great alternatives - for Tom Fords (S$100) because the satins and glitter textures, as well as a few of the shades, are actually very very similar. If you love the look of TFs but find the prices a little steep in Asia, take a look at the Laneige counter! See for yourself!

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Quintets: Lancome’s Hypnose palettes are still one of my favorites. They usually have the BEST balance of dark and light shades, and they’re perfectly coordinated with each other, so you can pick any 2-3 shades out of the 5 and go.

**Diors are a good option if you have more mature lids or prefer smoother, more translucent pigments but the 5 couleurs are’t as well-balanced as Lancomes, so unless you’re very experienced and know how to add definition using liner and mascara, I’d pick a few colors and use these palettes as duos and trios rather than a quintet.

If you want to break the rules completely and do it like makeup artists do sometimes, NARS’ duos are pretty much on the opposite spectrum to Laura Mercier.

They do have light vs dark shades too, but there are also tons of funky clashing duos designed for maximum drama on the lids. Stuff like Rated R (lime and blue) and Bysance (yellow and violet) can still be applied using the 2 DUO diagrams above, but the final effect will be VERY bold. Probably better for the club than for school or work.

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