Tutorial: Layering Lipcolors

Ok.  This is a little bit daunting, writing these sorts of overview makeup techniques.  For today, we’ll focus on making the most of your lip color collection.  I’m sure we all want every color in the store, but you’d be amazed what you can blend yourself. If you’d like to follow this with information on complementing blush, and lipcolors, with your skin tone and eye makeup, I have a tutorial here.

Probably the best place to start, is with a little basic color theory.  If you’ve had an art class, this is probably old news.  Even if you’ve just dabbled in makeup, it’s probably old news.  But bear with me.

So, primary colors(Red, Blue, Yellow),Secondary colors(Primary colors, mixed in even proportion, Purple, Green, Orange), and Tertiary colors(colors that are a mix of primary and secondary) are usually arranged on a color wheel.  Memorizing that illustration is REALLY helpful for a lot of makeup technique.

Imagine a line dividing that drawing in half.  You can turn it any way to see colors “paired”.    So, if the line starts at Yellow, you’ll see that it goes all the way to purple.  These color pairings are considered Complementary colors.  If mixed, they darken the other color more effectively than adding black.  So, if you have a lip color that’s bright, true red, and you want a color that’s closer to plum, you’re much better off adding a leafy green.  In less vibrant terms, you can get a pale gloss with green, like MAC Spring Bean lipglass, in it to neutralize overly pink lips, if you want to complement warmer eyes.

Isn’t this what we already do with concealer?  Apply a green concealer to take the bite out of red zits, apply yellows or corals over purple or blue toned under-eye bags?  Same principal.

On to artistic principal number 2.  This one is, again, pretty commonplace.  Dark colors make the eye think a space is smaller, while light colors make it appear larger.  We avoid dark paint in interior rooms with few windows.   We wear nude lips to make ours look fuller.  This may affect some makeup users more than others.  I don’t usually worry about the thickness of my lips when choosing colors, but I still try to take care to contour it in a way that counters the intensity of the color.  If you apply a pale shimmer over the center of your lips, it can make them seem even larger.  So if you have thin lips, avoid REALLY dark colors, but you can happily wear a dusky rose, with a highlight in the center, and get great effects.

Lipgloss is AMAZING tool for these contours.  Pick a nice shimmery one, and it will automatically create a bit of a highlight, where the light hits it.  You can use this over darker lipsticks to show a  denser highlight in the center, or just wear it alone for a subtle contour.

I’d recommend considering your lipsticks and lipglosses for MORE than just their immediate wearability. If you spend time picking out a decent variety, including a few shades that may not be “right” or your style on their own, but can be used to create a LOT of effects with others, I think it saves a lot of money in the long run.

Here’s some of my favorite “basics” in a few color families.

Nude(Suitable for my pale NC 15 skin, or slightly darker skin tones)

MAC Hue-slightly pink neutral

MAC Myth-true, peachy neutral

MAC Cherish-slightly darker brown neutral

MAC Explicit Lipglass-this is an odd color.  Its a shimmery lipgloss with a gray-taupe note that really OUGHT to be quite hideous,  It creates LOVELY highlights over deeper colors.

MAC C Thru lipglass-milky nude lipgloss that works well over almost any lipstick, to tone it down, over natural lips, to tone down the pigmentation, or over nude lips, for a richer finish.

Dramatic Neutral

NARS Cruising-somewhat sheer Dusky rose

Stila Longwear lipcolor in Coquette-opaque dusky rose

MAC Viva Glam V-somewhat shimmery nude, with a little bit of coral

Hourglass Whisper-dusky mauve, somewhat cool toned. Satin-y finish.


MAC Lady Danger-BRIGHT matte red, leans slightly orange

MAC Brave Red-true red, fairly neutral,but has blue tones to it.

MAC Dubonnet-deeper red, with a hint of brown in it.  Still neutral


MAC Spice it Up-slightly shimmery, with a bit more brown than a true red

MAC Party Line- deep wine color, with a bit more purple than a true red

Too Faced Mirror Mirror gloss in Envy Me-deep  purple-plum gloss.  VERY sheer, but will show up over paler lipsticks.

DEEP colors(very useful for layering)

MAC Desire lipstick-Deep, rich reddish-purple.  DEFINITELY better on cool tones, though there’s some brown to it.

MAC Cyber—So dark a plum as to be nearly black.

MUFE Artist Intense lipstick in #49-very similar to cyber, but with a slightly less glossy finish.  This one is less useful for blending, since it’s a bit waxier to apply.

Specialty colors for blending/layering

MUFE Flash creams have basic bright that work well blended with lipsticks for specific effects, and a few metallic shimmers that work well diluted with lip gloss..  Well worth the investment.  Look at the label to see which ones are lip safe(Though I usually ignore that).  These are GREAT multipurpose products, since most of the bright colors work well as a base on the eyes, with shadow over top.

OCC Lip Tars make similar basic colors, for mixing with their own products. I have not played with these, yet.

Fyrinnae Lip Lustres—Acidic Cherry, Ryu Pinko, Bare Shoulders, work well for creating highlights that suit the basic tone of the color.  Best part?  A sample of these is 2.50$(I think) and the full sizes are about 6$.  So you can get a variety of unusual shades to blend with other things, for VERY little money.

MUFE Aqua creams work well as lip stains, for layering.  They can  be drying on the lips, but they wear FOREVER.  Red and Fuchsia and Coral make nice bases for layering, and you can get REALLY wild effects using the brighter colors as a highlight, with a black, or plum outside.  They do have a frosty pearl to them, so you may want to blend them with lipsticks with a creamier finish, or use glitter gloss over top to diffuse it a little bit.

Generally, when layering lipsticks, you want to remember—dark colors over a lighter base apply different than light colors over a dark base.  I like to start with the dark color, because if I mess it up, it’s easier to blot it off, add a milky gloss on top to soften it, etc.  You have more options.  That said, many of the ways of lightening a dark color eventually involve diluting the pigmentation a bit. So even applying a fairly thick coat of a clear or pale gloss can have the intended effect, to a degree.  If you apply the light color first, I recommend using the dark color in a gloss, so it’s a bit sheerer.  Otherwise, it can be difficult to get it to blend as you want it to, without completely removing the pale color.  For these things, ALWAYS use a lip brush.  You can get better detail, and your lipsticks and glosses won’t have hints of other colors in them after you’re done.

The effect of these layerings may or may not be pretty noticeable.  How many colors went into making this?

Three.  A Bubblegum pink applied all over the lips, a dense silver shimmer blended into the center, and a glittery rosy gloss overtop to make the contrast in textures less sharp, and match the silvers tone more to the overall color.

Like I said, others are less subtle. If you consider the reasoning behind the contours, you can apply it to any color.  Use a dark purple to line the lips, with a bright metallic blue or green in the center, for a butterfly wing effect that is surprisingly flattering, though still not wearable in the conventional sense.  I don’t get to do this very often, but it’s an easy way to get a very fun effect.  You can use a little, or a lot of the “highlight” color, to vary the effect, match your lipcolor to eyeshadows, etc.

This technique also works with metallic creams, to build a strong highlight, but use gloss to diffuse the shimmer over the portions of the lip that you want to appear stronger.

Pick products with more staying power, if you think you may need touch ups.  Try to put the driest lip color in the combination on the bottom, as a base for the others.  Pick stickier lipstick formulas, like MUFE Rouge Artist Intense, and carry a lip brush so that you can easily touch up the liner color, and blend.  Thinner glosses can stay decently over small areas, like a highlight, but you’ll have a more difficult time touching it up without completely reapplying if it’s applied over an especially slippery lipstick formula.

As you can see, I spend a lot of energy tweaking the exact effect of a lip color, in a look.  These are some of the ideas and work-arounds I use to make the fullest use of my makeup collection.    I pick products that can double as bases for bright eye looks, as well as mix with lipstick or gloss to give you greater control over your lip color.  A little forethought into building your collection can not only help you create more cohesive combinations, but can also help reduce impulse buys for similar lip colors.  For quite some time, I subsisted happily with 5-10 lipsticks, and my palette of Aqua creams, and a clear gloss.

Good luck practicing these in your makeup routine!  Feel free to comment with questions, issues, or requests for color recommendations.  Lipstick, especially bright lipstick, can be a daunting prospect if you don’t know what you want, or how to achieve it.


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. spidergirl
    Dec 25, 2010 @ 19:37:57

    I love your description of how to pair colors, and am looking forward to learning more tricks from you, you’re my guru from now onwards!


    • dolcearia
      Dec 26, 2010 @ 08:46:09

      Thanks! I’m glad it was useful. Some of these techniques are pretty intuitive, but may not be remembered when makeup shopping. I wanted to include a few notes on general technique that can help make up users put together their own pretty looks, as well as learning from mine.

      The lipcolor tweaking, particularly, is a useful thing to practice, since SO many effects can be gotten from it! At least with my makeup personality, I’d rather spend $20 on eyeshadow, than on lipstick. So learning to make the lipstick collection more versatile was a MUST for getting the products I really wanted.

      Definitely let me know if there’s any particular techniques you really want to see, I’m always happy for suggestions. In the meantime, have fun with the new tricks 😉


  2. spidergirl
    Dec 26, 2010 @ 13:10:24

    Thanks for encouraging me more! I’m also an eyeshadow person, and it’s quite nice trick to layer your lips with various colors to bring out new shades. That’s a super-budget tip! Thanks for sharing that, and I would definitely leave you a comment when I’d like to learn something new from you! 🙂


    • dolcearia
      Dec 26, 2010 @ 13:35:48

      Glad you were encouraged! Lips are more daunting than eyes, I think, for many people. With your eyes, if you know the right contours, and ways to tie different colors in together, you can wear almost ANYTHING, and really accent them.

      With lips, most people have NO clue where to start when choosing colors or saturations to suit their undertones, and lip shape. It’s far easier to say “my lips are too thin and my skin too pink to wear that color, I’ll just opt for a lip plumper with a faint shimmer” than to worry about looking like an idiot in public wish too-orange-fish-lips. I think that finishing the lips depends a LOT more on your natural lip texture, shape, pigmentation, than most people know how to compensate for. I mean, that simple aesthetic can be gorgeous on lips, but every woman should know how to pick out the right red for her skintone. In my opinion, anyways….

      Have fun playing around with the layering! I had to admit, my recent favorite was layering a pearly bronze lipstick with a gold gloss with irregular-gold sparkles. The texture was glossy, but had so much depth with the different finishes of pearl and glitter.

      I will probably post a follow up to this soon, focusing on layering and blending OCC Lip tars. At the time that I wrote this, I didn’t own any. Now, I own…. 10? 12? And THOSE are a whole new story!

      I’m off now, got things to write, and ideas to sketch, before it gets light enough to apply and photograph.

      Good luck experimenting!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 249 other followers

%d bloggers like this: