Technique: Working with loose eyeshadow

Especially in the day and age of the Indie Mineral Makeup company, loose pigments are pretty readily available, and can have a lot of benefits in the final result.  At the same time, they can be more difficult to apply and blend.  There’s a few techniques and products that can help you get the best results, and a variety of effects from your pigments, whether it’s a MAC color, or a Fyrinnae duochrome-with-extra-glitter.

Your choice of primer is one of the more obvious ways  to affect the finished results.  The stickier the primer, the more sparkly pigment it will hold on to.  Dry primers can mute colors that would be too bright for the occasion otherwise.

Here’s an example.  Sugarpill Absinthe applied over UDPP, Fyrinnae Pixie Epoxy(PE), and mixed with medium(foiled, or wet)

As you can see(if you view it full size), the PE held a LOT of sparkle, and the wet application gave it a more metallic look.  The edges of the one over normal primer are much softer and less harsh.

One product that can help you preserve intricate finishes, or additional vibrancy is using a tacky “primer” over your normal primer.  I wrote a tutorial, months back, on working with Fyrinnae’s Pixie Epoxy, one of the best known of these glitter primers.  Many other Indie cosmetics companies make their own variant, but Pixie Epoxy is the one I use.  Some other products, like MUFE Flash Creams, work well as colored bases, but are sticky enough to hold glitter well.  You can use similar colors to enhance the saturation of your pigment color, or a contrasting one to bring out other elements(For instance, a white shadow with duochrome  or interference, like Sugarpill Lumi, Fyrinnae’s “ghost” series(jade ghost, crimson ghost, sakura, etc.) will show up over dark bases as nothing more than the colored sheen-no trace of the white “color” the shadow has, applied over nude primers)

You can also apply pigment wet for similar results to the tacky primer.. This can take a lot of practice to work with, and to figure out how to blend it, soften edges, work with dry colors in the same look.   Be prepared to practice a LOT.  You can buy a mixing medium like MACs or an eyeshadow sealer, or you can mix your own using water, and a little bit of Glycerin(found in first aid aisles at the grocery store or pharmacy).  I mix my own, and keep a little jar with an eyedropper for dispensing it. It is also useful to thin out foundation with this mixture.  While applying pigment as eyeliner may be as simple as wetting your brush, dipping it in pigment, and lining the eye, covering larger areas demands a bit more medium.  I like to put the drop on a metal or ceramic palette, and dip the brush in the pigment, tap the handle against my finger over the area on the palette. This way, if I know I’ll need a bit more pigment for the amount of mixing medium, I won’t be dipping a sticky brush back in my jar, and mixing half-wet pigment in with the normal stuff.  For one bead of medium, usually 2-3 taps is enough to get it to a workable consistency. You want the pigment damp enough to be creamy—not clumpy, or runny(see pictures below).  Apply to the eye with a fluffier brush(Natural bristles DO seem to work better for this.  Sorry, Vegans.  It’s not a huge difference though).  I like to pat additional pigment over the wet part before it sets, for extra OOMPH to the glitter, and to make sure that if it’s slightly too runny, it won’t crease before it dries.  After it has dried a bit, use a bare fluffy brush to blend the outer edge in little circles for a slightly softer falloff.  If you plan on using dry pigment in the same look, switch to a DRY brush, to avoid difficulty blending a powder that can’t  be applied wet, or staining powder shadows.

proper consistency for foiled pigment-wet, but not runny.

Too much water/not enough pigment. Will crease and run, if applied.

One thing to keep in mind about using MM pigments dry, is that if you buff too hard in the blending, it will remove any shimmers, sparkles, or sheens, but leave the base color.  This can make your eyeshadow look patchy, if it has been unevenly applied, or parts of the color still retain that sheen.  Buffed in evenly though, you can get even more varied effects from your eyeshadow.  Fyrinnae kamikaze, a bright sparkly orange-red, lightly buffed into a look with taupes and nude shades appears to be a deep rosy coral, that can complement blue eyes, while being more wearable than the original shade.  Other times, the base color may be completely different than the main color, applied wet or over epoxy.  Fyrinnae Aztec Gold has a leafy green/olive base, but a vibrant gold sheen with just a hint of green(Like Pyrite, or fools gold) when used in practice.  Buff it in, and the sickly-green gold vanishes, leaving behind an autumn green tint).

If you don’t want to buff the sheen COMPLETELY away, you’ll need to alter your application technique.  Patting pigment on, rather than swiping it, can help preserve the finish and vibrancy.  I like to use a rounded brush tip, with a little bit of pigment on the end, to minimize fallout.  The bare bristles around the edges of the brush can help catch powder, or make it easier to blend outwards, without covering large areas at once.  While you’ll need to do SOME longer brush strokes, to blend colors, soften falloff, try to keep that to a minimum.  Avoid particularly dry primers, pat the first coat on to place the colors, and then use a few back-and-forth swipes to soften any seams.  For areas where you normally blend in circles(Like blending crease falloff with highlight) you may want to add another coat of pigment to the most intense area of color, after you have blended the rest of the color appropriately.

For sheer coverage, don’t use the pigment deposit on the tip of the brush, like we were discussing.  That will result in the color looking patchy as you attempt to blend it outward over your full space.  Instead, tap as much product off the tip of the brush as you can, or swipe it along the lid of the pigment jar for a lesser amount of pigment more evenly distributed.  A number of my favorite highlight colors are downright metallic, and are overwhelming if applied in a full coat of pigment.  Using a much more diffused amount of product buffed in can give a very subtle glow.  For colors that may be otherwise slightly too dark for highlight, you can apply the densest coat of color above the crease, clean your brush, and then use the brush to pull the pigment you just placed into the highlight area.  Shiro Epona, HiFi Low Light, and Between the Stars, are some of my favorite colors to use this technique with.

One of the biggest issues you may encounter working with pigments, is fallout.  Pressed eyeshadows tend to adhere fairly evenly to brush, and then to lid.  Pigments are pretty loose, and while they adhere, if you have too much pigment on your brush, or it doesn’t adhere properly, you may end up with small specks of pigment falling onto your cheekbones, or below your eye. You may get pigment in the lashes, or eye as well, but so long as there’s no irritation, that’s not as much of  cosmetic concern.  If the particles DO make your eye feel sore, itchy, watery, etc. and you don’t mind starting from scratch, rinse your eyes out with water, or a saline solution(marketed for contact wearers), WITHOUT RUBBING.  Rubbing your eyes may cause further irritation.  Mostly though, if you blink a few times, pigment tends to be swept towards the tear duct or waterline.  From there, I usually clean it up CAREFULLY with a clean q tip(gently rotate Q tip while placing it along the pigment deposit, to avoid scratching the eye.  You’ll want to be close to the mirror, and have VERY steady hands. For fallout on the skin, preparation is key.  ALWAYS apply a layer of some sort of powder to act as a barrier between the pigment and your skin before you apply eye makeup.  Your skins oils, or oils left from moisturizer, foundation, etc. may cause that pigment to adhere stronger, and be more difficult to clean up.  Not to mention that many pigments, particularly bright ones, stain oily skin. Gently, use a fluffy facial brush to flick away excess powder, and falloff, after you are done with the look.  There’s also the brush method I mentioned earlier, using pigment on only part of the brush tip, to limit the amount, as well as catch fallout in the bare bristle portions.

Not every application technique will work with every color, and experimentation will help you see which ones are the most flattering, and useful, for individual colors.  For ideas, you can also peruse my Focus On archives, which feature a variety of techniques using just one color, to diverse results.  Pigments are GREAT fun to play with, and with the abundance of indie makeup companies selling samples, it is possible to build quite a collection to play with, for very little money.  Especially if you are just learning how to use bright colors, or are building your collection, you can amass quite a selection of shades and finishes for very little money!  Most of the techniques may also apply to some pressed eyeshadows.  Many pressed eyeshadows can also  be used wet, or patted on for a smoother finish.  Most pressed eyeshadows don’t work particularly well over a sticky primer, though, matte shades particularly.

Some pigments may be approved for multi-purpose use. I have an ongoing database begun here, with notes on manufacturers recommended usages, and most manufacturers have the information available.  If it’s not in the products description, a customer service representative, or well placed email to the owner(for smaller companies) should tell you.  Not all pigments used on the eyes can be used on the lips, though many can.  If you want to use a pigment on the lips, use a disposable lipgloss wand with clear lipgloss to mix a single application of lip gloss with a small amount of pigment, to apply.  To apply a pigment to the cheeks, tap a SMALL amount onto your palette(or tap the brush on the top of the lid), and lightly tap it against your finger, above the container, to remove excess product.  Apply where you want the color densest(edge of the temple, down the contour, blend upward slightly onto apple of cheeks.) and clean your brush off, or use a bare face brush to buff the product into your finished skin.  Applying it before using setting powder over foundation will help it wear longer, but may make it more difficult to blend.  It’s far easier to use a few thin layers to get as much of a flush as you want, without looking overdone or unnatural. I like to use a VERY thin coat of powder over liquid or cream foundations, apply blush, buff it, and THEN finish setting the foundation and blush.


9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. alvira
    Mar 06, 2011 @ 21:00:55

    Thank you so much for this post I recently got some loose eyeshadows and I had so much problem in applying them and this poat has answered all my problems thank you!!!


  2. dolcearia
    Mar 07, 2011 @ 02:51:53

    I’m glad it helped! Let me know how everything turns out… It took ME a lot of practice, as well, to feel comfortable working with all of this.


  3. ctkathy
    Mar 07, 2011 @ 04:32:45

    Such a lengthy and detailed post. You saved the day, again! 🙂


    • dolcearia
      Mar 07, 2011 @ 04:35:57

      Enjoy! These things take foreeeeeeever to write and revise—I’ve been swapping drafts of this one for nearly two months. Glad it helps, though!


    • dolcearia
      Mar 07, 2011 @ 04:50:44

      Forgot to ask… Did you get the hang of working with your loose pigments? I meant to check back to see if it had gotten any easier, since it took so long to write this post….


  4. ctkathy
    Mar 08, 2011 @ 00:28:13

    I find it easier working with it wet or using it as a liner. I still have problems applying it dry. Either the whole thing gets messy or my best results would be it getting patchy. Its taking me forever to get the desired look.. Sometimes, I find it really frustrating… Anyway, this post gives me a rough idea on how to avoid it getting patchy.


    • dolcearia
      Mar 08, 2011 @ 08:45:50

      Liner is definitely the easiest. It really takes work to get the technique down, but I’m sure you’ll get it! Just remember—-you can usually add a little more over top, over areas where its patchy. Especially if you are using a sticky primer like PE, or a slightly sticky one like UDPP, you may use a little more pigment to get an even application than you would if it was a powder shadow.

      If you’d like, you can also press them and see if that helps get the hang of working with it. I pressed my first batch of Fyrinnae pigments. Just use a drop of glycerin as a binder, and rubbing alcohol to get it moist enough to tamp down. You can press it in the bottom of the container, or you can buy pans online, to fit in your MAC palettes. best yet, if you press it too hard and have a hard time getting enough pigment to apply on the brush, or if you don’t press it enough and it dries to powder again, you can add more alcohol and re-press it, with the altered pressure.

      That might make it easier to play with in a form you are familiar with….


      • Jenn
        Apr 20, 2011 @ 10:57:52

        Hi! Thanks for posting this advice. I was wondering: does the colour payoff change when you press your fyrinnae eyeshadows?
        I’m okay with them loose. I get some fall out and sometimes my eyes feel itchy :(, but with certain eyeshadows more than others! Like, Victorian vamp. I used it as liner once and it got in my eyes and they got soooo irritated. I haven’t really touched the product since… Anyway, yeah, I don’t really get how to apply them wet yet, but I’ll try to follow your advice on this post. 🙂 Sorry for the rambles! But I really would like to know how you felt about pressing those fyrinnae shadows :D.


      • dolcearia
        Apr 20, 2011 @ 11:19:30

        It depends on the shadow, and the pressing technique, honestly. It took me 3 or 4 tries(depending on the color) to get mine pressed to the point where they were firm enough to stay in the pan, but soft enough to provide nice pigmentation.

        It changes the finish of some colors. Colors will look more metallic or frosty than the sparkly finish they have, when loose.

        When you applied it as liner, was it REALLY wet and liquid? I’ve never seen these types of loose eyeshadows cause that type of reaction, applied wet. Sometimes the glitter particles can make eyes itch, if fallout gets in your eyes, but applying it wet should fix that problem. If it’s still doing it, I’d assume it’s an actual allergic reaction, and there’s probably not a safe way for you to use the product. Having sifted through the ingredients list, I don’t see any ingredients known to have irritating properties or reactions, but it’s all so personal, with cosmetics. Do you wear contacts? Sometimes that can increase the eyes sensitivity, when fallout or glitter becomes trapped around the contact.

        After that first batch, I didn’t bother pressing them. Both because I didn’t want to spend a fortune on more magnetic palettes, and also because I wanted a variety of finishes, and wanted to maintain at least some glitter colors in addition to the mattes, frosts, etc. commonly found in pressed e/s.

        Hope that helps!

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