Eye Shadow Quads, Demystified

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You gave in to temptation and purchased that gorgeous eye shadow quad. Who can blame you? Shimmering gems of deeply saturated eyeshades can make any makeup maven weak in the knees – but now that you have them, how do you use them? Well, that’s where I come in.

You may find colors like brilliant green, deep purple, sultry gold, and bright opal all in the same eye ahadow quad, and for good reason. When you understand the color wheel, it will all make sense!

Here’s the basic breakdown:

*Colors that fall on opposite sides of the wheel yield a high contrast, high impact look.

*Colors that are close to each other on the wheel work together and are great for creating a more subtle, graduated look.


Most eye shadow quads have a combination of four colors:

A pale shade that can be used all over the lid or as a highlighter under the brow bone and in the inner corner of the eye.

A medium shade that can be used in the crease or on the lid.
A contrast color. That’s the color that does not seem to “go” with the rest of the palette. (Monochromatic palettes will not have a contrast color – you can juxtapose the lightest and darkest shades to create dimension.)
A dark color that can be used to line the eyes, create depth and contours, or be used on the lid for a smoky look.


These four colors alone can be used to create countless looks – smoky, natural, daytime, night time, contoured, you name it.

I chose a random drugstore quad (Revlon) to demonstrate two practical looks that can be used any time of day or night.

*The color palette in this quad is purple – it includes pinks, plums, and sage green for contrast.  


The Daytime Vixen

Definition, contours, and contrast – that’s the “Daytime Vixen.”

Apply the lightest color in your palette to the entire lid. You may want to use an All-Over lid brush for this job.
Using a smaller eye shadow brush, apply the second darkest shade (sage green) to the outer corner of your lower lid. Apply this shade using gentle, short strokes, carrying the color towards the middle of the lid. Make sure to blend hard lines.
This is the most technical step – take your time. Using a tiny eye shadow brush, apply the darkest shade in a subtle “V” shape to the outer edge of your lower lid.

It’s time for the medium shade. In this case, it will be used to blend the dark purple into your crease. Using a small contour brush, apply the medium color (second lightest) to the center of your crease. Your intention is to blend the dark purple contour so that your makeup looks seamless.
For a night time look, darken the outer edges of your eyes with the darkest shade. Use a dark eyeliner and finish with an extra coat of mascara.

Subtle and Sultry

A gradual transition of colors that looks hot and sultry, but still subtle. This time, we’re going from lightest to darkest.

Use an All-Over lid brush to apply the lightest color to the entire lid.
Apply the medium shade from the lash line to just above the crease. Make sure your edges are blended so that there are no hard lines.
Now, using a small eye shadow brush, apply the third darkest shade to the lower lid only. Blend the edges into your medium shade.
Finally, use your darkest shade at the lashline. I like my liner thicker towards the outer edge of the eye.

For more impact, line the inner rim of your lower lid with a dark pencil. Use the same liner to line the upper lash line. Pump up the lashes with a good coat of mascara.

Remember, these are just two ideas. You can use one, two, three, or all four colors at any given time. For everyday neutral looks, I like to use only one or two colors. I use the lightest color on my entire lid followed by the medium shade in the crease for a little definition. Sometimes I’ll forego the contrast color all together. It’s up to you!


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  • http://Ihavethetime.com Yvonne

    Great tutorial. It is easy to follow.

  • Jess

    This is the most helpful thing I have EVER seen …..and I used to sell make up!! Thanks for that!

  • MizGeeful

    this is a great illustration of how to apply shadow. thanks!

    thing is, in the very first pictures (1st column), when you apply the lightest shade, the eyelid in the photo looks like it already has different colors and shades of color on it, especially in the upper corner under the brow and along the lower edge of the lid.

    it’s just that when i put one color of the lightest shade all over my eyelid, i have a much less “defined lid than it shows in the photo so that my “finished” look doesn’t look like the photo.

    am i doing something wrong?

    • Cindy

      Usually, when you use flash photography, it will wash out some of the colors. I think it would be good to add a little bit more color than you normally do if you know you will be taking pictures with the flash on because the light will remove some of it anyway. Hope that helps!

  • Biancalita

    Absolutely wonderful tutorial, thank you so much!!

    • The Untrendy Girl

      You’re very welcome! I always find 2 colors are always unused, usually because people don’t know what to do with them.

  • http://www.newtress.com/filipino-hair Sallie Handon

    Great tutorial. I’m going to read this like 6 times, but still never get it right, even though it’s right there. Lol

  • http://bellashoot.com/ Bellashoot Bellas

    Amazingly thorough review! Our users would love learning from you on http://bellashoot.com – I’d like to invite you to upload your beauty posts there :) xx

  • Anita Nix

    Very nice tutorial. Easy to follow. Thanks a bunch!

  • Spallin

    This is amazing. I love how you made the upper portion darker to show exactly where to shoot for with the application prior to blending. Thanks for making it so understandable!

  • Beauty Blog

    Amazing display pics and charts to show us how to use eye shadow. Thanks

  • http://goforgarbo.wordpress.com/ Sasha

    So, so very happy I found this post. I usually just glob them all together and hope for the best, hahaha. I’ve taken notes, but I seriously want to print this out and stash copies into my makeup kits. Thank you so much!

  • http://dbakeca.com Dbakeca Italia

    Such a good tutorial, and easy to follow instructions. Thank you for this post!