The art of contouring is one of the silver screen’s best kept beauty secrets. We might not all be blessed with the cheekbones of Katharine Hepburn or Keira Knightley, but there are some clever insider tricks which if mastered, can really make the most of each woman’s unique face shape and enhance their individual bone structure.
According to Adele’s makeup artist Michael Ashton, "Contouring and highlighting your face is the ultimate way of creating a truly three dimensional polish. The great thing about sculpting the face using contour is it will accentuate what you have already and if needed, create the illusion to give the definition you're after."
Feeling inspired? We asked three top makeup artists on how to perfect the look whether you're contouring for pale skin, tanned skin or dark skin. Soon you’ll be sculpting like a pro and giving the beautiful Keira a run for her money in the chiselled features stake…
Contouring fair skin tones, by make-up artist Florrie White:
“I believe that contouring comes hand in hand with highlighting. To go back to basics, you want to create shadows which play a trick on the eye, then you should add highlights above these contours to emphasise these new hollows and to also add luminosity.
“Each skin tone from dark, medium to light should choose matte, muted tones. Light skins should use deep creams to taupe, and avoid grey pigments which can make you look ashy, and at worst plain dirty!
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“In order to see where to place your contour, use an overhead light which will cast the natural shadows which you want to then recreate with product. Suck in your cheeks to see where the natural shadow is cast.
“From my kit I use a selection of MAC Eye Shadows , £13 in shades such as Kid, Wedge, Omega and Coquette to contour. To highlight, I use NARS Illuminator in Copacabana, £22.50.
“Use your shade of choice to contour the eye socket and then balance by a highlight in the inner corner of the eye, in the middle of the eyelid and under the brow.
“Contour under the cheekbones from the hairline and then blend down and out towards the mouth. Balance by using a highlight across the tops of the temples and over the apples of the cheeks.
“Warm up the look by applying a peachy blush on the apples of the cheeks too. I love the Shu Uemura Peachy Glow On Powder Blushes , £16. If you prefer a cream blush, try Bobbi Brown Pot Rouge in Coral Calypso, £19.
“Use a very small brush to shade down each side of the nose and then blend down and apply a highlight down the centre to soften the contour.
“I love a highlight in the Cupid's Bow too as it creates the illusion of a fuller top lip and thus a fuller pout.”
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Florrie’s insider tip:
“Always blend out the initial application of the product so you don't give the secret away.”
Contouring tanned skin tones by make-up artist Michael Ashton:
"Firstly analyse your face in frontal low-lighting to see where you get natural shadows under the cheekbones, jawline and nose and then enhance these areas using either a contour powder or cream or deeper shade of foundation. Start by shading to create the desired shape - right underneath the cheekbone towards the centre of the face, through the temples and hairline, then a light dusting on each side of the nose. Try using Daniel Sandler Sculpt and Slim , £24.50, or Bobbi Brown Illuminating Bronzing Powder in Bali Brown, £28.
“Once you've blended and shaded the areas, use a highlighting product to emulate the parts a spotlight would bounce light off, such as the centre and high-planes of the face. My favourite light reflective products are MAC Lustre Drops in Sun Rush , £18.00, Tom Ford Illuminating Highlight Pen , £40, and Shiseido Luminizing Satin Face Color in BE206 Soft Beam Gold, £33.50.
"To add that flirty flush and finish to your look, try using a large blusher brush such as the Giorgio Armani Foundation Blender Brush , £39, or the Suqqu Face Brush , £168, to sweep a soft illuminating cheek colour onto the apple of the cheeks - corals and burnished tones look beautiful on tanned skin. Try Maybelline’s Dream Soft Blush in Berry, £6.49.
Michael’s insider tip:
"Invest in the best quality products you can - powders that are super silky and highlighters with refined reflective pigments to ensure an end result that is subtle, flawless and undetectable!"
Contouring for darker skin tones by make-up artist Daniel Sandler
“First select the correct professional formula that suits your way of applying. Cream textures work well for those who like using fingers whereas those who prefer traditional makeup methods should use a pressed powder formula and a soft, angled contour brush such as the Daniel Sandler Contour/Powder Brush , £15.50.
“Sweeping sculpting powder along the jaw line creates the illusion of slimmer, younger features and helps a face appear to have lost a few pounds. Blend the powder softly down onto the neck to avoid a “tide line”.
“The effect you want to create is a natural looking shadow on areas that protrude to help them to appear less obvious. Using a small eyeshadow brush, apply the same contour powder through the eye sockets to set back over-hanging lids.
“Gently shade around the sides of the nose to help it look slimmer and apply down the length of the nose. Applying contour under cheekbones youthifies them and reduces the look of puffiness.
“To create the contours try either Daniel Sandler Catwalk Compact Foundation in shade 10, £10, or MAC Studio Tech in shade NW55, £25, then highlight above the cheekbone using your regular shade of cream concealer.
“Contrast against the sculpting by applying a light dusting of highlighting powder above it. This adds a “lift” to your features. Try using the Daniel Sandler Radiant Sheen Palette , £28.
Daniel’s insider tip:
“Practice makes perfect and always apply contour in even light so you can really see what you’re doing. If you over-apply when using a pressed formula, simply blend away excess by sweeping some translucent powder on a powder puff over the mistake. If you over-apply when using a cream formula, use your foundation brush to blend and tone down the error.”