Contouring For Different Face Shapes

by Sarah

Hello beauties! I get asked a lot about contouring and highlighting which are techniques that have been used for many decades by makeup professionals, but only over the last few years have become an essential part of makeup lovers’ personal routine. If you’re interested in makeup and watch Youtube videos or follow Instagrammers, you probably see that there’s a loooot of contouring and highlighting going on. Although I love seeing women embrace makeup in all its glory and trying different techniques, I’m also a little hesitant about the misuse and over-use of this technique that I see so much of these days.

So, I thought we’d strip it all back to basics and start from the beginning as to why we contour and highlight and I will do a series of posts to cover everything in as much detail as I can. We begin with contouring… There are two main reasons why we contour the face:

1. To shape and frame the face and 2. To help enhance the features

Today’s post is all about face shapes and how contouring is used to shape and frame the face


Please Note: this is only a guide to give you an understanding of how we use contouring to shape and frame the face, as I feel there are too many misconceptions and boxed up “one for all” routines out there. Everyone is different and everyone has different needs, so I hope you’re able to take from these series of posts what you personally need and make it work for YOU…as the individual beauty that you are.

In the world of beauty, symmetry is considered to be the most appealing to the eye. But lets face it, not many people have 100% symmetrical features and personally, I think it’s imperfections that make for a uniquely perfect face. However, going back to the technicalities: with symmetry being a factor, Oval shaped faces are considered to be the ideal face shape. They tend to be well balanced, in that, no part of the face is more dominant than the other. So when it comes to contouring and highlighting the face, we take the Oval shape as a guide to either bring forward or retract parts of the face to give the illusion of the face being as close to an Oval shape as possible.

Although a face can never be perfectly geometrical (and I hope not), here are the basic face shapes we usually refer to:


As you can see in the sketches, the varying length, width, sharpness of the jawline, roundness of the cheeks, width of the forehead can all contribute to determining what face shape is the closest match to ours. So, if you have a really round face and you would like to narrow it down, or you have a long chin and you’d like to shorten it, or you may have a sharp and masculine  jawline that you’d like to soften…this is where contouring comes in to help us achieve that “ideal” shape.

The easiest way I usually teach my clients and makeup students how they can establish where to contour is to imagine an oval shape in the center of the face. Any area that falls outside of the oval is the area you contour. I prepared these sketches to explain each face shape in detail:



The width and length of round faces are usually the same. The chin and cheeks are also rounded which give the face a circular look.

As per the picture, if we place an oval shape over a round face, we can see that all the areas that are typical to a round face shape, such as the sides of the face, lower cheek area, as well as the sides of the forehead are outside the oval shape. This is where we contour so we give the face a more narrow look on the sides and draw the attention to the center of the face. In summary:

Round Faces contour:

. The temples / sides of the forehead along the hairline

. Sides of the face starting from ear moving down towards the chin (and under if needed)



SquareAs with round faces, square faces are also equal in width and length. The only difference is the sharpness of the jawline, and the sides of the face being straight rather than round.

Placing the oval shape over the square face shape, we can see the most prominent areas that are outside of the oval shape is the jawline and the sides of the forehead. By shading these areas with contouring, we achieve a softer jawline and narrow the forehead. In summary:

Square Faces Contour:

. The temples and sides of the forehead

. Sides of the face starting just below the ear tracing down the jawline towards the chin



RectangleRectangular face shapes have a similar sharpness along the jawline and forehead as the square face shapes but they are longer.

Again, looking at the oval shape over the rectangle face, we can see the areas we contour are similar to the square shape, but we have more area to cover along the jawline as it’s longer. We concentrate the contour on the jawline but bring the color in towards the center of the face, so to move the jawline upwards. This gives the illusion of a more narrow jawline. In summary:

Rectangle Faces Contour:

. The temples and the sides of the forehead shading in towards the center; (and top of the forehead if the hairline is further back)

. Sides of the face, starting below the ear down towards the chin, concentrating the color along the jawline and blending it inwards towards the center of the face



HeartCompared to the previous face shapes, where the contouring areas were similar with a variation of where we concentrated the color, heart shaped faces are quite different. They are wider at the forehead and narrow down to a pointy chin.

When placing an oval shape over a heart shaped face, we can see the only area we need to contour is the forehead. This is to create the illusion of a narrow forehead so that the width is in proportion with the jawline. In summary:

Heart Shaped Faces Contour:

. The forehead area only, beginning at the temples moving up to the sides of the forehead along the hairline

. If the hairline is further back, you can also contour along top of the forehead (along the hairline)



DiamondDiamond shaped faces are the widest from ear to ear with narrow foreheads and narrow jawline.

As per the picture, the area that we need to concentrate the contouring is the sides of the face. We do this to narrow the face and as with shaping goes, get it closer to an oval shape as possible. In summary:

Diamond Shaped Faces Contour:

. Sides of the face starting at the temples moving down to just past the hollows of the cheeks…no further.


So here we are beauties. Contouring really can make a big difference to face shapes if the concept is used correctly. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments section below and stay tuned for the next post in these series which is Contouring To Enhance The Features xx


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Liz May 26, 2016 - 9:32 pm

But what about sculpting the cheekbones? If I contour down the side, then I would have to use an even darker shade to contour the cheekbones?

Sarah May 27, 2016 - 7:15 am

Hi Liz, I have a separate in-depth post about cheek and nose contour which is different than this post:
The contour shade can be the same for all parts of the face – whether for shaping the face or enhancing features, as long as it’s a few shades darker than your natural skin tone, with taupe/gray undertones and matte finish. There’s a Product Series section on my site where I go through different makeup products and brands including contouring that you might find helpful:
Please let me know if you have any questions :)

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Jackie February 18, 2014 - 1:47 pm

Hi Sarah I’m a makeup artist too and just want to say thanks for doing this post. I cringe too whenever I see contouring done without good knowledge. I’m sure this will be helpful to many (:

Sarah February 20, 2014 - 11:51 am

Thank you Jackie!! xx

Melissa February 18, 2014 - 10:48 am

By far the simplest contouring explanation I have seen. This is great thank you

Sarah February 20, 2014 - 11:50 am

Thanks Melissa! glad you enjoyed it xx


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