How To Make Your Eyeshadows Pop!

by Sarah

Have you ever seen those amazing eye makeup looks online or in a magazine and wondered…HOW?

How do they get the color so intense? How is that eyeshadow so sparkly? What did they use for that rich black smoky eye? Furthermore, you have the exact same eyeshadows but your looks never come out the same! WHY?!?

The trick to getting the most out of your eyeshadows and achieving professional results is simpler than you think. In today’s post, we’ll cover all the tips and tricks…and coupled with some experimenting, your eyeshadow game will never be the same!

Photography: Julia Kuzmenko McKim / MUA: Ernesto Casillas

Eye makeup is one of the most challenging parts of the makeup application. Color combinations, placement of the product, blending can all seem quite daunting but there’s one part that I get asked about quite often: Color Intensity

SHORT ANSWER: The trick to making your eyeshadows pop is: The BASE!


Whether you’re trying to get the most out of your everyday neutral shadows, or you’re wanting your shimmer shadows to be seen by NASA; or a smoky eye “so smoky” that even you can’t believe what you’ve created…the base you use is where it’s at.

There are many different base products you can use to make the most of your eyeshadows. These typically include concealers, cream eyeshadows, chubby pencils (which double up as shadow and liner), gel liners or even your traditional eye pencils.

The color of these bases also play a big role in the overall results so I categorized them into 3 essentials groups : Neutral, Color and Black

SHOP Eyeshadow Bases HERE

Base products to use with eyeshadows


Neutral eyeshadow bases are a must! Just like our face when we apply our primer and foundation, eyelids also benefit from having a smooth and even surface to work with. Neutral bases can be anything from your foundation to tinted eye primer, cream shadows (matte or shimmer) to the trusty old concealer…which is what I tend to use often.

Applying a base to even out skin tone, and finishing it with a light dusting of translucent powder will not only prep your skin for easy and even blending, it will also allow the actual color of the eyeshadow to come through.

The below picture shows some of the neutral bases I reach for often. The swatches on the right show the same matte brown eyeshadow without a base and with my MAC Concealer underneath…

Neutral Eyeshadow Bases / Swatch of matte brown shadow with and without a base

I used a flat shader brush to apply the matte brown shadow – same number of swipes for both applications. As you can see, the side without a base looks more sheer and slightly patchy. The side with the neutral base makes the the color and intensity of the eyeshadow literally come alive – as it has something to grip onto. It’s also more even and closer to the way the color appears in the pan.

You can use neutral bases for all different eyeshadow colors and finishes. They don’t alter the texture of the eyeshadows, they just help with an even application, intensify the color and opacity.


Color bases can be cream shadows, gel liners, chubby eye pencils or just the traditional eyeliners. These type of bases work particularly well with shimmer shadows as they help bring out the true undertone of the color – and take the shimmer/metallic factor up a notch.

I typically use ‘shimmery’ color bases to further intensify my shimmer eyeshadows but there are matte color bases which work just as well. You can either use the exact same color base as your eyeshadow color, or layer different tones like I did below, to adjust the depth of the overall look.

Below picture shows some of my favorite color bases. These are all long wearing formulas which means they set and help anything else you apply on top last for hours.

Color Eyeshadow Bases / Champagne/Gold Shimmer Shadow with and without a base

I used a champagne/gold shimmer eyeshadow to demonstrate how you can adjust undertones of eyeshadows by layering it on top of a different color base. Color bases turn shimmery shadows into punchy metallic textures which are hard to miss.

Shimmer shadows, depending on quality and pigmentation can be hard to build up by blending. So using a base underneath will really make these shadows pop!


An absolute must when creating smoky eyes, black bases can be gel liners, eye pencils, chubby sticks or cream eyeshadows. As the name specifically suggests, as long as the color is black (or close to black), your smoky eyes will never look the same again…in a good way of course.

If you ever wondered how some smoky eyes look so intense and super dark…99% of the time they’ll have a black cream base underneath. There’s something magically transforming about using a black eyeshadow base.

For the sake of proving its powers, I used a shimmery purple shadow from Colourpop. It looks stunning in the pot but for some reason, this particular color never applies with the same intensity on bare skin. So here’s how we bring it to life…

Black Eyeshadow Bases / Colourpop shadow with and without a base

I used my NYX Jumbo pencil in Black Bean as a base – which is basically a creamy black liner. How insane is the difference!?

The side without the base is no match to the side with the base. The swatch with the base is exactly how the color looks in the pot. They’re like completely different shadows.


  • You can take any of the bases I mentioned above and experiment with all sorts of different color, texture and finish eyeshadows. Each try will give you a different result but it’s also the best way to discover new combinations and techniques.
  • Using bases helps make the most of your eyeshadows. They will bring out the true color of the eyeshadows as you see them in the pans. You may have eyeshadows which didn’t work for you before. Now is the time to get those babies out and test them with different bases. They just might become your new favourite.
  • If you’re interested in super bright or even neon eyeshadows, try a white base underneath to really make the colors come alive.
  • Use your fingers! Especially when it comes to shimmer shadows, using fingers help distribute more color than applying it with a brush. Whether you use a base or not, try applying your shimmer shadows with your fingers to see if it improves color pay off and intensity

SHOP Eyeshadow Bases HERE

I hope this post was helpful and it motivates you to play around with different products and create those amazing looks you’ve always wanted to.

Let me know in the comments if you try these techniques and how they worked for you :)

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Serena April 30, 2017 - 6:22 am

Aaaahhhh! I just love your site Sarah! I learnt so much from your posts and it’s so nice to have a professional share her knowledge. Everything you review and recommend checks out exactly as you say it. Thank you for always being so detailed and transparent in your posts.

Sarah April 30, 2017 - 1:40 pm

Thank you so much Serena! It makes me so happy to hear your feedback; glad to have you here :)

Helena April 28, 2017 - 4:12 pm

OMG I just discovered your blog and I love it!!! I only ever use primers as a base. I can’t wait to try these different bases now. Thank you!

Sarah April 29, 2017 - 4:26 pm

Welcome to the blog Helena! Keep me posted on how the bases work for you :)

Diana Gillard February 17, 2017 - 12:08 pm

This is such a helpful post. I have a few eyeshadows and I love the colors but they just don’t apply evenly. I’m excited to try them with a base color now. Thank you for all your hard work.

Sarah February 21, 2017 - 3:52 am

Thanks Diana :)

Sam February 17, 2017 - 9:14 am

Such an amazing difference!!!! I’m never skipping the ‘base’ part again!

Sarah February 21, 2017 - 3:52 am

Definite must indeed :)

Melinda February 17, 2017 - 7:38 am

Just in time for the weekend. I’m gonna try the black base with my smokey eye. Thank you sooooooo much!

Sarah February 21, 2017 - 3:53 am

Thanks Melinda; let me know how it turned out :)

Bianca February 17, 2017 - 6:49 am

I know I said this a million times but your blog is EVERYTHING!!! I can’t believe how these eyeshadows change with the base. Thank you for sharing all your expertise with us Sarah.

Sarah February 21, 2017 - 3:53 am

Aww thanks Bianca, I’m happy you’re enjoying the blog :)


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