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Breaking Down Beauty: A Contouring, Highlighting, & Major Smoky Eyes Makeup Tutorial

By Sheila Arkee

Being of Iranian ancestry with some Armenian (and other middle eastern countries) thrown in for good measure, it has been a thrill to see people with similar backgrounds represented on TV. Although I’ll keep my comments and judgment about Shahs of Sunset and Keeping Up With The Kardashians to myself, I really love that the cast members of these shows are working the smoky eyes and pretty makeup.

One thing that “Persian Barbie” Lilly Ghalichi and her Armenian counterpart Kim Kardashian have in common is a heavily highlighted and contoured face along with the aforementioned glamorous smoky eyes and glossy pink lips.


Lilly Ghalichi

kim k

Kim Kardashian

If you look closely at the photos of Lilly and Kim, you’ll notice that the highlighting and contouring serve the purpose of framing their faces and bringing attention to the centers of their faces. This is technique that is also employed by drag performers, as demonstrated in this photo of drag queen Alexis Mateo. Yes, I do take makeup notes during RuPaul’s Drag Race!

alexis mateo

This technique is employed so often in drag because it softens up harsh angles typically found in men and adds dimension where light removes dimensions in photos. On women it makes for a totally glamorous effect, and while it’s not something you’d typically wear on a nature walk (or maybe you would, who am I to judge?). This is contouring and highlighting the extreme version.

To show you why contouring and highlighting is important, let me take you on a trip down memory’s lane to my mid-1990’s Glamour Shots experience. Oh, yes.


At the tender age of 15, I remember being so very excited to get my hair and makeup done, only to be paired with the most complaining makeup artist of all time ever. You name it, she complained about it – her feet hurting, the weather, my 5 o’clock shadow (true story). Looking back at the photos, I should have complained about her making my nose look like a potato!!! A little contouring would have made a world of difference in the finished results.

Remember these two very important things about sculpting your face: LIGHT brings forward, DARK receeds.

Apply highlighting products on the high planes of the face – the areas most likely to naturally be hit by light, such as:

– the bridge of the nose

– tops of the cheekbones

– on top of your brows

– the cupid’s bow

– the space right underneath the lower lip

Apply contouring products:

– on the temples of your forehead

– down the sides of your nose

– directly underneath your cheekones

– on your jawline

Now, let’s dive in to the step-by-step, with a little before-and-after action!

Before, not a stich of makeup on my face.


After, ready for my close-up!


Step 1: Apply your foundation as you normally would, but hold up on powdering down your face.


Step 2: Get your highlighting and concealing on! There are a variety of product you can use for both purposes. Some people prefer using powders, I tend towards using cream product that blend in easily and last a long time. The key, however, is to use shimimer-free products that are several shades lighter and darker than your skin tone.

For this tutorial I used Maybelline Instant Age Rewind concealer in Brightener/Illuminator for the Highlight, and  Hourglass Illume Crème-to-Powder Bronzer Duo in Bronze Light for the bronzer. This would make a good online dating profile photo, no?


Step 3: Using soft brushes, blend out your hghlighting and contouring products and set with a translucent powder. Blend, blend, blend!




Step 4: Add blush and lips, and you’re set to move on to eyes! For the final product I decided to use another gloss,this one wasn’t happening for me.


Step 5: Prime your lids with eyeshadow primer, and use a flat brush (MAC #242) to pat in the lid color.


Step 6: Blend out harsh edges with a soft, fluffy brush.


Step 7: Add color to the lower lid with a pencil brush.


Step 8: Add a darker color to the crease and use a clean brush to wipe away any harsh edges



Step 9: Use a soft brush to add color to the browbone and inside of the eye.



Step 10: And you’re set!


Step 11:





  • Monika

    Wow! Persian Princess! (I mean that in a good way!) I have a question: On the jawline, do you put the contour under the jaw or on the jaw? How do you avoid a weird color line there? I want to avoid a mask-y like line.

  • Sheila – Painted Ladies

    That’s a good question, Monika! I find the best placement for the jawline is right under the jaw. Blending is key to avoid that mask-y line, and using a powder in that area helps, as well.

  • Alis

    That’s really interesting sheila, thanks! I’ve tried many times contouring my face but I’m still not sure about the product to use! Can you suggest me a good MAC product to use as highlighter? I prefer powder products instead of cream ones!
    Also, for the darker shades, I don’t know if a cold toned bronzer si better than a hot toned bronzer… I’ve pink undertones!

  • http://celinecrowne.blogspot.com Ava

    Great tutorial, thanks!

  • Sheila – Painted Ladies

    Hi Alis! I really like MAC’s Harmony blush to use as a contouring product – I will have to swatch it one day soon so you can see how it looks. It’s matte and a really nice color If you’re near a MAC location, try out Strada as blush as well, which might be a nice color match for your undertones. As far as a highlighter, try Gesso eyeshadow, which is a really good matte white. Hope that helps!

  • http://www.fairybliss.net/so-colorful Alis

    Hi Sheila, thank you so much for your kind suggestions! I will look for that shades! Can’t wait to see your swatches too!

  • http://www.beautyinfinitum.com eight

    Oh, your look is so pretty!

  • Sheila – Painted Ladies

    Thank you, eight!

  • Mandi

    So you don’t apply powder?

  • http://www.painted-ladies.com Sheila

    I do – in step 3.

  • Super Clare

    You look so pretty! My small eyes are deep set with dark circles that cave in (sounds worse than it really is, ha-ha) I will try the highlighting method to try and bring them forward…

  • http://www.painted-ladies.com Sheila

    Thank you! I know you’ll like it!

  • Sheila

    From one Sheila to another…;)
    I noticed you took two pictures while blending with two different soft brushes. Was that to show examples of types of soft brushes you can use or did you use one to blend the highlighted and one to blend the contouring?

  • http://www.painted-ladies.com Sheila

    Hi Sheila!!! Yes, on the latter – one to blend the highlighting and another to blend the contouring.

  • michelle

    You look so pretty! Amazing tutorial !!

  • UFgirl

    As someone who has been trying to learn the art of contouring, I’ve spent a lot of $ trying various shades, brands, etc. I know Strata is very hyped up and when something is as hyped as it is by both bloggers, blog devotees & MU lovers/hoarders/
    collectors I brace myself knowing chances are I’m going to be let down. Many times after lemming for so long over certain items, once I do get my hands on it I usually am disappointed. This is NOT the case with Strata. It is as amazing as everyone says it is & more. I’m NC20 & unsure of how it looks on darker skintones, but if you can get your hands on it, at a decent price, buy it & see what you think. It’s HG status for me b/c it’s very easy to apply quickly & without messing it up. Granted there are times when I want a more dramatic countour & I recently got the infamous Chanel Notorious Ombré Sculpting Veil it is very dramatic & for that I’m grateful because I’m unwell & rarely have the chance for dramatic looks, but there are also those days when going to the grocery store calls for drama…I hope you find something that suits you well. Once you start looking for contouring suggestions you will find there are a lot more options than I ever imagined. If you can try
    Illamasqua’s Cream Pigment in Hollow, which is available in the US at some Sephora & Blooming-dale’s locations & try online if you they don’t carry that in your area. HTH.

  • UFgirl

    I know this was done a long time ago, but I would love to know what you used to do your smoky eye. You look gorgeous, great post. Thank you!

  • http://www.painted-ladies.com/ Sheila Arkee

    Late response, but that you! I used MAC Print for the grey shade.