Introduction: How to Highlight and Contour for Your Face Shape

About: Professional MUA, educator, and Benefit Beauty Artist working in Sacramento & the Bay Area. I specialize in film, print, editorial, glamour, & special FX. FB: In…
Highlighting and contouring, a makeup technique recently made famous by celebrities like Kim Kardashian, is to create light and dark areas to sculpt and shape the face in a pleasing way.  Using highlighting and contouring, you can manipulate the shape of your face to appear more sculptured.  

Step 1: Determining Your Face Shape

Before beginning your highlighting and contouring, you must first determine your face shape.  Faces can be oval, rectangular, round, heart-shaped, oblong, diamond-shaped, or triangular (including inverted triangular).  To determine your face shape,  pull all of your hair back tightly and examine your face in the mirror, looking for the following attributes.  A measuring tape may be used to measure the length and width of the face for a more precise determination.
OVAL: Oval-shaped faces have a length equal to 1.5 times the width of the face, with forehead and jaw equal widths.
RECTANGULAR: Rectangular faces are 1/3 longer than the width of the face and have strong angles on the forehead and at the jawline.
ROUND: Round faces are as wide as they are long, but with soft, rounded edges.
HEART-SHAPED: Heart-shaped faces have the most width at the cheek, eye, and forehead areas, with a narrow to pointy chin.  Sometimes they will also have a high forehead.
OBLONG: Oblong faces are as long as it is wide.  Straight sides, a high forehead, and larger than average distance between the bottom of the lip and the tip of the chin are common attributes of the oblong face.
DIAMOND-SHAPED: Diamond-shaped faces are characterized by a narrow forehead and a narrow chin with the widest point at the cheeks.
TRIANGULAR (and INVERTED TRIANGULAR): Triangular faces are wide at the forehead and narrowest at the jawline; inverted triangular faces are widest at the jawline and narrowest at the forehead.Determining your face shape will help you decide where to place your highlights and contours and what features you’d like to define or downplay.  

Step 2: Contour Your Forehead

You can use many different products to highlight and contour.  For a dramatic highlight/contour, use a cream, stick, or foundation.  For a more natural look, use powder.  Highlight colors can range from matte white to reflective gold; contour colors from taupe to chocolate and should mimic the natural shadow of the individual’s skin tone. Several different shades of each can be used to add dimension.
Begin by contouring (using your dark powder, cream, or foundation) the sides of the forehead in a triangular shape.  Use the shape of your face to inform the shape and placement of your contour.  For example, if you have a square face, you’ll want to contour larger, deeper triangles on your forehead to give more of a thin oval shape to your face.  

Step 3: Contour Your Cheeks

Contour the hollow of the cheek in a triangle shape, with the widest part of the triangle at the apple of the cheek and tapering off towards the hairline.  If you are having trouble finding the hollow of your cheek, suck in your cheeks and make a “fishy-face”.  The “sucked-in” spaces below your cheekbones are where you want to contour. 

Step 4: Contour Your Jaw

Contour the underside of the jaw with the widest part of the triangle just below the ear fading out towards the chin.  

Step 5: Contour Your Nose

Contours can be used on the sides of the nose either in stripes or triangles to make the nose appear smaller or thinner.

Step 6: Highlight Your Forehead

Begin using your highlighting cream, powder, or foundation.  A highlight always follows the contour and vice versa. 
Start with a highlight above the brow, then a triangle with the widest part at the hairline and the point just above the center of the brow.  

Step 7: Highlight Your Nose

A thin line of highlight directly down the center of the nose will help to make the nose look thinner or smaller.

Step 8: Highlight Your Cheeks

Add a C- or J-shaped highlight from just below the eyes, curving over the apples of the cheeks and up and away towards the hairline.  This should be just above the contours in the hollows of your cheeks. 

Step 9: Highlight Your Chin

Place a dot of highlight above the Cupid’s bow of the lip, then draw a small triangle of highlighter on the chin with the base of the triangle just below the bottom lip.

Step 10: Blend, and Voila!

The most important part of highlighting and contouring is to blend.  Use a cosmetic sponge, a brush with blended bristles, or a large powder brush in a circular, stippling motion until the harsh lines have been blended away and you have a beautifully sculpted and defined face.