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: ...

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.  

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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.

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    16 Discussions


    3 years ago

    She looks the same!

    i didnt think you were being rude at all. you just asked if someone could be used w clearer skin. the woman who is in the photos is a naturally beautiful girl but her skin texture with so much make up on is a little distracting. its not the pimples its just her texture. I have simalilar texture so a high focused lens will really show it but for a tutorial we need to see it as clear and as obvious as possible. I didnt really see any contouring at the end but just foundation blanketing (a very pretty) face. a lighter skinned model might also make it show up more.

    If I could snap my fingers & turn myself into a snow-white model with perfect skin, or make one willing to work for free appear for that matter I would have. I worked with what I had available to me at the time and that was my tan, broken-out & scarred skin & a $100 camera. Unfortunately not everyone can be perfect, and though makeup can enhance your features, in the end you have to learn to love your looks the way they are. Through my work I hope to empower women to see their beauty, instead of telling them they must look a certain way.
    However, nearly two years later I am working on producing tutorials with a professional videographer & professional models. In the meantime, check out tutorials by Wayne Goes, Pixiwoo, and Lisa Eldridge. They have their own private studios to produce their YouTube tutorials and the production value is top-notch.


    Reply 4 years ago

    That really is rude and unnecessary. Search elsewhere for your unrealistic, rude question for someone trying to help you. If you are that knowledgable to correct someone, make your own. Unbelievable. It looked understated, flattering, and very natural and glowing in the final photo. I had makeup education as well and you should drop
    A dime and learn rather than critique. Ingrate

    Wow! Could you have maybe been a little less rude? Being in makeup school and doing 5-10 applications in a day for 6 months will break ANYONE out! And my foundation is too dark in the contour, and too light on the highlight. That's the way that contouring and highlighting creates the illusion of high points and low points on the face.

    I know this annoying. but i think i came to the conclusion that i might
    a heart shaped face without a wide forehead. what do you think? lik the
    oval, the lenght of my face is 1 1/2 times the width yet my forehead
    and cheeks are the same width and my jawline is quite narrow not rounded lik an oval making it more heart shaped according to
    another quiz. thanks for your opinion.

    1 reply


    I would actually say you have an inverted triangle, I find taking the measuring tedious so I use this to help people determine their shape


    5 years ago on Step 9

    Worst insteuctions I got sorry but it didn't work it ended up lookin ugly maybe its not ment for my face shape idk just didn't like it :/

    2 replies

    Reply 5 years ago on Step 9

    Hmm... did you follow my guide for determining and mapping out a highlight/contour for your face shape? Did you color match all of your foundations and highlight/contour creams?
    Highlighting and contouring works for every face shape imaginable. If you followed all of these steps correctly and you're still not happy with the result, you may just need some practice! Remember that Rome wasn't built in a day and you're not going to be Pat McGrath after attempting one makeup tutorial once :)


    Reply 4 years ago

    You did fine. They need to go to some classes if this isn't sufficient. Contouring and blush aren't usually in the same tutorial. You did a great job.


    5 years ago

    Hi! Can you elaborate on the 'blending' aspects, and do you still need to put foundation on... underneath? And blush? Thanks :)

    1 reply

    Reply 5 years ago

    the highlighting and contouring goes on top of the foundation, and the blush goes on after you powder. to blend you want to use little patting/stippling movements in little circular patterns with either a beauty blender or stippling brush. i'll have another highlighting & countouring tutorial up in a few days using a different technique, just subscribe to be emailed when it's up or check back!


    5 years ago

    Thanks. I wanted to learn how to do this. I'd seen a bunch of picture tutorials but I wondered if you just blend it in or add foundation. This cleared it up for me. Again, thanks. :)


    5 years ago on Introduction

    drat! i'm afraid i don't have a bare-faced "before" photo, but if you check out the photo from step 2 it's close to what you're looking for.

    i will have a new highlighting and contouring tutorial up in a few days using a different technique i learned recently so check back! or subscribe and you'll get an email when i post it :). i'll be sure to include a bare-faced before photo!

    thank you so much for checking out the tutorial and i'm so glad to hear you're enjoying!!!


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Do you have a before picture so we can see the differences?

    Thanks and nice job :)