How To Contour For Beginners: Master The Art Of Contouring

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Beautiful female applying makeup with sponge

Do you want to get a sculpted face just like an Instagram pro? You don’t need to be a Kardashian to do so! We’ll show you a guide on how to contour for beginners.

The days when people shame women for enhancing and changing their looks are far over.  Now, doing what you want to do with your body is becoming more and more accepted as the new standard of beauty.

In the past years, contouring rose to the beauty scene creating a boundless and one of the biggest beauty crazes. It went from our social media feeds, into our everyday routines.

The art of shading, contouring, and highlighting to visually improve your facial features without any surgical operations may sound overwhelming for beginners who are new to makeup…

But mastering the art of contouring is not as hard as you think!

Keep reading to learn the basics and learn the tips and tricks of contouring like a pro, even if you’re a beginner. 

What is Contouring?

Learning the basics of contouring is just as handy as getting your hands onto those brushes.

The art of contouring has a deep history rooted back in the 1500s when stage actors smothered parts of their faces with chalk so their expressions can be read clearly.

It wasn’t until the modern drag industry and the Kardashians exposed this technique, that opened up a seemingly undying trend. New contour products and a variety of application styles brought this trend from the screens to our everyday lives.

Contouring is a face sculpting makeup technique that creates depth and dimension which enhances the face’s assets and hides the not-so-favorite features.

This aims to give an altering illusion to your facial features. From a subtle slim and snatched face to hyper-sculpted cheekbones, razor-sharp chiseled jawlines, and a pointy, narrow nose, contouring can do all these for you!

The Difference Between Contour and Bronzer

There have been two different peak eras for contours and bronzers. Although they may look and work just as identical as each other…

They aren’t actually the same.

Think of contouring as putting shadows on your face. You may use it to shape, define, and accentuate the features you already have, or to create an illusion for those you’ve been wanting to have. 

Since it mimics an enhanced or a new facial structure, contours are recognizably matte… Just like the natural depth of your face.

With bronzing, think of sunlight rather than shadows. You’re adding and putting back the warmth of your face that has been pretty much taken away when you applied your base.

Most bronzers are formulated to have a shimmering finish and are typically applied on areas where the sun would naturally hit your face creating a warm, glowy finish as if you’ve been sun-kissed.

Both of them are found in powder, liquid, or cream forms. But aside from their significant uses, you can also tell their difference by their undertones.

Contours are more on the neutral tone. Bronzers, on the other hand, come in warmer orange, red, and yellow undertones. 

Do You Contour Before or After Your Foundation?

Every typical makeup routine always begins with building up the base by applying the foundation and then concealing further blemishes.

Not only do these steps even out the skin tone, but they also remove all natural shadows and dimensions of the face; leaving you with a smooth but flat canvass.

Therefore, AFTER your foundation application, it is the ideal time to add your contours. 

Since contouring products come in different types and new trends are popularized as years go by…

The application process also varies depending on the makeup look you’re trying to achieve.

Powder, Cream, or Liquid Contour… Which One Should I Use?

Just like any other makeup product, contours work best when matched with the right skin type. Lucky for us, there are now different formulations for us to choose from: Powder, cream, or liquid contours.

With the help of appropriate tools, base, and application techniques, they can all do wonders for every contouring need.

Powder Contour

Anastasia Beverly Hills Contour Kit
Editor's Choice
  • Has cool and warm shades
  • Refillable and customizable
  • Cruelty-free and vegan
Maybelline City Bronzer & Contour Powder
Budget Pick
  • Formulated with whipped cocoa butter
  • Velvety matte finish
  • Leaves a sun-kissed finish
Kat Von D Shade + Light Contour Palette
Premium Pick
  • 6-in-1 palette
  • Cruelty-free and vegan
  • Refillable and customizable

For beginners who have just started exploring different makeup products, powder contour is the perfect one to use.

Unlike cream and liquid contours, the pigment isn’t as harsh, so it’s buildable, lightweight, and easier to blend.

The powdery formula tends to sit on your pores, making it ideal for people with normal to oily skin. This results in a natural and more defined matte finish without compromising longevity.

For beginners and for powder products like this one, an angled brush is definitely a must-have.

This tool is intentionally angled to help create that perfectly symmetrical and precise contour. It also comes in different sizes for every contouring need. This helps in achieving a perfectly sculpted face without tugging your makeup.

Kat Von D Shade Light Contour Palette on a white table

Related: Kat Von D Shade + Light Palette Review + Tips

Liquid Contour

NYX PROFESSIONAL MAKEUP Full Coverage Matte Finish
Editor's Choice
  • Noncomedogenic
  • Lightweight
  • Waterproof
L.A. Girl Pro Conceal HD Concealer
Budget Pick
  • Lightweight
  • Crease-resistant
  • Cruelty-free
Charlotte Tilburry Contour Wand
Premium Pick
  • Made without parabens, sulfate, gluten, fragrance, and animal products
  • Easy to blend and buildable
  • Has cushion applicator

If you’re finally starting to get the hang of contouring, you may now step it up a little and switch on to liquid contours.

The powder ones may look natural enough for those sculpted illusions, but wait until you try this!

While there are products intended for liquid contouring, one of the easiest things to reach out for is a foundation that’s at least one to two shades darker than your base.

This is a must-try according to some makeup artists, as you’ll be surprised by it will blend to your face leaving your skin looking luminous and warm.

For longer-lasting results, use this and your powder contour as a combo! 

Just lightly dust the powder on the places where you blended the liquid, and get ready for a budge-free contour.

A domed stippling brush is a popular tool for beginners who would love to lay their hands on liquid makeup.

Its dense bristles push the product deep down to the skin, enabling an easier and more seamless application on the face.

Cream Contour

FENTY BEAUTY Match Stix Contour Skinstick
Editor's Choice
  • Light-as-air
  • Cruelty-free and vegan
  • Comes in 9 shades
E.l.f. Cosmetics Putty Bronzer
Budget Pick
  • Cream to powder finish
  • Highly pigmented with buildable coverage
  • Formulated with argan oil and vitamin E
LORAC PRO Conceal & Contour Palette
Premium Pick
  • Velvety finish
  • Fragrance-free & cruelty-free
  • Comes with a pro contour brush

Practice makes perfect and if you’re on the brink of perfecting the contour game, I bet you now have one of these.

There are two different notions when it comes to using cream contours:

The first one is that it’s the most difficult to work with but executes the most professional-looking contour finish. This concept implies its use for evening events and occasions where you’re likely to be hit with flash photography.

Since this product leaves your leaves with a dewier and more natural look when blended properly, the other concept is using cream contours for your everyday sculpted look.

Either way, be mindful when opting for this type of contour. It may slip off and complicate the entire look when used on oily skin types.

There’s a wide option in choosing which tool to use for blending this type of contour. You may use a buffing brush to blend this, but the best way to do it is with a damp makeup sponge.

If you’re new to this type of application, you might want to check this out before deciding which makeup sponge to begin with: Check out the Best Beauty Blender alternatives.

Choose the Right Contour Shade

All beginners should take note that identifying the right contour shade is the most important step when learning how to contour. 

Benjamin Puckey, pro-makeup artists suggest that if you want simpler contouring, you only need one shade, but for more elaborate sculpting, you’ll be needing two: a deeper shade to define bone structures, and a lighter shade to create shadows.

Paying close attention to the color of the shadows on your face will help you find your best contour shade. 

For the contour, it is advised to never go more than two shades darker than your natural skin tone. And two shades lighter for the highlight.

How to Contour For Beginners in 4 Easy Steps

Contouring is made easy through these basic steps. Stand out and look like a model in under ten minutes!

Step 1: Create a base

woman looking in the mirror and applying foundation on her face

After you have completed your skincare regimen order, you can now proceed to create a clean base with primer, foundation, and concealer.

Whether you used cream or powder products, blend everything out using a damp beauty sponge or a brush. Make sure to keep the concealer blended outwards.

Step 2: Highlight

Remember, shadows would be missing without the light. Before proceeding to contour, figure out where the light would hit your face, and highlight those areas using a concealer or a highlighter.

These areas are mostly on the inner corner of your eyes, a portion on the tip, the sides of your nose, your t-zone, and also on the area right above the jawline following the natural curve of your lips.

Again, bring out your damp beauty sponge and blend, blend, blend.

Step 3: Define and contour

Now that you know where the light hits your face, you can now determine where the shadows are cast. Bring the depth and color back to your face, and do contour 101.

Start by lightly sweeping the contour product of your choice along the circumference of your forehead dragging it all the way down to a portion of your temples.

This is all you need to achieve that smaller forehead.

Define your cheekbones by sucking in and see where the dent is found just below the apples of your cheeks.

Swipe a line of contour powder along the dent or from your ear to directly on the bottom edge of your cheekbone.

Reload your brush with contour powder and tap off the excess.

Finish by blending along the edge of your jawline, from the bottom of your ear to just before the point of your chin.

Combining these steps together should form a “three-like” shape, and keep blending everything out in a circular motion.

For an illusion of a nose job, trace two narrow lines along the bridge of your nose, connecting it up to where your eyebrows begin.

In this step, you may want to use a highlighter and apply it along the bridge of your nose to accentuate the illusion.

Don’t forget to blend everything as you should, and before you even know it, you’re done with the contour!

Step 4: Blush and Set

To make your look pop even more, add a bit more color to the face by dusting the cheeks with your favorite blush.

With a blush brush, swirl a shiny blush over the apples of your cheeks. Blend it in a circular motion up to your temples for that perfect natural flush.

To finish the five-step contouring routine, bring out your setting spray bottle, hold it about six to eight inches away from your face, and spray in an X or T formation. 

We know, it may sound complicated at first, but once you keep practicing, you’ll get the hang of it.

As a bonus, here’s a video tutorial on how to contour for beginners:

How to Contour According to Your Face Shape?

What works for one face shape not be suitable for the others, that’s why when practicing a new makeup technique to add to your beauty routine, recognizing your face shape is a must.

To guide you in determining which shape your face belongs to here’s a quick video:

1.    Round Face

A round face shape has almost similar length and width and is most likely to be symmetrical. However, it tends to lose shape and prominent bone structures along the jawline, chin, and forehead.

Where to contour:

  • Along the sides of the forehead and temples, down to the hollows of the cheeks dragging it down to your jawline.
  • Don’t forget to lightly sweep the contour to your lower chin.

Where to highlight:

  • Under the eyes, create an inverted triangle shape.

2.    Square/Rectangle Face

A square face shape has a wider hairline and an angular jawline, and features such as the forehead, cheekbones, and jawline are about the same width.

Where to contour:

  • To slim down the upper portion of the face, apply it around the sides of your forehead and temples, and along the hairline.
  • Below the cheekbones. Keep it closer to the angles of your face and too far into the center
  • Slim down the jaw, by sweeping the contour along the jawline until halfway to the chin.

Where to highlight:

  • Under the eyes, create an inverted triangle shape.
  •  In the middle of your forehead and chin.

3.    Heart-Shaped Face

A heart-shaped face shape has a wider forehead and gets narrower and pointed as it goes down to the chin. The jawline is also more angular and pointed.

Where to contour:

  • Along the hairline down to the sides of the forehead and temples.
  • Sweep a light amount into the hollows of the cheeks down to the apples.
  • Below the chin.

Where to highlight:

  • Under the eyes, create an inverted triangle shape.
  • In the middle of your forehead and chin.

4.    Oblong/Oval Face

This is the easiest face shape to contour.

Just like round faces, an oblong or oval face shape is symmetrical and has a rounder perimeter but is more elongated. The forehead is also typically the widest area.

Where to contour:

  • On the hollows of the cheeks.
  • On the sides of the forehead.

Where to highlight:

  • Under the eyes, create an inverted triangle shape.
  • In the middle of your forehead and chin.


  • Add blush on the apples of the cheekbones and below the chin.

5.    Diamond-Shaped Face

A diamond face shape has the cheeks as the most prominent area, with a narrowing width towards the hairline and chin.

Where to contour:

  • Since the upper and lower areas of the face are almost of the same width, contour only the side of the face, starting from the temples to the hollows of the cheeks.

Where to highlight:

  • Under the eyes, create an inverted triangle shape.
  • In the middle of your forehead and chin. 

Beginner Contouring Tips

You now have the tips, tricks, and tools, the next thing to do now is to get up, pick up that brush, and start contouring!

Contouring isn’t as easy as 123…

Perfecting your own makeup means going through lots of trial and error, but eventually, you’ll get your desired results as long as you keep trying and owning your look. 

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  • Stephanie Martin

    Stephanie Martin blends her beauty industry background with expertise in communications to lead in the fashion and beauty world. As a fashion and beauty editor, she is known for engaging and informative articles. Her lifelong passion for fashion, makeup, and hair shines through her work, earning her widespread respect among readers and clients. Stephanie's style, a mix of classic and contemporary, makes her a dynamic and influential figure in the industry, inspiring others with her knowledgeable and approachable insights.

  • Rebecca Green

    With ten years in the beauty industry, Rebecca Green has mastered the art of makeup. Trained by celebrity makeup artist Debra Macki, she's worked from Macy's to Bobbi Brown, freelanced for high-profile clients, and even launched her own brand, BeccaPink Makeup. Her versatility spans from everyday looks to editorial shoots, and her work has been featured in Greek Cosmopolitan.

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