How to Contour Your Face: A Guide for Beginners

how to contour your face for beginners

A question that always seems to pop up on Pampadour is, “how do I contour my face?! Where do I begin?” Contouring is one of the most useful beauty techniques out there – instant cheekbones? Yes, please! It’s also much easier to do than people seem to think it is. Anyone can learn how to contour; it’s simply a matter of knowing where to place the products, using the right tools and blending away! Read on for a step-by-step guide to achieving a flawless contour.

For a natural look that you can wear everyday, go 1-2 shades lighter/darker than your natural skin tone. For a more dramatic, glam look, go 3-4 shades darker/lighter. Also, keep in mind that shimmer is a no-no when it comes to contouring. Go with matte products to give off a natural look.

Always keep in mind where you’re going and the lighting that you’re going to be in. In daylight, everything shows so much more; you don’t want intensely sculpted cheekbones for a walk in the park. To get the look just right, try to work by an open window, letting natural sunlight in.

You can use either cream or powder to contour; it’s really a personal preference. I’m more of a powder girl, but many people swear by creams. Play around with both, and see which works for you.



Cream Highlight and Contour: You can use different shades of foundation or concealer for your cream contour, but due to the skyrocketing popularity of contouring recently, there are now cream contour palettes available as well. Anastasia, Tom Ford and Stila all have easy-to-blend options that come in convenient, sleek palettes. Clinique and NYX have creamy pencil options – perfect for contour narrow spots, like down your nose.

Blush/Contour Brush: When it comes to creams, you can use your fingers to apply (this is actually ideal – it gives off a natural effect) or a flat foundation brush. For blending, look for a round brush with densely-packed bristles. Marc Jacobs has a new one that looks gorgeous. Roque Cozzette’s Contour Stylist Brush is a makeup artist favorite.

Makeup Sponge: The handy dandy BeautyBlender is perfect for ensuring your contour and highlight is blended in flawlessly. The Real Techniques sponge is a fantastic, wallet-friendly dupe. After you use your brushes, touch everything up by stippling a damp sponge on your face to get rid of any visible lines.


Powder Highlight and Contour: I’m sure you have a matte bronzer (Benefit’s Hoola is great for contouring) and highlighter somewhere in your makeup collection already, but I strongly recommend investing in the Kat Von D Shade + Light Palette. It blends so easily — I feel like I can contour with my eyes closed when I use it. The Anastasia Contour Kit is another absolute classic.

Angled Contour Brush: Sigma’s fluffy Large Angled Contour brush is ideal for diffusing your powder contour shade. BH Cosmetics has a more affordable version, and the quality is awesome considering the low price.

contouring guide


1. Apply foundation and concealer, in the shades you normally use, to your skin.

2. It’s time for the darker, contour shade. Pull out your fishy face! Suck in your cheeks to see the hollows and follow the rule of ‘3’: starting at the middle of your hairline, begin tracing a 3 along the side of your face. Your ‘3’ should end underneath your jawline. Repeat this step on the other side. Run the contour shade down the sides of your nose for a slimming effect.

3. Blend it all in, making sure to keep the shade in place. When it comes to contouring, placement is everything. That’s how to illusion of sharp cheekbones and jawlines is created.

4. See the light! Apply your lighter shade to all of the highlight spots – center of your forehead, your brow bone, down the center of your nose, top/apples of your cheeks, under your cheekbones, cupid’s bow and chin. Think of where the light would hit your face as a rule of thumb.

5. Blend, blend, blend. Use your makeup brush to gently blend in your highlight shade. Make this as seamless as possible. If it’s not quite right, don’t worry: you can always go back in with a sponge.

6. Touch it up! If you used creams, go over your look with a damp makeup sponge, using a light stippling motion to make sure there’s no excess. For powders, use your fluffy angled contour brush to get rid of any visible, harsh lines.

6. Add a pop of color to your cheeks: go in with your favorite blush. Softer, more natural colors complement contouring well – think light pinks or peaches.

7. If you used cream products, or if your skin tends to get oily, set your look with a light dusting of translucent powder (like NYX’s). You can also cover over your creams with a powder palette or bronzer/highlighter. It will keep your contour in place, from day to night.

That’s it! Follow these steps and you’ll be a contour pro. Let us know what you think in the comments below and on PAMPADOUR.

Image via Pinterest

  • Karlee Steele

    I really want a video! I have one question I have not been able to find the answer to anywhere. Ok after you apply your foundation then apply your hi lighting cream (I use Nars) do you then apply your powder (I use MAC studio fix). So would I apply that by brush on face after you cream hi light? I use Nars 2 shades lighter in cream form but after I blend everything I go back over hi lighted with kat von d powder and then I do my contour in which takes place after I’ve applied foundation, then NARS cream concealer 2 shades lighter, followed by my studio fix powder by brush all over face including where I just hi lighted, final I go back with kat von d contour and use the hi light powder and then shade please help me when do you apply your powder

    • Karlee, you’ve got it right! Use the powder after your cream to set everything in place.

      • Karlee Steele

        Thank you I have felt I was doing this part wrong applying the studio fix powder overy hi light due to applying the color right back on top of the hi light. Do you think after I apply myac studio fix powder on top of my nars hi light should I go over with my kat von d hi light powder are would this be to much?

        • You don’t need to put powder over powder – it would probably start looking cakey. Stick with just one 🙂

  • Diana Bakir

    Thanks so much for this post, but my problem is that no matter with what I contour, creams or powders, I never get the same color as my neck. Do you know any contour kits or creams/powders for fair, olive skin? Also should I use the foundation before or not at all ?
    Best wishes

    • If you need to use foundation, use it beforehand. Just make sure it’s not cakey/too much. As far as your neck, I used to have the same problem. It’s all about blending! I personally use my all-over bronzer, not my matte contour one, on my neck to make sure it look seamless with my face.