Grazia Beauty School: How Do I Master Contouring?

Done right, this expert technique can softly sculpt and visibly enhance your features without looking OTT

How To Contour

by Joely Walker |

Despite being a trick of the make-up artist trade for aeons, contouring shot up in the wider beauty vernacular thanks to a certain troop of sisters. ‘Kim Kardashian levels of contouring can require up to 10 products, an expert eye and up to an hour of craft, which – if done incorrectly – is tricky at best and can quickly end up looking muddy and messy,’ explains make-up artist Lisa Potter Dixon.

‘But don’t let that put you off! There is a simpler, softer way of contouring that everyone can achieve with the right tools and know-how, and it’s surprisingly easy to master.’

When it comes to choosing between powder and cream formulas, stick with your instincts. ‘Powder lends a naturally matter finish, while creams amp up a dewy look.’ (Just to be sure to avoid shimmery formulations).

How To Contour in 3 Simple Steps

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Grazia Beauty School How To Contour

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CREDIT: Ed Miles

'Over your base and using a brush with a contoured tip (to focus application), sweep in a figure of three from forehead, under cheekbones, and under the jawline with a shade darker than your skin tone. These points, when bronzed, add definition to your face as the bronzer acts like a shadow,' says Lisa. With a cream, use a firmer brush or fingers.

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CREDIT: Ed Miles

Use a highlighter of the same texture but a shade lighter to bring everything together. Apply it on the high planes of the face – tops of the cheekbones, the brow bones, bridge of the nose (apply sparingly, avoiding the tip of the nose) and just above your Cupid's bow. If using powder, tap excess off the brush before applying; for cream formulas, apply to the back of your hand first and dab on to skin with fingertips.

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CREDIT: Ed Miles

Once you've made up your eyes and lips, stand back and assess your sculpting. Now's the time to soften it (by blending) or build it up for greater definition. Remember: slow and steady wins the race.

And now get the Grazia-approved contour products...

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Best Contour Products 2022 - Grazia

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Quick contouring doesn't get any easier than Anastasia Beverley Hill's ultra creamy, ultra blendable contouring sticks. Opt for a shade lighter than your skin tone to highlight, and deepen the hollows of your cheeks and the sides of your nose to create shadow. The smooth, cream contour formula is buildable, meaning no unnecessary harsh lines, and is particularly good for those with dry skin who would prefer to avoid a matte, powder finish

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This perfectly matte, buildable bronzer lends skin a believable glow that looks like you've just hopped off the plane from a week in St. Tropez. We're stockpiling for summer!

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When it comes to makeup brushes, Spectrum offer some of the best in the biz. Case in point: this flat top contour brush expertly buffs in bronzer (whether it's powder or cream) so it's barely perceptible but still manages to totally transform your cheekbones.

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Sticks make everything so much easier, and this YSL highlighting stick definitely deserves a place in your collection. Just swipe the creamy highlighter over the high-points of your face, pat in with fingertips and you're good to glow. Plus, it's travel-friendly!

Best Contour Products 2022
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Yes, it's expensive. But, Tom Ford's Shade & Illuminate palette is loved by makeup artists and beauty editors alike for good reason. The bronzer shade is so creamy and blends in like butter, whilst the translucent highlighter goes on totally sheer to reflect the light for a handsomely-healthy, lit-from-within glow.

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D04 is a small strobe brush which works extremely well with finely-milled powders. You can lightly dust your chosen bronzer or highlighter along cheekbones, temples and jawline without going OTT as the brush isn't too big. And it's also vegan and cruelty-free. A win win!

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With five shades to choose from, from Golden Nude to Bronze Nude, there is a Laura Mercier Baked Bronzer for everyone. The lightweight, matte formula boosts your complexion without looking too 'cakey' and it's non-dusty so won't drop off throughout the day.

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We don't know anyone who hasn't fallen hard for Chanel's Soleil Bronzer after just once application. It's simply a-mazing. One swoosh in a C-shape from temple to cheekbone has the ability to completely wake up your complexion. It's a total godsend for tired, lacklustre skin. Trust us!

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Hold the phone! Benefit have dropped two new additional shades of their best-selling cult bronzer Hoola. Toasted is a deep bronzer that flatters dark skin tones. Whilst Caramel works perfectly on medium to dark skin tones.

The Commonly Asked Questions on Contouring

What brushes should I use to contour?

There are various sculpting brushes that you can use, and there is no set rule as it depends where on your face your contouring. Generally, for cream products its best to use a sponge, like a beauty blender as it achieves a more natural look. However, for a more defined contour you make want to use something like this short duo fibre brush from MAC.

For powder contour, an angled brush can be great for the cheekbones, with a larger powder brush easy to blend over the forehead and jawline. You'll need a more precise, tapered brush for the nose

How do I contour for my face shape?

For a longer, oval shaped face, you may want to make it appear shorter, in which case you would apply your contouring product to your forehead and blend it down lower than if your forehead is smaller. The same goes for your jawline, blending it up slightly if you want your chin to appear smaller. Highlighting the centre of your face and blending it out further will also contribute to this effect.

If you have a wider, round face, you may want to draw light into the centre of it to make it appear less round. That means only contouring your hairline and jawline slightly, while making sure to chisel your cheekbones till your Kate Moss ready.

For heart-shaped faces, you may not need as much contour at the top of your forehead but blending it down into your temples will give a narrower face shape effect. Your jawline may not need as much contouring, as do your cheekbones!

For square faces, you may want to round off your face and soften your edges. That means applying contour to your jawline and blending it up slightly on the sides of your face, tapering out at your chin. Similarly, a strong contour on the cheekbones will give the face a narrower look

The Do's and Don'ts for Contouring

For many contouring is still a world of pitfalls and question marks. So, Celebrity Makeup Artist, Naoko Scintu, offers her advice on what to do and what not to do in order to nail the art of contouring

DO contour in day light: ‘I always contour when there is natural day light sat by a window,’ says Naoko. 'This way you can see how much product you’ve applied and make sure it’s completely blended in.'

DO go for a cream-based formula: ‘cream-based formulas are the way forward to get an evenly graduated and natural-looking contour. I am obsessed with Tom Ford’s Shade and Illuminate palette, £60,’ says Naoko, ‘it has a lovely dewy texture and isn't too heavy.’

DO start with less: ‘it’s all about being subtle and using just a little bronzer to enhance the cheekbones and jawline.’ Plus, you can always add more but it’s tricky to take away so start with less and build up the bronze if needed. ‘The best contouring is seamless and invisible to the naked eye,’ says Naoko.

DON'T use a bronzer that's too dark: ‘as a general rule - never go more than 5 shades darker.’ This can look too heavy and stripy.

What are the best contouring video tutorials?

Here are some of our favourite beauty guru's to help teach you how to contour. Happy blending!

Huda Beauty

Carli Bybel

Jackie Aina

Nikkie Tutorials

Nyma Tang

Nikita Dragun

Just in case your not here for the full Nikita Dragun experience - which you really should be tbh - the contour starts at 14 minutes.

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