How-To: Highlight and Contour Like a Model!

20 May 2013

Hi lovelies! Today I'm going to be sharing one of my favorite makeup tricks with you guys- highlighting and contouring! What is highlighting and contouring you may ask? It's a technique used by nearly every celebrity, model, and industry professional designed to bring light to certain features on your face while creating a shadow effect on others. Essentially, the goal is to create an illusion with makeup that draws attention to specific areas while diminishing the look of others. 

Once you've mastered the basics of highlight and contour, you can make your nose smaller, your cheekbones more defined, your eyes brighter, and so much more. Basically, by the time we're done here you're going to look like you came straight off the runway! So without further adieu, let's get started!

Before you can start to highlight and contour, you'll need the proper makeup to do the job right. To highlight, you'll need a powder, cream, or liquid that is at least one shade lighter than your skin. Keep in mind, it should not be white no matter how fair you are, as that will come off looking too harsh. Contouring will require makeup that is at least one shade darker than your skin tone. I typically use a matte bronzer, as shimmery ones do not create a realistic shadowing on the face. Here are a few recommendations at various price points:

Hard Candy So Baked Bronzer in Tiki- $9 (I know it says bronzer, but this baked powder comes out so light and shimmery that it is definitely more of a highlighter!) 


I've discovered a lot of my all-time favorite products for highlighting and contouring by subscribing to Birchbox. It's $10 for makeup box filled with a personalized mix of full-size and sample products from some seriously amazing brands! If you want to try out new products on the cheap, I highly recommend giving Birchbox a try! Click here to learn more!

Once you have the proper makeup, you're ready to start highlighting and contouring! Here's a breakdown of all the areas of the face I like to use this technique on, step-by-step:

For more visual girls out there like me, here is a diagram I created to map out where to apply highlighter (cream), blush (pink), and contour (bronze). 
- Start by applying your favorite blush. Concentrate the majority of the product on the apples of your cheeks, but also work any leftover product back towards your jawline for a more natural effect. 
- Apply highlighter right above the apples of your cheeks, following the natural line of your cheekbones.
- Create a more defined, angular look by applying contour color to the hollows of your cheekbones. If you're having trouble finding the hollow line, just suck in like you're making a fish face.

Extra Credit- Pull the contour color you just applied up into the sides of your forehead and down onto your jawline. This will create a "3" looking shape with the contour and works wonders to slim out your entire face. 

- Apply highlight color down the very center of your nose. The slimmer the line, the more narrow your nose will look. 
- Use contour color on each side of the bridge of your nose. I like to start from the tip of my nose and work my way up, as I find that makes it easier to ensure a straight line. If you have a bump in your nose or anything else you'd like to recede, be sure to go right over it with your contour product. 
- Blend, blend, blend! I like to blend the contour color down the sides of my nose, just to make sure there are no obvious lines left. 

- To look bright and wide awake, apply highlighter to the inner corners of your eyes and right below your brows. 

And there you have it! I use this trick all the time, so I'm glad I finally got around to sharing it with you guys! Hope it helped! If you have any questions or highlight and contour tricks of your own you'd like to share, feel free to leave a comment down below! 


  1. Dear Sarah,
    Hi, I own a blog on Blogger too, it's called purplepandacharms.blogspot.com
    It would make my day if you would please visit my blog and promote me.
    I have reached over 100 page views and counting. I stumbled upon your blog on Pinterest. I checked out your page views and I look like a joke compared to you. PLEASE help me to become as successful as you as it is my ultimate dream.
    Thank you and God bless.
    - Purple Panda

    1. Hey there! I just shared your blog on Pinterest with about 250,000 people, so you should be getting quite a few new views! Keep up the great work and I know you'll do great things with your blog! :)

    2. Dear Sarah,
      I hate to be a bother, but like Purple Panda above, I'm starting on a blog as well. If you could help promote me, it would make my day! I love reading your blog and all the affordable makeup tips to help a fellow poor college student survive! Thanks a billion!



    3. Hi Daphne, I just pinned your most recent post! Best wishes on your blog! :)

    4. Wow Sarah, that's just so sweet of you :)

      Haven't seen other bloggers do the same thing.




  2. Lovely tips! Can't wait to try this out!

  3. Love this post!
    I've also discovered in my highlighting & contouring that I like to lightly apply my contouring product along each side of my face. It helps skinny down my round face.

    -Megan @ Never-Finished
    (oh, and here's the link to my recent post about highlighting and contouring!)

    1. Hi Megan, thanks so much! Contouring around the face is a great idea, it really does help! :)

    2. Do I supply foundation over the highlighting and contouring or under it and then blend? I'm a bit confused

  4. Just what I needed! I've been wanting to see a how to like this for ages. Thanks for sharing this. Lovely blog btw, - very refreshing!

    xx Donah (Sweet Jelly Bean)


    1. Thanks Donah! I'm so glad this post was helpful for you!

  5. Great tutorial! Thanks for the tips!

  6. Love it :D Hope I can learn something :S

    Don't forget to check my anniversary giveaway!

  7. awesome post!! i have bookmarked it, cant wait to test it out!! ehehehe

    1. Thanks Nina, let me know how it goes! :)

  8. Great tips. Definitely trying this out :)


  9. hi honey! very helpful tips!! contour and highlight are the best in makeup, thank you very much for the products advices as well! big hugs <3 <3

    1. Thanks Liss, so glad they were helpful for you!

  10. Do you do this instead of foundation or after putting on foundation?

    1. Hi Brista! If you typically use foundation, then do that as usual. Highlighting and contouring are both just extra steps to enhance your look, similar to blush. Hope that helped!

  11. Awesome tips! love the pictures/diagram to show how its done.

    Leslie xoxo

    1. Thanks Leslie! I'm so glad it was helpful for you!!

  12. Thanks for these tips. Candice is one of my favorite models! She is such a natural beauty.

  13. Contouring the cheeks makes a major difference! Lovely tips :)
    <3 #GIG

  14. Great tips thanks!
    Looks like I have been doing my nose wrong for some time now ahaha

  15. Hi! I just came across your blog from Pinterest and I totes love it! After seeing this post I have a question for you. I have been looking for a new highlighter. I really only like using powder ones. What are some of your faves?

    1. Thanks girly!! I actually have all of my favorites listed in this post already, but if I had to choose one that I get the most use out of it would probably be my Wet n' Wild Fergie Shimmer Palette. Hope that helped! :)

  16. This is great! Was going to write a post on this! Good work!! http://www.facebook.com/EnhanceWhatsYours?ref=ts&fref=ts there's my fb page :)

  17. Thank you so much for this! I have been looking for this kind of post forever! You are so cute btw! Visit my blog- aglitteraffair.blogspot.com
    I am new to this whole blogging thing and I would {love} it if you checked it out!
    xoxo Chantel

    1. Thanks so much Chantel, you're too sweet! I will be sure to check out your blog! :)

  18. Wow thank you for this post! I have recently received a highlight and contouring kit, and I have no idea how to use it at all! Hopefully, your post will help me out. Thanks again! :)


  19. Holy camoley I'm so glad that I've stumbled across this post, trying to figure out how to high light my face has been a nightmare haha.

    ps, I'm officially IN LOVE with your blog :')




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