Sculpting makeup is for you If you are prepared to have a serious play with how you can shape and define your face to highlight your natural features.

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Have you ever admired women blessed with high cheekbones or well-proportioned faces? Have you ever found yourself wistfully thinking how 'un-blessed' you are?

Sculpting makeup is a method of applying highlighting (light) and shading (dark) techniques to add or subtract contours to your features. It is a method of creating beauty through illusion.

Master painters use light and dark to give the illusion of valleys and hills to a face. Artists will tell you that using light and dark creates the illusion of depth, distance, form and shape in a portrait.

Subtle highlight (light) or shadow (dark) can completely change the way the eye perceives. Let's use this to our advantage. The important first step in this method is to understand how you perceive your own face.

sculpting makeup: STEP 1 - FACE MAPPING

Even though you may have been applying makeup for many years, have you ever taken the time to thoroughly explore your own unique bone structure? We look in the mirror at our faces every day but do we see – I mean really see our own face?

In Way Bandy’s ‘Designing Your Face’, his first recommendation is to have another person take close-up photos of your face, from every angle. Be objective when you study these images, as if you are looking at the face of a stranger. Notice those parts of this ‘stranger’s face’ that are assets and those parts that are not.

The next step is to physically map out your face, to really feel your facial structure.

So go ahead, using the tips of your fingers, gently feel around your entire face.

Where are the valleys and hills of your personal facial landscape? Notice if your bones tend to be angular or more rounded. Notice your skin texture: is it fine-pored and thin, crinkled like tissue paper or thick with big pores. Where does your skin fold; what is the undertone colour?

This facial analysis is necessary to help you recognise and appreciate the individuality of your own face.

Developing an awareness of your skin texture, skin colour and your unique bone structure is the essential first step to mastering the art of sculpting makeup.


Highlighting ‘lifts out of the shadows’ and helps to bring out, widen or soften your features.

Having completed your face mapping, you now know where those unattractive valleys and indentations are. These areas create a shadow that adds age to the appearance of your face. Let’s diminish their impact!

Highlighting, in this case, does not mean white. Choose a foundation or powder that is a few shades lighter than your all-over-face foundation colour. Some makeup brands have very effective products especially for this technique.

For your practise though, you may want to play around with what you already have in your makeup bag.

You know your face; I know mine

These areas are where I need to apply light to diminish the valleys of my face.

Area A: The small and often deep valley between the bridge of the nose and the inside corner of the eye. Some makeup artists shade this area dark.

Find what looks best for you.

Area B: I have most unattractive puffy pouches under my eyes. To minimise the effect of the puffiness, I apply light from the inside corner of the eye and along the base of these pouches.

Area C: The crease around the outer edges of my nostrils and along the creases that run from here to the outside corners of my mouth.

Area D: I have a small pocket of shadow below the outside corners of my mouth.

Make sure to only apply light to the very bottom of these ‘valleys’.

sculpting makeup: STEP 2 - HOW TO APPLY LIGHT

When I choose to apply sculpting makeup it is the second last step in my makeup regime; a light dusting of translucent powder is the last step. (I don’t want to undo the ‘masterpiece’ by smudging or dropping specks of bright green eyeshadow on my cheeks.)

Using a small, square-tipped brush, apply light to those areas you have identified as needing light, then use your fingers for blending.

I always use the method suggested by Way Bandy: Touch and Press

This method involves using a fingertip to 'touch' then 'press' the product into the skin (as if you were blotting). Caution: The warmth of your skin will tend to melt the product and lift it away from your specific area of placement. A remedy is to use a tissue to constantly clean your fingertips.

Once you master this method, you will see the light and dark blend into the foundation and look as though the valleys and hills you have created are a natural part of your facial landscape.

Does this method take time? Sure it does; but this is the look you will want for photographs and special ocassions. 


Use dark to create, to recede, to narrow or to sharpen features.

Application of ‘dark’ can work wonders for a double or fleshy chin as well as give the illusion of shortening or lenghtening the nose or perhaps giving a better ‘look’ to your nose. (These areas of sculpting makeup can be quite tricky so I will not go into them on this page.) I only apply dark on my temples and cheekbones. 

sculpting makeup:  STEP 3 - HOW TO APPLY DARK

As you may have guessed, the technique to apply dark is exactly the same as applying light. 

TIP: Powder products are more forgiving than a darker foundation or concealer when applying sculpting makeup. Use flat rather than shiny, shimmery, satin or sparkly colours for dark.

Again, I prefer Way Bandy’s method of applying two tones of dark. That method is best illustrated by looking at how we can enhance one of our best facial features: our cheekbones.

sculpting makeup:  STEP 4 - CHEEKBONES TO DIE FOR

During your face mapping exercise, you would have noticed how the structure of your cheekbone could be compared to a ledge protruding from a building.

Both the ledge and your cheekbones have a top, a side and a bottom aspect. These three aspects need to be taken into account when creating your ‘Cheekbones to Die For’.

The Magic Line

Imagine your face has a vertical dashed line running from the outside corner of your eye and straight down the side of your face.

This is the 'Magic Line' and is the guideline for applying sculpting makeup to the side of your face.

Note: Forget the advice to apply blush to the 'apples of your cheeks'. If you are like me, this technique will make you look suspiciously clown-like.

NO blush should go past the 'Magic Line'. Try it and see for yourselves.

Light: Using a brush, or a fingertip, sketch down with light from the outside corner of your eye for about a half-inch (to the highest point of your cheekbone). Then sketch a line from the eye corner to your hairline.

Now close the triangle by drawing a straight line diagonally across the ridge of the cheek. This highlights the ‘top’ aspect of your cheek. Fill in this triangular outline with light then use the touch and press method to blend so that no edges are apparent.

This technique is vital for creating the best effect for sculpting makeup. 

Dark: Starting underneath your cheekbone, at the 'Magic Line' (imaginary dashed line), sketch about a half inch of dark product back to your ear. Using the touch and press method, blend the dark downward and backward so no edges are apparent.

If you want to deepen the shadow effect of this dark application, apply a very narrow band of a ‘darker’ dark over the original dark application from just under the cheekbone.

Blend! blend! blend!

When done carefully, this will give the illusion of a real shadow that seems to deepen the hollow just under the cheekbone. This darkens the ‘bottom’ aspect of your cheekbone. Go on … have a go!

Adding colour to the cheekbone

Finally, we need to add some colour to the ‘side’ aspect of the cheekbones. Colour gives curve and softness to your cheeks.

Colour: Using the 'Magic Line' as a guide, dot three small circles of colour (I use a red tone) along the ‘side’ aspect of the cheekbones back toward the hairline. Again, use the touch and press method to totally blend in, giving the illusion of softly rounded cheeks.

If I apply blush any closer to the centre of my face than the 'Magic Line', it really does look tragic. 

Sculpting Makeup takes practise but if you are prepared to play with colours and the hills and valleys of your facial landscape you will discover how to create a beautifully defined and well balanced face.

Now go and practise your Sculpting Makeup - you won't regret it! 

Sculpting Makeup > Apply Blush