November 06, 2011

Make-Up 101: Face Mapping

Let’s get real for a second; having shedloads of make-up is all well and good but, it’s a useless waste of money if you don’t know what goes where on your face.

Now, I’m not a professional make-up artist and I only learnt the basics through a combination of trial and error, watching copious YouTube videos and getting my make-up done in MAC (my favourite treat!) for any big event and having the artist talk through everything he or she was doing.

Having received a lot of questions over the last year about make-up application, I decided to bring it back to basics and explain what goes where and why. Considering I am untrained and don’t have taught skills or artist jargon, I hope it’ll be easy enough for everyone to understand and, if it even helps one person out with something they struggle with, I’ll be happy!

Eyes are, generally, the focal point of any make-up look. We all wish we could churn out flawless, perfectly blended eyes at the drop of a hat but, unfortunately, that’s not always the case! For the most part, practice, blending skills, a light hand and patience are key in achieving most eye looks, however, what I think is so difficult about eye make-up is how many different parts, or sections, there are to the eye area. I’ve broken them down in the face chart below with a wee explanation for each.

Browbone Highlight: The browbone is, quite simply, the bone on which your eyebrow sits. Highlighting the area of the browbone just beneath the arch of the eyebrow with a light coloured shadow serves to widen eyes, make you look more awake and help your eyebrows look really sculpted and defined.

Crease/Socket Line: As gross as this sounds, your crease/socket line is the hollow area between your browbone and eyeball. To find it you can either tip your head back and look straight ahead or take your finger and find the point where your browbone ends and your eyeball begins. Shading this area with a darker shadow than on your lid makes eyes look bigger, more deeply set and gives good contrast and definition to the entire look.

Outer V/Outer Corner: I think this is the area of the eye most people struggle with finding and working with correctly. The outer v/outer corner is, quite literally, the corner of your eye, starting at the end of the upper lashline and ending at the start of your crease/socket line. This is where we usually put the darkest eyeshadow in a look to make it really dramatic and smokey.

Lid: I won't insult your intelligence by telling you how to find your eyelid but, this is usually the main part of any eye look and where the lightest colour is applied.

Upper Lashline: Lining your upper lashline widens eyes, makes lashes look fuller and more voluminous and  can bring the drama to any look. I have a quick tutorial here on how to easily line your upper lashline.

Inner Corner Highlight: The inner corner highlight goes, quite obviously, on the inner corner/tear duct area of your eye. As with the browbone highlight, it serves to open eyes up and make you look more alert and awake.

It's actually quite scary how many products we use to achieve a flawless face of make-up. To keep things clear and simple, I've broken the face application charts down into contouring, highlighting and cheek products.

Contouring the face adds shadow in areas that are naturally shaded. This increases definition and gives even the roundest of faces a chiseled and defined look. It can be quite dramatic so, start off with a light hand and a light-coloured product and build up to the more intense contouring!

Temples: I rarely contour along my temples because I don't need to but, if you're worried about having a big or wide forehead, contouring here will draw the eye inwards and create the illusion of a smaller forehead area.

Nose: Contouring the nose is a great way to slim it out and, again, give the illusion of different proportions. If you are self-conscious about your nose, take a small fluffy brush and begin to contour down either side of the bone, starting at the point where the nose meets the brow and ending just at the tip. Be sure to blend carefully so as not to look stripey!

Cheekbones: Cheekbone contouring is what we are most accustomed to and is a great way to give the illusion of a slimmer face. I have quite a round, chubby face and I find that this helps a lot with giving my face more definition. To find the correct area to contour, suck in your cheeks to see where the cheekbones lie and place a finger under this bone back at the hairline. This is where you want to place your contour brush. Follow the line of your cheekbone with the contour, stopping before you reach the nose. As always, a light hand, patience and blending are key.

Jawline: Contouring the jawline is really good for more mature people who worry about looking "jowly" or for people who, like me, have a round face. Putting your contour brush back where your jaw meets your ear and shading along the jaw to the chin will create shadow and draw attention away from any loose skin or soft areas.

Where there is shadow there must also be light so, where there is contouring there must also be highlighting. Once you've grasped the placement of either the shadow or the light, it's easy to see where the other should go.

Cheekbones: Highlighting the top of the cheekbones will give the impression of higher, more regal features. This, combined with the contouring, will help create the ideal cheekbones and face shape. Think model-esque! Suck in your cheeks again to find the cheekbones and, this time, highlight the top of the bone. I tend to bring mine in a slight C-shape around to the temples to make my cheekbones appear even higher.

Length of Nose: Even though I don't contour my nose, I still highlight down the length of the bone. I really love a dewy/glowy finish to my make-up and this little technique seems to brighten my face. If you do choose to contour your nose, you must highlight the centre to avoid your face looking flat or hollow around the nose. It's all about balance with contouring and highlighting!

Cupid's Bow: The area between the two peaks of the upper lip is referred to as the Cupid's Bow. Highlighting here will make lips appear fuller and bigger. 

Cheek products are probably the ones we are most familiar with and, personally, they are the ones I enjoy using the most! The difference a touch of blush makes to a complexion is astounding and I have been known to put some on even when wearing no other make-up!

Bronzer: Applying bronzer is simple; pop it on the places where the sun naturally hits. The 3E method is my favourite way of applying bronzer and it's doable no matter what shape your face is. Taking a big powder brush, sweep bronzer on the right side of the face in the shape of a 3 from the temples, in onto the cheekbones, and out onto the jawline. Repeat the same technique on the left side of the face, this time forming an E shape. This simple method will ensure a light, even and sun-kissed application.

Blusher: I have been asked more than once to explain how I apply my blusher. I wasn't aware that I had a specific "way" of doing it but, I will try to do a video tutorial soon explaining and showing as best I can. In words, however, I simply look straight ahead in a mirror, visualise a line down from my pupil to the end of my cheekbone (usually just out from either nostril) and make the first mark with blusher here. I then sweep it backwards, often overlapping with the bronzer, to create a natural, healthy glow. Depending on how intense I want it, I may repeat this step more than once. 

A lot of people will tell you to "Smile to find the apples of your cheeks" and then apply the blush here. However, this method can be flawed as smiling raises the "apples" of your cheeks and can cause you to apply the blusher too high. Visualising a line down from your pupil ensures that you still land on the apples but, when they are in the right position. 

That's it for my basic make-up application techniques. I think seeing a visual aid can often help with replicating looks on your own face so, hopefully the face charts were of some help to some of you! 


  1. What a nice overview, thank you :) I often do a quick blush-only-face too, sweeping a little blush below the brow bone too, to lengthen and break my square face a bit.

  2. Beautiful illustrations and directions , don't we all love it:)) thank you Sinead! Have a great weekend!

  3. Loved it, never knew about highlighting the Cupids Bow, must do it from now on! :)

  4. I loved this, very hepful, thanks! x

  5. Great post Sinéad, really helpful.

  6. Great post...very helpful for makeup newbies like me! :)

  7. So glad so many of you found this helpful!


Leave a comment and be sure to check back four our reply!

Hover to Pin

Designed with ♥ by Nudge Media Design