CONTOURING!! And you CAN do it on a budget!!


Contouring..  What is that?  Honestly I haven’t heard of it until recently.  The photo that I’m featuring is the girl who intensified the whole craze of contouring: Kim Kardashian.  If you see below, this is the before picture of her; before she started contouring.


Miss Kardashian, says that she has taken professional makeup classes before & can do her own makeup.  And I’m going to guess she does her own contouring as well.  Frankly I didn’t know what the whole fuss was about until it had popped up in one of my emails from Sephora, where they feature videos & products on contouring.  Why should you do it, you ask?

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Because it highlights your features & I think that women who do do it look a lot sexier.  You don’t need to do this every day, just on special occasions or a night out with the girls.  Lots of models, actresses on the red carpet have it done & you can barely tell.

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Here you see models Alessandra AmbrosioGintare Sudziute have had their faces highlighted with contouring; Alessandra (on the left) has had a more subtle contouring whereas Gintare (on the right) has had a more dramatic one.

I will break it down very easily for you: if you do want to contour.  The thing is that you need to choose whether you want to contour by 1) foundation or 2) powder.  I think foundation gives a much more dramatic effect, whereas powder gives a lot more natural look.  I will explain how to do it, but don’t worry, I will leave links to videos at the bottom of this page to show you how to contour.  Here I’m going to list the most affordable products to do it.

The Basic idea of Contouring: There are many ways to do it, but basically you need 3 colors: 1) your foundation, that matches your skin tone, 2) a lighter shade, maybe 2-3 shades lighter than you, 3) and a darker shade, 2-3 shades darker than your skin tone.  It also depends largely on the shape of your face, but the basic idea is you want to put the lighter color on the front of your temple, the highlights of your cheekbones, under the eyes, & some women will put it right above the edge of the jawline.  The darker color you want to put right down the middle of your cheekbone (right underneath the apples of your cheeks), a little bit around the edges of your forehead, & & the very edge of your jawline.


If you want to do it by liquid foundation: You will need to buy all 3 shades of foundation (your skin tone, the lighter one,  the darker one) for your skin.  There are some women, as the lighter shade they use a concealer, and the darker shade as a bronzer, which is another option.

Things will you will need: 


Maybelline’s BB cream, $7 each, or Cover Girl’s Ready Set Foundation, also about $7 each, if you need oil control, get Rimmel Clean Finish Foundation, $4.

For me I love BB creams, however, Cover Girl’s Ready Set Foundation comes in a wider spectrum of colors, if you need.


Makeup brushes, or makeup sponges:

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Ecotools Fresh & Flawless Complexion 5 Piece Brush Set, $13

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Real Techniques Core Collection, $13


2 of my favorite makeup brush brands!  I love Ecotools and Real Techniques!  Ecotools makes some of the softest, fluffiest brushes, & they always have great prices!  Real Techniques, this British import has become more popular in the US lately, popping up in Ulta, Walmart, & your local drugstore! Real Techniques are a popular staple among makeup artists!  And the great thing is that both brands are synthetic, so that all their brushes are cruelty free!

For contouring you will need a wide, flat brush & I thought best to buy them in a set.  And how affordable 5, 6 brushes for only $13!  And you can use one of the other wider brushes to put on your foundation.  The best way I find?  Put some foundation on the back of your hand, take a foundation brush, dab it in the foundation, & then lightly brush it all over your face.

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Splurge: The original Beauty Blender, $20, Save: Real techniques Miracle Sponge, $5

You can also do contouring with makeup sponges like the Beauty Blender or the Real techniques Miracle Sponge.  Pls check out my page on Makeup Sponges! for I’ve described on how to put on foundation with them.

If you want to contour by powder:


Splurge: Anastasia Beverly Hill’s Contouring Kit, $40

You need a contouring palette.  The most popular one is by Anastasia Beverly Hills, & they offer 2 different palettes, for light & medium.  For the contouring palettes, you will DEFINITELY need the makeup brushes.  Buy the same brush set I got above, for only $10!  This palette is a favorite among makeup artists, & stated by Kardashian herself that this is also her favorite.  If you contour all the time, it would be a good investment.  But for the everyday woman?  How often are you going to do it?  Once a week at most?  I didn’t feel like dropping $40 when I do only maybe once every few weeks or so.


Save: Coastal Scents Eclipse Concealer Palette, $10

I get more colors than Anastasia palette & it’s only $10!!  The only difference is that Anastasia palette are powders, whereas this palette is more of a creamy concealer one.  But so far, so good!

For the more powdery palettes: 

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Makeup Revolution Ultra Bronze Palette, $10

8 shades of bronzer & only $10!  What a steal!  Makeup Revolution has several contouring palettes and they only cost $10 or $15, if you want to check them out!

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Ulta’s Contour Kit, $18

Powdery, comes with 6 different shades & instructions!


NYX’s Highlight & Contour Pro Palette, $25

Like the Anastasia Palette but less expensive, & you get more colors!

hard candy strobing kit

Hard Candy’s Strobing Kit, $11

Sold only at Walmart, you can get this all in 1 strobing kit.  For the newbies, strobing is simply another word for ‘highlighting’.  Thankfully for us, it comes with a shimmer gel which is optional.  In this kit you get a blush, bronzer, highlighter, & makeup brush all in 1 kit!  Hard Candy does have a separate contour kit, but that’s sold only at Walmart, in store.


For the girls on the go:

Maybe you would like to contour on a regular basis, but who has got time to spend half an hour (or more!) on makeup every day?  Maybe you just want to warm up the face, add a slight color to your cheeks, or just to have something simple to slip into your bag.  You could pick one of these items below!

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Essence’s Contour Powder, $4

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Maybelline’s Face Studio Master Contour Palette, $12

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Essence’s How To Make Your Face Glow Contour & Highlight Box, $10


If you don’t feel like getting a palette, you can also use instead:

For a Highlighter:

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Maybelline’s Instant Age Rewind Concealer, $7

Like I mentioned earlier, you can use a concealer for the lighter color on your face.  Most women use them to hide the circles under their eyes, so why not?  And Maybelline makes a great one that comes with a wand that you can just dab on your face, in several shades!  Afterward you will need a makeup sponge / brush to blend it with the rest of your foundation.

For a Bronzer:

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Rimmel London’s Natural Bronzer, $5, Essence Bronzer, $5

You can use this as the darker shade, on your face.  A popular bronzer is Hoola, by Benefit, but the thing is $30.  For ONE color.  And this one by Rimmel has 4 different shades for you to choose from for only $5!!  I just bought one & I love it!  You could also get this one by Essence which is the same price!  Bronzers are great because you can just take a makeup brush, dab it in the powder, & lightly swipe under your cheekbones & around your forehead, giving you a more natural look.

How to contour:  You can do this by liquid or powder:

1) Apply foundation (the one that matches your skin tone) all over your face & neck, whether it be by brush or sponge.  2) Take the darker shade & dab it where you want it, on the edges of your forehead, right underneath your cheekbones, & at your jawline. 3) Take the lighter shade, & dab it on the appropriate places, where you want it, the front of your forehead, under your eyes, & cheekbones.  (Check out the left handed photo)   4) Important step: You must dab either with a brush or a sponge, initially to soften the colors.  Keep dabbing, & at the end you can take a wider brush, like a kabuki, or bronzer brush, or even the makeup sponge, towards the end to blend more of the colors together.

Tip: I find it best to dab the darker colors first, & then the lighter ones.  This way you have more control over the highlights on your face vs. making your face look muddy.

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At the end, to finish it all off: 5) You will need a kabuki / bronzer brush, with setting powder.  Usually when you use liquid foundation, you need to put a powder on top to prevent the liquid from cracking when you move / sweat.  Setting powder is usually white, & comes on translucent.  Honestly I feel like it’s your best friend when it comes to foundation; because your skin color can change as much as it wants to & setting powder is the most versatile.  Here, because you have a few colors on your face, you will need setting powder to finish it all off.  The last thing you want after all that is for your foundation to crack when you start sweating.

Kabuki & Bronzer Brushes: 

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Real Techniques Kabuki Brush, $10, and Retractable Bronzer brush, $9

This is one of my favorite brands for makeup brushes, Real Techniques.  I think their quality is quite good, & very affordable.  And all of these brushes are retractable so you can take them anywhere!

Setting Powders: 

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Sephora Collection’s Setting Powder, $16, or NYX’s Finishing Powder, $10

Anytime you put on a liquid foundation, you should be putting a powder on top (ideally a setting one).  You can get the one from Sephora, or NYX from Ulta. Ulta always has coupons, you should sign up for their emails & check it out!

Optional: Setting Spray

And what is setting spray?  A setting spray will help you keep all the products on your face in place, especially for long wear. If you plan on wearing it for a long time i.e. to a wedding or any other special occasion, putting on some setting spray WILL help your makeup stay one longer vs. look like it’s melting off your face.


Splurge: Urban Decay’s Makeup Setting Spray, $14, Save: E.L.F.’s Makeup Mist & Set, $3

I happen to have the Urban Decay one because I happened to buy it in a makeup set, along with some other items.  However, the E.L.F.’s Makeup Mist & Set is getting rave reviews, & for only $3!!  I happen to get setting spray for my wedding, but you can get one for whenever you need your makeup to last awhile.  And believe me, once you put it on, your makeup will last on hours longer than without it!!

If you have oily / combination skin: 


Urban Decay’s De-slick Oil Control Makeup Setting Spray, $14

I know what you’re going to ask.  What is the difference between this one, and the Urban Decay Spray above?  This one helps with oil control, & you’re supposed to spray it before AND after you put on your makeup.  Not only does it help your makeup stay on, but helps your face from getting oily & caking.  Especially on a hot day?  I would definitely need this!

Now go out & put your best face forward!!


Very Easy Contouring by Refinery 29

Contouring by Sephora, where they list all their products, how to photos & videos on contouring

How to Easily Contour for Beginners, this is my favorite makeup artist on Youtube, & she has a great video on contouring that makes it SO easy


The Best Makeup Brushes!! ..And the genius hack on how to clean them!

Drugstore foundations that makeup artists love


19 thoughts on “CONTOURING!! And you CAN do it on a budget!!

  1. Thank you so much for this article! I learned a lot. Not growing up with a mother and being raised by a man was always hard on the makeup department. So when I became an adult and there is even harder techniques like contouring and cat-eye it’s nice to see an article like this.


    1. Dear Lindsey,

      I’m sorry to hear that you grew up without a mother. You & your dad deserve a medal! I don’t know if this makes a difference; but I grew up with a mother but yet was still clueless about makeup anyway. Most of what I know, I had to learn on my own. I am grateful that you found my article helpful! Keep posted, & I hope you find other articles on my blog useful!


  2. Thanks for breaking it all down for us! I never knew if I was doing it right, but this really helped. I’ve been debating getting a contour kit to try it out so know maybe I will.


  3. Thank you for the tips! I have recently been trying out contouring and with just a few extra steps in my makeup routine, I love the results! I also love the retractable brushes – great for touch ups on the go!


  4. Thank you so much for this article! I’m a newbie to makeup. I usually only wear some mascara, eyeliner, and lipstick or lip gloss. Occasionally, I’ll also put some foundation or concealer on. But, I just recently bought a contour palette and want to try it, but was unsure how to do so. This helped a lot, thank you! If you could also help me with learning how to applying winged eyeliner, I would be so grateful.


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