Back to Basics #2: How to Contour Using Cream and Powder Products + Highlighting

By | January 18 2012 | 18 Comments

contour tutorial

We’ve got two ways of doing contouring and highlighting in this second Back to Basics tutorial, and again, we’re crossing price points with products. Use what you’re comfortable with – you don’t need to rush out and buy these products by any means. They’re what makeup artist Leonard Daly likes, uses and recommends, but everyone has their personal favourites.

Our first way is using Tom Ford’s dual Shade and Illuminate palette, the second is with a cheaper bronzer from Rimmel and separate highlighter.  Contouring is a big beauty buzz at the moment and lots of girls are painting brown stripes onto their faces willy-nilly, purely to follow trends. But why is it a thing? Here’s what’s important to know: “The basis of contouring and highlighting”, says Leonard, “is that you contour anything you want smaller and you highlight anything you want to emphasise.” This is why you contour around the nose, cheeks and chin – to reduce; and you highlight around the lips and eyes – to make them stand out.

Right! Lets get started. A contour using cream products is first.

 contouring tutorial step 2

Step 1: the first thing you need to do is look for bones of face. Find the hollow of your bones and skin at top of the cheekbone. Don’t be afraid to press your skin firmly to find your bones, you won’t hurt yourself. Identifying where your cheekbones are is key as that’s where you’ll be putting the product. Chin and temples are easier to easily identify, obviously!


Step 2: Once you’ve felt for cheekbones, apply the colour keeping the brush flat on the face, but making sure that you’re placing the product underneath the cheekbones, along the hollow beneath the bone. Brush-wise, Leonard used the Tom Ford Shade and Illuminate brush, but you could use fingers or a flat foundation one would be fine too. He also recommends the Becca stipple brush.


Step 3: Contouring isn’t just for cheeks: if someone has a weak jawline you can contour underneath the jaw in the fleshy part – a trick used to great effect by Boy George, fact fanz. You can also contour just above the temple to slim in the forehead, and down the sides of the nose. Leonard’s demonstrated on Eva, above, where you’d place the colour in some of those cases.

contour tutorial step 5

 Step 4: Blending is key. Get a clean brush – don’t use the one with which you applied the cream product as the secret with contour is to really melt the colour into the skin, leaving no harsh lines. The illusion of shade and shape is the desired effect, not stripes of bronzer! So don’t be afraid to really blend, blend, blend all the colour out until there’s very little left on the skin – for someone as pale as Eva, a little bronzer goes a long way; if you’re more sallow, tanned or have a darker skintone, your skin will be able to take more colour and a stronger contour.

contour step 5

Step 5: When it comes to luminising, one of the key areas is around the eyes. Leonard’s demonstrating above where to place highlighter.

Leonard’s Tip: “Highlight in “C” shape – from above the brow to top of the cheekbone”


Super-subtle, but you can just see the gleam of the Tom Ford luminiser by Eva’s eye.

Next up, using powder products; Leonard choose a medium matte Rimmel Sunshimmer bronzer and The Balm’s Mary-Lou Manizer for a highlight. He picked an angled brush from Sephora as his applicator of choice.

contour step 7

Step 1: When using powders, contouring with bronzer using an angled brush working in a “3” shape, he recommends. All that means is you apply product to the temples, cheeks and jawline in the shape of the number three, as above.  It looks messy at the moment – but don’t worry!


Step 2: again, blending is key to make sure product is distributed evenly.

contour tutorial

Step 3: for highlighting, Leonard used a powder this time, the Balm’s Mary Lou Manizer and the same brush. Where to apply?  He recommends the brow bone, and that you blend on cheekbones and temples, the cupids bow and below the lips. Add a tiny bit on the bridge of the nose too.


Makeup artist: Leonard Daly,
Model: Eva Lawes
Photographs: Kirstie McDermott

Blushers & Bronzers, Tutorials , , , ,

18 Replies to "Back to Basics #2: How to Contour Using Cream and Powder Products + Highlighting"

  • LuLuBabe says:

    Thanks for this! I bought the TF S&I recently but have been afraid to try it – this will help!

  • I purchased the Tom Ford product before xmas but haven’t fallen in love with it yet. this has given me one or two tips tho- like the brush I’m using isn’t ideal I think and also I need to then change to a clean one to blend. Think my highlight C was a little too small also and thus not hitting the right spots!

    Thanks for this. I’ve watched a million contour tutorials on youtube but I feel like this is far better to follow and I’ll be able to have it open the next few times I’m doing it too so I can reference back!

  • Maj says:

    Any chance we could see final result pics of both

  • Cait says:

    These tutorials are brilliant – it is so much easier to understand when you see it done on someone with an Irish skintone. Contouring in particular is less intimidating when you see that someone as pale as Eva can wear darkish contouring creams/powders to great effect.
    Thanks so much!!!

  • Aisling says:

    Fantastic. I admit contouring scares the life out of me (so I don’t do it) and I tend to over highlight – the opposite problem!

  • Audrey says:

    This tutorial series is so useful! Looking forward to the next one.

  • Mary says:

    Would love to see before and after pictures of both sides please. Thanks in advance.

  • Kirstie says:

    Before I can definitely help with:

    the last pic in that link is the immediately before these shots were taken and I have no strict ‘after’ shots I’m afraid as both sides of Eva’s face were made up using different products. Sorry about that – we were concentrating on technique!

  • Rosie says:

    Brilliant tutorial, I REALLY suck at contouring so I’ve been avoiding it for ages but I will definitely give it another go! Thank you :)

  • These tutorials are absolutely brilliant, thank you ladies (and Leonard!)!.
    Now there are no excuses for the dark strip of bronzer we see on some faces (although there was no excuse even before).

  • Joy says:

    Really helpful! I always thought you put bronzer underneath bottom lip to shade and give the appearance of a fuller lip?! I often do it and then add a bit of highlighter on cupids bow and my lips look a lot fuller!

  • Leonard says:

    Hey Ladies, I am so glad that your are enjoying the Back to Basics Tutorials, There are loads more to come.

  • BerG says:

    Leonard: Thank you for sharing all the tricks of the trade. Looking forward to viewing lots more tutorials, and getting some practice in.

  • “Step 3: for highlighting…  He recommends the jaw bone…”

    Did you mean the brow bone here? It’s just that’s what the pics seem to indicate! Another great installment in the series, can’t wait for the next :)

  • Corkgirl says:

    Would love to see a video rather than photos but loving your work x

  • Leonard Daly says:

    Hey Kat, it was meant to be brow bone, well spotted!!

  • You know I saw a tutorial last year that recommended highlighting the jaw bone (with High Beam they said) but if I’m doing a full face I use a sweep of the Top Shop highlighter on the jaw bone too and it really makes a difference.

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