Foundation: Types, Application, & How To Contour Without Consulting a Paint By Number

Choose your formula based on your skin type!

Foundation: Types, Application, & How To Contour Without Consulting a Paint By Number

Figure out your skin type!

Paying attention to your skin type is crucial to a foundation application. Using the wrong product for your skin type results in dryness, flakiness, shininess, allergic reactions, and can shorten wear time. If you already know your skin type, continue on. If you don't, find out here. I'll wait. It's that important.

Pick a formula

Remember, these are guidelines for formulas. Every product is different, and different brands have different formulas of the same type for different reasons.


Most creams tend to be for dry skin and provide full coverage.


Liquid foundations are very common and are usually good for combination/dry and balanced skin. The texture, use and consistency vary widely between lines, resulting in an endless amount of variables for liquid foundations. One size does not fit all!


Powders are great for balanced, combination/oily, and oily skin types. They come in loose and pressed. Most powders provide a matte finish.

Cream to Powder

Cream to powders are good for most skin types and usually provide full coverage. They can become cake-y easily, so use a light touch and make sure you're blending!


Mineral makeup comes in loose and pressed formulas and are supposed to be made from finely ground minerals from the earth. Unfortunately many mineral makeups are full of fillers to cut costs and can be very comedogenic.

Success with mineral makeup varies widely. A real, pure mineral makeup is great for sensitive skin, provides a very low physical SPF (around five), and visually reflects light, blurring lines and imperfections. A poor quality mineral will settle into and clog pores and won't conceal imperfections.

No matter the quality, never use a mineral makeup with any flash photography., especially including weddings. Because minerals reflect light, the skin can appear glittery or shiny from flashback and require more editing to create a good photo.

Tinted Moisturizer

Sheer coverage good for balanced to dry skin. Also known as a "Beauty Balm (BB) Cream", these usually contain sunscreen and light moisture, and some brands include skin care in their tinted moisturizers. The newest trend is CC Cream, or Color Correcting, which contains either pigments to visually color correct or ingredients to treat dark spots.

Find your level

This is pretty basic. Are you light, medium, or dark?

Find your tone

Are you cool, warm or neutral?

Cool toned skin has pink undertones. Warm toned skin has yellow undertones. Neutral skin has a mixture of both. Look at your wrist- if your veins are blue, you're cool. If they're green, you're warm.


Never buy a foundation if you can't test it on your own face! Foundation can be expensive, and purchasing the wrong color is frustrating and wasteful.

Stop testing on your wrist! You're not one color over your entire body. Only test foundation on your wrist if you're planning on wearing that foundation on your wrist.

Apply a small line of foundation from the lowest part of your cheek, down the jawline, onto the neck. Blend. If you can't tell it's there anymore, test on the forehead. If it blends on well there too, you've found your color. If you can't find the right color, it's okay! Go to a counter and have the makeup artist find you the perfect color. Makeup artists are trained to understand color theory.


Cleanse and tone the skin based on your skin type, then apply a very thin layer of foundation primer. This helps the foundation adhere to your skin and will increase wear time.

There are a million different foundation primers. Some have moisturizers, some have oil control, some have salicylic acid, some have anti-inflammatories, some have color correctors. Use the primer that compliments your skin type or issues.


(It's true, I hate sponges.)

Purchase a high quality foundation brush in the size and shape that you prefer (This one is my favorite, and it's fantastic, good for both liquids and powders). Fluffier brushes provide sheer coverage, and tightly packed bristles hold more product, resulting in fuller coverage. Apply a small amount of your preferred formula to a palette, tissue, or the back of your clean hand, and apply starting at the center of the face and blending out. I like to start just to either side of the nose, which keeps the nose itself from getting too much product, and moving outward. This helps to avoid the dreaded line at the jaw. Apply a thin layer over the entire face, or stick to areas where you want coverage and leave the rest alone. Blend, blend, blend. You should not be able to see any lines or brush strokes.


Concealing spots, blemishes, and any imperfections can be done either before or after foundation, depending on your  preference. Some makeup artists prefer to conceal before foundation, concentrating on the spots that really need coverage. Some makeup artists before to use foundation first and then conceal any spots that need additional coverage. Some do both, and create thin layers to conceal even more effectively.


No, I will not be providing a diagram! The "paint by numbers" technique is kind of ridiculous to me, since faces are so drastically different and contouring technique depends entirely on what you're trying to accomplish!

Understand color theory first. Light colors make an object appear larger and closer, dark colors make an object appear smaller and further away.

Most people want to emphasize their cheek bones. To do this, first find your cheekbone by touch. Find exactly where on your face (or your client's face) that the cheekbone sits and where it stops. Apply a light color to the bone itself and a contour color with a grey undertone (you're mimicking shadows, and shadows are not created with bronzer) just underneath the bone. This creates an illusion of hollowness, making the face thinner and the bone more prominent.

The same concept can be applied to any other part of the face.

Darker color on either side of the nose with a highlight on the bridge will make the nose appear thinner.

Give yourself a stronger jaw line by highlighting the bone itself and applying a darker shade just underneath it.

Don't like your prominent chin? Apply a contour color to your chin and a lighter color to the rest of your jawline.

Contouring is all about illusion, and you're aiming for small changes, not trying to change your entire face into another person's face. Practice your techniques at home when you have nowhere to go so the pressure is off. Find your own bone structure and your own ideal contouring technique. Just because Kim does it one way does not mean you should.



Setting powder creates a barrier to keep makeup from moving. It comes in many different kinds. Avoid minerals if you're going to be photographed.

Finishing Spray

Finishing spray also creates a barrier to keep makeup from moving around, and depending on the brands involved can be either more effective or less effective than powder. It can also be layered on top of powder for extra hold.

Common mistakes

Don't try to change your skin tone with foundation. Everyone already knows what color you are, and trying to make yourself more tan by wearing dark foundation just makes you look silly. If you do want to change your skin tone, get an airbrush tan or use a high quality self tanner. Do not go tanning in a booth or in the sun to change your skin tone! The damage involved is not worth it.

Don't over bronze. See above. Use bronzer if you like it, but don't use it as a foundation, or a contour color. Shadows aren't tan colored!

Don't forget to blend! Harsh lines ruin the illusion.


Do you have any questions? What do you use for foundation? Let us know in the comments below!