Couture Contouring

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Couture Contouring Darling ….How to Execute the Art of a Good Contour!

Ahhh, Couture Contouring… one of the latest makeup flavors of the minute. It’s been around for decades and mainly used in HD photography, stage and film. However thanks to the Kimmy K revolution (aka Kim Kardashian) for bringing this trend to the forefront. And, hey lets face it, makeup companies are pretty pleased about it as they are cashing in on this makeup trend and all claim to have the best products for effortless couture contouring.

Surprisingly, there are some of you reading this still wondering what exactly is contouring? Contouring adds definition, structure, and dimension to the face and body by using dark and light colors to make features recede or become prominent. Contouring can be used on the face, decolletage, abdomen, or any part of the body that needs definition. Products used for contouring are usually cream foundations, concealers and or powders. I’ve used a few of my faves here.

YSL and Rae Morris

YSL and Tom Ford

As a Makeup Artist, I get asked A LOT about contouring and only recently developed a little bit of a love/hate relationship with this makeup technique; let me tell you why.

Firstly, if couture contouring is not applied correctly and blended to precision then you will literally look like you have tiger stripes on your face, which is definitely not a flattering makeup look you want to rock!

I think the actual art of contouring and the different dimensions and transformations that can be achieved from a great contour is remarkable, in the right setting and purpose. I don’t necessarily believe that contouring should be part of one’s everyday makeup routine, nor should one feel pressured to add contouring to their everyday makeup regime. Apart from a good contouring technique taking sufficient time, I don’t feel that one should want to dramatically change the way they look so much on an everyday basis.

Images courtesy of Pinterest

Images courtesy of Pinterest

If you are a person that contours your face daily, then I envy your time and energy! Thanks to social media promoting all these fabulous transformation before and after pictures of everyday beauties, I think contouring is so popular now that, like any latest trend, the pressure of couture contouring is weighing heavily on the everyday woman who finds doing her usual daily makeup routine an effort. Now, at times, they have to contour….I’m here to tell you it’s OK not to contour. Ahhh a sigh of relief I hear….

My main client base are Brides. I would say 85% of my bridal clients come to me and tell me that they want a natural makeup look, and in the next breath they request contouring, not really knowing much about it or why they want it. I think subtle contouring is appropriate and at best I achieve this without altering the entire appearance of my clients facial features, I believe a Bride likes to be an enhanced version of their natural self, otherwise the groom will be wondering who the hell it is walking towards them, as serious contouring can truly alter ones appearance.

With all that said, I do actually love a good contour, and when I have the time for special occasions I will contour my own face and always love the results. I wish I could be bothered to apply this trend on my face on a daily basis. A good contour is one that has been applied correctly for the right face shape and is undetectable, meaning you don’t want to see those tiger stripes on your face. Contouring is supposed to be natural looking, not at all fake. My biggest love of contorting is the power and impact literally two products can achieve with highlighting and shading in the right places.

MAC concealer palettes

Here are four face charts, as we all have different facial features and shapes. However funnily enough we all fit into one of these categories on way or another. The face charts will help you determine where to shade and highlight and add your blush. It’s easy once you get your method down pat but at first it can seem daunting. So I usually suggest starting off with powders with light application as these are a lot easier to blend away any mistakes. A good beauty blender sponge or my personal favorite, Brushes by Rae Morris, are perfect for application and precision blending.

Rae Morris


A square face shape is similar in width at the forehead, cheeks and jaw. Contouring can help the face look less angular and soften the jaw line for a more feminine appearance. To soften the angles of the face, shade the outer corners of the forehead and temples concentrating the application close to the hair line. Shade the jaw line, paying close attention to the outer edges of the jaw. Apply blush over the apples of the cheeks; this will bring the focus to the center of the face. Add highlight to the center of the forehead, top of the cheekbones and the tip of the chin.


A heart shaped face generally has similar attributes to an inverted triangle. It’s wide at the forehead and curves down to a pointed or narrow chin. A great contour will highlight and help create symmetry. Areas to focus on are the temples, outer corners of the forehead and cheekbones to lessen the width in these areas. With a heart shaped face you can softly work a subtle contour over the cheeks to add proportion. Match the contour with a subtle highlight over the top of the cheekbones and highlight the center of the chin to help broaden.


A round shape is a little wider (but shorter) than most, with full cheeks and a rounded chin. Contouring will help create the illusion of a more defined and slimmer face. Start by shading from the top of the cheekbone, beginning at the top of the ear and blending downwards. This gives the illusion of a stronger cheekbone and a narrower face. Shade the temples, focusing most of the shading at the outer areas of the forehead close to the hairline. Apply the shading to the jawline focusing on the outer edges of the jaw and continue to blend slightly down the neck from your jawline.

To balance the face, apply a subtle highlight (or lighter shade) to the center of the forehead and chin area. If needed you can see where to apply the shading contour for a more elongated nose. Highlight as per usual under the eye area and apply your blush along your cheek bone.


A long face shape is the most symmetrical. Contouring on an oval face generally helps to create definition and depth where needed. Start by softly shading the cheekbones starting at the top of the ear, blending down towards the apple of the cheeks. Sweep the excess product over the temples, to softly define. Continue to sweep the contour shade along the jaw line and down the neck to give the illusion of a stronger jaw line. Balance with a subtle highlight in the center of the forehead, top of the cheekbones and middle of the chin and blush from the apples of the cheek and along the cheek bone.

So there you have it, a fairly straight forward and easy to follow guide. Just remember to start your application of products lightly and really get your blending technique down pat. Once you are confident, then you can experiment with deeper contouring and even try using creams. Some of my best ‘go to’ contorting products for powders and creams are here and can be purchased at department stores or online.

Tom Ford, Sleek & Beauty Pod

Has this helped explain contouring better? Do you have any contouring beauty tips you can share with our community? We’d love to share your secrets.