Face Study and Face Shapes for Professional Makeup

A nice makeup look can soon be achieved if you know the basic techniques of application, and by choosing complementary shades that suit the client’s skin tone and personal style.

Knowledge of basic face structure and face shapes leads to an understanding of the concept of makeup balance. Learning the makeup techniques involved to balance the face will take an artist’s professional skills to another level, and is an essential tool in achieving the best result in any photographic or film work.

We all begin with the same elements: two eyes, a nose, a mouth, cheekbones etc yet there are no two faces exactly the same. Each face is unique and a makeup artist’s role is to enhance this aspect to express our client’s individuality.

It may be that a client is sensitive about a feature that she would like to have corrected - a large nose, small eyes, sharp jaw line, small mouth etc - and the artist can show her the corrective makeup techniques during a makeup lesson.

It is essential to use face shaping makeup techniques for photographic work, particularly in a studio environment with artificial lighting.

This will correct and contour any features, highlight the best features for the camera and create a 3D effect to add depth and emotion to the images. Without “sculpting” the face, the images can appear flat and lifeless.

First examine and divide the face into two halves to look at the overall balance - a top and a bottom - then the client’s individual face shape. Remember the importance of light and dark.

  • Lighter brings forward - Highlighter
  • Darker takes back - Contour (Shader)

Highlights should only be a few shades lighter, and the contour a few shades darker than the client’s natural skin tone, for a more natural result on camera. If the highlighter is too light it will reflect as white in the photos, and if too dark it will look muddy. A maximum of two or three shades lighter or darker works best.

Basic Face Shapes


Wide forehead, high cheekbones and tapers down to a narrow or pointed chin. (An inverted triangle face shape is the same but has sharper angles.) Apply contour to the temples, sides of cheeks and along jaw line under the chin to shorten. Highlight the chin to widen and the centre of the forehead to give shape. 





Face width and length almost equal, widest at the cheeks. To slim a round face, contour down the sides of the temples and cheeks. Highlight the chin and forehead to bring them forward for an even more slimming appearance.




Forehead, cheekbones and jaw line almost the same width. The square face will have a square, angular jaw line as the dominant feature, while the rectangle face may be long and angular. Soften the strong lines by contouring the sides of the temples and jaw, and highlight the forehead and chin to bring them forward.




The face is highly angular and the cheeks are quite wide, tapering both to the forehead and chin. Contour the cheeks (and along the jaw line if necessary) to soften the sharp angles and create balance. Highlight the chin and the forehead to the upper hairline to show off the eyes.




The face has a broad jawline, the cheeks can be wider than the eye area and tapering to a narrow forehead. Contour the sides of the cheek area and add a little under the eyes if necessary to sculpt the cheekbones and bring them forward. Highlight the forehead to widen and bring forward, and add a little to the chin.




Elongated features and the face gradually tapers towards the chin, sometimes with a prominent chin. Contour the tip of the chin if prominent, and if the forehead is much longer, contour along the upper hairline. Apply blusher after the foundation just to the apples of the cheeks to shorten and balance by bringing the focus to the centre of the face.



This is the ideal face shape - in proportion and well balanced. The forehead may be very slightly wider with more prominent cheekbones. No contouring required. Highlight the forehead, chin and under eye area to accentuate these good features.



Extra face shaping techniques may also be necessary to correct individual features. The same principals are applied to correct the nose or lip shapes to create balance.

Recommended Products

It is important to use professional makeup for all professional makeup artistry. These are products that are designed to perform, last and photograph well. Mineral makeup is likely to reflect because of the micronized particles they contain, so it is recommended to always use photographic makeup with satin and matte finishes. Most face shaping is applied under the foundation for the most natural result using lighter and darker shades of Crème Camouflage. Jojoba SPF15 Liquid Foundation is then lightly and carefully stippled over the camouflage with the Foundation Brush and ‘moulded’ into the skin without shifting the face shaping underneath.

If a stronger look is required, all-in-one Paramedical Camouflage Foundation works well, using a lighter and darker shade for the face shaping and finishing with one to match the skin tone.

After applying the foundation, be sure to set it with Oil Controlling Loose Matte Powder that is non-reflective and photographic. A dusting of HD Powder (high definition) is perfect for all photographic and film work to prevent reflection and shine. Bronzers and blushers all add to the topical effect, as will the choice of eyeshadow and lipstick shades. Applying all makeup using the same principals of light brings forward and maximises, and dark takes back and minimises, will produce a beautiful result and stunning photographs.

Note: Latex Makeup Wedges are ideal to use to apply face shaping products.


Face Study & Balance Techniques

We now look at face balance to further the Face Study topic.

The same principles apply. Knowledge of the basic face structure leads to an understanding of the concept of makeup balance.

The variety of products we can use is infinite, but the places to put them are not.

Remember we all begin with the same elements - two eyes, a nose, mouth, cheekbones, jaw etc.

Now divide the face into two halves - a top and a bottom - and remember the importance of the effect of light and dark.

When applying makeup, basically we have four placement options to consider: a dark eye area balanced with a dark mouth; a light eye area balanced with a dark mouth; a dark eye area balanced with a light mouth, or a light eye area balanced with a light mouth.

Keep in mind that the terms of light and dark are relative - you can modify intensity and work somewhere in the middle. What these four fundamental balance combinations do is simply shift our attention up or down, or broaden it to take in the face as a whole.

Note: halving the face into right and left sides is a different type of balance, because one side of the face is not always a mirror image of the other side. This can require some corrective adjustments with makeup application technique to balance the face overall. It usually requires simple things such as extending brow length, lifting or lowering uneven brows, or redrawing one side of the mouth to match the other. It is important to correct these elements with photographic work to get the best result. Any imbalance of features when photographed or filmed will be accentuated. 

Face One - Dark eyes, dark mouth

Accentuating both the eyes and mouth creates overall drama and intensity.

First apply primer, then even out skin tone with camouflage cream and a light application of chosen foundation.

Dust the face with matte loose face powder, with a touch more under the eyes to catch any loose eyeshadow that may drift while applying darker eyeshadow.  Using the natural arch as a guide, shape brows into place with brow liner and brush. The Brow Kit With Stencils is a great tool too.

Line the entire inner rim of each eye with black eyeliner, and soften and blend well into the lashes to avoid harsh edges. Gel eyeliners are waterproof and work well too.

Encircle the eyes in black matte eyeshadow, making sure to blend and soften the edges with a clean brush. (Note: the points were extended slightly at the inner and outer corners of the eye.)  Lashes are topped off with a coat of black mascara.

The entire lip is lined and filled in with a dark woody shade lip pencil, then using a lip brush, covered with a dark matte lipstick. Contour cheekbones very lightly with a warm bronzer.

Face Two - Neutral Eyes and Strong Mouth

This shifts the attention to the mouth and the lower part of the face. All steps remain the same as in Face One, but only a flesh-tone eyeshadow is used to softly shape the eyelid, and add mascara.

Face Three - Strong Eyes and Neutral Mouth

This focus shifts the attention to the eyes and the upper part of the face. All steps remain the same as in Face One, except lips are lined with a neutral flesh-tone lip pencil and covered with a pale flesh-tone lip colour.

Face Four - Neutral Eyes and Mouth

This effect allows the natural face structure and hair to be the main focus.

The same eye treatment as Face Two with a return to the paler mouth as in Face Three.


By studying the face structure of each client, a makeup artist can decide which features to accentuate and which to diminish.

For a personal makeup lesson, or bridal makeup for example, highlighting the client’s best features will give the best result and happy customers.

For commercial and fashion work, the choices are limitless, depending on the job brief, the mood and finished look required and the occasion. The makeup artist can create many looks based on these four fundamental face balance techniques.

Remember, makeup is all an illusion!

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