Make-up tips: How to contour for photoshoots

Top make-up artist Jorge Armario Palombini explains the art of contouring.

It seems like the word contouring is everywhere at the moment. Thanks to a couple of celebrities and Instagram influencers we appear to be rediscovering this make-up technique which has, by the way, been around for ever. For as long as we’ve had make-up itself, people have wanted to sculpt, highlight and add definition.

While contouring is, as I said, everywhere right now, a lot of it is poorly executed. Lots of people are wearing this type of make-up for an everyday look – and it’s wrong. Instead of looking natural, it looks cakey, heavy and horrible. Contouring should be saved for special occasions or photoshoots, where it can make a big difference.

Before we start applying make-up, we must ensure the skin is clean and clear. Please refer to my previous article HERE to see how to do so.

Model Maia Parry before make-up.

To start contouring, you need three different shades of foundation. Firstly, choose the same colour tone as the model’s skin. Once this has been agreed, choose a foundation two shades lighter than the natural base and a foundation two shades darker than the natural base colour. The darker shade will make areas recede. The light shade will make features come forward.


A great pallet for contouring is Kryolan Trio Foundation. This amazing pallet has all three tones that you will need for the perfect contouring results. It has a lovely matte finish and is great for photographic work.


Start by using a foundation brush to add the base colour, making sure it is applied correctly everywhere on the face. Be careful to go around the hairline and blend it right onto the skin with a sponge or your finger. The end result should look like the model has no make-up on.

Set this first layer of foundation with a translucent or colourless loose powder.

Now the face is prepared, the transformation begins. Use another foundation brush to apply the other foundation tones; starting with the highlighting shade.

Concentrate on highlighting the brow bone, centre of the eyelid and middle of the forehead, working your way down through the bridge of the nose. Then apply under the eyes, working your way down on to the cheekbone, then on to the corners of the mouth and centre of the chin, and just under the lip. You can see how on the image below.


Highlight the brow bone, centre of the eyelid, middle of the forehead and the bridge of the nose.

Next, apply the shading, focusing on the hollows of the cheeks, under the chin and down the neck, sides and under the tip of the nose, crease of the eyes, temples and around the hairline, as shown in the picture.

Shading and highlights on the face.

Once the highlighting and shading has been applied to the face, blend both foundations onto the skin. I like doing this with a sponge working in circular movements.

Make sure you blend well, as you want this to look as natural as possible. If you don’t blend properly, it will look cakey and far too heavy. While blending, concentrate on keeping the foundations in the areas where they’ve been applied, but blend enough to get rid of all the lines.

To finish this dramatic, yet effective and amazing look, set the make-up with a translucent loose powder all around the face. This gets rid of any shine and helps the make-up last longer. If it gets too hot in the studio, due to the lights and flashes, keep applying the translucent loose powder, to ensure you or your model do not shine bright like a disco ball.

After creating this look, add some type of eye make-up, blusher and lipstick. (I’ll explain more about how to do this in my next article.)

Here’s the final result.



Beauty images: by Jorge Armario Palombini

Model: Maia Parry.

Jorge Armario Palombini’s 19-year career as a hair and make-up artist has taken him all over the world. He’s worked in the UK, Japan, Hong Kong, Spain and Australia across many formats including film, television, print and advertising. Jorge has worked behind the scenes on countless catwalk shows, music videos, magazine shoots and TV adverts, and recently on the hit TV show Black Mirror. He has also worked for top hair salons including Lee Stafford and Richard John. About nine years ago, having run Richard John Academy, Jorge became interested in education, and this is now his main professional focus. He teaches at Brighton and Worthing Metropolitan College, where he shares his knowledge and experience with future hair and makeup artists.