If you ever had to sit through the introductory phase of art class in school – and stayed awake long enough to learn something (ha!) – you probably remember the color wheel. It is made up of the main colors of the rainbow using red, orange, yellow, blue, green, and violet (with the exception of indigo). For purposes of this post, I’ll be focusing particularly on complementary colors and how they can provide a map for selecting your perfect eyeshadows.
So, what are complementary colors? These are the colors that fall opposite one another on the color wheel. For instance, the opposite of red is green and the opposite of blue is orange. You can also use the colors alongside the complementary colors. Using complementary colors provides the most striking results; the contrast between your eye color and the eyeshadow color will make your eyes come alive.
If you have blue eyes, try using oranges, pinks and golds.
If you have green or hazel eyes, try using pinks, purples and oranges.
If you have brown eyes – good news! You have the most versatile of all the eye colors and can pretty much get away with any shade.
The rule “never wear eyeshadow that is the same color of your eyes” is not always correct. You CAN wear eyeshadow that is the same color as your eyes (yes, you can!), it’s just a matter of the shade, not the color itself. For example, if you have blue eyes, try using light blues or dark blue eyeshadow; stay away from medium blues. If you have brown eyes, try using a light brown, or khaki shade. And if you have green eyes, try dark green eyeshadows or lighter greens; stay away from medium greens.
And, of course, brown and neutral shades look great on any skin tone and eye color; a great stockpile of neutrals is essential to any woman’s arsenal.
If you’re going to be trying out a new color as part of your eyeshadow routine, experiment and practice with it first. Don’t plan to wear it on a day when you have a set schedule; in the event you don’t like it, you might find yourself running late!
Do you have any specific color suggestions for creating the purple look that is on the second hazel eyes picture? I have cool skin tones and sort of gray-hazel eyes that can look blueish, gray, or green depending on what I’m wearing. I’ve had the best luck with using purple or blushy-cranberry colors in the crease, but every time I find one I like, it gets discontinued… (case in point; the brownish-purple darker color in the picture reminds me a lot of Laura Mercier’s Paris by Night, which isn’t available anymore)
Thanks for your question! The colors in that picture remind me a lot of Quarry, Haux, Seedy Pearl and Da Bling and how they might look if you mixed them together. You could try something like Quarry or Haux on the lid and then highlight the middle of the lid with Da Bling and Seedy Pearl mixed together or simply one of the two. To define the crease you could use Typographic, as it has a purple base and looks awesome when paired with purples in a look like that. Hope this helps 🙂
I just bought gold mine and googled what to do with it, thank you SO much for your help!!! P.S. the way you did the brown eyes above is stunning!
You’re welcome, Susannah!
I wish I could take credit for the brown eyes up top, but that’s not my work. Great makeup there though! 🙂
Omg, the last one, for brown eyes, it looks SO Brazilian, so carnival, and it’s the colors of their flag!
Love your blog!!
I am looking for a neutral combination for everyday wear.
I have blonde hair blue eyes am kinda fair but tan very easily and have mature skin (over 40).
I prefer a matte look as i have to do my makeup early in the morning and the shimmery look does not look so good at 8 am lol!
Thanks for your help!!
I’m happy to hear you’re enjoying the blog! 🙂
Have you seen this post by chance?
There are some really great matte combos that might help inspire you in there!
I loved your blog! My high school prom is right around the corner. Recently I purchased a yellow dress with silver accents…I have an oriental background and light brown eyes. I considered wearing yellow eyes shadow, but i am a little hesitant since i have never worn such a bright color before. Do you have any suggestion for me about a particular color or brand that i should purchase for this upcoming event? (:
Sure! I know it may sound strange, but making your eyeshadow a color that is complimentary to your dress’s color will help your eyes to stand out more. So, since you’re wearing yellow and you have brown eyes (ah, the perfect pairing!), I would highly recommend you go with a purple combination. It will really make your eyes POP. If you’re looking at MAC eyeshadows, some beautiful purple shades you might consider are Star Violet, Satellite Dreams, Seedy Pearl, Quarry, Nocturnelle, Vibrant Grape (a bright one, but would be beautiful on you!), and Beautiful Iris. If you’re looking more for drugstore eyeshadows, Maybelline has a really beautiful purple quad that is of exceptional quality (the name escapes me at the moment). You could also try some of NYX’s purples if you have an Ulta store near you (they’re a lot less expensive than MAC).
Hope this has helped and that you have fun at the prom! 🙂
Hi, I love your blog!
I have predominately Green (with specks of blue, orange & Brown) Hazel eyes. I sometimes enjoy wearing metallic eyeshadows. Which do you feel would look nicer – gold, pewter, silver or bronzes etc.? I also received a gorgeous metallic Forest/Emerald Green Gel Mineral Eyeliner as a gift, & am wondering if it would suit me or just be “too much”? I need to leave my comfort zone, at least occasionally…
WOW! Your eyes sound amazing!
It would depend on your skin tone as to which of those shades you named would look best.
If you’re of a warm complexion, I’d stick with the gold and bronzes, but if you’re of a cool complexion, I’d go with the pewter and silver shades.
If you can mix and match, you’re lucky!
I’d say try the Emerald Green gel liner – sometimes wearing eyeshadow the same color as your eyecolor washes them out, but eyeliner is a little different. Used sparingly, and paired with the right color on the lid, it could be really amazing.
Hi Im new to makeup and all and I’ve been having trouble. I have dark golden strawberry blond hair. My eye color depends on what I’m wearing but thy either look grey light blue or light green. I usually wear shimmering bronzing colors, but it just looks weird. So What eyeshadow colors would you reccomend for me?
You may find this post helpful 🙂
Do you have any color suggestion to create the same look for the brown color eyes on the left hand picture? I really love it 🙂 Thanks.
You could try Swimming or Kelly Green pigment for the green in that look (even mixing the two might give you more of that exact color). For the golden brown, MAC Amber Lights would be the closest match there. Hope that helps!
Hey Z! Lindsay AKA “Sumthing4theWeekend” here. Thanks so much for your Tutes.! They’ve helped me sooooo much! But i have a question about complimentary shades…. I have GREY eyes and am not on the color wheel. I usually wear the UD Naked shades, but am looking to venture into something different.. Im a little intimidated by the pinks/ reds, mainly cos i usually wear red lips (very much into the 1950’s pin-up style). And i dont want my eyes in competition with my lips! Any advice for my eye color??
Your eyes sound gorgeous and complex – an awesome combo! 😉
How about light white/ivory shades like Shroom?
A combo you could try that would be nice with red lips, but still make your eyes pop, would be something like Kid in the crease, Shroom on the lid and Cork to deepen the crease. You could also try another variation of that with something like Off the Page lightly in the crease, Shroom on the lid and Red Brick (VERY lightly and softly) to deepen the crease. I think as long as you keep the colors light like that, you shouldn’t have any issues with wearing the red lips you love!
I would group your gray eyes into the category of blue eyes, as they are very similar.
Colors I think would be AMAZING against your eyes are ones like Aquadisiac, Star Violet, Gorgeous Gold, Crystal, Pink Freeze, Jest; ones like that. Light in color; not too overpowering. Hope that helps a little more!
Thanks so much, Z!! I appreciate your help so much!! I am so thrilled to have found an artist as talented as yourself to help with color combos, technique, tips & tools of the trade! And even better for me, bc like you, I am very fair skinned- when the ‘over baked’ look seems so prevalent and popular- its hard to find tutes for us pale gals! Cheers for all your help!! ~Lindsay~ x
Hi Z. Love the website and your YouTube tutorials. Advice on pale blue to iridescent blue eyes that are a bit freaky? I tend to stick to grey and silver to enhance my features.
Thank you! I’m so happy to hear you’re enjoying them! 🙂
Have you tried oranges, corals, pinks, purples or red based browns?
Which ones will work depends on your undertone (cool or warm) and comfort level with colors.
If you’re shy of colors, I’d stick with lighter ones at first like Jest, Arena Seedy Pearl, and Expensive Pink to name a few.
Hope that helps a little bit more!
Hello! your website rocks!
I need help with my eye color…
Different people say my eyes are different colors so I’m not really sure what the exact color of my eyes are so I’m just going to try to explain my best 🙂
the outside has a ring of dark gray/blue that isn’t very vibrant. then it goes to a pale green/blue/gray and then on the inside of my eye there is a ring of yellow…
the problem is is that when I try to use bright colors it tends to make my eyes look dull which isn’t exactly the idea behind using bright colors haha.
Anyway, what are your suggestions for colors? I normally just do brows but do you think I could try anything else?
Thanks so much!
*browns not brows haha
Hi Zabrena, Can you do please also an explanation for deep set eyes ? Can we use all the eyeshadow styles for deep set eyes ?
I will definitely keep that in mind for you in the future; I think it’s a great idea for a post!
Thank you for asking! 😉
I just came across your website and im absolutly amazed by the 411 you give.
I have lots of MAC eyeshadow and to tell you the truth I dont know how to use them or what colors go with what color, Id love to learn how to apply them. I love MAC I buy their stuff all the time but then I get stuck at home cuz I dont know how to apply it.
If I tell you what color I have can you guide and tell me what colors to blend with what colors?
Welcome to the site! 🙂 You may actually find a membership to the site quite useful; there are over 1,000 pictures of combinations on the site with MAC eyeshadows and you can browse to your heart’s content! 😉 If you’d like to sign up for membership, you’re welcome to click on the Membership tab in the menu at the top of the site. You’re also welcome to take a tour of the site in the same top menu if you’d like to see what’s included with membership. Hope that helps! 😉
Hi, I have grey eyes. What colors van I use? It’s for a party with dresscode black-tie. ( my dress is ink blue ;-))
I have green eyes and hooded eyes and I wear glasses. So I need to know how to wear my colors to make me pretty. Thank you Nancy
Every time I apply my shadow it is nothing like urs. What type of primer do u use? My eye color is green like yours. My skin tone is a shade or 2 darker than yours. I live in Los Angeles so the weather is always hot. I work for a dentist so I’m always in the faces of my patients. I’m also a pre nursing student so I am literally in faces all day. Advice?I have the naked 2 palate and the Smokey eye Mack with black white and gold. Help me!
hey! i love eyeshadow but can really figure out what shadows are best for my eye color. my eyes are a green hazel mostly but they do change either to a gray i think but my mom says blue. or the green will get orange lines in it closest to my pupil (sorry if not spelled right.) any help? lol thanks in advance! i do alot of browns, greens sometimes(not alot) i have a deep red i like, every get now and then purple(not my fave color) and also once in a while ill do orange(my fave color but hard to find but not sure my eyes like)….soo ya im alll over hahah i feel safe in browns but i really want to know how to make my eyes stay out. also i wear glasses and that are plastic black frames(were in budget at the time) so sometimes eyes seem hidden =/ thanks again!
I have hazel eyes and I want to try a teal color….. Any suggestions?
I would love to see your favorites listed for each eye color with example links, or a member’s only link to your favorites for each eye color with examples. A nice enticement for those who want more and great shopping organization for those who are already members. Thank you!
silvia stella cami
Congrats on been a new MOM!!!!! My question is can you recommend MAC eyeshadows for Mature , medium complexion Hazel (yellow) kind of eyes, I have light brown eyes.
I always been partial to browns and pink ,cranberry , colours is it the right ones or can you please advise??
My eyes are more of a dark blue grey (more grey than blue), and I have a cool skin tone. I am 43, and naturally have brown hair that suddenly turned grey. the only colors that have actually held on my hair, instead of normal colors is light purples and fuschias 😮
Anyway, I found you because of your awesome Frugal Friday videos and I just love you. i am hoping this post is not too old for an answer, but wondered if you could help me with what colors and way of wearing them that I should wear to make my eyes pop, but not look like an old person that is just trying to look young (if you know what I mean. I also wear glasses. Just learning about makeup and trying to bring a little fun and color into my life. I just adore you and thankyou so much for your youtube channel. Many blessings on your pregnancy/new baby <3