The Sneakiest Ways to Contour if the Kardashian Look Isn't Your Jam

Bob Ross was not consulted for this how to.

Hair, Lip, Cheek, Brown, Hairstyle, Skin, Chin, Forehead, Shoulder, Eyebrow,
(Image credit: Getty Images)

We've all seen the deconstructed "Kontour!!!!!" images on Instagram. But, let's get real—all those swipes and shadows are enough to perplex anyone without an M.F.A. Yes, contouring is transformative, but it doesn't have to be extreme or complicated. Keeping it subtle and doable for us normals comes down to just four easy tricks—and thanks to celebrity artist Anthea King, we've detailed them here for you.

"The number one mistake people make when they try contouring at home is picking the wrong color," says King. You've likely heard the advice to go one to two shades darker for the contour and one to two shades lighter for the highlighter. That's correct, but it's not quite that simple. The trick is to avoid orange undertones, which look less than natural. One pick that won't lend the burnished effect? NYX Highlight and Contour Pro Singles available online (opens in new tab) or at the new NYX brick-and-morter stores (opens in new tab). They come in shades from pale pearl to deep brown and snap into an easy to-go palette you can throw in your makeup bag.

Don't try to change everything all at once—pick the one area you want to focus on. Well-placed highlights and shadows can chisel your cheeks, heighten your arches, slim your chin, trick your cleavage. But choose one. Yes, just one. All your natural features are what make you, well you. The goal should be "something looks different" not "holy s*** everything looks different."

We're going to get all art school for just a second. Before you apply color, think about how you want to look in the end. Say, you want more defined cheeks; picture where the shadow would fall if you had them. Then apply the darker color there. You're basically creating an optical illusion using fake shadows. It's different from how we're used to applying makeup. You know: spot pimple, cover up. You're actually creating something, not hiding it.

Beautifier beware—most of your time should be spent blending. This isn't like applying your regular foundation, which matches your skin—here you're blending colors in a four-shade range, so it's going to take some time. Apply NYX Highlight and Contour Pro Singles with an angled brush and then blend out with a fan brush. "The most beautiful application is light handed," says King. Start with the least amount of color you think you'll need and gradually build it up to get what you want. Done.

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Rebecca Dolgin