Back to School: How to Apply Eye Shadow (Everything Under $5)

I can't believe school has started back already for so many. Has this summer flown by or what? Today I'm kicking off my Back to School Week on the blog with a video tutorial on eye shadow. Eye shadow can be an intimidating aspect of makeup and it doesn't have to be. I'm sharing one technique, along with some tips & tricks, to show you how to master the look effortlessly. AND I'm keeping everything UNDER $5.

I chose a very wearable look for school or for work, that can be intensified as desired. This is just one technique, perfect for beginners, but feel free to use the colors that work for you.


  • I chose a Wet N Wild trio. These are around $3 and come in a variety of colors. 
  • To make it even easier, each color is stamped with where it goes on the lid (browbone, crease, lid).
  • Pictured are Sweet as Candy, Knock on Wood, and Walking on Eggshells
  • Good brushes under $5 are hard to find, but these are pretty good to start off with and are $3. I'll be using a shadow brush and contour brush from ELF. Optional: ELF smudge brush
  • Dollar General has decent brushes under $5 too if you need more options.

Step One:
  • Optional: An eye shadow primer helps with color intensity, shadow longevity, and hides discoloration. ELF makes a $1 one, but other drugstore brands have primer options as well. Apply on the lid and blend.
  • Take the eye shadow brush into the pink color. Tap off excess and pat onto lid. For some of you, this may be enough of a beginner shadow look.
Step Two:
  • Take the contour brush and dip into the brown shade, tapping off the excess.
  • Apply to crease in a back-and-forth or windshield wiper motion.
  • Next, blend out the shadow. This is where many beginners make a mistake--don't use the same dirty brush to blend. It will affect your blending and will cause the shadow to get muddy. Use a clean brush instead.
  • Here's my tip: Instead of buying another brush, quickly clean it using a Stipple Sponge (these are sold for around $1.99 at Halloween stores or Party City). Just wipe the brush back and forth to clean it. This is faster and more thorough than using a dry paper towel. Be sure to thoroughly clean all brushes later, since this doesn't disinfect them.
Step Three:
  • To add a little more dimension to the eye, apply the brown shade into the outer V (also called outer corner or < or >) of the lid and slightly onto the crease. Clean your brush and blend out. 
Step Four:
  • Smudge brown shadow under lower lash line. This looks less harsh than liner.
Step Five:
  • Use the lightest shade to highlight under the brow bone.
  • Curl lashes, add mascara, and liner to the top lash line.

The tutorial below is HIGHLY recommended as it goes into thorough detail.
Watch and let me know what you think!

What's your favorite shadow palette?
When does school start where you are?

Extra Elle:
  • Where did the weekend go? Mine was fast: I grabbed some movies (none were good), attended my friend's mom's funeral, had dinner at a Greek restaurant, finally got caught up on magazines, and made a Target run. And now it's Monday again! How was yours?


  1. I'm saving this. I always struggle with eyeshadow. If I manage to put some on and make it look decent I usually forget and touch my eyelid and wipe it off.

  2. This is a great tutorial and easy to follow! I still have not perfected applying eyeshadow so this will definitely help!

    Doused In Pink

  3. I love the idea of cleaning off your brush between steps with the sponge!

  4. Such a great tutorial, Elle - I love the Walking On Eggshells trio! It is such an affordable shadow staple!


  5. Such a subtle and lovely look! I really am not the best at applying eyeshadow so Ill save this!

  6. What a great video, Elle:) You explained everything very clearly. I love that tip about blending with a new brush, and cleaning with a stipple sponge.

  7. You look gorgeous! Loving the natural look and loving even more that everything is under five dollars!

    <3 Shannon
    Upbeat Soles

  8. This is such a great tutorial! And so cost effective! I'm loving these gorgeous, soft colors. Totally agree, the weekend went way too fast!

    xo, Rachel
    A Blonde's Moment

  9. I have never been big on lining my lower lash line, but I did recently start applying shadow there and I agree it is less harsh and I like the look. I have never heard of using a stipple brush to clean off a brush quickly, how interesting and now I want to try it. Wow, aren't you full of great tips!


  10. It looks great, a nice tutorial and I only think of my time at school - I never wore makeup there, only for drama presentations... I remember having worn makeup only 3 times before 18 :) And that, for special occasions. It would have been nice wearing it before :(, like for school. Anyway, time not coming back and yes, the month flew, not only the week! By the way, you look lovely and beautiful, I loved the pics AND ny the way too, thanks for some tips - I used 3 of the tips you gave on a regular basis!

  11. Great tips and your hair in that last photo is seriously gorgeous!! xo, Biana -BlovedBoston

  12. Great advice as always, Elle! School doesn't start until after Labor Day here, so the kids still have a couple weeks to go.

  13. This is so helpful as I always feel like I put my eyeshadow on wrong. I go way all the way to the start of my nose. I know so terrible.

  14. Wow, this looks great!!! You have really pretty eyes!!! And I love me some cheap make up, lol!!!

  15. This is a really easy to follow tutorial with great tips! Walking on Egg Shells is a great WNW trio palette!

  16. Thanks so much for this useful tutorial! I need new eye shadow, so this is perfect timing!

  17. You look beautiful as always, great natural colours on you. Great tips, especially for beginners.
    Autumn Wants

  18. LOVE Wet and Wild eye shadows, they work so well and are super cheap. Love the look you put together, thanks for the tip on cleaning the brush.

  19. Once again, you have taught me. A Stiffle Sponge? I have never heard of such a thing but I do use the same brush in different colors... I need to clean it before I do the blending thing.

  20. Ok that tip about the stipple sponge, LITERAL GENIUS. They sell similar "things" for pros and call then fancy brush pads and overcharge you for it.... Thank you for this, I'll be sure to try it out.
    I've also been hearing great things about Wet 'n Wild as of late. Glad to hear you're also a fan. I'm very tempted to pick up a palette and give the brand eyeshadow a try again!!

    Much Love!!
    -Stephanie Eva

  21. Looking gorgeous as always friend! Love E.L.F. brushes, I'm going to need to pick those up to add to my collection :)

  22. Such a great and simple look, perfect for anyone. I am totally trying the sponge trick, genius! Agreed, this weekend went by way too fast!

    Whitney & Blaire
    Peaches In A Pod

  23. Love the tutorial. And your hair! It's so pretty! :)

    Sorry to hear about your friend's mother. And the weekend did go by pretty fast. In fact this whole year has.

  24. Elle this is so helpful! I am so so bad with eyeshadow, such a beginner. I have been meaning to try those elf brushes. and that sponge tick is pure genius! so much better than a paper towel.

  25. This is such a soft, pretty eyeshadow look. I rarely do more than just apply one color so I'm going to try this for sure.

  26. such an elegant everyday look...I love wet n wild eye shadows, they are so affordable and yet so nice....


  27. The sponge -- I need that, what a smart idea to quickly clean brushes! I love some of the elf products when I need something quick and don't feel like spending a fortune!

  28. This is such a great tutorial!! I'm so happy that I found your page. Also, I saw you mention wanting those $8 studs on Mattie's page. I'm giving away a pair today, come check out my blog if you're interested :)

  29. I absolutely love Elf brushes, but for some reason, I have never tried their eyeshadow brushes. I'm not usually a eyeshadow person, but lately I have been getting into it a lot more. Thanks for this. I'm headed to Target so I will pick some up.

    Kia / House of KTS

  30. For such a cheap palette, I was always impressed with W&W's durability!

  31. I just got the Walking on Eggshells trio and I am in love it it. I'm going to do a look for my blog too. I was so surprised at how good it was and for only $3?! Elf brushes are some of my favorite for the eyes, so good and so inexpensive. I've been eyeing a Vera Mona sponge that's similar, but it's so expensive. I'm so glad you posted this find from Party City. I will definitely be getting one soon!

    Louboutins & Lipstick

  32. I love this light and natural look for work or school. I don't wear heavy eye makeup so this palette would be perfect.

  33. Such a gorgeous look! Love how natural it is-it looks like you aren't wearing makeup at all. :)

  34. I so need to find one of those sponge's. I alway use kleenex to clean my brush's. Off in-between use's.


  35. I'm pretty bad at makeup in general. I always use the same sorts of colors for my eye makeup, no risks! I can't believe all of this was under $5! I love the stipple sponge trick too.

  36. This post is stocked with good ideas! I need to check out the Elf primer-I had no idea they had it or that it was so cheap! And since I don't have many brushes, I love the idea of getting a stipple sponge for blending!! Pretty, natural look!

  37. I have never tried Wet n Wild colors before but they look just gorgeous on you!! I love how simple this look is because it could match up with any kind of outfit. The sponge idea is brilliant. You don't even want to know what I do between colors. (I wipe the brush on my arm, side of my hand or my "getting ready" robe.)

  38. Ok, I so needed this post! I have lots of eyeshadow but I've been playing around a lot with blending lately! I've also been trying to figure out brushes...which ones do what. I need to evaluate my collection to see what I have and what I need! GENIUS idea to use that little product to clear the color off the brush! I've made so msg big messes ruff this. I'm embarrassed to say that if I'm going to put on pants after I get ready I have a habit of cleaning the color off on my leg. Haha! I'll have to fey your way instead! ;)

  39. Wet n Wild makes such good quality shadows for the low price. I love the idea of using the stipple sponge for brush cleaning! That's a great idea!

  40. Those eye shadows are a great deal! Loving this tutorial!


  41. Can you come over to my house and do this to me every morning. I am horrible at eye makeup!

  42. Love the sponge tip for quickly wiping off a brush! Sorry your weekend included a funeral...

  43. The wet n wild trios are so cute. Perfect for beginners because there's only a few shades so no one gets overwhelmed with so many colors!

  44. This is so helpful as I have literally no idea how to use eyeshadow and just got a Naked 2 basics palette. Unfortunately, I don't have a crease, and probably need to work around that haha!

    Angelina Is | Bloglovin'

  45. Perfect eye makeup application! I love how it looks subtle but still very polished and pretty!

  46. Ok seriously... makeup brushes from dollar general? Girl you are rocking my world!!!! Thanks for the tip - and for showing your beautiful face :)


  47. Great post! You always create simple and easy-to-follow tutorials! This is how I do my eye makeup most days!
    Sincerely, Sara

  48. Looks incredible!
    Melanie @ meandmr.com

  49. Great tute Elle! Loving the neutral colours on you

  50. I normally go for the Rimmel palettes. :D This is a beautiful look! Thank you for sharing!


  51. Eye shadow is my strongest makeup world skill. I've always been great at my eyes and "meh" with everything else. As I get older and learn new technique, stuff has pretty much caught up, but it's very apparent my eyes are my strong point. Sweet as Candy is such an awesome trio! I actually own two of them because I'm obsessed with the brown in the trio. I actually love depotting my Wet n' Wild favs and throwing them into a Z palette. Have you tried the Wet n' Wild Comfort Zone palette? If not, you'd love it Elle! Amazing shades and pigmentation!

  52. Great video, Elle! I have to admit that I am the laziest eye shadow applier ever... I am so guilty of using the same brush for blending :(

  53. Lovely look. Very similar to what I was wearing yesterday. Wish we could find Wet N Wild in the UK.

    Renata x
    UD Naked Palette or Anastasia Contour Kit GIVEAWAY

  54. What brush are you using on your lower lash line? I need a new one and that looks great.

  55. Right now I have been loving Naked 2


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