Foiling 101: The Eyeshadow Technique That'll Help Your Makeup Stay Put

Now and then, you might get what we call the elaborate eyeshadow bug. You'll notice you want to skip your usual one or two coats of eyeshadow and do something more technical. It could be a smoky eye, a dual-toned cut crease, or a bright pigment you wouldn't normally wear outside your home. But there's only one thing standing in your way: your eyeshadow never cooperates with you. One minute it looks excellent on your lids; the next, it smears, shifts, and even creases. But what if we told you there is a way to get your eyeshadow to stay put all day? The miracle technique is called foiling, and it's about to change the game for your makeup routine.


When you hear the word foiling, you might think of metallics, and you would actually be spot on. Foiling is a technique that uses a makeup base — usually either an eye makeup primer, a setting spray, or a mixing medium — mixed with metallic powder or cream shadows to help your eye makeup look last all day long. You can achieve it by following a few easy steps.

Gather your foiling tools

Besides ensuring your eyeshadow will last on your eyelids longer, foiling can also increase its intensity and color payoff. So if you have a palette with really muted colors, foiling might be the trick to getting them to shine. To foil, you really do not need any new makeup items. All you need are your eyeshadow shades, your makeup base, and a brush for patting the shadow-medium mix.


It's best to go for metallic eye makeup colors with a formula suited for product mixing. Some shadows can get clumpy or separate when mixed with other products, which never makes for a good look. This is why it's a much better idea to go for products that are makeup artists' favorites, as they are usually formulated to handle lots of mixing with other products. 

Next up, choose your makeup base, which is the secret sauce to the foiling technique because it creates tackiness and holds onto your eyeshadow colors. You can use some setting spray, your favorite eye makeup primer, or a film-forming mixing medium. Lastly, you'll need some good flat brushes. It's much better to pat your shadows on to get the best foiling effect possible. For this, a flat, dense brush is the best for those controlled motions.


Prep and prime

The thought of getting longer-lasting eyeshadow with something as simple as setting spray and a flat brush is a technique you likely cannot wait to try. However, before you start, no good eye look can be achieved without a coat of eye makeup primer. This product creates an even, tacky base that lets your shadows look more intense and last longer. Think of it as a clear canvas on your eyes for maximum color output. The sticky base also gives the shadows something to grip while on your lids, and with the added power of setting spray, your eyeshadow is about to be unmovable all day long.


If you don't have an eye primer, there's no need to worry. Try applying a thin coat of concealer to your lids instead. While it will not give the exact grip as an eye primer, it'll still create that even base for great color payoff. And the setting spray used during foiling will handle the longevity of the look. Once you've primed your lids, it's time to foil using any of three easy methods.

Choose one of three foiling methods

There are a few tried-and-true ways to achieve a foiled eyeshadow look, but they all lead up to the same end goal: increased color payoff and longer-lasting eyeshadow. For method one, dampen your flat brush with setting spray or eye makeup primer. You want to make sure the brush is damp but not overly saturated. Next, dip the damp brush into your choice of shadow, tap to remove the excess, and pat the mix onto your eyelid. Unlike swirling motions, patting allows the shadow particles to stick so they don't move around too much from the get-go.


For method two, you do the reverse. Dip your brush into your eyeshadow first and then spray it with your setting spray or primer to dampen the brush and shadow. The patting motions remain the same, so pat, pat, pat.

Method three, however, is a bit more messy (or fun, depending on how you view it). This one requires you to literally mix your shadow and the setting spray or mixing medium on a surface and then apply the creamy mix onto your eyelid with your brush. For a little less mess, try using a mixing pan.

Finish up your routine

Now, there is a fourth method, but this is mainly used when the longevity of the look is not a priority. Instead of a mixing medium or setting spray, method four requires dipping or spraying your brush with eyeshadow on it with some water. The color payoff with this method is also great, but your shadow won't last as long, so just be aware of that.


If you're using more than one metallic shadow for your eye look, repeat the foiling method for each of them and place your colors where you want them on the lid. You can also use a small fluffy brush at the end to blend the colors for a seamless gradient. And if you'd like to tone the look down with matte colors before or after foiling, the small fluffy brush will be handy for this. Just be sure to blend between the shadows, as the last thing you want are odd-looking streaks of color separation. 

Once you're done foiling, finish up the rest of your routine with mascara, liner, complexion products, and a generous coat of setting spray on your entire face. And that's it! Thanks to the foiling technique, you now have a long-lasting eyeshadow look with a high color payoff.