The Ultimate Guide to Graphic Eyeshadow: A Journey from Ancient Times to Modern Trends

Graphic Eyeshadow is a bold and creative makeup trend that allows you to express your unique style. This comprehensive guide will take you through everything you need to know about this eye-catching look, from its origins to its application.

The Origins Of Graphic Eyeshadow

The use of eyeshadow dates back to ancient times. It was first used in Egypt around 5000 to 4000 BCE, where archaeologists have found small pots and brush applicators in ancient burials. The iconic image of Cleopatra with her bright blue eyeshadow is a testament to this ancient practice.

The first eyeshadows were made from malachite, a green mineral, which is why Cleopatra is often depicted with greenish-blue eyeshadows. The use of eyeshadow wasn’t limited to Egypt. In Ancient Greece and Rome, the aristocracy also used eyeshadow, made from fine spices, herbs, dried flowers, and various parts of animals mixed with naturally-sourced minerals.

However, during the medieval and Renaissance periods, the use of eyeshadow was seen as overly decorous and even shameless, and it was largely avoided outside of brothels and the stage.

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The Victorian era saw a resurgence of interest in makeup, including eyeshadow, but it was often made with dangerous ingredients like arsenic, lead, ammonia, and mercury. Queen Victoria herself was not a fan of eyeshadow, famously stating that it was “impolite” to be seen in makeup of any kind.

The 20th century brought about significant changes in the use of eyeshadow. The “Roaring ’20s” saw women covering their eyelids completely with a dark kohl pencil, while the ’30s and ’40s saw a shift towards pastel shades. After World War II, bold colors like blue, yellow, and green became popular, reaching a peak in the ’80s with the advent of brightly colored lids.

What You Need

  • Eye Primer: This is essential for preparing your eyelids and ensuring your eyeshadow stays in place all day.
  • Eyeshadow Palette: Choose a palette with a variety of bold, vibrant colors for maximum versatility.
  • Flat Eyeshadow Brush: You’ll use this to apply your base color.
  • Thin Brush or Eyeliner Pencil: This is for creating your graphic design. A thin brush will give you precision, while an eyeliner pencil can be easier to control.
  • Blending Brush: This is necessary for blending the edges of your design and creating a seamless transition between colors.
  • Mascara: To add volume and length to your lashes, making your eyes pop.
  • Eyeliner: This will help define your lash line and enhance the shape of your eyes.
  • Makeup Remover and Cotton Swabs: These are handy for fixing any mistakes during the application process.
  • False Lashes (Optional): If you want to add even more drama to your look, consider using false lashes.

Product Recommendations

How To Apply Graphic Eyeshadow

1. Prep Your Eyes:

The first step in any eyeshadow application is to prepare your eyes. Start by cleansing your eyelids to remove any oils or residue that could interfere with your makeup. Next, apply an eye primer to your eyelids. This is a crucial step as the primer creates a smooth canvas for your eyeshadow, helps the color pop, and prevents it from creasing or smudging throughout the day. Allow the primer to dry before moving on to the next step.

2. Choose Your Colors:

Graphic eyeshadow is all about making a statement with bold, vibrant colors. When choosing your colors, consider your eye color, skin tone, and the look you’re going for. You might choose contrasting colors for a dramatic effect or complementary colors for a harmonious look. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different color combinations. You can even use multiple shades to add depth and dimension to your look.

3. Apply Your Base Color:

Once you’ve chosen your colors, it’s time to apply your base color. Using a flat eyeshadow brush, apply your chosen base color all over your eyelid, from your lash line to just beyond your crease. This color serves as the foundation for your graphic eyeshadow look, so choose a shade that will complement the other colors you plan to use. Blend the edges of your base color to ensure a smooth transition to your skin.

4. Create Your Graphic Design:

Now comes the fun part – creating your graphic design. Using a thin brush or an eyeliner pencil, draw your desired design on your eyelid. You can create geometric shapes, lines, or even intricate patterns. Remember, the key to a successful graphic eyeshadow look is precision, so take your time with this step. If you make a mistake, simply use a cotton swab dipped in makeup remover to erase any errors.

5. Blend:

Once you’re happy with your design, use a blending brush to gently blend the edges of your design, creating a seamless transition between colors. This step is particularly important if you’re using multiple colors, as it helps to create a gradient effect. However, be careful not to over-blend, as this can cause your colors to become muddy.

6. Finish Your Look:

Finally, complete your look by defining your eyes with mascara and eyeliner. Apply mascara to your lashes to add volume and length, and use eyeliner to define your lash line and enhance the shape of your eyes. This will help make your graphic eyeshadow pop and give your eyes a finished look. If you want to take your look to the next level, consider adding false lashes for even more drama.


Q: Where did eyeshadow originate from?

A: Eyeshadow originated from Ancient Egypt around 5000 to 4000 BCE.

Q: When was sparkly eyeshadow invented?

A: Sparkly eyeshadow became popular in the 20th century, particularly in the 1920s and the 1980s.

Q: What is the history of eyeshadow makeup?

A: The history of eyeshadow makeup spans thousands of years, from Ancient Egypt to modern times.

Q: What is the oldest eyeshadow?

A: The oldest eyeshadow was made from malachite, a green mineral, used in Ancient Egypt.

Relevant Resources

Remember, graphic eyeshadow is a way to express your individuality and creativity. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different colors and designs to find a look that’s uniquely you. Happy experimenting!

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