It’s been almost five years since my first book, Make it Up: The Essential Guide to DIY Makeup and Skin Care, was released (!). I’m still really proud of it, but today I want to share an update to the eyeshadow formulation that I think is a pretty big upgrade. It’s part Bee-Bettering, part expansion. We’re making one small ingredient swap to the base and then updating the making process so you can make lots of different colours more easily (and in more reasonable batch sizes). I’ve also worked out exactly what you need to do to press the shadow so you can easily make yourself a beautiful pressed palette 😍 Let’s dive in!
Want to watch this project instead of reading it?
A quick history on this update—I initially developed it shortly before the book came out in December 2016 in response to a PR request through my publisher. A blogger was looking to test the eyeshadow and asked for a kit. I wasn’t going to mail them a coffee grinder, so I pre-made the base and modified the instructions and process so the blogger could just smush everything together in itsy bitsy plastic baggies. Then, about a year later (November 2017) I built on the for-PR modifications and perfected the pressing instructions in preparation for some in-person workshops I was teaching at Windy Point (and also because pressing pans and palettes were finally readily available in Canada!). And honestly, I don’t know why I haven’t shared this update sooner. It’s a bit silly. But better late than never!
The base ingredient swap is very simple; simply swap the calcium carbonate from the base formulation in the book for silica microspheres. You’ll want to smoosh/stir the silica into the rest of the base after you’ve ground all of that together in your coffee grinder, but that’s it. Both are great oil control ingredients, helping improve wear time, but silica microspheres have a more luxurious feel. When I was working on the book silica microspheres were hard-ish to find, so while I did use them in the book, I limited their use to where they were absolutely necessary. I really fell in love with silica microspheres between the time my manuscript was submitted (April 2016) and when the book was published at the end of the year, aided by discovering it was WAY cheaper to order them from TKB Trading than from the Canadian supplier I was using at the time, even with international shipping and the exchange rate. So, at some point after I submitted my manuscript and before the workshops in November 2017 I made this simple swap and never looked back.
Formulation change #2 (and 3?) is a bit of a two-in-one, effecting process and ingredients. The first goal was to use the coffee grinder a lot less because of the PR request. The book uses a coffee grinder for each colour of eyeshadow because it uses pure pigments like iron oxides and ultramarines to colour the eyeshadows. This decision was made so readers wouldn’t have to invest in lots of different micas. Pigments need a lot of mixing to incorporate properly, though, so… coffee grinder. Once the coffee grinder was removed from the per-colour blending process, the pure pigments weren’t a great option anymore—so I switched to micas for colour as they incorporate a heck of a lot more easily than pure pigments do (and they also shouldn’t be ground up). The availability of micas has also improved since 2015 when I was working on the book—I can’t speak globally, but I know we have at least two stores in Canada that sell lots of beautiful micas (in homecrafter quantities!) today that didn’t in 2015. Because micas are less pigmented than pure pigments, the ratio between base and colour shifted too. I know this is two changes rather than one, but they really dovetailed together in my development process.
Matte & Shimmer Eyeshadow
Because this updated eyeshadow is 33–50% mica by volume, it’s definitely going to be at least a little shimmery. As I’ve learned more about powder eyeshadow I’ve come to think of matte and shimmer eyeshadows as different types of formulations. The differing texture and colour intensity between shimmery micas and matte pigments necessitate different formulating decisions. I have done some experimenting with matte shadows and haven’t devised anything I’m crazy about, but I also haven’t pursued it all that much because I prefer shimmer eyeshadows. If you know and love eyeshadows you’ll know that matte and shimmer formulations are different—they feel different and often perform a bit differently as well, even within the same palette. Just take a look at the ingredients for the eyeshadows in this (or any) Colour Pop palette; the shimmer and matte shades have dramatically different ingredient lists. You can play with the shimmer level with this formulation by using less sparkly micas; watch the video and see how the shadows look when I’ve applied them—I’ve used fairly fine micas and the end result isn’t super shimmery at all. You can also use the lower amount of mica in the suggested range and boost the colour with pure pigment, but if you swing that balance too far you will have issues pressing the shadows using the instructions I’ve provided. It’s not the end of the world, but be aware you may need to tweak the pressing additions.
And pressing! You’ll need a bit more of two ingredients that are already in the eyeshadow base + some additional equipment. The easiest thing to do is to purchase a palette kit (USA / Canada). These come with empty pans, a matching pressing tile, and a magnetic palette to house the pans of eyeshadow once they’re done. If you’ve already got a magnetic palette (I love this one [not sponsored]) you can purchase magnetic pans in any size/shape you want. There are also non-magnetic and standalone options. Your pressing tool doesn’t have to be exactly the same shape and size as your pan, but it’s definitely handy if it is. If it’s not a perfect fit you’ll want it to be smaller than the pan so it fits inside.
What hasn’t changed: I’ve left this formulation in volume measurements, so you will need a set of tiny measuring spoons. I prefer the set from Fox Run; please read this for more information. When I signed my book deal back in 2015 I made this decision so new makers who purchased my book wouldn’t need to purchase a really precise scale. I wanted Make it Up to be as unintimidating as possible, and I know from many questions from new makers that volume measurements are less intimidating than weight measurements (especially a weight measurement like 0.003g!). If you’ve been following me since the release of the book you’ll know I do everything by weight and in percentages now, but that’s not how I developed the formulations in the book (click for more info!). I’ve made more pans of eyeshadow than I can count at home and on stage, and I’ve taught many in-person workshops with this volume-based formulation. I know it works. Would you want to do it this way to make huge batches to sell? No, of course not—but that’s not at all what this is for.
Let’s make some lovely eyeshadow!
Want to see this eyeshadow in action?
The Revised Process
- A copy of my book, Make it Up: The Essential Guide to DIY Makeup and Skin Care (that’s where the original formula is!)
- The ingredients for the eyeshadow base in my book (page 121)
- Silica microspheres
- A selection of beautiful colourful micas (USA / Canada)
- A set of tiny measuring spoons (click for my recommendation)
- A DIY-only coffee grinder
- Cling film/plastic wrap
- Tiny zip-top baggies
- A well-fitting dust mask
Put on your dust mask.
Using your coffee grinder, blend together everything in the base formulation from the book except for the calcium carbonate. Once the base has been thoroughly blended, transfer it to a plastic baggie or a small jar, and add the silica microspheres (using the same amount as the calcium carbonate). Stir/squish/shake to combine.
Once you have your base, you can transform it into all kinds of colours! You’ll need 1/4 tsp base powder and 1/8–1/4 tsp mica(s) of choice. You can also add a wee bit of a pure pigment if you want an even deeper colour, though I’d keep that amount pretty low (1/64 tsp or so). You can use more pigment if you want, but that tends to make pressing more difficult.
Combine everything in a small plastic bag, seal it, and smoosh-smoosh-smoosh and then smoosh some more to ensure everything is fully blended. I often start with 1/8 tsp mica, smoosh, swatch, and go from there. Take lots of precise notes so you can recreate what you love and learn from what you don’t.
When the eyeshadow is fully blended, that’s it if you like loose eyeshadows. If you want to make a pressed eyeshadow, keep reading!
How to press your eyeshadows
- 26mm pressing pans
- Pressing tile/tool
- A palette to hold the finished pans of eyeshadow
- More details on these items are in the post above and in the video
- A spoon to scoop the shadow into the pan
- Complete eyeshadow
- 1/8 tsp magnesium stearate
- 8 drops jojoba oil
- Optional: pressing tape/ribbon (for textured tops!)
Take your completed eyeshadow and add 1/8 tsp magnesium stearate. Seal and smoosh. Add 4 drops jojoba oil to the zip-top bag. Seal and smoosh. Add 4 more drops of jojoba oil, and then seal and smoosh the ever-living daylights out of the mixture to ensure it is uniform.
To press, spoon the eyeshadow into your pan until it looks full, and press with your pressing tile. Take care not to wedge the tile into the pan! This first pressing will free up a bunch of space for more eyeshadow, so add more, and press again. Repeat until the pressing pan is full, ensuring you are pressing as firmly as possible once you’ve got everything in there (you can even clamp it overnight) so your eyeshadow is sturdy. For extra pressing intensity, you can look at a pressing machine like this one sold by TKB Trading.
These amounts will fill a single 26mm pan nicely.