Experimenting with makeup is an age-old pastime for me. Even though my mom didn't allow me to wear foundation, concealer, or any makeup that covered my skin until I was legally an adult, I always found a way to experiment with makeup with eye shadow. Growing up in the '90s and 2000s, I mostly adorned my eyelids with rhinestones and my favorite gold Covergirl eye shadow. That was my signature.
As my makeup world grew, I still loved adorning my eyes, but in college, I leaned into heavy, smudged, black eyeliner and loads of mascara. (Let's just say the photos from my college days are filled with raccoon eyes.) And these days, I get to chat with expert makeup artists regularly for tips on the best ways to accentuate the eyes. For this story, Kate Synnott, the creative director at Róen Beauty, and global makeup artist and Code8 brand trainer Sasha Ghodstinat gave me the deets on the best eye-shadow palettes for beginners.
How do I choose an eye-shadow palette?
In general, Synnott recommends going for the gold. "I always recommend golds for everyone. They work so well with every skin and eye color." Additionally, she says investing in a good palette and applying small amounts of product during application make more of a difference than focusing on the formula (aka mattes vs. creams).
Ghodstinat also suggests "investing in an eye palette that will have lighter, medium, and darker colors that will help you enhance your eyes." For example, she recommends plums and greens with a golden base color for brown eyes and browns, golds, and rose golds for blue and green eyes. "Any color opposite your eye color will create more of a contrast and will pop your eye color more," she says.
As for tools, both artists recommend using your fingers as a foolproof application option. But if you're looking for a tool, Synnott recommends Róen's Everything Eye Brush, which I can vouch for. I enjoy using it, especially if I want to line my under-eyes with eye shadow. (I've even used it to contour.)
Now that the beauty experts have weighed in, I've rounded up 19 palettes below that will make putting together eye looks a breeze even if you're just getting started.
1. Nyx Professional Makeup Ultimate Shadow Palette in Ultimate Queen
2. Róen Beauty Gold Lust Palette
3. Victoria Beckham Beauty Smoky Eye Brick in Signature
Formulated with a hyaluronic acid powder complex, this hydrating palette with chocolate browns, clay reds, and deep plums can take your look from day to night. For application tips, I was lucky enough to get advice from Victoria Beckham herself. "For my everyday eye, I use the Signature Smoky Eye Brick, dusting the lightest shade all over my lid and up to my brow bone as a base," she says. "Next, I apply the pale pink shade in the center of my lid to add a subtle brightness. Then, I'll use the mid-tone brown just above the contour of my eye for a lifted look and blend any extra along my lash line to further amp up the smokiness."
For a final touch, the beauty icon and fashion designer says, "To complement my brown eyes, I use an angled brush to line my lashes with the darkest navy from the Royal Smoky Eye Brick, finishing with a small flick at the end." After the eyes are complete, selecting a lip color can feel like playing beauty chess. But Beckham has one more piece of advice: Go for a glossy lip that complements your complexion and enhances your natural lip tone.
My personal favorite these days is the Posh Gloss in Fizz. The color is the perfect nude to complement my deep-brown skin.
4. Westman Atelier Eye Pods Eyeshadow Trio
Creating a smokey eye isn't as difficult as it looks if you keep things simple. I love this cream-to-powder option because it's formulated with clean ingredients, and it comes in a trio to ensure you have the right colors to create a sultry eye look.
5. Uoma Beauty Black Magic Poise Color Palette
6. Chanel Les 4 Ombres Multi-Effect Quadra Eyeshadow
7. Cheekbone Beauty Sustainable Eyeshadow Pencil
This eye-shadow pencil isn't a palette, but I think it's a great place to start if you're looking to add eye color to your repertoire. The brand has six color options that go from neutral to bright, so you can create your very own pencil palette. For the best application, brand founder Jenn Harper recommends applying the pigment with a less-is-more approach and using a fluffy brush to blend the shadow out.
8. Valentino Color-Flip Multi-Look Eyeshadow Palette
9. Maybelline The Nudes Eye Shadow Palette
10. Dior The Diorshow 5 Couleurs Couture Eyeshadow Palette in Red Tartan
11. Byredo Metal Boosts in the Snow Eyeshadow Palette
12. Code8 Iconoclast Eyeshadow Palette in Lustrous Corduroy
13. Charlotte Tilbury Luxury Palette in Mesmerizing Maroon
14. Milani Gilded Terra Eyeshadow Palette
15. Gucci Palette Beauté Des Yeux Floral Eyeshadow Palette
16. Urban Decay Mini Naked Eyeshadow Palette
17. Patrick Ta Major Dimension Eyeshadow Palette
18. Pat McGrath Labs Mothership II Eyeshadow Palette in Sublime
19. Isamaya Industrial Colour Pigments Eyeshadow Palette
At first glance, this makeup-artist formulated palette might feel a little overwhelming. But because these formulas can be applied with your fingers or a brush, they're easy to work with no matter your skill level. And I think this is the ideal palette to let your creativity guide you.