The best eyeshadow for brown eyes, according to makeup artists

We reveal the best eyeshadow for brown eyes – with expert tips, products and inspiring looks

A composite image of a Thandiwe Newton wearing purple eyeshadow for brown eyes and charlotte tilbury's eye palette in Maroon on a purple background
(Image credit: Future/Getty images)

Choosing the right eyeshadow for brown eyes can emphasize golden hues and rich chocolate tones. 

Beauty should never be too prescriptive, but if you want to unlock the secret to easy eyeshadow looks, choosing the right shade is the way to do it. This is true whether you’re looking to jazz up eyeliner looks with a bold shadow or master a natural makeup look. Once you know which colors suit you, it'll make the difference between looking good and looking great – and luckily for you, brown eyes have options. 

According to Opeyemi Adeyemo, co-founder of OPV Beauty, “brown eyes can pull off any shade, but those with dark brown eyes should avoid black eyeshadow across the lids as they can make them disappear.” Adeyemo suggests sticking to lighter shades of brown eyeshadow or “using a cool eyeshadow palette to create drama – so blue, green or yellow eyeshadow would all look amazing on brown eyes.” And the list of flattering eyeshadow for brown eyes doesn't stop there. Our makeup artist-approved edit of shades, looks, and buys has all the inspiration you need. 

The best eyeshadow for brown eyes

1. Purple rain

salma hayek

(Image credit: Getty)

Actor Salma Hayek wears a smoky purple eyeshadow look to make her beautiful brown eyes pop. “Using cooler lilac or purple shades on warm brown eyes will bring the perfect contrast to any eye look - striking yet subtle, this shade will always make brown eyes sparkle,” says award-winning makeup artist Laura Carroll

The key to achieving this look is to start with the matte shades first. “Use the lilac shade in the crease then build up the depth of the darker purple shades on the outer corners of the eyes,” Carroll explains. 

To finish off the look, use a sparkly shade of your choice to make your peepers glisten. You can also use your finger to apply the sparkly shades to prevent any glitter fallout. For a sultry evening look, put on a bit of black gel liner and a pair of your best false eyelashes

Recreate the look with...

2. Soft plum shimmer

Jennifer Lopez

(Image credit: Getty)

Emphasizing brown eyes is easy with a dusting of light purple shimmer. “Light purples with a pop of shimmer really help to brighten up the face,” says Manuel Espinoza StyleSeat and Celebrity MUA. Espinoza tells us that this look can be achieved by “using a light purple base, shimmery top coats, and bright highlights on the brow bone and inner corner.” To make it more wearable, use black mascara or a pair of false lashes to complete the look.  

Recreate the look with...

3. Muted mauve

Priyanka Chopra

(Image credit: Getty)

Priyanka is wearing the perfect warm nude to compliment her brown eyes and medium skin tone. Don’t be afraid of wearing bold colors as they can always be toned down with a matte, neutral shade and still make your eye color pop. 

“To recreate this look, start with a matte nude shade all over the lid, “ says Espinoza. “Then add more pinky-plum shades to bring the color to the brow and out to the edge of the eye. Finish off the look with a warm shimmer shade on the inner corner and bottom water line.” 

If you fancy taking the look to the next level, apply two coats of the best volumizing mascara you've got.  

Recreate the look with...

4. Tickled pink

Thandiwe Newton

(Image credit: Getty)

Have some fun with your makeup and try a bright pink or purple on the lids à la actor Thandiwe Newton. “I love how bright Thandiwe’s eyes look with a pop of pink. Pinks and browns make such a flattering pairing on the eyes!” says Espinoza.

You can achieve this look with a combination of pinks, reds, and warm nudes. Espinoza advises choosing a shade that compliments your skin tone “so as not to get washed out by the color.” 

Recreate the look with...

5. Blue smoke

Eva Mendes

(Image credit: Getty)

Deep brown eyes look even more intense when combined with a vivid blue eyeshadow. “Be bold and brave like Eva and contrast your warm brown eyes with cool blue and silver shades and your eyes will shimmer like never before,” says Carroll. To achieve this look, wash the silver shade over the eyelid with a fluffy eyeshadow brush, then pat the blue on top as this will make it pop even more. 

According to Carroll, layering on the lighter blue shade no higher than the crease will help “build the intensity of the look.” Finish off the look by applying the deeper blue shade on the outer corners with a smaller brush. If you’re feeling brave, add some black eyeshadow along the lash line.  

Recreate the look with...

6. Vibrant Violet

Kerry Washington

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Purple eyeshadow doesn’t have to be applied over the whole the lid to make an impact, as Kerry Washington’s look shows. “Kerry’s look is minimalistic but has color and glitter in all the right places to draw you into her gorgeous brown eyes. Her eyeshadow has been applied across the lash line and out into a wing and the same color has been used on her lower lash line to create a halo effect, “ Adeyemo explains. 

Recreate the look with… 


Kim Kardashian

(Image credit: Getty Images)

“Blue tones compliment all eye colors but when used in a smoky, glittery way, it will do wonders for brown eyes, “ Adeyemo says. Kim is wearing a glittery look that has been combined with a smoky effect and finished off with a dramatic cat-eye look to enhance the beauty of her eye color. 

“To keep the rest of the look simple, Kim is wearing a neutral base, which is something anyone who wants to replicate this look should keep in mind, “ Adeyemo adds.   

Recreate the look with...



(Image credit: Getty Images)

We love musician Lizzo's classic light-to-dark makeup look. She is wearing a "neutral shadow just a few shades lighter than her skin tone that slowly fades into a black shade on the outer corner of her eyes,” Adeyemo explains. 

To bring out her eye color even more, the singer’s lashes fan out at the edges to highlight the lighter shades in the inner corners. To achieve this look, you’ll need to give yourself plenty of time as well as a number of blending brushes and darker shades.

Recreate the look with...

How to choose the right eyeshadow for brown eyes

When looking at the color wheel, shades that are opposite each other are seen as contrasting and complementary. Within the color wheel, brown (a deeper shade of the primary color yellow) lands directly opposite to blue and purple tones. Therefore, opting for bright eyeshadow looks using deep blue or purple eyeshadows will really make your brown eyes stand out. 

Orange and yellow-green, however, sit close to yellow so peaches, cool yellows, and icy grey-greens may not work so well. Anyone with brown eyes should avoid icy shades in all hues. Rich jewel tones like plum or navy can make the honey tones of brown eyes stand out and complement the depth of your eye color.

As a simple guide, the best eyeshadow for brown eyes will be:

  • Purples, from violet to aubergine
  • Rich browns and bronzes
  • Deep reds, such as burgundy
  • Golden tones

How to apply eyeshadow, according to a makeup artist

For less experienced eyeshadow wearers, follow Adeyemo's masterclass:

  • Use more than one makeup brush: If you are using the same makeup brush to apply different eyeshadow shades, you won’t reap the benefits of what each one has to offer. “Think about incorporating at least three makeup brushes including a short synthetic brush for applying color to the lids, a fluffy domed brush for blending, and a rounded brush with dense bristles to line under the eyes for a defined look,” Adeyemo explains.
  • Prepare: “Stick to oil-free skincare around the eye area before applying eyeshadow and then follow with a primer to conceal discoloration and absorb any natural oils,” Adeyemo says. For those with oily lids, using a light dusting of translucent powder after applying primer will keep your eyeshadow in place. Preparing your eyelids beforehand will also create richer colors and increase longevity, so always prep!
  • Transition from light to dark: When applying any eyeshadow, it’s always best to start with a neutral base as it guarantees a smooth finish, Aim for a mixture of light and dark colors, starting with the former first. “Applying from light to dark will give you more control with your blending. Apply a small amount of product, then blend and repeat until you have the desired effect,” Adeyemo explains. As a rule of thumb, never start with a dark shade as it will make blending harder for you.
  • Let your crease guide you: Your crease is the natural fold in your eyelid, usually located where the top edge of your eyeball ends. “Consider it a barrier for where your eyeshadow should sit if you’re going for an everyday look,” Adeyemo adds. The easiest way to let your crease guide you is to look straight in the mirror with your eyes open and apply your chosen shade with a brush just above your eyelid - this will guarantee that you have eyeshadow that can be seen when the eyes are open. 
Emma North

Emma North is a Beauty Writer who works for digital titles including woman&home, Woman, Woman’s Weekly, Woman’s Own, Chat and GoodtoKnow. Emma’s career in beauty journalism began with internships at publications including Vogue, Elle, The Telegraph and Glamour. She was then taken under the wing of Funmi Fetto, Contributing Beauty Editor at Vogue where Emma assisted with Funmi’s debut beauty book, Palette.