The Ultimate Guide to Different Types of Eyeshadows and Their Gorgeous Finishes
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The Ultimate Guide to Different Types of Eyeshadows and Their Gorgeous Finishes

Like all makeup products, the choice of eyeshadows is endless. With so many types of eyeshadows as well as all the different finishes, knowing what to buy can be confusing.

I have always been a fan of eyeshadow, it’s a really fun and creative way to add color and character to your face. Choosing the right eyeshadow doesn’t need to be hard or complicated.

That’s why I’ve put together this guide on all the different eyeshadow types, and the different types of eyeshadow finishes. Choosing the right eyeshadow for you and your skin will be easy!

Compact Powder Eyeshadow


The most common type of eyeshadow is compact powder. Looking back at history, it was probably also the first. The first recordings of eyeshadow are from the ancient Egyptians, who made kohl as well as colored eyeshadow from rocks and minerals.

Powder eyeshadow has come a long way since then. Available in endless shades, from neutral to smokey and pastel to bright. You can buy them individually or in a palette. Powder eyeshadows are my personal favorite because there’s so much choice, and I simply love a gorgeous eyeshadow palette!

Pros and Cons of Powder Eyeshadow


  • Easy to apply & blend
  • Endless color options
  • Buildable
  • Longlasting


  • There’s often fallout
  • Can be drying on the skin

Who is a power for?

Compact powder eyeshadow is ideal for anyone and everyone but, it’s particularly great for beginners to eyeshadow because of how easy it is to use. Since powder eyeshadows are so versatile, there are loads available for sensitive eyes too.

Loose Powder Eyeshadow

Loose powder eyeshadow is the same as powder eyeshadow, only not pressed, resulting in a loose, finely milled powder consistency. Available in a wide range of shades and finishes, including matte, shimmer, satin, metallic, and glitter. They are most loved for their dazzling capabilities.

Use a small blending brush to apply the loose powder. Dip the brush in and tap off the excess to control how much you apply. For an even more intense pigmentation, wet your brush slightly before using it, or spray it with setting spray.

Loose glitter eyeshadow also falls under the loose powder category, but it needs to be applied slightly differently. Since the texture is loose, you can’t apply it straight to the eyes, you need to apply eye primer first so that the glitter has something to stick to.

Pros and Cons of Loose Powder Eyeshadow


  • Intense pigmentation
  • Easy to blend
  • Customizable application
  • Range of finishes


  • Fallout is common when applying
  • Messy packaging
  • Requires practice

Who is a loose powder for?

One of the biggest drawbacks of loose powder eyeshadow is that it’s messy to apply and takes time and skill to perfect your technique. While it’s not hard to master, it requires patience and time! Loose powder eyeshadow is for those who love intense pigmentation and love being creative.

Pro tip: Always apply your loose eyeshadow before your base makeup so you can clean up the fallout without ruining the rest of your makeup. Get more eyeshadow tips here.

Cream Eyeshadow

The second most common type of eyeshadow after powder is cream eyeshadow. It comes in a variety of packaging including pots, sticks, tubes and pencils. With a creamy texture, it’s easy to apply and easy to blend. Use your fingers or a brush to get a fabulous eye look. The color is often richer and less dull than powder eyeshadows. Also, cream eyeshadows are often made from hydrating ingredients.

Pros and Cons of Cream Eyeshadow


  • Non-drying
  • Smooth and blendable
  • Long-wearing
  • Quick and easy to apply
  • No fallout


  • Limited precision
  • Prone to creasing
  • It can be hard to build up

Who is a cream for?

Cream eyeshadow is best for those with dry skin. Unlike powder eyeshadows, cream ones don’t dry out the eyelids or cause itchiness. Cream eyeshadow is also ideal for aging and mature skin because it doesn’t settle into lines and wrinkles, creating a smoother more seamless finish.

Liquid Eyeshadow

stila glitter eyeshadows

Liquid eyeshadow has the ideal balance of cream and powder when it comes to texture. It isn’t as thick as a cream eyeshadow, yet is smoother and easy to apply than powder eyeshadow. Apply it with the doe-foot applicator that it comes with and blend it out with your fingers or brush.

One of my favorite liquid eyeshadows is the Stila Magnificent Metals. They’re intensely pigmented, easy to use and have stunning shades!

Pros and Cons of Liquid Eyeshadow


  • Non-drying
  • Blends easily
  • No fallout
  • Dries quickly


  • Liquid can be hard to control
  • Prone to smudging and creasing

Who is liquid for?

Liquid eyeshadow is similar to cream eyeshadow in the way that it’s ideal for dry and mature skin since it doesn’t dry out the skin, nor does it settle into lines or make them appear larger. That being said, liquid eyeshadow isn’t really suitable for oily eyelids as it makes them oilier.

Stick Eyeshadow

Stick eyeshadow is similar to cream eyeshadow in texture, although not quite the same. Eyeshadow sticks are often made from wax-based formulas giving them the stick shape and a less creamy consistency than cream shadows. But that’s not all the wax-based formula does, it also helps the eyeshadows stick to the eyes making them less prone to creasing than cream eyeshadows.

Easy to apply, swipe it on the eyes and blend it with a brush or fingers. Eyeshadow sticks are extremely convenient to apply and perfect for keeping in your purse for a quick touch-up.

Pros and Cons of Stick Eyeshadow


  • Easy to apply
  • Convenient
  • Ideal for travelling
  • Buildable
  • Mess-free
  • Longlasting


  • Limited shade range
  • Not as easy to blend as other eyeshadows
  • Not good for detailed looks

Who is stick shadow for?

Eyeshadow sticks are perfect for anyone who likes quick and convenient makeup. It’s one of the easiest types of eyeshadow to apply, it’s mess-free and hard to get wrong. They’re perfect for beginners to make-up as well as makeup pros. Oily skin may find the stick formula too creamy for them.

Gel Eyeshadow

Gel eyeshadow isn’t so well known, for the main reason that the choice available is very limited. Another reason is that some gel eyeshadows are called liquids, probably because they are better known! Most gel eyeshadows come in a shimmer or glitter finish.

Gel eyeshadow has a thicker consistency than liquid eyeshadow, but thinner than cream eyeshadow. The gel formula is lightweight and cool on the lids. It blends more like a liquid, is easy to use and has amazing staying powers. Apply with your fingers or brush.

Pros and Cons of Gel Eyeshadow


  • Easy to apply
  • Rich color payoff
  • Can be used as eyeliner
  • Longlasting
  • Dry quickly
  • Usually oil-free


  • Limited shade range
  • Can take time to get the hang of

Who is gel for?

Gel eyeshadow is a great choice for those with oily eyelids who want more of a creamy consistency. The creamy texture adheres to the skin, making it more resistant to the natural oils on the eyelids. Gel also works incredibly well for combination skin.

Baked Eyeshadow

Baked eyeshadow is exactly as it sounds, it’s baked. The reason it gets baked is because it’s made with oils and other liquids to create a paste. Baking gives it a powder texture, giving you the benefits of power and cream in one.

Baked eyeshadows usually have a unique dome shape which is the baked trademark look. While it applies smoother than the traditional powders, it’s also less pigmented. Apply it wet for a more intense look.

Pros and Cons of Baked Eyeshadow


  • Can be applied wet or dry
  • Easy to apply and blend
  • Versatile
  • Soft and smooth texture


  • Fragile texture
  • Outer layer is often hard
  • Can be more work when using wet

Who is baked shadow for?

Using baked eyeshadow dry is ideal for beginners. Its biggest selling point is how smoothly and easily it blends, all without the shades being overpowering. Using it wet can be a bit trickier so I don’t recommend it for those just starting out.

The Different Types of Finishes



Almost every makeup look starts with a matte base which is a flat, non-shimmering shade. Most eyeshadow palettes come with at least one or two matte shades because they are a staple. You can also get entire palettes of only matte shades, like the ColourPop Matte About Hue. Matte finishes are usually highly pigmented and come in all shades. Due to their lack of shimmer and glitter pigments, mattes are easy and soft to blend.


If you want a bit of shimmer while still keeping your makeup sophisticated, a satin finish is what you need! The finish is in between a matte and shimmer, giving your eyes a radiant, luminous glow.


If you’re looking for more shimmer than a satin finish gives, the next level up is shimmer eyeshadows. They contain fine, light-reflecting particles that are easy to blend giving your eyes a luminous, shimmery effect. A gorgeous palette full of stunning shimmers is the Natasha Denona Bronze Eyeshadow Palette.



A glitter finish is one step up from shimmers. They contain larger, more prominent glitter particles, creating a bold and dazzling effect on the eyelids. Glitter eyeshadow comes in a range of textures from finer ones to chunkier ones. The chunkier the texture, the harder they are to apply but, you get more sparkle and shine too. One thing to be aware of is that there is often more fallout with glitters, so use a primer or glitter glue to prevent it.


A metallic finish is another high-shine, sparkly finish, but, it’s different to glitters and shimmers because it’s designed to mimic the appearance of metals, such as gold, silver, bronze, or copper. Metallic shades are usually creamy and easy to apply with fine, highly reflective particles. Get luxury to affordable metallic finishes with these eyeshadow dupes.

My Thoughts

Eyeshadows have come a long way in the last decade. With so many types and finishes, there’s something for everyone. And there’s something for every budget too, including amazing cheap palettes!

Hollie xx


About Hollie

Hi, I’m Hollie, and I’m passionate about everything beauty. Over the last decade and a half, I’ve tested thousands of products to bring you the best of the best! I also love bringing you fun and creative beauty looks. Learn more.

Beauty profile – 35, dry, aging skin, focused on aging well with a healthy glow and natural makeup look ✨

Anastasia Beverly Hills bareMinerals Benefit Cosmetics Bobbi Brown CeraVe Chantecaille Charlotte Tilbury Clarins ColourPop Dermalogica Dior Dyson e.l.f. Cosmetics ELEMIS Estée Lauder Eucerin Fenty Beauty Fresh Giorgio Armani Hourglass IT Cosmetics L'Oreal Lancome Laura Mercier LORAC MAC Makeup Revolution Maybelline Molton Brown Morphe Nars Natasha Denona Neutrogena NYX Origins Peter Thomas Roth PÜR Cosmetics Revlon Sigma Beauty Smashbox Stila The Ordinary Too Faced Urban Decay YSL

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