How to

How to Make Eyeshadow More Pigmented—7 Ideas to Help

So you’ve got a dud of an eyeshadow on your hands, huh?

I, too, have visited this particular land of disappointment. You are not alone.

Don’t worry. I have some tips on how to make eyeshadow more pigmented, and these tips are tested and practical. Let’s dive in!

1. Wear a Primer

Anyone who’s read my “is primer worth it” post will know that primer is always the first thing I’d suggest for anyone having any kind of problem at all with their eyeshadow. It even made the list of the first ten things I’d repurchase if I lost my whole makeup collection.

If you use a good primer, your shadow will look way more saturated. Here’s an example from my “is primer worth it” post—I used primer on the right but not on the left:

Picture showing that eyeshadow is more pigmented when primer is used
The colors on the right are true to pan—the colors on the left are lighter than the pan.

The primer I’ve used for years is the nice, affordable Milani Eyeshadow Primer.

2. Use a White Base

If you’re more of a base fan than a primer fan (check out this article to learn the difference), you can add more oomph to your pigmentation with a white base, like NYX’s Jumbo Eye Pencil in Milk or their eyeshadow base in white.

Colors are much brighter under a white base, so this is especially good if you’re trying to help the pigmentation of neon or rainbow shadows.

3. Add Layers

Still not getting the results you want? Pack that shadow on, girlfriend/boyfriend. Layer it up and hope it builds.

But if you find the more you apply, the more of a bald spot that it leaves, you don’t have a buildable shadow on your hands. That means you want to move on to another technique quickly before it gets difficult to recover.

4. Use Your Finger

So primer and base aren’t cutting it, your shadow isn’t layering, and you’re feeling like throwing something. How about we switch tools?

Try applying the shadow with your finger. It’ll get pigment on better than any brush. And if you have long nails or stubby fingers that are awful for precision work, don’t discount those sponge tip applicators that every drugstore palette included in the 1990s. Go find some. They’re fantastic for laying on pigment—just not for blending.

5. Wet Your Brush

Now we’re getting into things I’d only advise with shimmers. You don’t want to wet a matte pigment; you’ll alter the color. But for shimmers, this is a great idea.

I have a quick article on how to use eyeshadow wet that you can read for more detail, but it comes down to this: load your brush with pigment and spray with water or a setting spray like MAC Fix+. Then apply the shadow

A picture of me holding max fix+
My old, trusty, beat-up Fix+

This will turn your eyeshadow into a more paint-like substance and should help with your pigmentation problems.

6. Try a Glitter Glue

If you’re still struggling at this point, time to break out the big guns. We’re going to need some glitter primer for this.

Again, this tip is only for shimmers. You’re going to have some weird eyelids if you try this with your mattes.

First, add some glitter glue (I use the glitter primer from NYX) to your brush and apply it where you want the shadow to go. Then, use a new brush and apply the shadow on top of the glue on your eyelid.

If nothing else was the ticket, I hope this was. But if not, I have one last thing for you to try.

7. Scrape off the Top Layer of Product

It’s rare that makeup comes to you with a hard layer on top, but some powder products unfortunately do. In cases like these, people report having to scrape off the top layer in the pan to find softer product underneath.

If you have eyeshadow that just seems to have no payoff no matter how much you load up your brush, try taking a scrapy tool (even a light hand with a credit card should work) and do a little digging to see what’s underneath. If you suspect a top layer of hard pan, get out your Scotch tape and follow the instructions in my post on getting rid of hard pan.

My best wishes that miracles lie beneath that shell of top product, but this is really a last resort. If you’ve gone through all of these steps and your eyeshadow still disappoints, I have a bonus piece of advice that you will hate.

Bonus Advice You Didn’t Ask For

If you’re asking how to make eyeshadow more pigmented, you’ve probably got some eyeshadow in hand that isn’t performing the way you like. My advice here won’t solve the immediate problem you’re experiencing. But I feel like this is the best solution of all, and it will solve future-you’s issues with pigmentation. And that solution is this:

Don’t jump through hoops to make unpigmented eyeshadows work for you—buy pigmented eyeshadows in the first place.

And before you say, “That’s fine for you, moneybags,” know this is NOT a bank-breaking proposition, either!

In fact, I find myself struggling with the pigmentation of prestige brands like Too Faced, whereas I don’t have any trouble with my much more affordable Colourpop palettes.

Too faced chocolate bon bons palette—lacking in pigmentation
Some aesthetically pleasing WEAK SAUCE from Too Faced. Do not recommend, even though those pinks are delicious. Source.

Here are some options for affordable, pigmented options:

And here are some cheap, unpigmented options to avoid, in my opinion

  • Dollar store makeup.
  • Wet n Wild shadows.
  • Makeup Revolution (too hit or miss).
  • Coastal Scents Hot Pots (crushingly disappointing, IMHO).
  • Most Morphe palettes.


There you have it; the steps to try if you’re wondering how to make eyeshadow more pigmented:

  1. Wear a primer.
  2. Use a white base.
  3. Add layers.
  4. Use your finger.
  5. Wet your brush.
  6. Try a glitter glue.
  7. Scrape off the top layer of product.

And if nothing in this list seems to help the sad, sad eyeshadow you’re struggling with, in the future, try taking fewer risks when you buy. Consider adding to your collection only those shadows that you’ve watched reviews on and know by word of mouth to be of good pigmentation in the first place. You still won’t hit the mark 100% of the time, but you’ve got a better chance than when you’re taking a complete shot in the dark buying an eyeshadow.