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Is it OK to Only Use One Eyeshadow Color? A Rule of Thumb

So you have one shadow that just looks gorgeous on your eyes. Is it really a rule that you need to add dimension by darkening the crease and your outer corner?

In other words, do you really need to complicate things with more shadow if you don’t want to? Is it OK to only use one eyeshadow color?

Good news! Here’s your rule of thumb.

It’s absolutely okay to use one eyeshadow color. In fact, there’s a name for it—it’s a one-shadow look.

Yep, it’s totally a thing! Even makeup artists use the one-shadow tactic.

There are a few ways you can pull off a one-eyeshadow look. We’ll discuss two of them here.

A One-Shadow Look With Dimension

Here’s an interesting bit of news: you can pull off a more traditional eyeshadow look, one with a dark crease and lighter lid, with only one color. You just have to have the right shadow.

If the one shadow you want to use is midtone or dark, this is a technique you can definitely employ.

For instance, if you take a brown shade like Half Pony from the Smokey Glow palette from Midas Cosmetics, you can concentrate pigment in the crease and in the outer corner and blend inward to create a deep shadow and a fade.

A dark brown shadow in a palette
Half Pony is a dark brown shade that can be concentrated or sheered out.

Just dip your brush in the shadow and apply it to the places you want the color to be deepest, and then use the same brush to gradually blend the color into the areas you want to be lighter, keeping in mind the shape you’d like to create.

For a great tutorial using only a brown to create a one-shadow gradient all over the lid, check out this video from Wayne Goss.

But meanwhile, if you want to see a person with less talent pull it off, here’s me using only Half Pony (pictured above) on the lid.

A brown gradient on an eye, made with only one eyeshadow,
Here’s a gradient made with only one shadow, using concentration of color and blending.

A One-Shadow Look With a Flat Application of Color

If you have a lighter color that won’t take to deepening or a statement color that you’d rather have look more editorial than dimensional, try the flat application technique!

This involves simply laying the color solidly all over the lid and either blending upward or creating a shape on the lid and just ending the color there without blending.

Here’s a blended-up one-eyeshadow look, using only Cuddle from Menagerie’s Pastel Pup palette.

One eyeshadow color on my eyes, using a flat application of pink.
A one-shadow look using a flat application of pink.

And for a more runway-inspired look with sharp edges, created by using only a single shadow, check out this from Danessa Myricks’ Instagram. Black may be a little intense, but you can try something like light blue or a neutral shadow to keep the drama of the graphic lines without looking too over the top.

What Shadows Are Good for One Shadow Looks?

First off, medium-to-deep, buildable tones will work for one-shadow looks with dimension, where you concentrate darkness in the outer v and the crease.

We’re talking browns, taupes, burgundies, and plums here. And you almost certainly want to be working with mattes. Some matte formulas that build and blend nicely are those from Anastasia Beverly Hills and Colourpop.

For the flat application of color across the lid, you have a few great options.

If you want to go all out, you can use brights, like neons, for this. Nothing is as eye-catching as a hot pink lid!

But if you want to go more subtle, you can also lean on pastels like corals, soft pinks, and lavenders for one-shadow looks.

However, maybe your best option for a one-eyeshadow look is a really show-stopping shimmer. These are pretty foolproof for a one shadow look.

Do you have a really special shimmery shade that speaks for itself? Maybe a glitter iridescent multichrome from Clionadh Cosmetics? Maybe a wet-looking, high shine Super Shock Shadow, like Ritz, Colourpop? Or perhaps a super textured neutral like the Roen Disco Eye?

Roen disco eye in universal, a single shadow with lots of flakes in a champagne color
A sparkling, shining shadow that stands on its own just fine.

These are all fantastic candidates for a one-shadow look. After all, they deserve to shine all by themselves—it would almost be a shame to dilute them with other shadows!

When Shouldn’t You Do a One Shadow Look?

Are there shadows or techniques that don’t take well to the single shadow look?


One thing you may want to consider is whether or not the shadow on its own will make you look sick. Have you noticed that reds, unless you blend them out with brown or black, make you look like you’ve been crying? You might not want an all-over-the-eye red look. Other colors added in will tone that effect down.

Or what if the shadow you’re working with is a dry matte that doesn’t blend the best? Since there will only be one shadow on your eye, every error in blending or patchy application is going to draw attention to itself. Stick to shadows you know perform when doing a one-eyeshadow look.


So, there it is: your rule of thumb. It’s totally OK to only use one eyeshadow color!

You can either use one multitasking shadow to blend, making it look as if you were using more than one color, or you can do a flat wash all over the eye. Both are equally viable.

A one-eyeshadow look is especially a fun idea if you have a textured, eye-catching shimmer!

A little experimentation, and you won’t be letting anyone tell you that you need several shadows in order to create a decent look.