A One-Color Eye Look Doesn't Have To Be One-Note


We’re living in a time of eyeshadow maximalism. The trend swelled in the perfect storm: protective masks, high pigment at low price points, a boom of Gen Z television, time to fill at home, and so many social media posts enviably “giving Cher.” But now we're left feeling like the day after a big party, reeling with an eyeshadow hangover and craving something simpler. Softer. “After years of heavy eyeliner and lash looks, I think we need to switch things up a bit,” says makeup artist Benjamin Puckey.

A monochromatic eye look is a lot more subtle than what’s currently dominating your feeds, but it’s also beginner-friendly and easy to wear. It also leans into your tendency to only use your one favorite shade in a palette anyway—everyone does it, which is what inspired Glossier's new Monochromes shadows. Benjamin is kind of the king of the single-hued eye: just look at this 70s editorial he did for ITG back in the day, which beautifully demonstrates how fresh a wash of color across the lids can be. “When it comes to a monochromatic eye, you can make it look more exciting and three-dimensional by playing with different textures and finishes within the same color family.” Below, several options to bring you back to basics this fall.

The One-And-Done

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There’s no rule that says you need to use multiple eyeshadows for an eyeshadow look. You can (seriously) just use one, patted or smudged all over your lid and diffused around the edges. If you use a matte shade, try a bright or pastel. It looks cool! And it’s also a great way to take the edge off a color that’s out of your comfort zone—avoiding precise application keeps you from feeling fussy. On the other hand, a shimmer is best when you want to cheat the dimension you get from multiple shades. The natural curvature of your eyelid means that its center will naturally catch the light and cause your crease and corners to recede. It’s so simple.

The Light Layers

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Blending, and blending, and blending is the trickiest part of eyeshadow application. But by limiting your palette to similar shades, you can kind of get around it—it takes the responsibility off of your skills. They’re always going to blend together! “Playing with subtly different matte tones in the same color family creates much-needed depth,” says Benjamin, who likes to add dimension by using a softer, lighter matte shade on the lower lid and a slightly deeper one on the upper lid.

Or you could: layer two versions of the same tone, one shimmer and one matte, on top of each other. It’s another way to add dimension without getting too fancy. The luminosity from the shimmer means instantly brighter eyes, while the matte shade bumps up the opacity and helps the rest of your eye look more shadowed. Put a wash of your matte all over as a base, and then dab on some of the shimmer just in the center.

The 3rd Dimension

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All of that being said, a monochromatic eye can be as complex and nuanced as you have shadows, brushes, and time for. Benjamin likes to work with a mix of matte and shimmer shades. (His favorite palette for this look is Clé de Peau Beauté’s 303 Baby Universe.) He places the shades to maximize their impact: the lighter matte shade goes on the lower lid for definition that isn’t too heavy; the deeper matte on the upper lid as a toning base; the warmer mid-toned metallic shade gets layered on top of that, for added texture; and the lightest shimmer is used as a highlight, on the inner corners and very center. “All [the tones] work together to create a monochrome eye that has more depth to it,” he says. It’s still pretty subtle overall, but as Benjamin explains, “it has the right amount of play to it, so it doesn’t look boring.”

The Finishing Touches

Are… not much! If you’re trying to keep the look modern, fight your instincts and let the shadow shine on its own. “I like to skip mascara for a monochromatic eye look,” says Benjamin, who prefers a bold lip pairing instead. And we agree: a soft eye and richly hued lip just feel right, especially for fall. Play with a contrasting color, like a burnt red or patent plum, or, if you’re already in the brown family, go tonal with a sheer cocoa. It’s your go-to look, but elevated. You won’t need any practice.

Photo via ITG