D.I.Y.: Mixing and Pressing your own “Franken-Shadows”

This is a basic way to press your own pigments and shadows using items that are generally easy to obtain.

What you’ll need are:

1&2: The shadows or pigments you want to mix. Throw in as many as you want, but my advise is be clear what you’re hoping to create and don’t put in too many or it all ends up the same murky color in the end.

You can throw a glitter in to jazz things up, as long as the main base ingredient is a powdery-fine mica, pigment or shadow.

3:  A clean empty container. There are clear ones, plastic ones, whatever you have on hand. If you want to be really pro, you can buy 26mm metallic shadow pans and stick your pressed shadows into your palettes.

4: Baking parchment or any clean sheet of paper.

5: Some mineral oil or silicone.

6: A spatula or stirrer to scoop and mix things. I like using a metal cuticle pusher.

7: Binder/filler powder. This can be talc, titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, sericite, etc. The easiest item to get is talc. IMPORTANT: You won’t need this if you are using pressed shadows to begin with, as most of those already contain talc.

8: Rubbing alcohol, denatured alcohol: Make sure this is at least 70% alcohol, and the rest of it is clear and scent-free. Don’t try to use vodka or anything that contains colorants, camphor, iodine, etc.

9. (not in photo above) Clean napkin or fine-weave cloth, and a coin that fits into the container you chose without too much space around the edges.

Step 1: First get the shadows you want to mix on the parchment paper. What I like to do is to slowly add the second shade, mix it up and test the mixture on the back of my hand (below). If you need more of the second shade, you can add more. If you put too much in right from the start, you can’t undo it.

Step 2: When you’re finally satisfied with the mixture, add in a little filler powder. You are not going to need much. Just enough so your shadow is not too crumbly. The more you add, the more hard and chalky your shadow is going to turn out.

Step 3: Test on the back of your hand again, and once you’re satisfied, fold up the baking sheet and tip everything carefully into your container. I prefer jars rather than pans because it’s harder to do this neatly in a small, flat eye shadow pan. But it’s totally up to your own preference of course.

Step 4: Using a dropper or clean straw, drop just enough alcohol into the mixture to make a wet paste and then add a few drops of the binder oil. The amount to add varies. I say add 3 drops if you don’t have much shadow. It’s easier to add more later if your shadow is too crumbly and not pigmented. As before, you can’t undo it if you add too much oil.

Step 5: Stir it all up until the oil blends into the pigments and alcohol nicely. Then tap the pot against the table to remove any air bubbles and let it set overnight. Often, excess alcohol and oil will rise to the surface, and/or the surface layer may appear a different and darker shade than what is below due to colors bleeding into the fluids.

Don’t worry about that. It won’t affect the eventual performance of the shadow.


Step 6: When the shadow has dried, you can use a thin napkin (or a sheet of muslin cloth if you want to be all professional) drape it over the pan, and then use a coin that just fits neatly in, to press the shadow. For best effect, you want to press it down and leave it weighed down for a couple of hours. (It’s less likely to crumble later.) I usually just press down firmly with my thumb, wait a few seconds and leave it be. 

This is where any extra oil or darker pigments that bled to the top will more or less be removed by the napkin.

Step 7: The trial run. You just do a swatch to see if you like the texture. If it’s too dry or the color is dusting off too easily, you can simply re-wet the formula with alcohol and then add a few more drops of oil in. If it’s too creamy/greasy, re-wet it with alcohol and then add in a bit more pigments or talc. (Be careful with the talc or you can change the color of the shadow.)

**Extra note: If you are working with pigments or shadows that are very low in pigmentation or gritty and chalky, going through all these steps is not going to change or improve them much unless you’re mixing them with good pigments. 


Shades used in this demo:

Sample of Coastal Scents Emerald Sapphire Mineral Shadow and Coastal Scents Sahara Glitter.

In general:

  • To darken a shadow or make it more smoky, add a black or charcoal shade
  • To lighten and soften a shade, add a white or platinum-silver shade
  • Olive-green can take the brassiness out of a shadow that is too “orange”
  • To mute a too-bright color, add beige/skin tone
  • To make a regular color interesting, mix it with a duo-chrome that shifts in certain lights