This post is going to explain, in detail, how I do my swatches and why. Of course there’s no wrong or right way to do swatches, this is just what works best for me! Before we get into the ‘how’, let’s start with the ‘why’. A lot of people do swatches as a way to demonstrate performance, which is great and can be very helpful. But that’s not why I do mine. The majority of the products that I swatch are only sold online so you can’t go to the store and see what they look like. In my opinion, you can’t accurately judge what something will look like on the skin by seeing a product photo. You can see the basic color but not the finish, texture, shift if it’s duochrome etc. I’m also of the opinion that how a product swatches isn’t necessarily indicative of how it’s going perform on the eyes or face. For example, you don’t apply swatches the same way that you’d actually put makeup on your face. At least I don’t. When you put on eyeshadow, do you do one straight swipe across your eyelid? Of course not. You gradually build intensity with light layers. I find this to be especially true with matte eyeshadows. Some mattes will swatch like shit but perform beautifully on the eyes. And this can vary day to day. For example if my skin is dry, my swatches look like crap regardless of the quality of the product.

So when I do swatches I want you to see what the color looks like on my skin and what the texture and finish of the product is like. Is it glittery? Metallic? Does it shift colors depending on the angle or light? I’d prefer to illustrate those things through my swatches and then tell you about the performance in my review. And if you’ve followed me for any length of time, you know that I’m not scared to write a bad review.

I always do heavy swatches by packing on the color in small sections as opposed to swiping. This method, eliminates the need for ‘layering’ unless it’s a light color with poor pigmentation.

Lately I’ve been using swatch stencils. They look nice and they’re a lot quicker than doing swatches free hand. I buy them from two companies, Ambrosia and Polished Vino. We have a discount code with Ambrosia, BEAUTYCULT and I think it’s for 10% off. It’s not an affiliate code, it’s just for y’all to save some coin. If you’re careful, you can re-use each stencil 2-3×. You could also use washi tape. After I pull off the stencil, I clean up any boo-boos with these tiny q-tips from Sephora.

I generally don’t use primer but I do moisturize my arm beforehand so that my skin is still slightly tacky. But there are some exceptions, like when I’m swatching glitter or a loose pigment. For those I use the Lit Cosmetics glitter adhesive because we’re affiliates and I have a ton of it (affil code BEAUTYCULT will save you 20%).

Oh! And if I’m swatching something that stains, like liquid lipstick, I try to remember to use a primer to act as a barrier so that I’m not scrubbing my skin off. But I usually forget.

I know that some people put a lot of emphasis on finger vs brush swatches. I’m not one of one those people but I strongly prefer using brushes. Not because I think it’s cheating or whatever but because if I use my fingers, I end up getting makeup all over my house… on my phone, on doorknobs, light fixtures, my dogs… you get the point. I only finger swatch products that don’t apply well with brushes, like CP super shocks. And I’ll always mention if I couldn’t do brush swatches for whatever reason.

I’ve got a huge cup of swatch brushes but my favorites are the Sigma E55 and F70, the MUG foiled shadow brush and the ColourPop shader brush. The first two are kind of expensive but I do a fuckton of swatches and they hold up well after being washed 10,000 times.

I rely soley on natural light and I take photos in a bunch different places around my house and yard. My neighbors think I’m weird but who cares? My camera is a Sony a6000 and I use a Sony macro lens.

I’ve got my eye on a few other lens but this one has served me well. I also alter the exposure and iso levels every time that I change locations. I have no formal photography training so I don’t feel comfortable giving advice in that department. It’s just a lot if trial and error. When I do swatches, I usually take about 100 photos and then I go through them and see which ones portray the colors most accurately. Lastly I use an app to create collages and add fonts. It’s just called ‘photo collage’. It’s nothing fancy but it gets the job done.

And that’s about it! Camera settings make a big difference and lighting. Beyond that I don’t really do anything all that special. Practice makes perfect!


  1. as a photography enthusiast I agree, it takes quite some trial and error (and I even bought books), also nice to see someone else also using Sony Gear 🙂


  2. This was super helpful! I never knew there was a technique to swatches.. i thought everyone just used their finger and swiped on their arm!


      • I think is to give an idea of what to use for product application, especially for people staring up. Also to make a point that swatches do not always translate into good eye application (you know people say it all the time but humans only believe it until they see it :D)


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