MAC Pigments Made Easy

Published in: MAC Makeup, Makeup Tips/How To

I can’t be the only one out there intimidated by MAC Pigments. For years I overlooked their brightly colored, loose shadows. They look so professional and no-nonsense in their sexy little jars. I assumed there was no way a klutz like me could use them.

Seasoned MAC junkies seem to love ’em though, so in the name of Makeup and Beauty Blog science I decided to give them a chance. I figured the worst that could happen would be I’d drop a jar on the bathroom floor and end up with purple-stained towels, a purple toilet, sink and floor. But other than that, what could go wrong?


But surprise surprise! — even I couldn’t muck this up! Using the steps below, I managed to avoid both 1) a big mess in the bathroom and 2) looking like a rabid clown.

MAC Pigments the easy way

Start by grabbing a stiff eye brush, like the MAC 252 or the MAC 239. Stiff brushes are easier to use with pigments than fluffy brushes because stiff brushes provide more control over color application. Using a fluffy brush results in a lot more color going all over the place. Trust me, you don’t want this to happen.


All the pigments come with a plastic “stopper.” You’ll see this when you open the lid of the jar.

Sidenote: please excuse the broke-ass manicure. I did swatches of Essie’s new spring collection and over the Christmas break had five different colors on the nails of my left hand.


I then placed this plastic stopper onto the lid with the powdery side up.


Dipping the brush directly into the jar loaded it with too much product, so instead I grabbed just the right amount of the product from where it collected on the plastic stopper.


Tap off excess color against the rim of the jar or swipe the brush head across a Kleenex.


Voila! Now you can use the pigment as a shadow or highlighter!

Take note

Not all pigments are suitable for eye use, so if you plan to use a pigment around your eyes make sure it’s rated safe for use there. The packaging or the insert included with the pigment should let you know!


The MAC artist who taught me this application trick discouraged me from using concealer as a base and recommended I use MAC Paints and the MAC Paint Pots. I’ve tried all three as bases and prefer the Paint Pots as a base because they emphasize the richness of the pigment’s color and have excellent staying power.

MAC’s pigment jars are totally huge, and one jar will take you into your next few lifetimes. If you are on a budget then grab a friend and head to the MAC counter together to share a jar. There’s plenty enough for both of you, and you’ll save yourself a pretty penny.

Are you ready to start collecting pigments with me? Let’s do this!

Your friendly neighborhood beauty addict,



Like this post? Tell your friends!

So far, 33 people have commented on this article. How cool is that?

  1. Mariah says:

    I have used loose powders for years, but last week I bought my first Mac pigment! I picked up Kitschmas, and the day I wore it, I went out and got complemented 3 times on my eyes!! I love the stuff! It’s so pretty, and so versatile!

  2. Christine says:

    When it comes to pigments, it’s all about mixing medium πŸ˜‰ I personally find that there is far too much fall out throughout the day with anything else!

  3. Amanda says:

    !!!! Karen, you ROCK. This post is exactly what I needed, and I love that purple color too. And even better, I already have the 239, woo hoo. Thanks for a great post, I can’t wait to try out your steps. Hopefully I will make it to the mac counter this weekend.

  4. Melissa says:

    I am in love with the pigments. There is something about that little colorful container. They intice me now like a brand new box of crayons did back in the day.

    I am also all about the mixing medium.

    As for the piggies, my most recent love is Golden Olive!

  5. Karen says:

    Hi Mariah,

    I like Kitschmas too! What do you pair it with?

    Happy Friday πŸ™‚

  6. Karen says:

    Hi Christine,

    I’ll give that a try one of these days!

    Have a good weekend. πŸ™‚

  7. Karen says:

    Thanks, Amanda. I totally thought of you and all the other readers who requested a post on how to use ’em! (It also gave me an excuse to learn something new, woo hoo!).

    Maybe think about picking up the mixing medium, too, as it seems that the other ladies like it!

  8. Karen says:


    I love Golden Olive, too! I took it out just now so I could admire it, LOL!

    Do you have any favorite colors?

  9. MrsDiaz says:

    I found your site via my friend Vanessa’s beautyblog, and I must say I love your blog! Im definitely linking to it now. Thank you for doing this post on pigments. It’s exactly what I’ve been needing to learn. I stumbled upon pigments last year, and was excited when I first bought them. But your techniques will just enhance my usage of these fine little jars. Thanks again!

  10. Karen says:

    You are very welcome, Mrs. Diaz. Vanessa is my girl! She’s the sweetest person and I love her eye makeup skills.

    I’m glad you like the site and I hope you come back soon. I’d love to hear about your favorite pigments, as I am very new to them as well.

    Have a great weekend! πŸ™‚

  11. Mrs. Lynne says:

    I love the pigments. They look so pretty in the jars. Surprisingly, I don’t own any yet. But I’m sure that ship will sail soon, lol. And I returned all my reflects πŸ™ Just can’t afford to boo-boo my eyes any worse than they already are. But at least I got some new stash to compensate – wooHoO!

  12. Melissa says:

    My other faves are Vanilla, which I use on my brow alot and Off the Radar which is a funky orange. I don’t use Off the Radar much, but I love to look at it! LOL

  13. Karen says:

    Woo hoo indeed, Mrs. Lynne. What did you get in your stash?

    My feelings are starting to turn regarding the glitter as well. I tried an FOTD with Blackened Red and it really wasn’t that cute on my cheeks.

    I gotta figure out how to store them, sigh. They all sort of look the same when I lie them on their sides in my plastic Steralite drawers.

  14. Karen says:

    Hi Melissa,

    That’s how I feel about the bright Pigments too – so pretty to look at, but I’m never to sure what the heck to do with them.

    I give you mad props for actually buying the funky orange though. I dunno if I’m ready to take the step into the big brights yet! πŸ™‚

  15. TUPRNUT says:

    Thanks for doing this one, Karen. I’m not as intimidated by these now that I know what brushes to use and basic application tips. Are there any Face of the Day’s coming up with these?

    Have a great weekend!

  16. Karen says:

    Hi Tuprnut!

    I just put one up featuring Golden Olive Pigment and Sweet Sage Fluidline. πŸ™‚

    You have a good weekend too!

  17. TUPRNUT says:

    That’s funny.. I just clicked back and hello, you read my mind! I needed some extra inspiration πŸ™‚

  18. Karen says:

    LOL! What a weird coincidence. I guess great beauty minds think alike! πŸ™‚

  19. Grayburn says:

    I’m just getting into pigments now but today instead of getting MAC’s, I got some little ones from Bourjois. They were so cute so I couldn’t resist (+ they were alot cheaper)! Will post about the results shortly on mine so do drop by!


  20. I’m not a big piggie girl because I’m a super klutz and just prefer eye shadow more. I only own 3 and have over 2 dozen samples but they are fun. Vanilla is the BEST!

  21. Karen says:

    Hey Grayburn,

    Thanks for the heads up. I’ll see if I can find those at Sephora next time I go. Have a good weekend!

  22. Karen says:

    Hi Brittany,

    Yeah, I was the same way for the longest time. I still have to be very careful with mine because I am prone to makeup accidents. If I had a dollar for every time I dropped makeup … oy, I’d be rich.

    I will have to try Vanilla one of these days! Thanks for the recommendation. πŸ™‚

    Have a good weekend!

  23. pixie*chic says:

    What color of purple did you use in the pics? I must have it!!

  24. Karen says:

    Hi Pixie*Chic,

    That’s Violet pigment from the MAC Originals collection. Here’s a swatch for your viewing pleasure:

  25. Emmy Inocencio says:

    Use a mac paint or any eyeshadow primer to keep Mac pigments to stay on all day.I use Mac pigments all day and I don’t need to do any touch up.It’s great and it works.

  26. Emmy Inocencio says:

    I love your website and I like all your tips.Im going to purchase the make-up brushes you recommended.

  27. Karen says:

    Thanks Emmy, for those tips. I hope the brushes work for you!

  28. Alison says:

    Thanks for the tips. Is it ok if I use the MAC shadestick under the pigment? Do I need to use something under the shadestick?

  29. Karen says:

    Hi Alison,

    I think it depends on how oily your lids are. If they’re super oily you might want to use a heavy duty primer like Urban Decay Potion Primer underneath the Shadestick.

  30. Michele says:

    I have pigments; but I am always in a hurry to use them.
    i will stick with MAC quads:)

  31. Jasmine. says:

    OMGOSH! I love mac pigments! They are so versatile, and pretty too (: I like the mac glitter pigments especially. The 3D silver glitter one is absolutely gorgeous. Some of my other favourites are kitschmas, pinked mauve, quietly, fuchsia, chocolate brown and naked. Good post.
    – Jasmine.

  32. Rebeca says:

    Do you know why some colours are not for using on the eyes?? I bought a pretty dark grey and teal that say not for eyes, so I’m wondering what else I would use them for.

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