Makeup Math: Your Face Is a Grid

Published in: Makeup Tips/How To


Written by Sam

Freelance makeup artist and blogger Sam offers some concealing and contouring tips in today’s guest post.

Your face is a grid

Think of your face as a grid.


Draw an imaginary line vertically down through the center of your nose, and a horizontal line going across the tip of said nose. The more something interacts with these lines, the more noticeable it is. Following this logic, a small pimple on the very center of the nose is going to attract more attention than a larger one near the jawline, and the same concept applies to makeup.

A grid can help us figure out where to focus our efforts. Should we spend more product and effort covering up that blemish near our cheekbone (bingo!), or that one near our hairline? Or should we aim that concealer brush at that red mark on the center of our chin, or the port-wine stain near our earlobe?

But maybe concealing isn’t your problem. Maybe you want to enhance your bone structure instead.

If you have a rounder face (ain’t you a cutie?), apply a darker contour shade from the horizontal gridline halfway up to the vertical line, and about a third of the way from the lower end of the vertical line to a third of the way to the horizontal, keeping along the border of your face.

If your face could be described as triangular (a description I hate, but, alas, the makeup world has yet to come up with a better term for it), do the same as you would for a rounder face, except swap in a highlight shade for the area below the horizontal gridline, or forego this step altogether.

For those with a square or rectangular face (which just means your forehead may be a bit wider and your jaw is a bit more pronounced than someone with an oval face), buff a contour shade midway between the endpoints of the two lines (or the four corners of your face), rounding the edges.

And if you have an oval face…well, lay down those brushes. An oval shape is generally considered the easiest to apply makeup to, which is why the steps above aim to shape the other types more towards this goal.

Cheek color should never fall below your imaginary horizontal line, no matter what (this was an old film and theatre technique used to age actors or make them appear ill).

Now, draw an imaginary vertical line through the center of your pupil; blush should never be applied further in than this line.

How about the eyes?

The space between your eyebrows should be approximately the width of one of your eyes. To help us find where our brows should end, take any straight object (pencil, brush, etc.; really, any old thing will do), and draw an imaginary line from the corner of the nostril on the same side through the outside corner of that eye. End your brow just inside this spot.

And an important thing to remember about brows in general: they’re sisters, not twins. Brows that have been meticulously shaped, drawn in, powdered, and plastered so that they look completely identical are going to appear much less natural than those that have a little flair to them. I think most people prefer similarity when it comes to brows, not perfect symmetry.

To achieve a curl in your luscious lashes that will last and last, imagine them as a flat, straight line. Divide this line in half. Divide one section of this in half again, and then take the outside part of this and divide in half once more. Here, you should have a demarcation line at halfway, three-fourths of the way, and seven-eighths of the way.


Place your curler at the very base of your lashes and then at these three parts, holding down for five seconds or so, to create a realistic curl rather than a single crimp.

A simple trick to keep eyes looking their best: divide your lid into three equal parts (or, for those who prefer fractions, thirds). A shade can be applied fully to each of these, and blend to a new shade at each line of demarcation (or a single shade may take up two, or all three sections). Many people tend to divide their eye in two, which can not only make eyes appear smaller, but more oblong as well.

I know, I know. Sectors and lines and demarcations all hearken back to days of math-filled drudgery in classrooms with unwashed blackboards and gum-encrusted desks (those ones with the metal bars running from the chair to the actual desk portion on one side so that you can’t swing your legs out that way…).

But these grids are your friends, and they want you to look your best.

P.S. If you enjoyed this post, there’s also a Part 2: More Makeup Math and Gettin’ Down with Geometry.


Written by Sam

Sam is a 17-year-old, oddly tall guy whose love of all things skincare, makeup, and fashion started when he entered the modeling world at 14. Since then, he’s established himself as a freelance makeup artist in the theatre and fashion worlds, and started his own blog to preach the wonders of orange eyeshadow, Asian skincare, and designer fragrances to the masses.


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  1. Citrine says:

    Triangular isn’t that bad…I have heard “ice pick face”…

    Anyway, this is a bit too high-tech for my simple brain but I can see a lot of effort behind it. Good job!
    Citrine recently posted … Essence Silky Touch Blush – The Secret It Girl

  2. Christina says:


    I mean, don’t get me wrong, I hated math. However, this is brilliant and I love it. And it’s relatable.

    PS. By triangle, could we substitute in heart or strawberry shape?

    • sam says:

      Unfortunately, no… there’s a different face shape altogether that’s called a “heart”, but very few people have this that I failed to cover it. The difference is that a triangular face has a broad forehead (the widest part of their face) and slopes steeply from brow to chin, with the chin often being relatively pronounced. A heart shaped face has a forehead that slightly less broad than the distance across the cheekbones, and curves down gently to a more rounded, smaller chin. Many people have a hard time distinguishing between the two, but the real tell is the forehead. Hope that cleared it up a bit!

  3. Elysha says:

    It would be nice to see actual pictures of women with these face shapes. Magazines try to show you, but the models are always the extreme version of the shape.

    For years I have thought of my face to be a bit of everything….when I smile, it’s “heartshaped” or round, when I just look straight into the mirror, I just have no idea!! lol 🙂

    • Sam says:

      I’ll go over how to determine face shape in my next post on makeup math, but always do this with a neutral face (ie. not smiling, etc.) Stay tuned!

  4. Hilary says:

    So interesting! Thanks Sam 🙂

  5. Madeline says:

    Karen- I have been told all my life I have a “heart shaped face”. What would work for me?

    • Madeline says:

      Sorry, I mean Sam! Said Karen out of habit. This is so cool!

      • sam says:

        Hey there! Sorry that I forgot to cover heart shaped faces… so few people have them that I nearly forgot about them! :$
        Anywho, you’re gonna want to contour just above and below the horizontal line (about one third of the way up above it, and one sixth of the way below). Add a bit of extra contouring to your temples. Highlight just the left and right of the vertical line where it crosses your chin, and just above that, put the tiniest bit of contour (just below your bottom lip). Make sure to blend, blend, blend!
        Hope that helped! 🙂

  6. cara says:

    Great article — espesh because I loved high school geometry. This article is a HUGE help — thanks!

  7. Sisi says:

    Wow Sam! I’m really impressed. Despite being 17, you have all the beauty-related wiseness of a seasoned, veteran makeup guru! I love that you are defying all those age and gender stereotypes regarding the beauty world. Keep up the great guests posts. I look forward to reading more of your work!

  8. Whitney says:

    Hey Sam, Great post!
    Love your work 🙂

  9. Kate & Zena says:

    Demarcations and lines…..oie, it sounds like my math class on Monday!

    Uh, Sam, I think some of us need an image of all these lines here (namely me). All those words mean absolutely nothing to me; they just confuse me. I see in images, not words (it’s called high-functioning Autism, but I do know normal people who need images).

    Also, what happens if you fall in between two face shapes (ex. squovals)? Will you please go over that whole “determining your face shape thing?” You talk about face shapes, but you don’t talk about how to determine what your’s is!

    • Sam says:

      Here’s a link to a pretty good chart of face shapes:

      I’ve never actually used a chart; once you know what each one is, they’re relatively easy to identify. On this chart however, what I call “triangular”, they call “inverted triangle” (their “triangle” shape is so odd… I’ve rarely seen anyone with this type of face…)

      I’ll be doing a second post of makeup math, so I’ll go over determining face shape in that (too in depth for a simple comment!!)

      Maybe I can draw up some rudimentary face charts (grids included!) to go along with it?

      • Kate & Zena says:

        Yes, please do drawings! I don’t care how bad they are (as long as I can tell it’s a face, I’m happy), I really like images to go with my tutorials/how-to’s. It really, really helps me out. I can see it in my head a lot easier. I don’t mind words, but an image for the visual-based people really helps.

      • MommaSweets says:

        oOOoooohh, that would be so great if u could find time to do the face charts+ grids, Sam!! Thank u!

  10. Nina says:

    kinda like calculus (which i sucked at btw) … 🙂

  11. Rosie says:

    Sam, this is one of the best entries i have read in a long time. it just makes sense. Love your blogs. You really seem to know your sh*t!!

  12. Stef says:

    Sam, do you need a middle aged female bestie? I’ve really loved your posts, but I’d love it more if you could tell only me over coffee!

    Seriously though, this was really interesting. As all of your posts have been.

    • Sam says:

      I’ve probably already been blacklisted by the rest of the makeup industry for spilling half of their well-kept secrets. Fortunately, stuff like this post is mostly my own…
      And I’m happy to give personalised advice!! Head over to my blog and send me a question, and I’ll answer as soon as I can! Oh, and I’ll take my coffee with half and half, please. Two Splenda.

  13. Lily says:

    Wow,Sam is awesome! I have a round face, but its small , so i just do hightlight , not contouring . I think Karen is oval and you are oval , right ?

    • Sam says:

      I’m definitely oval, and I believe Karen is either oval or diamond (not positive based on her pictures, but more likely oval). Do me a favor? Try contouring *very* lightly and see what happens. Maybe do it when you come home from work so if it doesn’t work, you don’t have to bear a day with it. But try, and lemme know what happens! 😉

  14. Lorraine says:

    Hi Sam great article. I tried very hard to visualize the dividing the eye into thirds part…is it possible to get a drawing or something? Thanks!!

  15. Liz! says:

    I am a NERD and loved this post 😀 Thanks Sam, I’ve really enjoyed reading your work whilst Karen is away! I think I need to start peeping your own blog too, as you are quite consistently versed and insightful in all things beauty related. Keep up the good work kid!

  16. JJ says:

    Ah, very useful blush tip. I keep wondering what’s wrong with my makeup application, and I think it’s this. I have high cheekbones, but I apply blush to the apples of my cheeks which, when I don’t smile, fall below the imaginary horizontal line. Thanks for bringing lines to my attention!

  17. Amanda says:

    I am going to check back for your posts every day! <3 Them. Thank you so much!!!

  18. Amanda says:

    I am going to check back for your posts every day! <3

  19. Annie says:

    Combining Math and Makeup is pure genius! Loved it!! Thanks for the tips.

  20. Genevieve says:

    quick question- when you say cheek color shouldn’t pass below the horizontal line, what about those of us with very small noses? the tip of my nose falls in line with the middle of my cheeks, and my horizontal line is maybe an inch below my eyes. how should i apply blush?

  21. Ana says:

    I sometimes try to contour with bronzer because so many girls I know do that and look fab… but it always just looks ridiculous on me… I guess it’s because I have an oval face and don’t need it… wish I could pull it off though, it would be fun (and an excuse to buy more bronzers… hehe). Speaking of bronzers, Wet ‘n Wild’s Color Icon collection has a great matte one called Goddess 🙂

    Loving your posts, Sam!

    • Sam says:

      Hmmm… I mean, I have an oval face and can contour just fine. The thing is, if you have an oval face, you often need to use a lot less product than you think you do. I take a relatively large bronzer brush, tap it two or three times onto my bronzer (I use Smashbox Bronze Lights in Sunkissed Matte), and sweep it gently under my cheekbones, over my temples and across my hairline, under my jaw and chin, and on either side of my nose. It’s very subtle, but just gives my bone structure a little extra pop.
      The good thing about having an oval face is that you’re free to experiment, and you often need a lot less makeup to get the job done.

      • Ana says:

        Thanks, Sam! These tips are really genius! I just tried applying my blush using the technique you described (no lower than the imaginary horizontal line from the tip of your nose)…. and… WOW. It seemed odd at first because this line left me with very little space to work with and I basically had to apply it really high on my cheekbones. But my face looks so much more “right” this way! haha. It really has a beautiful, lifting, cheekbone-enhancing effect.

        Also totally makes sense that I should only apply cheek color that high, going back to the whole oval face thing… I have limited room to apply cheek color so that seems to reinforce the idea of bronzer/contouring being very optional for my face 🙂

        • Sam says:

          The way I came up with that blush tip is by looking at young children and where they naturally flush when exerted. Color pops into the very tops of their cheeks, giving them a rosy, youthful glow that we all covet. Taking that and my knowledge of the theatre world (in which blush is often placed much lower on the cheek to make one look older or ill), I maintained that the higher you apply your blush, the more natural and youthful you’d look. So glad it helped! (all of these things seem a bit odd when you first try em, but that’s the great part, too!)

      • ki says:

        My face is oval too and I’m dying to go experiment with blush now – I’ve been applying it on the apples of my cheeks and it looks quite okay – but maybe cheekbones is the way to go?

        • Sam says:

          Definitely! I never really understood applying directly to the apples of the cheeks… I mean, it looks great when you smile, but then when you stop, the muscle that is actually the “apple” falls, bringing your blush, and your whole face, with it. Try applying it on top of the apple, outside the pupil, and lemme know what happens… 😉

          • ki says:

            Thank you! I’m definitely going to give this is a try! I always found that applying to my apples left me with a bit of a splotch of colour when I’m not smiling :-/

  22. Ana says:

    Oh, I just read the part about brows. My brows are so close together! I think it’s because I have a thin face and very full brows. The space between my brows is probably about half the width of one of my eyes… haha. Fixing it to adhere to the basic brow guidelines would involve me removing the inner 1/4 of each brow. I always notice how other peoples’ brows are much farther apart. But I like my brows and often get complimented on them since full, dark brows are all the rage. I was once asked if my eyebrows are real… haha 😉

  23. Karen B says:

    Great article Sam, thanks for the tips.

  24. ki says:

    “Cheek color should never fall below your imaginary horizontal line, no matter what (this was an old film and theatre technique used to age actors or make them appear ill).

    Now, draw an imaginary vertical line through the center of your pupil; blush should never be applied further in than this line”

    My face is oval and if I keep blush above the horizontal line and withn the vertical one, I get just a tiny bit of space – the outer apples of my cheeks and a tiny bit of my cheekbones. Is that right?

    • Sam says:

      Yup! At first it’s gonna be a bit difficult and seem kind of weird, as there really is almost no space except for some cheekbone right below your undereyes and tiny bit of the outer “apple” of your cheek… But try it. And remember to not apply much farther in that your pupil. Lemme know how it goes!

  25. Kim says:

    Thanks for adding the info about the heart-shaped face in the comments, Sam. I’m one of those gals too. 🙂 I do hope there won’t be a quiz on this later, though. It’s a bit early in the AM for all this math! 🙂

  26. Margaret says:

    When you say to divide the eyelid into thirds, do you mean horizontal thirds or vertical thirds? i.e., top/middle/bottom or left/center/right? Thanks!

    • Sam says:

      Oh, I’m sorry! Vertical thirds! These divisions don’t include a crease color, which, if you use one, can span the outer two or all three of them.

  27. Advah says:

    Sam, I’m loving your posts! Things like ‘apple of cheeks’ have never made much sense to me as I never get my makeup to look like the model I’m following, but all those explanations (especially dividing the eye lid in thirds instead of halving it!) are brilliant – thank you!

  28. NeenaJ says:

    @ “the “apple” falls, bringing your blush, and your whole face, with it”

    Sam, you are brilliant! I have an oval face and can’t wait to try my new blush trick tomorrow! Today, I will live with droopyblushface – what’s one more day 😉

    Also, love the eyelash curling technique & have used a similar one for many years: one 3 second crimp at the edges, one 5 second crimp just to the outside of the center, and one 10 second crimp at the base. Perfectly curled lashes!

  29. Susan says:

    Very informative article, Sam. Thanks! I remember an old “Seventeen” magazine article way back in the day about figuring out what shape of face you might have, and they suggested looking in the bathroom mirror and tracing your face shape with a bar of soap or a lipstick and then stepping back to look at it and decide which shape it best fit. I tried it, and it worked pretty well, actually. Keep those wonderful, creative thought of yours flowing…looking forward to your next entry!

  30. Linnea says:

    Love the math Sam. 🙂

  31. Lauren says:

    fabulous post even though i hate math! im definitely going to need to try the contouring trick!

  32. Thaisa says:

    You actually made me feel good about having a round face for the first time in my life. Thank you so much ♥


  33. Shanda says:

    I’m so confused… LOL what do you mean by this?

    “Now, draw an imaginary vertical line through the center of your pupil; blush should never be applied further in than this line.”

    And thank you so much for this informative post.
    Shanda recently posted … MAC and Mickey Contractor

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