Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.
I think most of us can agree that summer 2019 has been aesthetically pretty whimsical. '90s hair clips? Adorable. The Jonas Brothers being unironically popular again? Precious. Spiked sparkling water? So playful! I mean, "I'm baby" is literally one of the most popular slang terms of the season. If that's not whimsy, then I don’t know what is.
This season’s makeup trends are leaning the way of offbeat and fanciful, as well—and I am personally living for it. Long gone are the days when it was customary to wear a matte liquid lipstick and cumbersome smoky eye on an average weekday, and in is a glorious new era when wearing clear lip gloss and a single bright eye color that looks as if a 7-year-old picked it out is considered cool.
As a fan of quaint, quirky makeup colors, I have embraced the living daylights out of the simple, yet colorful eyeshadow trend (which, #humblebrag, one of our editors long ago predicted would be huge in 2019). As I’ve been experimenting with whimsical eye looks over the last six months or so, I’ve accumulated quite a few products and application techniques, which are ludicrously easy to use and yet earn me scores of compliments.
And while you obviously want a dreamy shade, you'll also want a product that is pigmented and formulated to last all day.
Ahead, we found the best colorful eyeshadows to give you rainbow lids.
Kosas 10-Second Eyeshadow in 333
It really does only take about 10 seconds to apply Kosas’s new clean, water-based liquid shadows, which come with a handy doe-foot applicator, dry down fast to be totally crease-free, and are available in eight fetching shades (like cool lavender and coppery rose gold), which you can wear super sheer or build up for more impact.
Huda Beauty Matte & Metal Melted Double Ended Eyeshadows in Limelight
There are so many fun ways to wear Huda Beauty’s dual-ended liquid shadows, which come with an ultra-pigmented matte shade on one end and an iridescent metallic on the other. My new favorite thing is to line my upper lash line with the matte side of Limelight and create a subtle wing at the end, then use the sparkly gold on the other side to brighten my inner corners.
Urban Decay 24/7 Shadow
These velvety shadows from Urban Decay pack quite the punch, delivering highly pigmented color that stays put for up to 12 hours. The powder formula feels soft and creamy upon application and can be applied wet or dry, allowing for a lot of versatility when it comes to creating looks. Plus, the color options are out of this world. The formulas are vegan and cruelty-free, to boot.
Rituel de Fille Celestial Sphere Eye Soot in Ara
Okay, so the price tag on this one is a little scary, but… definitely put it on your wishlist because this indie brand’s ethereal, multidimensional Celestial Sphere shadows (which have a sort of half-powder, half-cream consistency) are as beautiful as they are costly. I’m personally smitten with Ara, a frosty reddish shade that you can wear sheer or build up to make a little more of a statement. If I got a dollar every time someone said they liked my eye shadow while wearing this, I’d make my money back pretty quickly.
Nudestix Magnetic Nude Glimmer Highlighter in 24k Goddess
So this is technically a highlighter, but I’ve been wearing it on my lids and loving it. Whenever I want a subtle wash of yellow-gold metallic glow on my eyes (which is usually), I use the easy stick applicator to swipe a coat of the lightweight, yet long-wearing gel across my lids. Tap-tap to blend, and voila.
Fenty Beauty Killawatt Foil Freestyle Highlighter in Mimosa Sunrise/Sangria Sunset
This is another product that’s marketed as a highlighter but doubles as an eyeshadow. Neon is definitely trending this summer, and wearing Fenty’s hot pink and tangerine cream-to-powder shades (either separately or layered together) is my current favorite way to have a neon makeup moment.
Ulta Beauty Eyeshadow Single in Sunday Funday
From shade selection (there are 40!) to pigmentation, Ulta’s sleeper hit eyeshadow singles rival those three times the price. I like to wet my eyeshadow brush (Sigma’s new set of small blending brushes are lit, by the way) before applying Sunday Funday so the purple-blue color really pops.
Dior Diorshow On Stage Liquid Eyeliner in Matte Yellow
Yellow eyeshadow has kind of become my signature look this summer (it doesn’t sound wearable, but trust me, it is), and nothing gives me the egg yolk aesthetic of my dreams like Dior’s liquid liner in Matte Yellow. Even though it’s a liner, not a shadow, the flexible tip is so effortless to use and the formula so absurdly pigmented that you can easily cover your whole lid and it’ll look both perfectly even and blindingly bright. (Dior also makes other *whimsical* shades like Pearly Turquoise, Matte Pink, and Matte Pop Green.)
Bodyography Glitter Pigments in Stellar and Sparkler
The shimmery, almost wet-looking finish of Bodyography’s glitter pigments is absolutely hypnotizing and very unique. You’ve got to layer it up if you want the effect to be nice and bright, but once you do, the compliments are going to be nonstop.
Giorgio Armani Eye Tint Renovation in Fusion
One of the more wearable products in the mix, Armani’s revamped liquid eyeshadow is long-lasting, smudge-proof, and comes in an array of becoming, shimmery shades, like Midnight Cruise, a deep teal; Sunset, a rosy Mauve; and Fusion, a fiery copper.
Sisley Phyto Eye Twist in Amethyst
After half a dozen makeup artists recommended this product to me, I ghosted my accountant and dropped the 50 bucks. Pricey as it may be, this truly is the best eyeshadow crayon on the market in my opinion, as it’s wildly blendable, extremely pigmented, and does not smudge. The shade selection ranges from jewel tones like emerald green and amethyst purple (my go-to, as a green-eyed lady) to everyday hues like copper, bronze, and steel.
NYX Jumbo Eye Pencil in Milk
Not keen on dedicating the cost of three Postmates deliveries to an eye pencil? Fair enough! NYX’s $5 eye crayon, especially in Purple Velvet and Cobalt, is a fantastic alternative. The product also comes in a pigmented off-white, Milk, which is fun for creating trendy white eyeliner looks—a vibe I’m also loving.
Milk Makeup Eye Pigment in Mermaid Parade
You will be hard-pressed to find an eyeshadow that stays put longer than Milk’s. It honestly works like a pretty, shimmery cement: Use your finger to apply and blend the product (which comes in swoon-worthy shades from light pink After Party to jade green Mermaid Parade), but act fast, because after it dries, it won’t budge. Perfect for a night out when you want to look like an angel but also know you’ll be sweating (or crying. Or both).
Nars Single Eyeshadow in Baby Jane
Nars’ eyeshadow singles are iconic for a reason. The 43-shade selection and intense color payoff are simply unmatched. Baby Jane is a new light blue I’m loving, but I’m also super into their vibrant matte yellow shade, Duoro (obvi).
Stila Glitter & Glow Liquid Eye Shadow
Glitter eyeshadow can be such a messy pain in the ass to deal with, but Stila’s sparkly liquid shadows, which come with a convenient wand applicator, couldn’t possibly make it easier. The product comes in so many heart-stoppingly pretty shades, it’s hard to choose a favorite (they’ve also added metallic colors, which are really fun). If I need to put together a night-out makeup look really quickly, this product is 100% my go-to.
What to Look For in Colorful Eyeshadow
High Pigment Payoff
When shopping for a colorful eyeshadow, Urban Decay Global Makeup artist Steve Kassajikian says it’s absolutely key to choose a product with high pigment payoff; you’ll want your shadow to look as vibrant on your lids as it does in its pot or tube. Generally, liquid and cream shadows can pack a punch if you’re really looking to get a rich pop of color, but there are plenty of powder formulas out there that are just as bold.
Eyeshadows come in many different types, from powder to cream to liquid. Which one you use is largely up to your personal preference; however, Kassajikian recommends looking for a formula that has a creamy feel and finish (even if it's a powder), which will allow it to blend smoothly.
Eyeshadows are great because no matter what type you use, you can usually apply them with your finger. However, once you've got that great pop of color on you want to make sure it lasts. The best colorful eyeshadow will be one that is long-lasting and won't chip, crack, or crease midday.
How do you wear colorful eyeshadow?
There are so many ways to play with bright colors on your eyes that you really can't go wrong. If you're hesitant, try lining your eyes in a surprising shade or trying a single streak of graphic liner on your lid. You could also pop a bright color on the inner corners of your eye or the center of your lid. Some of the most striking colorful eye looks use 2 or 3 bright shades on the lid and lower lash line.
How do you remove colorful eyeshadow?
While makeup remover, micellar water, or just an effective face cleanser should remove your eyeshadow, sometimes stubborn stains remain, especially when you're using highly pigmented colors. After cleansing, try gently massaging some moisturizer (the richer and heavier, the better) over your closed eyes. For particularly stubborn stains, you can also apply a dab of liquid hand or dish soap on a cotton swab and lightly press over the stained area on your lid, careful not to get the soap in your eye.
How do you apply colorful eyeshadow?
Generally you'll want to apply colorful eyeshadow the same way you would neutrals, but with a few exceptions. Since typically you probably are going for a bold look, you may not do quite as much buffing and blending as with softer eye looks. Instead, you'll want to pack the pigment onto your lid for a vibrant effect. Avoid over-blending because it can make the colors appear duller instead of dramatic.
Meet the Expert
Steve Kassajikian is Urban Decay’s Global Makeup Artist.