Formulating Eye Shadow & Highlighter

I would like to share some insight into formulating eye shadow & highlighter. I decided to make my own eye shadow & highlighter one year ago. Really make it myself, make it. Online instructions encouraged viewers to combine “old eye shadows that they never used” and re-press them into a highlighter. I don’t want to use a product that was neglected (probably due to poor pigmentation or application) to create a new product. Along the same lines, it gets pricey to destroy eye shadows & combine pre-made pigments to create a new one. Make-up has a shelf life. I suggest throwing out old, unused products that did not do their job.

Coastal Scents and Wholesale Supplies Plus were my first stop for checking out mica prices & info. By the time I decided to purchase mica, Coastal Scents got out of the game & started selling only pre-made eye shadows. Wholesale Supplies Plus has a large assortment of eye-safe mica powders. They are priced around $2.95 for .1 oz (2.83 grams.) Reading online & watching videos I was pointed towards TKB Trading. TKB Trading is an online shop completely focused on creating cosmetics for the eyes, face, lips, and nails. They have everything and they sell it at affordable prices.

I have been a loyal TKB Trading customer ever since. They have a vast assortment of micas, base powders, preservative, liquid binder, pans & tamper tools. A 6-gram sample is typical $1.50. Shipping is based on weight, so it was a little more when I purchased bottles of liquid product and very affordable when just stocking up on mica. Orders arrive at my home in 4-5 business days.

2017-01-01 Holo Day 2 and Application PICS 036 1040x725

2017-01-01 Holo Day 2 and Application PICS 036 1040×725

Formulating Eye Shadow & Highlighter

I worked on & off for a couple of months with the powders, ordering extra colors & additives, and re-formulating before I shared my initial recipes. I have a whole new appreciation for my favorite store-bought shadows. There are a lot of colors & powders that go into a good formula. Foiled type shadows can be crumbly & many shadows are beautiful but will crack easily without the right additives.

I absolutely prefer my products in a pressed form but you can skip some steps & ingredients if you wish to leave your eye shadows loose. The only loose shadows that I purchase are from Fyrinnae Cosmetics. They have an amazing loose formula that I have not tried to re-create.

How to make eye shadow & highlighter

How to make eye shadow & highlighter

People often ask me which ingredients in the recipes can be left out. I don’t recommend leaving out the base powders or binder! You don’t have to use isopropyl alcohol for pressing but you want the base powder and binder. It helps with opacity, spreadability, staying powder and if you use the MyMix Clear Pressing Medium it will help with a smooth application & the dimethicone keeps it on your eyes/face. Play with the color combinations but don’t skip the ingredients that make the color perform at its best. Your finished product will be very powdery without base powder or binder.

Personal preference, skin type & any known allergies dictate which base powders & binder you use. The recipes [1, 2, 3, 4] that I share are not the only colors I have created. They are the ones I took the time to write down. I can get carried away when I am tweaking the formula & forget to document the process. Check out those posts for an idea of how to combine the ingredients & which amounts to use. They are a good starting point.

TKB Trading Mica Swatches

TKB Trading Mica Swatches


  • Eye shadow is too light in pigmentation: Adding too much base powder will produce an extra glowy, silky product but it will lighten the final color. Check your color recipe and adjust your amounts or remove color if necessary. It is important to remember that very few of the micas have a deep pigmentation. In the container, colors like Bishop’s Violet or Winter Rose look much darker than the swatch. Adding too many light colors will produce a lighter final product. **On the other hand, remember that the darker the pigmentation, the greater the possibility of eyelid staining**
  • Shadow won’t press & crumbles: Most likely too little liquid pressing binder or press base has been used. In a recent round of experimentation, I left out the C-Smax (sericite mica surface treated with carnauba wax.) Some of the shadows were crumbling horribly & did not want to stay pressed without it. C-Smax is a miracle-worker and truly makes pressing easier for me!
  • Your product looks different than a recipe online: We may be using the same measuring spoons but we might be filling them differently. I pack the powder against the side of the container and scrape the top against the side to level off the mica. Inconsistent measuring will produce a different formula/color (most likely both will be pretty.) I am guilty of occasionally dipping into the mica and pulling up a pile of extra product on top. This could potentially double the amount of mica you are including.
  • Mica or Eye Shadow has fallen onto your carpet: I always use a solid, roomy workspace like a countertop or table for creating shadow & highlighter. My experience is that once in a while, I somehow spill mica or drop (dried) filled pans while I am cleaning up. I have never dropped wet mixture on the carpet but for dry, plain mica spills I can usually get everything with an immediate vacuum. Highly pigmented, a deeper toned shadow that has had the opportunity to be ground into the carpet needs an immediate application of Resolve Carpet Cleaner Spray. Apply the Resolve to the stained area, wait 5 minutes, and blot with a damp cloth. Mica is extremely lightweight & fly-away. Even with great care, you can spill a little. Darker colors have the highest potential to stain.

Color Powders

Shimmer Colors: Mica



All of my recipes so far have used mica powder exclusively.

Silicate minerals crushed into a fine, pearly powder are mica “pigments.”

These powders have a shiny, luminous finish. Micas come in a large variety of colors that are less opaque than true pigments/oxides. Micas are easy to combine and are pre-ground. Grinding mica powders can decrease their shimmer & color.

When creating colors, remember your basic color combinations [ie: red + blue = purple.] Complementary colors in equal amounts (red & green, yellow & purple) will meld into a beige tone. Adding too many color tones to a project can cancel out your intended results.

The Shimmer Pop Collection & The MyMix colors are ready to use (they have the base powders mixed in) but can be combined in color formulations as a mica pigment.

Matte Colors: Pure Pigment/Oxide

Matte eye shadows use natural pigments (not the pre-made sparkly pigments in your collection.) Pigments require grinding and thorough blending for a non-patchy, opaque application. Pure pigments produce deeper, more opaque tones than mica powders. Pigments will have a flat, matte finish.

I experimented a while back & I haven’t found the right formula yet. You will use a less liquid binder with matte formulas. TKB Trading lists pigments under the Matte Tones Colors. TKB lists which pigments and micas are eye-safe, so always check before purchasing.


  • Never use craft glitter on the eyes. It can cause abrasions & irritation.
  • TKB’s website states that “The US FDA has determined that glitter is a color additive which is not listed on their list of approved color additives. This means that a glitter product is not allowed for use in any cosmetic in the USA. Consumers have expressed confusion over this, as it is obvious that there is glitter in all kinds of cosmetics sold currently in the USA and there are no known reports of harm caused by glitter. The FDA has not explained itself to our company, but it has advised us that it recognizes that the cosmetics industry has been largely unaware of this determination and it is essentially providing the cosmetic industry a grace period during which FDA enforcement is “discretionary”. This grace period allows the cosmetics industry to “respond”. The FDA has not provided us with any information on how long this grace period has been in effect, nor how long it will be in effect. They simply state the issue is “active”.”
  • Glitter size matters & only glitters that are no greater than 150 Microns should be used near the eyes. Check if they have approved a glitter as “eye-safe” before purchasing.
  • I add sparkle to my projects by adding the “Diamond Cluster” or Moon Dust Collection micas. I personally don’t care much for the added texture of actual glitter in cosmetics.


Base Powders

Mica powder will not show up or stay on the eyes very well without something to hold it there. Base powders help spread the mica color easily on the skin and help it last longer.

MyMix Press Base & Matte Texture Base are blends of powders that help keep the color on your eyes & provide a smoother application. I have only tried a handful of base powders but they definitely up the quality, opacity, feel, and texture of the products. No good shadow or highlighter is just going to be made of talc & mica.

Highlighter shades made with Matte Texture Base

Highlighter shades made with Matte Texture Base

Powder Blends:

  • TKB Matte Texture Base: A mix of Titanium Dioxide (77891), Mica (77019), and Magnesium Stearate. TKB recommends 1 part Texture Base to 2 Parts Mica or Pigment but I use less because it lightens the pigmentation too much. I add it to tone down color or sparkle. The Titanium Dioxide will brighten your project and increase color opacity & the Magnesium Stearate increases slip and adhesion.
  • MyMix Press Base: A mix of Mica, Calcium Carbonate, Zinc Stearate, Kaolin Clay, Silicon Dioxide, Allantoin, and Carnauba Wax. Calcium Carbonate & Kaolin Clay aid in oil control. Silicon Dioxide works as an anti-caking & opacifying agent. The Carnauba Wax & Zinc Stearate aid in pressing & binding. Zinc Stearate helps prevent creasing & enhances color. The Allantoin is soothing & makes skin feel soft.

Filler Powders:

  • Sericite Mica: A low-luster, sheer gray-ish mica that diffuses light. It helps to blur imperfections and improves adhesion & slip. **Ingredients that list “mica” are typically using sericite mica**
  • C-Smax: Sericite Mica surface treated with Carnauba Wax. Gives a silky feel & helps with lasting power. The wax aids in pressibility. (SMax is similar but uses a synthetic wax)
  • Pashmica: Mica powder with Silica (a natural mineral.) Silica glides over the skin, giving a silky feel & the powder gives a glowy sheen to your project.
  • Kaolin Clay: A sheer, silky powder that helps with adhesion and oil control.
Same Formula With or Without Pashmica Added

Same Formula With or Without Pashmica Added


  • Titanium Dioxide: An opacifier that reduces translucency. It is a white, extreme brightening powder. It is a dry powder (not a lot of slip so it needs help from other powders.)
  • Zinc Oxide: A much less powerful opacifier & brightener than Titanium Dioxide. Great at oil absorption.
  • Magnesium Stearate: Ester of Magnesium & Stearic Acid which functions as a texturizer, opacifier, and a non-gelling thickener. Magnesium Stearate enhances slip and silkiness with its mild emulsifying properties.
Base Powder color effect

Base Powder color effect

Liquid Pressing Medium

The TKB MyMix Clear Pressing Medium is a fantastic product! It is silicone based & silicone helps the makeup glide over the skin without settling into the skin. Ingredients are Isopropyl Myristate, Dimethicone, Bis-Vinyl Dimethicone/Dimethicone Copolymer.

Other liquids that can be used include fractionated coconut oil (liquid coconut oil) & jojoba oil.

Glycerin can rust tin pans so I do not recommend it for these projects.

Holographic Eye Shadow

Holographic Eye Shadow

Holographic Products

Prismatic 3D sparkle and shift are gorgeous! True holographic effects will be most noticeable when produced in nail polishes or even face products because larger pieces of reflective glitter can safely be added. Holographic eye shadow (to me) will at best provide an iridescent color shift and less noticeable holographic effect by using very small pieces of glitter or shimmer. The holographic effect IS there, it is simply more subtle for safety reasons. I understand the disappointment of consumers at the subtlety of a holographic effect in “holographic eye shadows.”

Color recipes are a lot of fun to create. My take on formulating eye shadow & highlighter is that I want to dimension, a bit of color-shift, a metallic sheen vs. glittery texture, and I want a vibrant tone, even if it is a pastel shade. The amount of ingredients used varies based on the size of your pans, the finish of the product, etc. I have had a lot of success creating metallic, foiled, and highlight shades. I am still trying to figure out how to make a good matte product but once I am comfortable with a matte formula, I would like to formulate eye shadows and blush.

DIY Eye Shadow & Highlighter

DIY Eye Shadow & Highlighter

TKB Trading does not sell pre-made color kits for my projects. I purchased the ingredients separately and created the recipes myself. They have a couple of mineral makeup kits but they contain oxides (the hard to use pigments for matte products) and some really basic colors. They do have a “Press Your Own Makeup Kit” that currently sells for $14.95. It has some great tools for getting started.

High-quality products will cost more & include more ingredients. For a decent pressed eye shadow or highlighter, you will want to purchase several sample sized mica powders, base powders, pressing medium, preservative, pans & a tamping tool. I use the Mini Spoon-5 for measuring. I have standard conversions listed in the photo on the right.

You can create your projects in a zip-loc bag or a glass jar. You can press with or without adding isopropyl alcohol. I like to add 99% isopropyl alcohol to form a paste/liquid because it is easier to place in the pan. Alcohol increases your wait time before pressing because you will have to wait for the alcohol to evaporate. I have had many successful presses without using alcohol. You can press (in 3-4 steps) if you have not added alcohol.

Formulating eye shadow & highlighter is fun, relaxing & rewarding for me. I wear my shadows & highlight regularly, especially the holographic recipes! I hope this takes some of the mystery out of creating color formulations of mineral makeup.

Leave a Reply

error: Content is protected !!