Ask a Beauty Editor: Best Eyeshadow Palettes for Beginners

Lid, crease, and liner shades—check, check, and check.


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Ever wanted to pick the brain of a beauty editor? Or get beauty product recommendations from someone who has tried them all? You've come to the right place. In our weekly series, beauty editor Hana Hong answers your biggest skincare, hair care, and makeup questions, all submitted by Real Simple readers. Tune in every Tuesday and submit your own burning beauty questions here for a chance to be featured.

Reader question: Easy eyeshadow palette recommendations, please! I’m terrible at eyeshadow! —Sherry Pyles

For makeup novices, strategic pigment placement—i.e. eyeshadow—can be preeetty intimidating. With no straightforward guide on what goes where and so many potential places to swipe (crease, inner corner, outer corner, middle lid), how’s a girl to choose the right blend of hues?

If you’re new to eyeshadow but curious to dip your toes into more color, welcome! It’s (arguably) the most fun and versatile makeup category out there, so you’re bound to have lots of fun experimenting. Now, if you feel like you’ve nailed the logistics of how to apply eyeshadow but are still unsure of which palettes to go for, you’ve come to the right place. As an eyeshadow enthusiast who experiments with makeup for a living, I’ve compiled the best palettes that complement every skin tone and eye color. Each option includes light, medium, and dark shades that create definition without making it hyper-evident that you’re wearing eyeshadow. And remember: Apply small amounts of product during application—unless you’re going for a radical statement look (which I’m assuming is not the reason you’re here), less is more.

Best Eyeshadow Palettes for Beginners

01 of 06

Anastasia Beverly Hills Soft Glam Eyeshadow Palette

eyeshadow-for-beginners-Anastasia Beverly Hills Soft Glam Eyeshadow Palette

I’ve sung Anastasia’s praises when it comes to eyeshadow time and time again, and for beginners, this one takes the gold. It contains 14 neutral shades, each designed to complement one another (and all skin tones), including light shades for highlighting, browns for contouring, black for lining, and metallics for your lids. Plus, this beauty will last you a long time, thanks to its super-pigmented formula (trust, a little goes a long way).

To buy: $45,

02 of 06

Ilia The Necessary Eyeshadow Palette in Warm Nude

eyeshadow-for-beginners-Ilia The Necessary Eyeshadow Palette in Warm Nude

This clean beauty brand’s warm-toned palette is one of my all-time faves; the assortment of matte, satin, and metallic finishes can be combined for a range of daytime and nighttime looks, and each pigment boasts a buttery texture that allows for effortless application—even when you have nothing but your fingers to work with.

To buy: $38,

03 of 06

Urban Decay Naked Reloaded Eyeshadow Palette

eyeshadow-for-beginners-Urban Decay Naked Reloaded Eyeshadow Palette

If you know anything about eyeshadow, you know about Urban Decay’s Naked palettes. Spanning from silky mattes to iridescent micro-shimmers, this 12-pan treasure (a revamped design of the original iconic Naked palette, RIP) was made with only universal neutrals in mind.  Don’t be too scared of the coral and green shadows wedged in there—they’re super-muted and blend surprisingly (and subtly) well with any skin tone.

To buy: $44,

04 of 06

Tarte Tartelette Toasted Eyeshadow Palette

eyeshadow-for-beginners-Tarte Tartelette Toasted Eyeshadow Palette

Consisting of cozy beiges and golden bronzes, the layout of this palette is intentionally arranged in three rows for wearable looks to mix and match.

To buy: $42,

05 of 06

Maybelline Nudes of New York Eyeshadow Palette

eyeshadow-for-beginners-Maybelline Nudes of New York Eyeshadow Palette

We all love a pro-level palette at a drugstore price, and these versatile Maybelline pigments have a color payoff and buttery texture that rivals even the most high-end options.

To buy: $14,

06 of 06

Almay Intense i-Color Shadow Palettes

eyeshadow-for-beginners-Almay Intense i-Color Shadow Palettes

If you’re a true makeup beginner and don’t want to bother watching TikTok tutorials to find out where everything goes, these hypoallergenic Almay palettes couldn’t make it simpler. First, choose from four options customized with the shades best suited for your eye color (blue, brown, green, and hazel). Each compact is shaped like an eye with step-by-step directions and labels that indicate where everything goes. 

To buy: $11,

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