Pressing Eyeshadows - Tips and Tricks

It's a sure sign of Spring! As soon as the weather gets milder (and days get longer), pigments are mixed, binder is prepared and I get giddy about making colored make-up.

Above is my latest pressed eyeshadow palette. For this batch, I've tried out a new base powder and have tweaked my binder formula.

Here's how this collection of pressed eye shadows came to be, along with a few of my best powder-pressing tips and tricks.

Tools of The Trade

  • Measuring spoons or weight (the measuring spoons below are made for color make-up and from Aroma Zone in France - check the sidebar for links)
  • latex gloves
  • pans and holder (I am re-using a cool elf container and pans – a gift from the lovely LiisK. The little pans stay put in the container with magnets)
  • metal and/or silicon press (in a shape and size that fits into the eyeshadow pan)
  • small glass bowls
  • waxed paper
  • a stiff but pliable plastic spatula 
  • small tea strainer 
  • binder (recipe below)
  • vice (if you want to get serious about pressing eyeshadow, you will need to invest in some type of pressing tool or you will have the sorest fingers and thumbs on the planet)

Use dedicated tools for your make-up and keep them separate from your regular kitchen/food tools. I keep all of my make-up tools collected in a plastic storage box

Mix Base Powder with Color

Depending on the base powder mix and color density you prefer, the ratio of base powder to color can be anywhere between 10/90 to 50/50.

This year, I tried out a new Serecite mica powder as my base. Using anywhere from 10% - 100% serecite mica is ok (it can also be used alone as a mattifying face powder).

The pigments and base powder are sifted together thoroughly until the color is even.

What does base powder do?

Base powder ensures your color make-up (foundation powder, blush, eyeshadow) is easy to spread/apply and stays where it is applied. Also, it can add a silky, lovely feel to your product.

A base powder can be a single ingredient (like serecite mica) or a mix of several powders such as talc, cornstarch, silica, titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, magnesium stearate, kaolin and more – all depending on your desired opacity, function, and effect.

Prepare Binder

My binder this year is a mixture of 60% fractionated coconut oil with 39% jojoba and 1% vitamin E. This is put into a small spray bottle and kept refrigerated when not in use. I mix binder once a year, and discard any binder older than a year.

Tip: Make binder in small amounts (less than 30 ml) and put a label on the bottle with the ingredients and production date. You may think you're going to remember everything, but trust me, you really won't.

Work Binder into Color Mixture

Spray the binder directly onto the waxed paper you will be working on – then add the color mixture.

Work color and binder together with the spatula. Go slowly and work as if you are buttering a piece of bread. This will incorporate the binder into the powder evenly.

Tip: A little binder goes a long way. Take your time when working in the binder and your eyeshadows will not only press evenly, but they'll feel smooth as silk going on.

Test the mixture occasionally while working in the binder by pressing down on it with the spatula.

When the mixture looks even and starts to stick together when you press down on it, it's ready for pressing.


My tried and true best tip for pressing eyeshadow is to build up in layers. If you are patient and press many thin layers, your eyeshadow will pass the all-important drop test with flying colors and reward you by staying in the pan.

My Pressing Method

  • Cover bottom of pan with thin layer of color mixture
  • Distribute color mixture evenly with cotton swab
  • Place a small piece of waxed paper over the pan and press lightly with thumb/finger
  • Now place press (metal coin and/or silicone pad) over waxed paper and press harder
  • Repeat, building up layers until the pan is half full, then press in vice.
  • Repeat until the pan is full, and press in vice again.

Above: see how the silicone pad has an indent from being sandwiched between the vice and metal press? That kind of pressure just can't be achieved by hand. That indent was made by my trusty vice (available at regular hardware stores around the world).

The Drop Test

Here's a vine (6-second video) I did of the drop test. It doesn't have to be from a great height, but if your eyeshadow can pass a simple drop test without crumbling and coming out of the pan, then it's not only sufficiently pressed, but also has the correct amount of binder.

Do Tell

Do you do your own pressed eyeshadows? Which base powders are your favorites? How about binders? Which tools do you use to press?

More Make-up

How I mixed the pigments for this eyeshadow palette
Pressed eyeshadow (series of short videos)
Why patience is a virtue when mixing colors for make-up
How my pressing tool kit was made


I've just recently received my order of minerals and was looking into pressing them. I've used vegetable glycerin and alcohol as a binder. Well actually just glycerine since the alcohol evaporates eventually. Do you think that pure glycerine is a good binder on its own?
Lise M Andersen said…
Hi Gospođica Marijica - I have always tried to stay away from any alcohol or water-based binders for my shadows, so I'm afraid I'm not the best person to give you input on this.

I would strongly advise adding a preservative if you decide to use glycerin. As soon as you introduce anything water-based into a product, you need to add a preservative. This is one of the reasons I have always worked entirely with oil-based binders.
Thank you very much for your advice, I think I am going to use your recipe for a binder. I think it's safer to use
Lise M Andersen said…
Best of luck with it Gospodica - Please come back and let me know how it turns out for you. :)
Hi Lise,

Does the 10/90 to 50/50 rule apply only to eyeshadows, or all types of powder makeup, like foundation, blush etc...
Lise M Andersen said…
Hi Genevieve - it is a sliding scale - depending on what kind of texture you like and what the use will be. You really have to try out the different combinations to see what works best for you. Best of luck with it!
Anonymous said…
Hello Lise, I recently came across your blog in my hunt for finding a method to press matte eyeshadows. Does this oil based binder work for matte minerals too? Thanks!
Lise M Andersen said…
Hey there Anon - Yes, this oil-based binder works equally well for matte minerals.
Haya said…
Thank you, Lise!
Hi Lisa!

I am getting ready to start pressing my foundations, blushes, bronzers, and highlights and would like to know what this vice is called? I can't seem to find one and perhaps I am searching with the wrong terms. I am using dry binder and oils to press my minerals, no alcohol or water based ingredients. Thank you!
Lise M Andersen said…
Hi Prirose Petal: Wolfcraft is the brand name. They're sold all over the globe :)
I found this Wolfcraft clamping vice at my local Ace Hardware. I haven't purchased it yet, I am still using a tamper tool I got from TKB trading. I would like to know how you are faring with "wolfy" and if you have given much time or practice to using it?

Thank you!
Lise M Andersen said…
Hi Ashlynn - I love love love my Wolfy and cannot recommend it enough for max pressing power. Important to have pressing pads that fit your pans (someone told me about a 2-component putty that hardens to a stiffish silicone pad that works well. I also have a small hand clamp vice but this one just doesn't measure up to my Wolfy.
Braedi Tink said…
Hi Lise!

If I use your binding recipe, does this mean I do not need to add a preservative? If so, how long will the eyshadow last?

Lise M Andersen said…
Hi Braedi - I do not use a preservative in my pressed powder cosmetics as they are water-free. I do, however, take quite a few precautions, and don't use the product longer than a year.

If you choose not to add preservative - be careful to keep your brushes clean (and never share with anyone else), never introduce ANY moisture to the mixture and store your shadow dark and at an even temperature (read: not carried around in a purse in all kinds of weather)

If you are prone to dipping a moist brush/fingers into the product, you will need to add a preservative. Hope this helps!
Georgia Cook said…
Hi i was just wondering if it is possible to use purely coconut oil as a binding material? or would this not bind sufficiently?
Lise M Andersen said…
Hi Georgia, Yes, you can use pure coconut oil as a binder if you prefer. I recommend using neutral smelling oils with a long shelf life and adding vitamin e as it can be quite unpleasant using a rancid-smelling pressed powder. Best of luck with it. ;)
Agnes said…
Hi Lise,

What is a usual ratio of binder and powder you recommend using? Thank you..:-)
Lise M Andersen said…
Hi Agnes - it depends a little on what you have in your base powder, and since I switch things up in almost every batch, I am used to eyeballing it. If I were to hazard a guess I would say 5-10% binder.
Surata said…
Hello Lisa,
I'm looking for organic / clean micas for face like foundation and colors for eyeshadows. Where would you recommend to purchase these items from? Also will Aroma -zone deliver to the USA?
Thank you,
Lise M Andersen said…
Hello Surata. You might check out DIY Cosmetics in the USA - they have split off their pigments into a separate company but there should be links to it from the main site. I believe Aroma Zone delivers worldwide. Best of luck with it!
Mtennis said…
Hi there,

I've been using a mixture of fractionated coconut oil and 91% alcohol to press my shadows. I've finding though, that even with primer they are slipping off my skin. I've tried using the eyeshadow bases from TKB. I've tried using C-smax/boron nitride, but I'm still not getting the adhesion I'd hoped for. Any suggestions?
Lise M Andersen said…
HI Mtennis - I think the high percentage of alcohol might be your problem. Try using a mix of jojoba and fractionated coconut oil. You can start with 50/50 and then tweak the amounts from there to find what works best for you. Best of luck!
jlb5685 said…

As to your binder - What if you are planning to sell eyeshadows and cannot control how the consumer treats the product? I'd prefer to use the oils since they will be more nourishing and less chemicals in the product but if they get wet or moisture does get near them (I know some people like to wet their brushes and then use eyeshadows) then what? Would adding a preservative with the oil binder change the way they work on the eye? Thanks!
Lise M Andersen said…
Hi jlb - That’s great input. You definitely want to add a preservative if you are selling. Check the ingredients lists of major brands and you will find preservative in pressed eye shadows. Your only other option would be to put a very short useby date and print a warning to your customers to not introduce moisture to the product if ypu want to stay preservative free. A preservative shouldn’t change how the product behaves or functions.
jlb5685 said…
Thank you! What preservatives do you recommend?
Lise M Andersen said…
HI jlb- I would use a broad spectrum preservative - there is one called Phenonip that is a 'cocktail' of 3 preservatives to provide broad spectrum preservation. I see these particular preservatives on the ingredients list of products from Elizabeth Aredne among others. :)
mmmlgy0 said…
Hi Lisa!
I use coconut oil to press but I feel like they come out too thick. The shadow will swipe onto my finger, but not onto a brush. Any tips?
Lise M Andersen said…
Hey there mmmlgy0 - I think I would try using fractionated coconut oil instead. This is not nearly as heavy and will not cake up the powder as coconut oil will. You could also try using jojoba - this is another useful oil for pressing powders.