How to Prepare Pressed Powder

I've had a couple of questions from you wonderfully inquisitive (fantastic, gorgeous and absolutely fabulous) readers about the method I use to prepare powder for pressing. Here's how I put together a palette with highlighter, foundation and blush tones the other day.

The Necessary Ingredients and Tools

- Base powder mix (container of white powder at the top of the pic)
- Binder (the purse-sized spray bottle)
- Cosmetic pigments (pre-mixed colors in the small containers)
- Small sifter
- Small bowls
- Pans (in which to press your color)
- Measuring and stirring implements
- Wax paper (in generous amounts so you can both cover your work surface and have pieces to work on and discard)

Tip: Don't try to do everything in one session. Preparing base powder and binder can be done in a one session. Mixing color pigments is another session. (When I start mixing colors, I invariably enter a time warp and suddenly discover 3 hours will have somehow mysteriously disappeared in the wink of an eye).

Preparing the Color

Mix base powder with your desired color and sift together several times until the color is even. The proportion of base powder to color is dependent upon the components of the base powder you are using. (see below for a link to other posts on base powder). For this blush color, I used 40% base powder to 60% color.

The color of the sifted mixture is 'softened' due to the titanium dioxide in the base powder mix. This results in an opaque color (with added sunscreen effect). A base powder mix without zinc oxide or titanium dioxide will result in a more transparent color.

Even though the sifted color looks a far cry from the original tone, introducing binder to the mix will make a bit of magic happen and this blush color is going to regain most of its original strength (see bottommost pan in the pic at the bottom of this post for the final result).

Binding it all Together

Some use silicones as binders, but I prefer plant-based products and make a mixture of jojoba and fractionated coconut oil with E-vitamin as an antioxidant. I normally make enough for several pans of color so I have binder 'at the ready' for spontaneous powder-pressing occasions (Springtime is usually full of these). A spray bottle is the ideal vehicle for delivering a light, even layer of oil.

Tip: Make a healthy amount of everything for your very first portion and expect to use a bit of time experimenting with the binder-to-powder ratio to get the texture right. You may very well need to throw some product out along the way. However, if you keep notes, it will be a piece of cake to recreate the perfect proportions. For example: it took me 4 tries (in a previous session) to find that this particular pan size requires one and a half spritz of binder per pan.

Adding Binder

Start with a sheet-size wax paper. The binder is sprayed directly onto the paper first, then the powder is transferred to the paper. If you do it the other way around, you risk spreading your newly mixed color all over your workspace and yourself (can you tell I speak from experience?)

Working in the Binder

Working the oil into the powder is best done with a stiff spatula. Pull and drag it along the paper (kind of like buttering a piece of bread), scrape the color together and keep 'buttering' for 3-4 minutes.

When you see small lumps forming and the color changing back to its original hue, start testing for 'press-readiness'.

Testing For Press-Readiness

Scrape the mixture together on the paper. Press down on it with the spatula. When it readily hangs together in large-ish lumps, it's ready for pressing. If it just as easily breaks up again, you have achieved the perfect binder-to-powder ratio.

Tip: Don't be tempted to press before you can feel and see that the binder is evenly and completely distributed. Your pressed powder will reward you by staying in the pan and behaving ever so nicely – even if you accidentally drop it.

After Pressing

Here are the 4 pressed pans I did for my face-sculpting, skin-tone palette. The end result is pictured at the beginning of this post.

You Can Totally Do This Too!

Despite this detailed (and hopefully not too daunting) description, it took a total of an hour to create this palette of 4 colors. 

The Final Question

"But how are they to use, Lise?" I hear you asking.

They go on like a dream, feel like silk, have great staying power, are easily removed, and look like a million – they're pure pleasure! Now, go make your own, and have fun with it!

More Make-up Fun

To see how I press eyeshadow, please visit this post.
To read a bit about base powders and mixing a powder foundation, please visit this post.

Do Tell

Do you press your own powder? Which method do you use?


Patti said…
What are your proportions in your homemade liquid binder? Where do you find the ingredients? Is the "e-vitamin" already part of the fractionated coconut oil, or do you add it, and where do you purchase it?
I LOVE the idea of a completely plant-based, more natural liquid binder, with out silicones- this is the first one I've seen and would love to follow your recipe!
LisaLise said…
Hi Patti,

The proportions can be played with to your liking, but I started with a 50/50 mix of the jojoba and fractionated coconut oil and played a bit with the proportions until i found what I liked best. The e-vitamin is added as a rancidity retardant - a drop or 2 to 50ml. Use the mixture within a year.

Supplies: Check the links on the right menu. I am in Europe and these are all in Europe, but if you are in the US, check out Rose Mountain Herbs or (I think it's called) Voyager for supplies. Best of luck with it and please do let me know how it works out for you!
Anonymous said…
I am currently working on pressing foundation and blush. I am working on a formula to add my color to that is pressable, this seems a bit tricky. I too am using only plant based binders of caprylic/capric triglyceride and avocado oil. I am not sure how much I need to add to my powders though... I imagine too much will make it too hard and unable to brush pigment off onto a brush. Do you have a good eye for how much binder to use?
LisaLise said…
Hi Ashlyn -- you need much less oil than you might imagine. Under 10% of the mix should be oil.
Unknown said…
Thank you! After some more research and reading I found that it really doesn't require much powder. I will be giving this a go tonight with foundation!
Unknown said…
Thank you! After some more research and reading I found too that it really doesn't require much powder. I will be giving this a go tonight with foundation!
LisaLise said…
Hi Primrose Petal - Super! Best of luck with it :)
Anonymous said…
Will the eyeshadow itself go rancid after a year or just the mixture?
LisaLise said…
Hi Anon - even if stored ideally, both the mixture and the eyeshadow should be replaced after a year. Alternatively, a preservative should be added
Anonymous said…
Hey, I'm wanting to make my own highlighter, but I'm unsure what you mean by a base powder mix? Which one do you recommend using? Thank you
Anonymous said…
Is coconut good to put on your skin? I was thinking of skipping this step, any advice? Also, do you know how to make it so the finished result of the lighter spreads over a large area? Thank you
LisaLise said…
Hi Anon- a base powder helps to apply the the pigments evenly and have stay where they are supposed to stay. If you check under TOPICS on the sidebar, there are more posts on base powders - some you can make yourself, and some you can buy from suppliers.. there are many possibilities. :)
LisaLise said…
Hi Anon- you ask about putting coconut on the skin, but this isn't mentioned in this post? Could you rephrase your question? I'm not sure I understand it
Kita Wheeler said…
Hello, I was wondering where you get your compacts and pans? I looked in your packaging tag but didn't see any mention, perhaps I was looking in the wrong place. Thanks for any help.
LisaLise said…
Hi Kita - these were from DIY cosmetics, which is now 2 companies- one is called DIY cosmetics containers
Savannah J said…
Hello... Q: If I want to make a highlighter, would I still need to use a base powder? Or just the metallic mica powder and a binder? If I use a base powder with my metallic pink mica powder, will it effect the reflectivity & glow from the mica powder? Thank you in advance for any advice. ��
LisaLise said…
Hi Savannah - you still need base powder with a highlighter - otherwise it won't stay where it is applied. A base powder - depending on which powders you are using - should not afffect the reflectiveness of the mica. Best of luck with it!
Unknown said…
Thank you so much! I am going to try your recipe for your liquid binder! Will I just need to combine the jojoba, fractionated coconut, and vitamin E oil together? Not sure on the proportions of each ingredient for your liquid binder.
LisaLise said…
Hi Savannah Hair - you kind if have to play with the proportions you prefer. It's not vitamin e oil, but vitamin e. It's a retardant -- keeps the oils from going rancid - and you only need a drop or 2 vitamin e
Laura said…
What a wonderful blog!! Discovered it/you a few weeks ago as I was scouring the web, and figuring out how to take my solution to my very pinkish/rosacea-prone skin (applying loose green clay) to the next level (making a pressed powder). For now, I've just added arrowroot powder to the mixture. Wow! it already feels much silkier and seems to last longer. Quick question: is there a minimum amount/proportion (if that makes any sense) of arrowroot I must use or is the amount only dependent on the translucency/opacity I want? My skin is pinkish enough as it is, and I found that the green clay alone toned it way down. And maybe there is another reason to have a minimum amount of arrowroot in the mixture to (I'm making things up here) keep the clay from binding to my sweat or something?
LisaLise said…
Hi Laura - thanks for your kind words! There isn't really a minimum amount for arrowroot in a powder cosmetic. I would do up a few small batches and see what works best for your needs. Maybe 2-3 batches with 5% increments, so batch 1 has 5%, batch 2 has 10%, etc. You may find your ideal proportion is something in between batch 2 and 3. Best of luck with it!