The 13 Best Contour Palettes of 2023


HomeHome / Blog / The 13 Best Contour Palettes of 2023

Jul 04, 2023

The 13 Best Contour Palettes of 2023

You’ll look like you’re in perfect lighting all the time. Jump to a Section We independently evaluate all recommended products and services. If you click on links we provide, we may receive

You’ll look like you’re in perfect lighting all the time.

Jump to a Section

We independently evaluate all recommended products and services. If you click on links we provide, we may receive compensation. Learn more.

InStyle / Alli Waataja

Over the years, contouring has unfairly gotten a bad rap. Many people — even those who love makeup — associate contouring with a cartoon-like, over the top aesthetic, when its true intention is to softly enhance and define the natural angles of your face. The trouble is, it’s not quite so easy to master the contouring technique, and with the wide range of neutral shades out there, selecting the right taupe or chestnut shade for your skin tone can feel like a high stakes game of poker.

Now for the good news: The best contour palettes come in a variety of shades, usually all within the same tonal family. “A palette gives you a versatile mix of what you need and allows you to mix shades and create the perfect look for you,” says Olivia Ponton, a model with IMG Models.


What We Love: This refillable palette offers six super blendable and pigmented shades, all with the same skin-brightening formula.

What We Don’t Love: There is some fallout.

You can give your selfie arm a rest — this KVD palette will capture and enhance all your best angles. It comes with six shades — three for highlighting and three for contouring — so you’ll have everything you need to sculpt your features in one convenient place.

With a velvety soft texture, each shade sweeps easily across the skin, delivering a blendable and smooth wash of color. Pro makeup artists love to use this palette when layering with other products while the foolproof application is great for beginners and can be buffed out if they make a mistake.

Celebrity makeup artist J. Brandon Correa tells us that the matte finish powders are ideal for oily skin, but don’t be fooled into thinking this equates to cakey. The formula’s hydrating blend of wild rose extract, safflower seed oil, and vitamin E prevents any hint of caked or cracked-looking makeup. Instead, you’ll be left with a brighter and smoother complexion.

There’s something to gain from each shade, but if you reach the bottom on one color before the others, it’s easy to refill the magnetic pots, just be careful while you do it because there may be some fallout.

Price at time of publish: $53

Number of Shades: 6 | Size: 0.72 oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes


What We Love: The creamy texture buffs into skin without much effort and looks great on its own or layered with other products.

What We Don’t Love: Shade matching can be tricky.

If you’re not big on powders, try Vittorio’s favorite cream palette from e.l.f., which really simplifies the entire contouring process. His pick from e.l.f takes a cakey finish, complicated application, and expenses off the table and replaces them with four affordable, creamy shades that melt into your skin. “These are beautifully selected colors — this is great for beginners and pros alike,” he says. “The creamy texture makes for easy blending.”

Even on rough or bumpy complexions, the quartet of warm colors won’t skip or drag as you apply them the way that drier formulas do (that’s what causes the dreaded “muddy” finish). While you may have to mix the shades together to find your perfect match, their serious blendability and natural finish earns our forgiveness.

The dewy finish it leaves also means the creamy contours play well with other face makeup, so you can layer on your favorite bronzers, powders, and blushes to create a wide range of looks.

Price at time of publish: $9

Number of Shades: 4 | Size: 0.43 oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes


What We Love: This palette is offered in three color harmonies for light, medium, and deep skin tones, making it one of the more inclusive options on this list.

What We Don’t Love: It may feel greasy if you have oily skin.

We’re big fans of the beauty brand NYX, especially the pore filler, because it is cruelty-free, uncomplicated, and affordable, even though it delivers expensive-looking results. We understand why it has over 12,000 5-star reviews on Amazon raving over the smooth texture and inclusive shade range.

The simple application instructions guide your technique, so you can use each color the way it was intended. Conceal under the eyes with the lighter hues, cover up blemishes or discoloration with color-correcting shades, and sculpt your natural features by blending out the deepest tones.

This long-lasting formula gives you carte blanche to wear it all day, even through sweaty gym sessions and humid days. We’d just suggest applying a mattifying primer if you have oily skin before you set out to avoid a greasy feel.

Price at time of publish: $12

Number of Shades: 3 | Size: 0.05 oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes


What We Love: This palette streamlines your routine with just two shades, one to create dimension and the other to illuminate.

What We Don’t Love: The coverage is subtle.

Less is more with this palette, which features two shades — one contour and one highlight — to give your skin an eternal ring-light effect. The formula was recently revamped to include hydrating botanical oils and a consistency that applies as a cream, but diffuses into a satiny finish, for easier blendability.

There are four palettes with different colored duos to compliment a variety of skin tones, from light to deep. Each of the luminescent shades are made of brightening ingredients, including moringa and passion fruit oil, as well as ginger extract to neutralize hyperpigmentation.

If having skin that looks warm and dewy wasn’t enough to splurge on this dreamy product, know that Vittorio also highly recommends it. He says that “the creams blend out gorgeously and define the face in a very natural way.”

Price at time of Publish: $90

Number of Shades: 4 | Size: 0.5 oz | Cruelty-Free: No


What We Love: These beautiful shades are impossibly easy to buff into skin, offering a glowy, lit-from-within warmth.

What We Don’t Love: It’s not the best option for full glamour.

This duo ranks as one of our all-time favorite Charlotte Tilbury products — and we’re in good company, as it’s often sold out. Word on the street is that even Victoria Beckham wears it.

Ponton tells us she loves the two shades, which are encased in an Old Hollywood-style palette. The pearlescent option illuminates any area you want to highlight, like your cheekbones and brow bone, and the bronzing shade softly sculpts and refines the areas around your nose, jawline, or the top of your forehead.

Once blended, you’re left with a natural-looking finish and a lightly bronzed glow.

However, if a full glam look is what you’re after, it may be best to skip this one, as the coverage, while buildable, is on the lighter side. On the flip side, because it does offer a softer look, it’s a great option for beginners who are perfecting their technique.

Price at time of Publish: $68

Number of Shades: 2 | Size: 0.56 oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Ulta Beauty

What We Love: The highly-pigmented shades blend like butter, giving you buildable coverage that doesn’t feel heavy on your skin.

What We Don’t Love: You may not need to use every color.

This palette really goes the extra mile with six creamy, lightweight shades to leave your complexion gleaming. A dot of deeply pigmented shades is all you’ll need to create a flattering definition. These rich shades are also versatile, so you can wear them when you want a natural finish or you can layer them for a full glam moment. Makeup artist Kenneth Soh says that this palette is “great for beginners, as the cream texture is very forgiving and easy to manipulate on the face.”

Though novices may not find a use for every color, we’re still tempted to ditch all our other makeup products in favor of this versatile palette, as the velvety hues can double as eyeshadow or primer.

Price at time of publish: $49

Number of Shades: 1 | Size: 0.42 oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes


What We Love: The pearlescent formula provides a gorgeous contour and an all-over radiance.

What We Don’t Love: The coverage is a little sheer.

You didn’t read the description wrong: This is technically a finishing powder palette, but many people, including Kate Moss, love it as a contouring palette. Choose from one of the three colorways — light, medium, and dark — featuring a trio of three radiant powders. Developed with photoluminescent technology, which enhances the way light reflects on skin, these finish powders camouflage skin imperfections and leave behind a sun-kissed finish.

The lighter colors work to even out any redness or patchy spots on your skin, giving the appearance of a poreless complexion, while the darker shades create depth and dimension.

The coverage is sheer (that is the nature of a setting powder), but we can’t get enough of the candlelight glow it delivers.

Price at time of publish: $69

Number of Shades: 3 | Size: 0.10 oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes


What We Love: The palette includes everything you need to create a full-glam look, including a brush and six velvety shades.

What We Don’t Love: Six shades can be intimidating for beginners.

Aside from a really good primer, the Lorac contour palette is one tool every MUA should have in their kits, according to Vittorio, who says that this one “is for sculpting enthusiasts.”

This powder palette includes two matte highlighters, one shimmer highlighter, three matte contour shades, and a brush, so truly no look that is out of reach. The deep and light cool browns are great for creating shadows and they diffuse into the skin effortlessly with only a swipe or two. The lighter colors are intended to illuminate the high points of the face.

Unlike other powders that settle into fine lines and accentuate wrinkles, these shades won’t slide throughout the day — they stay right where you place them.

Don’t be dissuaded that the palette is only available in one colorway — the six multifaceted shades are designed to suit a wide range of complexions and the formula leaves out fragrance, so it’s safer for sensitive skin types too. The matte shades provide you with a natural sculpt that is ideal for those not into high-shine finishes.

Although Lorac says this palette is only for the pros, the petite version is an alternative for beginners.

Price at time of publish: $45

Number of Shades: 1 | Size: 0.73 oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes


What We Love: The pocket-sized duo simplifies the contouring process by offering the only two products you need to contour your face — a bronzer and a highlighter.

What We Don’t Love: It only comes in one colorway.

There’s a special kind of willpower reserved for resisting the minis in the checkout line at Sephora, but this is an instance where you should take a second look. Whether you’re traveling somewhere warm, or just want to look like you did, this duo can fake a bronze better than your favorite self-tanner.

The dark blush-bronzer hybrid gives your cheekbones a warm, flushed finish, and when paired with the gleaming highlight, your skin will look like it’s taken a White Lotus-style vacation. We love how the creamy-powder texture feels on our skin and the smoothing effect it offers.

With only one set of tones, the deeper shade means it might give a more dramatic look on those with fair skin

Price at time of publish: $20

Number of Shades: 2 | Size: 0.14 oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes


What We Love: The creamy formula melts into the skin and adds dimension with minimal effort.

What We Don’t Love: It doesn't have the sturdiest packaging.

Vittorio recommends this palette from Melt because it “offers amazing highlight colors for deeper skin tones.” Each shade blends seamlessly, thanks to its creamy vegan formula, which is infused with hydrating ingredients.

Instead of your traditional palette, these five matte cream shades stay neatly stacked together with a magnet. Created specifically with dark skin tones in mind, each one complements a separate undertone — warm, olive, and neutral — to stave off a white or gray cast other shades can leave behind on darker complexions.

We know it doesn’t seem like a ton of product, but a little goes a long way with these pigmented shades, and they will last quite a while. We recommend lightly dabbing on the creamy colors with your fingers, blending it out with a brush, and, stopping to stare at yourself in every reflective surface.

One more suggestion: Keep this product’s box nearby if you plan on traveling with it because the magnetic stack isn’t as sturdy as a palette and can get damaged if the shades become unattached from each other.

Price at time of publish: $48

Number of Shades: 5 | Size: 0.66 oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes


What We Love: The smooth powder texture is beginner-friendly and the five bronzing shades compliment skin tones, from the fairest to the deepest.

What We Don’t Love: The bronzers aren’t as pigmented as other formulas, so you may need to dust on a few times, depending on the look you’re after.

Fenty’s palette is filled with five sun-kissed bronzer shades to instantly add dimension to your features and when used in tandem with the shimmery highlighters, your complexion will look like you just spent an afternoon at the beach, given your toasty warm glow.

Soh tells us the shades work well with most skin tones, and since the smooth powder texture blends without much effort, they’re a good option for beginners and experts alike.. Technically this is more a bronzing palette, but when used properly, you can achieve contour and bronzing in one fell swoop,” says Soh. He suggests using the cooler tones for contouring, followed by a “soft sweep of the warmer shades as a bronze.”

The subtle coverage makes this palette terrific for everyday makeup.

Price at time of publish: $48

Number of Shades: 7 | Size: 0.09 oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes


What We Love: The formula is lightweight and buildable, and the shade range is suitable for every season.

What We Don’t Love: The palette isn’t refillable.

We adore MAC's avant-garde colors and striking looks, especially on award-show stages, but the brand also knows how to formulate excellent products for everyday wear too. Case in point: This palette is filled with matte powder shades that give our skin a gorgeous, but not theatrical, finish.

Vittorio recommends this palette for anyone who wants an edited, simplified product with shades that can be worn for every season. This fine powder avoids a muddy or dry finish, no matter how many layers you apply,

The secret behind the subtle radiance provided by these highlighting shades is MAC’s use of soft-focus filter technology, which reflects light to provide a slight blurring effect similar to your favorite translucent powder, but better.

In typical MAC fashion, the palette is travel-friendly and sturdy, with a surprisingly large mirror. Our one wish would be that the brand made it refillable so that we could customize the colors and easily replace shades.

Price at time of publish: $41

Number of shades: 6 | Size: 0.50 oz | Cruelty-Free: No

Make Up For Ever

What We Love: This contour kit includes shades for your entire face, including foundation, concealer, contour, blush, and highlighter, all within one compact palette.

What We Don’t Love: You will probably run out of some products sooner than others.

If you want to save space in your cosmetics case, Make Up For Ever has you covered. Within this robust palette are hues intended for sculpting, highlighting, bronzing, and blushing. Just like its foundation palette, Correa says that “this one takes contour palettes to a different level” thanks to its color variety and wearable textures that feel comfortable on skin.

While convenience is critical for on-the-go MUAs, or even someone who likes to do a midday touchup, it’s the dewy radiance that has us coming back for more. There are 12 creamy colors in each palette, which is available in two different colorways for fair to medium tones as well as medium to dark.

The palette contains three cream foundations, four conceal and correct shades, two blushes, and one highlighter. And you can feel good about using each one because the clean, revamped formula contains less than one percent fragrance and leaves out synthetic waxes, BHT, and allergens that can trigger sensitive skin and leave an oily residue.

With all your products in one compact, you’ll inevitably run through one shade quicker than another, so we hope the brand will eventually make the palette refillable to avoid wasted products.

Price at time of publish: $85

Number of Shades: 6 | Size: 0.9 oz | Cruelty-Free: No

Your skin type, desired look, and experience level play a role in determining which formula, either cream or powder, is best for you. According to Vittorio, creams offer a brightening, dewy finish while powder tends to be more matte.

Ponton recommends reaching for cream-based products at the beginning of your makeup routine before you’ve applied any setting spray or powder. “Cream formulas are usually more blendable and easier to work with if you’re a beginner or not as confident in the look you’re creating,” she says.”

Those with oil-prone complexions will benefit from using a palette with both cream and powder, says Correa, like the Make Up For Ever All-In-One Face Palette. Tapping on a cream“allows for a very natural, skin-like finish,” he explains, and finishing the look with a little setting powder will lock your makeup in for all-day wear. For a more dramatic or dewy look, Correa suggests applying a creamy product on top of your foundation.

While some formulas easily blend into skin using just your fingers, Soh says that to get the best results, you should be using a brush specifically designed for contouring. Try ditching a big fluffy one for one that has more densely packed bristles or an angled top.

“You’re trying to carve out contours,” he explains.“Contouring requires a smaller brush to apply accurately and deliberately to hollow out an area.”

Some palettes such as the Lorac Contour Palette, include the tools you need for a flawless contour, but for those that don’t, we have a few suggestions on where to purchase one.

Where individual compacts only give you a single result (and hog space in your cosmetics bag), a huge advantage to contour palettes is their collection of hues to streamline the contouring process.“Most palettes should have multiple light and shimmer shades for highlighting and deeper tones for bronzing and contouring,” says Correa.

But you don’t necessarily need an extensive palette to achieve your makeup goals — smaller palettes, like the Tom Ford Shade and Illuminate Duo, still give you what you need to achieve to sculpt and highlight your features.

We can’t emphasize this enough: Less is more. The goal of contouring is to enhance your natural features, not create harsh lines. Correa recommends starting with matte highlighters first to avoid over-contouring or bronzing. “When you start with the deep shades, it might look ok until you apply a lighter shade right next to it, then it can be too bold.”

Next, use the light matte shades on the high planes of your face, including your cheekbones, nose bridge, above arches of brows, and chin. Buff the deeper shades down the sides of the nose, as well as right below your cheekbones in a diagonal, from your ear toward the side of your nose, and along the jawline. Finish by brushing the shimmer shades on any area you want extra radiance.

“Pro tip: I rarely use one color for what it is — I will gently tap into multiple deeper shades when adding contour or warming up the complexion as this will allow for a more dimensional finish,” says Correa.

Unlike choosing a foundation or concealer, Soh says that because contour palettes are trying to cover as many skin tones as possible, they usually only offer a couple of shades. “However, you can also mix colors to customize a shade that’s perfect for you,” he adds.

To find a cool tone optimal for your contour, Correa recommends picking hues that are at least two to three shades deeper than your complexion. Additionally, Soh suggests looking at your skin in a “well-lit, balanced environment” and choosing the shade that matches the color of the natural shadows on your face.

Irene Richardson is a writer covering fashion and beauty trends. For this story, she researched dozens of contour palettes, read reviews, and consulted four experts in the makeup industry — Vittorio Masecchia, J. Brandon Correa, Olivia Ponton, and Kenneth Soh.

What We Love: What We Don’t Love: Price at time of publish: $53Number of Shades: | Size: | Cruelty-Free: What We Love: What We Don’t Love: Price at time of publish: $9Number of Shades: | Size: | Cruelty-Free: What We Love: What We Don’t Love: Price at time of publish: $12Number of Shades: | Size: | Cruelty-Free: What We Love: What We Don’t Love: Price at time of Publish: $90Number of Shades:| Size: | Cruelty-Free: What We Love: What We Don’t Love: Price at time of Publish: $68Number of Shades: | Size: | Cruelty-Free: What We Love: What We Don’t Love: Price at time of publish: $49Number of Shades: | Size: | Cruelty-Free: What We Love: What We Don’t Love: Price at time of publish: $69Number of Shades: | Size: | Cruelty-Free: What We Love: What We Don’t Love: Price at time of publish: $45Number of Shades: | Size: | Cruelty-Free: What We Love: What We Don’t Love: Price at time of publish: $20Number of Shades: | Size: | Cruelty-Free: What We Love: What We Don’t Love: Price at time of publish: $48Number of Shades: | Size: | Cruelty-Free: What We Love: What We Don’t Love: Price at time of publish: $48Number of Shades: | Size: | Cruelty-Free: What We Love: What We Don’t Love: Price at time of publish: $41Number of shades: | Size: | Cruelty-Free: What We Love: What We Don’t Love: Price at time of publish: $85Number of Shades: | Size: | Cruelty-Free: