Makeup

Pressing loose eyeshadows: the basics

August 29, 2015
My experience pressing loose indie eyeshadows
My experience pressing loose indie eyeshadows

I’ve had a pile of loose eyeshadows that I’ve kept in a drawer, and I knew I needed to deal with them as I’ve been reorganizing my makeup since moving into a small Manhattan apartment. Pressing them and keeping them in magnetic palettes seemed like a great space-conscious solution, plus I knew that it’d help me reach for them on a more regular basis. I’ve gone through and pressed eyeshadow from five different brands and thought I’d show you the tools and process I used to do it.

First of all, I just want to say that I was kind of nervous about this, worried that I’d ruin my shadows, but it’s not very difficult and things turned out pretty well. It takes some time, but not much brain power. So if this is something you’ve been considering, I wholeheartedly recommend diving in.

Loose shadows in a drawer organizer
Loose shadows in a drawer organizer

I used to keep my pots of shadows in this jewelry drawer organizer thing, loosely grouped by color. I like using loose shadow formulas just fine, I’ve never really found them tricky and I’ve luckily never spilled a jar before, but my main problem is that it’s so hard to tell what I have. It’s just a mess.

The basic process of pressing is simply that you need to add a couple drops of some sort of binder (you can use glycerin, certain oils, or pre-made pressing medium solutions), enough alcohol to wet the mixture down (at least 90% isopropyl is generally recommended so that there isn’t enough water to make tin pans rust), and some empty pans to transfer them into (aluminum is rust-proof, but tin is magnetic). I bought everything from two places: some of the basics came from my nearby drugstore, and all makeup-specific tools came from TKB Trading.

Drugstore tools for pressing loose eyeshadows
Drugstore tools for pressing loose eyeshadows

Ok, so from the drugstore, I picked up:

– 91% isopropyl alcohol (very cheap, yay!)

– glycerin (not as cheap as I’d hoped, it cost me about $7)

– a 2-pack of home health care droppers ($2-3)

– extra fine Sharpie pens (luckily, on sale at the time for maybe $4)

– very small rectangular labels for the backs of pans (cheap)

I needed some help from a sales associate finding where they kept the glycerin, my binder of choice, but other than that these are all items that any drugstore should have on the shelves. I do recommend picking up two separate droppers as it’s helpful to have one for alcohol and one for glycerin. And, I had good luck with these really small rectangular labels because a whole one fits on the back of a 26mm pan and when cut in half they’ll work great on 15mm pans.

I also used a lot of paper towels.

TKB Trading tools for pressing loose eyeshadows
TKB Trading tools for pressing loose eyeshadows

Here’s what I grabbed from TKB Trading:

– press pack for 26mm round tin pans ($2.95)

– 26mm round tin pans – 2 packs of 25 ($5)

– press pack for 15mm round tin pans ($2.95)

– 15mm round tin pans – 2 packs of 25 ($7)

– 6 black rimmed jars, 5g ($3.25)

– wooden stir sticks – 1 pack of 20 ($0.75)

– set of 3 recipe spoons ($3)

– pressing ribbon ($1)

– shipping ($5.75)

I bought the basics, plus some. I knew I wanted both 15mm and 26mm pans, since I had full sized jars as well as mini jars and sample baggies to press, and bought pressing packs for both sizes. The pressing packs come with pressing tiles that fit into the pans to, well, press the shadows down. Once I got the basics into my cart, I was super excited about how cheap everything was, so the nice-to-haves I grabbed were things like wooden sticks (use toothpicks if you have them, I didn’t), recipe spoons for measuring powder (helpful if you want to only press a certain amount of a shadow rather than a whole jar), a ribbon to press a pretty texture into the shadows, and some extra jars in case I needed something to mix in (these ended up being pretty unnecessary but I still put them to use). The total, including USPS shipping, came to $31.65.

If you don’t want the press pack and ribbon, you can use a coin and a t-shirt.

Loose eyeshadows
Loose eyeshadows

I own shadows from 5 different brands, and I thought it’d make sense to work on them one brand at a time, since different companies package different amounts of shadow. I’ll talk through my basic process here, but next I’m going to write a post dedicated to discussing my notes and results from each brand of eyeshadow.

Loose eyeshadows
Loose eyeshadows

Lots of people have talked about their experience pressing shadows, and I watched and read as much as I could. I liked seeing multiple perspectives since everyone uses slightly different measurements and point out different tips. Here are a few great tutorials:

Shameless Fripperies: Fyrinnae Pressing Loose Eyeshadows Tutorial (video)

I love Karima’s YouTube channel anyways, and I trusted her recommendation for using 3 drops of binder for a Fyrinnae mini jar.

ItsKeerstin: Mixing Loose Pigments (video)

Love Kirsten’s channel, as well, and she specifically uses Shiro Cosmetics sample baggies in her tutorial. Her technique with the alcohol is different from a lot of the other tutorials I’ve seen (personally, I went back and forth between techniques depending on the individual shadow).

Portrait of Mai: Pressing Loose Eyeshadows (blog)

Mai has an index of 5 different posts she’s written about pressing shadows. I can’t exactly say I followed all of her advice, but it’s helpful stuff.

The Crafty Cosmetician: DIY Pressing Loose Eyeshadow and Pigment (blog)

This is a nice step-by-step with photos, and is very similar to the process I used.

I’ll show you my steps using the Shiro Cosmetics eyeshadow in Maiden Queen, from their Seven Kingdoms collection.

Pressing Shiro Cosmetics eyeshadow in Maiden Queen
Pressing Shiro Cosmetics eyeshadow in Maiden Queen

This is a full sized 2g jar, and for my Shiro and Concrete jars I decided to press a portion of them rather than the whole thing, so I removed the sifter (a table knife works great for this) and measured out about half of it into another jar.

Pressing Shiro Cosmetics eyeshadow in Maiden Queen
Pressing Shiro Cosmetics eyeshadow in Maiden Queen

I used the TKB measuring spoon, which is labeled as .5g, and measured out 2 packed and flattened spoonfulls (which visually looked like half of the full jar). Fun fact, these jars I purchased at TKB Trading are the exact same jars that Shiro uses.

Pressing Shiro Cosmetics eyeshadow in Maiden Queen
Pressing Shiro Cosmetics eyeshadow in Maiden Queen

For what measured out as 1g of shadow, or about .4 tsp, I used 2 drops of glycerin.

Pressing Shiro Cosmetics eyeshadow in Maiden Queen
Pressing Shiro Cosmetics eyeshadow in Maiden Queen

Mixed up with the wooden stick, this amount of binder makes the shadow look like wet sand (it will still feel dry, though). A lot of people use this “wet sand” texture as a visual indicator that there’s enough binder, but personally I don’t recommend going by what you see. I stuck with a set ratio that seemed to be working, as whether I got this visual indicator seemed to vary shadow by shadow sometimes. If you add too much binder trying to get this texture, you can kill the shadow and make it too hard. If you don’t add enough, you can always repress and add an extra drop or two.

Pressing Shiro Cosmetics eyeshadow in Maiden Queen
Pressing Shiro Cosmetics eyeshadow in Maiden Queen

Next comes the alcohol. Mixing in a couple of drops at a time, eventually it will reach a consistency where it balls up and stays together. Most of the shadows I had reached this consistency, and I found they were easiest to work with in this state, but a few were more gooey and sticky. If I had any trouble, I just added a few more drops so they were pourable. Adding extra alcohol doesn’t affect the final result since it will evaporate, it just creates a different consistency and changes how long it takes for the shadow to fully dry.

Pressing Shiro Cosmetics eyeshadow in Maiden Queen
Pressing Shiro Cosmetics eyeshadow in Maiden Queen

Spread the lump into an empty pan that’s been disinfected with a couple drops of alcohol beforehand. If it’s just wet enough, I found I could actually tap the pan against the table a few times and it would smooth itself out, plus it should get any air bubbles out.

You can stop there and the shadow will be perfectly fine once it’s dry, but I like the pretty texture so I’d let it sit for a bit (depends on how wet I made I made it, around 20 minutes to an hour) press a paper towel into it to sop up any excess alcohol, and then press the ribbon into it. I start gently to make sure the shadow is firm enough and that I’m not hitting it at an angle, and then lean into it with more force.

Either way, the shadows just need to sit and dry for 12 hours or so. 24 hours is safer if they were extra wet.

Pressing Shiro Cosmetics eyeshadow in Maiden Queen
Pressing Shiro Cosmetics eyeshadow in Maiden Queen

For the mini jars, I mixed them up in the jars they came in, which is super convenient. For the full sizes that I partially transferred, I just wish I had a little glass bowl to mix them in. I ended up spending most of my time cleaning out the jars to reuse, which was really annoying. A small bowl would have been easier to wipe clean. The smaller sample baggies got mixed in a spoon.

Shiro Cosmetics pressed eyeshadows
Shiro Cosmetics pressed eyeshadows

Here are the rest of the Shiro Cosmetics shadows I pressed. The large (26mm) pans are from my full sizes and the one mini (15mm) is from a sample bag.

Victorian Disco pressed shadows
Victorian Disco pressed shadows

I had the full collection of Victorian Disco‘s Sailor Scouts collection in mini jars, so they all fit into 15mm pans.

Fyrrinae pressed shadows
Fyrrinae pressed shadows

This is my Fyrrinae collection, the majority of which are mini jars which make for very full 15mm pans. The last two on the far right were free samples, which are much smaller amounts of shadow.

Concrete Minerals pressed shadows
Concrete Minerals pressed shadows

My Concrete Minerals collection was mostly full sized, with a couple of sample bags.

DreamWorld Hermetica pressed shadows
DreamWorld Hermetica pressed shadows

And a small collection of DreamWorld Hermetica. These were mostly mini jars, with a couple of sample bags. Some of those mini jars were a little full for 15mm pans, so one of them got dumped into a 26mm pan, and another one created two nearly full 15mm pans (the sage green color in the lower right).

Specifics on the individual brands are to come.

Generally, the color, finish, and quality of each shade seems to have been retained in the pressed versions. The subtleties of each shade are actually more visible in the pressed form than in the loose jars, so it makes it easier to know what color to expect when applied to the skin. For example, I always felt that a lot of the darker Victorian Disco shades looked very similar to each other in the jar, and now they look much more differentiated and true in the pans. So that’s a great benefit, even in addition to the smaller size and more convenient format.

I’ve been playing around with them and for the most part everything seems to have turned out pretty great. I need to go through and methodically swatch all of them, but out of the ones I’ve tried so far, I’ve only really found one that seems kind of hard. On the whole, I’ve been really pleased!

Have you ever tried pressing loose shadows? I would love to hear how it worked for you and whether you discovered any helpful tips!

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https://beautyloon.com/2015/08/29/pressing-loose-eyeshadows-the-basics/
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  1. Wow, great job! I tried pressing my loose shadows last summer (Fyrinnae and Dreamworld Hermetica), but I only made it through one shadow before I got irritated with the process. It was just so messy and time consuming.

    Yours turned out beautifully though!

    1. Aw, haha, I can understand your feelings. While it took me a few days to get through these, I tried to power through and not take too long of a break so that I wasn’t tempted to abandon the project. It’s definitely kind of tedious! It makes it SO much easier for me to use the shadows on a regular basis, though.

      1. Agreed, mine are all sitting in a box and hardly used. Also, I bet there is a lot less fallout when they’re pressed. I always find loose shadows to get everywhere and leave lots of sparkles on my face 🙁

        I bet it would be easier to do the mixing process in a small artist’s palette with little wells. Maybe if I pick one up, I might get back into this project.

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