The best eyeshadow palettes should, at a minimum, have an assortment of shades that you can use daily to define your eyes. A great eyeshadow palette does that and gives you options for when you want to flex your creative muscles and try new colors or amp things up for a special occasion. So how do you choose the right palette for your needs? As your friendly neighborhood beauty editor, I’m here to walk you through seven of my standby’s that get the job done every single time.
If you’re new to makeup or are more of a minimalist when it comes to your routine, I’d recommend this petite palette from Fenty. It’s just slightly bigger than the palm of your hand and holds six, easy-to-wear neutrals from a creamy ivory to a shimmery rose and espresso brown that’s perfect for defining your lashline. Each of the shadows are satisfyingly rich in pigment and are as buildable as they are blendable. Also of note: The portable palette has a handy mirror inside for touchups and can be snapped together with any of the eight other options (including a set of shimmering pastels or deep earth tones) to create your own customizable palette. Rih really knows best.
Another option for the everyday minimalist, this palette from Ilia is also made sans parabens, phthalates or synthetic fragrances, making it one of the cleanest on this list. Whether you’re into clean beauty or not, you will love the slim compact and velvety texture of these shadows. There are six shades in total in a variety of matte, satin and shimmer finishes. And if you’re into warmer tones like terracotta and rose like I am, this is a must buy for you. (If you prefer cooler tones, the brand has a palette to suit your needs as well.)
You can’t talk about eyeshadow palettes and not mention Anastasia Beverly Hills (or ABH as the beauty diehards call her). Simply put, ABH’s palettes are expertly curated and exceptionally pigmented. That said, it was hard to choose my favorite, but in the end, I went with this limited-edition collaboration with YouTube star, Jackie Aina.
Each of the 14 shades in this palette are impossibly buttery and sweep onto your lids with little to no effort and the colors themselves play off each other so you can create any look you want. For example, a day at the office calls for a simple sweep of “Soleil,” which is a soft golden peach shimmer, while a night out with the girls might call for some “Big Wig” (a rich plum) with a pop of “Shookington” (a metallic violet) on top. Bonus: Every ABH palette comes with a compact, double-ended brush that has a flat end to deposit color, highlight, or pack shadow onto the lid and a fluffy end to diffuse and blend it all out.
For the ingredient and sustainably minded, this palette checks all of the boxes—and then some. Formulated with organic coconut oil and shea butter, the colorful array of shadows have a smooth, velvety texture for easy blending and the packaging itself is fully recyclable. Add to that the gorgeous selection of taupes, browns and purples and you’ve got yourself a solid 12 shades to choose from (though I’m partial to “Mystic,” an iridescent ivory that brightens everything it touches).
If you love to play with color, this painterly palette is for you. With 39 intense shades from a tangerine orange to a fuchsia pink (and a lime green!), you can experiment with a different shade every day of the week and still not run out of options. Fear not—there are also plenty of muted hues that are suitable for more subtle looks as well. And for just under 40 dollars, it’s a pretty solid bargain (which is probably why it’s a fan favorite with over 3,000 reviews and 4.5 stars on Ulta alone).
For the Sephora fanatic, you’ll want to get your hands on this stunning palette curated by Christen Dominique, the popular beauty influencer and makeup guru. With ten shades in total, the palette offers just enough variety to give you lots of options without making you feel overwhelmed. From a matte taupe to a shimmery rose gold and a striking plum or mocha brown, each of the shadows apply beautifully and can be used all over the lid or in strategic spots—like the inner corners of your eyes or just along the lashline—for an added pop. I’ve also been impressed with the longevity of these shadows; the initial fallout is minimal to nonexistent and the colors don’t fade throughout the day like some others I’ve tried.
It feels right to end with Pat McGrath, as everything she touches is a literal work of art. From the custom illustrations on the outer packaging to the luxe lacquered case and, of course, the shadows themselves, this couture palette elevates the daily experience of applying your makeup. That said, it comes at a price…to the tune of 125 dollars. (You can’t hear me, but I just gave a low whistle.)
What I will say is this: If you can afford it, her shadows are truly unique. Take, for instance, Blitz Blue, which is described as a “vivid sapphire,” and honey, vivid is an understatement. The blue glitters and shines in a way that makes people stop you in the street and ask what you’re wearing. (Tip: Keep an eye out for some of the bigger sales at Sephora throughout the year; the palette has been offered at a discount in the past.)