Shay Mitchell's Makeup Artist Explains How to Highlight Different Skin Tones

Don't know where to start when it comes to highlighting and contouring? Patrick Ta is here to help


Celeb makeup artist, Patrick Ta (Photo: Velour Lashes)

If you’ve been creeping Shay Mitchell on Instagram, you’ll see Patrick Ta’s signature golden glow all over her feed. Besides the Pretty Little Liars actress, the makeup artist has perfected the faces of celebs like Jennifer Lopez, Gigi Hadid and Kourtney Kardashian.

Lately, Ta has been making the rounds with Velour Lashes on the brand’s Live in Lash Tour, where he’s spilling some of his best-kept secrets during a master class. Obviously, we had to be there. And we used the opp to find out his pro techniques for highlighting and contouring for different skin tones.

How to Highlight Fair Skin

For lighter skin tones, Ta recommends a highlighting powder that’s pearlescent and bright, like the Tarte Amazonian Clay 12-Hour Highlighter in Stunner. You can be more generous with the amount of highlighter you apply when you are on the paler side, because anything that’s pearlescent will blend into your skin quite easily. Try applying a powder highlighter with a synthetic brush to pick up the maximum amount of product.


If you have a porcelain complexion, there’s one thing you want to avoid when selecting your contour shade: using a product with too much yellow in it. “You want to find a contour colour that has grey undertones, otherwise it’s not going to look as sculpted or defined.” Grey tones are best for mimicking actual shadows, so you’ll get a more natural-looking sculpted face. Ta’s favourite for fair skin is the Kevin Aucoin Sculpting Contour Powder in Light.

How to Highlight Medium Skin

For his clients with olive skin, Ta recommends a champagne-toned highlighter to amp up a luminous glow. “I love the Becca Cosmetics Champagne Pop. It glides on smoothly and it’s very versatile for someone who is medium toned.” He recommends starting with a less-is-more approach—if you want more shimmer and shine, you can always layer up.


For a client with a medium complexion, like Shay Mitchell , Ta uses the Tom Ford Shade and Illuminate. “I love this for medium skin tones because it’s dewy, easy to blend and has a great finish that compliments the skin well when creating dimension.” Because medium skin can have a wide range of undertones, make sure to spot test first.

How to Highlight Deep Skin

If you have a warm to deeper complexion, find a palette with a variety of shades that you can use to customize your highlight, like the Anastasia Beverly Hills Glow Kit in Sun Dipped. The contrast between a highlighting shade against a deeper skin tone can look more dramatic, so use your product sparingly to keep it looking natural.


Getting chiseled cheekbones *is* possible for deep complexions, and Ta has his go-to formula down pat. “For deeper skin tones, I mix M.A.C Pro Longwear Concealer in NW45 with NC45 to create the perfect contour shade.” A common mistake, he says, is choosing products that are too light.

Highlighting Tips for All Skin Tones

Ta says, “Every skin type should moisturize before contouring and highlighting. Hydrated skin will result in your face looking as luminous as possible.” Then it all comes down to placement: Ta applies a luminous highlighting powder onto the planes of the face (the bridge of the nose, sides of the cheekbones, brow bone and the cupid’s bow).

While you want to focus your highlight on these areas, don’t restrict yourself from adding a little shimmer elsewhere: Ta sees highlighting powders as multi-purpose products, and runs them across clients’ eyelids, inner corners of the eyes, and underneath bronzer for a warm and radiant finish all over.

But it’s important to note that while we see all manners of glitter beaming through our screens on Instagram, Ta says a shimmery, iridescent highlighter might not be best for everyone. “If a client I’m working on has a bit of texture on their skin, I won’t apply highlighter on that area. It can make the texture look more visible, so go for a matte highlighting powder instead.”

His secret for a long-lasting carved canvas? Simplicity: he doesn’t rely on a primer or setting spray—sometimes layering your products and using a pressing motion to blend with a sponge is just enough, Ta says. This prevents your face from looking too “done” and gives you that “no filter” finish.

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