Underpainting: The Mary Phillips technique

Underpainting: The Mary Phillips technique

You have no doubt spotted the underpainting beauty trend all over TikTok, seen on beauty icons like Hailey Bieber and Kendall Jenner, but where did it come from and how can you get the look?  

Celebrity makeup artist Mary Phillips is one of the industry’s most sought-after artists, and often credited with popularising this technique in the beauty world, though it is a technique that has been used in art for hundreds of years.  

Underpainting has its roots in oil painting, being used as a base layer to build contrast, light and values on a flat canvas, before evolving to be an easy beauty hack to get a flawless and sculpted look.  

In makeup, it means applying your sculpting products (like contour and highlight) before you apply your foundation. This diffuses the colour and gives your sculpting a soft and natural blend. 

Get started by prepping your skin with some SPF and our oil-free Sherbet Glow Primer – a hydrating and smoothing makeup primer.  


The first step in underpainting is to contour. Each face shape suits slightly different contour placements, so head to our contour guide here to find out where you should place yours or use the image below as a general guide for any shape. After dabbing our Instant Contour Cream Bronzer onto the desired areas, blend and buff the contour gently into the skin using our Pro Foundation & Buffing Brush or Highlight & Contour Makeup Blender 

Contour placement for all face shapes


To highlight and emphasize a sculpted look, highlight is the next step. Applying it to your forehead, nose, chin and beneath your cheekbone contour will give your face extra dimension and provide a great contrast to the contour. Our new Luminous Highlighter Pen was specifically formulated to give your face sculpting and lifting, and its small in-built brush makes it an easy and effortless underpainting tool.  

Highlight placement for all face shapes

Bonus step: Setting Spray: 

At this point in the process, makeup artist Dana Vaughan likes to give herself a misting of our Ultra Lock Setting Spray. By spraying it between layers of your makeup, you increase the longevity of your overall makeup look. Our nourishing and hydrating formula is ideal for all skin types 

After applying the setting spray, Vaughan blends in the highlight. You can do this with one of the small sponges from our three-piece Essential Makeup Blender Kit, with clean fingers or with our Pro All-Over Eyeshadow Brush 

Contour and highlight placement guide


Now, the underpainting is complete – but your look isn’t. It is time to move onto foundation, and Vaughan reaches for our Ultrastay Flawless Foundation, a buildable to full coverage natural matte finish liquid foundation. Buff it in gently all over your face using our Pro Foundation & Buffing Brush or our Magic Makeup Blender 


Now that your sculpting and base is complete, it is time to add some colour into those cheeks. Dab a few spots of our Highlight & Glow Beauty Wand in Blush Glow onto your cheeks before blending with our Pro Angled Blush Brush. Add more depth and colour with our Cheek & Lip Tint in Dusk.  

Once you are happy with your underpainted sculpt and base, you can finish off your look with some XtendLash and Sheer Tint Lip Balm to tie it all together before giving yourself a final spritz of setting spray.  

This technique, combined with a well curated selection of the MCoBeauty synthetic makeup brushes and tools, will give you that Hailey Beiber-like natural sculpt that social media has gone wild for.