Cosmetic swatch styling is one of my product styling specialities. So what exactly is swatch styling? Basically, skincare, and makeup companies like to show their product, the color, the texture, to their potential customers. But of course a blob of product isn’t exactly attractive. So beauty companies hire a product stylist like myself to use palette knives, pastry knives, and even pottery tools to style the “goo” as it were. Here are some of my recent swatch work and stay tuned for a course on cosmetic swatch styling that I will be producing shortly.

cosmetic still life stylist | | photo: Michelle Monique

The tools I have in styling kit for swatching include a variety of palette knives, in different shapes and sizes, but they main technique is the same when creating the actual makeup swatch itself. To create a swatch you need to have just the right pressure and a smooth, even, movement. I started learning to style makeup swatches pretty simply – I bought cheap makeup, found one video that had one clip where it showed a swatch stylist working with a eyeshadow, and then I practiced and practiced. To be sure goo is frustrating, eyeshadows even more so, it does take a while to get just the right cosmetic swatches with pretty trailing tails. Foundations also tend to be tricky and brands vary widely in the actual consistency of the product from thick to watery. Generally, masks and lotions are the easiest to style as they swatch really well.

eyeshadow swatch stylist los angeles | photo: brittany bravo | IBY Beauty

Why are palette knives used to style cosmetics you might ask? I recently came across a video from the 50’s where they were mixed various shades by hand to create a customized color for a pressed powder. To create the makeup shade they mixed various powders together with a large palette knife. This is where I suspect this idea came from (though if anyone has any more knowledge on the history of swatch styling, hit me up, I am quite curious). In any case, cosmetic and skincare styling is probably among the hardest types of styling (followed by jewelry which has its own challenges).

product styling beauty | | photo: Michelle Monique

Of course cosmetic styling isn’t just limited to swatching, it also involves making goo in containers look attractive as well. For this photo shoot for Kylie Cosmetics I added more of the mask to the container to create the perfect whipped swirl that lots of brands like. To create the swirl you either simply use your finger (high tech I know) or a skinny dowel or skewer. It generally takes a littler experimenting to see what will work with best with that particular beauty product – since each type of goo is somewhat unique. Mask textures and lotions are pretty easy to whip up, denser cold creams don’t really work with this look and have to be sculpted and shaved to look camera ready.

cosmetic still life stylist product stylist | | photo: Michelle Monique for Kylie Skin
product styling beauty | | photo: Michelle Monique

Other textures beauty companies like to use to showcase their product is a brushed look. To create this I used a regular paint brush painted to create this swatch. Of course, as with all cosmetic swatching you basically get one shot, and then you have start from scratch if it doesn’t go well. This is one the reasons makeup swatch styling is so difficult – there’s no saving a swatch if one color has bled into another color and so on. Certainly, patience is the most important tool when styling cosmetic swatches.

product cosmetic beauty styling los angeles | | Photo: Michelle Monique

Kylie Cosmetics and Kylie Skin, Florence by Mills, Sheglam photos by Michelle Monique. IBY Beauty by Brittany Bravo.