How to Apply Makeup With Q-Tips

Here are a few things you can do to rescue your makeup game with q-tips when you don’t have makeup brushes. Your makeup won’t be perfect and you are limited by this technique but it works for simple looks.

There are four types of q-tips/cotton swabs. There are the classic q-tips with rounded ends, precision q-tips with pointed ends, flat ended ones that look like paddles and the type with the precision end on one side and the flat paddle on the other. I know the Q-tips brand carries the classic and the precision styles. Other brands sell the other styles.

Flat paddle-large areas on the lid, crease color,


Swipe the flat side in a powder, gel, creme or pigment eyeshadow. Then apply the shadow to your eye.

Use the flat side to rub and blend the shadow in a swiping and circular motion. The color payoff may vary according to the product and a lot of powders will attach to the cotton. I used Kat Von D eyeshadow which is very pigmented, so I still got a good color payoff.

Classic- lash line, soft cut crease, inner corner highlight


For a soft cut crease, repeat but apply to the crease and smudge it out with the classic or paddle.


Dip the end in a shadow and smudge and with small, short strokes on lash line to build up intensity or swipe in a single stroke for a diffuse line.



The inner corner is simple, dip your tip into a highlighting creme, shadow or liquid and apply to inner corner and blend.

Precision- eyeliner, cut crease, lash line


For both the cut crease and eyeliner, use the tip to create a line. You won’t be able to get a super thin cutting edge line but if you are resorting to q-tips for your makeup it will probably work.