Teen Corner: My pigment-pressing experience

Teen Corner

Sorry my column is late this week! You see, there’s this boy… and I think I like him, and we’ve been hanging out and all. Which makes the weekend fly by and before I know it, my mom is nagging me about Teen Corner and why haven’t I written my entry because there’s readers waiting.

To this, I laugh. Because I highly doubt there’s anyone out there waiting for my Teen Corner entry! (And if there actually was someone interested in what I have to say, she’s probably very happy for me that there’s this boy…)

What I did have time to do this weekend is experiment with pressing MAC pigments into pans. Every time my mom receives a package from the MAC PR department with samples of the new collections, my sister and I go nuts. Bonkers , really. And then Mom says no, we can’t have this, or we can’t have that because she wants to give it away to her readers. (No offense, readers—but if you were in my position, you would want to keep it all for yourself, too!)

In the end, she let us keep a few pigments and some brush sets.

MAC pigments and I have a love/hate relationship. I love how they apply smoothly and allow me to vary the color intensity with layers. I hate how the powder gets EVERYWHERE (I’ve spilled more bottles of pigment than I care to admit). The other issue I have with pigments is that my sister and I like the same colors. This means there’s a lot of stomping from my room to hers (and her room to mine) to snatch back a pigment that we each like to think is exclusively ours, even though we’ve been given strict orders to share . (Sharing is not something either of us is fond of.)

So this weekend, as we were fighting over who was going to keep the Sweet Sienna pigment from the MAC Royal Assets holiday collection, I suggested we press the pigment into pans so we could each have our own. I’m so clever!

If you’ve never tried pigment-pressing, here’s what you need:

  • Pigment
  • Empty pans (I used ELF Cosmetics pans for $1 each, but you can also use old MAC eye shadow pans)
  • Rubbing Alcohol
  • Quarter (or, a Chuck E. Cheese token, which is a little larger and fits better into the ELF Cosmetics pans—a quarter is perfect for the MAC eye shadow pans)
  • Cheesecloth or some other thin cloth (I used a Kate Spade handbag dust cover which threw my mom into a tailspin when she saw that I had cut it up! Word of Advice: If you want to use a dust cover from your mom’s closet, you should probably ask first .)
  • Toothpick, bobby pin or some other small object for stirring
  • Optional–small spray bottle for alcohol

In your empty eye shadow pan, mix alcohol and pigment–stirring with a toothpick or bobby pin–into a paste. (I used a baby medicine dropper to add alcohol in small amounts.) Fill the pan to the rim with this paste and let dry.

While I was waiting for this to dry, I fixed all my cracked eye shadows—which made me soooo happy. I now open my MAC palette and see perfectly perfect eye shadows. It’s amazing.

Here’s how I fixed them: With a toothpick, break up the cracked portion of the shadow and smooth out. (For your much-used shadows where there’s a circle of pan showing at the bottom, break up the remaining shadow and smooth over the entire pan.) You’re pretty much making your eyeshadow look like pigment powder. With a small spray bottle (the kind that sprays a fine mist) filled with alcohol, spray from about 18 inches away until the shadow is damp, then you can get closer with the spray bottle to soak the powder with alcohol. (If you go too close before the shadow is damp, you’ll blow it all over creation with the pressure of the spray.)

Wait a minute or two and press hard with a quarter wrapped in fabric. The fabric will absorb any excess alcohol and you’re left with a perfectly smooth eye shadow–no cracks!

Because the pigments are saturated with alcohol, they take a lot longer to dry. I waited a full day before pressing them with my Chuck E. Cheese token (I was using the Elf pans for my pigments). I made the mistake of trying to press Sweet Sienna after just a few hours, and this is what happened:

Sweet Sienna blue dye

In addition to the alcohol, the cloth also soaked up blue dye from the pigment. Oops!

So I made another pan and here’s how they turned out:

Sweet Sienna pressed pigments

The funny thing is, both of these Sweet Sienna pressed pigments look NOTHING like the original pigment.

Here’s the swatches:

Sweet Sienna swatches

I think it’s safe to say that I messed up on that one. The good news is that I now have two new shades of eye shadow—I’m calling them Sweeter Sienna and Sweetest Sienna !

All was not lost, however. I did end up with several pressed pigments that turned out good:

Forest Green Swatch

Sweet Sienna and Forest Green are my two favorite pigments from the MAC holiday collections. They are even more gorgeous than they appear in these photos.

If some chemist/mad scientist out there knows why my Sweet Sienna turned blue after adding rubbing alcohol, I’d really like to know (especially since I can’t detect any blue in the original pigment)!

Thanks, mwah!

PS- Here’s Bailey and me in our Fook Mi and Fook You Halloween costumes:

Bree and Bailey Halloween (Fook Mi and Fook You)

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Posted in Makeup Bag, Teen Corner


  • Thanks for the tutorial! The pigments look great! I love your Halloween costumes.

    HEIDI (Reply)
  • I’m no teen (far from it), but I always look forward to your posts!! And I’m happy to hear about the boy too. Good luck!

  • LOL Your guys are adorable 😉 and gorgeous!

    Thanks for the pressing tut this is super helpful 😉

    Good luck with that boy and I’ll miss you when you aren’t posting of course but I’ll do my best to understand it’s all about “young” lurve 😉

  • Great article! Hope all goes well with ‘the boy’…

  • i love this part of the blog…keep trying on the pressed pigment..i’ve seen tutorials, but never had the nerve to press my pigments too…! have fun

  • i think wanting to know why the pigments changed color was the first time i wanted to know about science! haha

    fyi, i lovee ur posts!

    Whitney (Reply)
  • Lovely pictures and what a surprise with Sweeter and Sweetest!

    Susan (Reply)
  • the costumes look awesome!! lucky boy he is.

    you are wrong though; some of us really do look forward to your corner of the world.

    Laura (Reply)
  • The costumes are adorable and I know how you feel. I blow things off for boys all the time. I should really stop doing that. I most certainly wait in anticipation for your entries, more so than the regular entries. Teen Corner is my special treat. Its the first thing I do on Saturday. Usually I end up checking several times like a crack addict for you to post, but this one was well worth the wait. Great job.

  • Oh and the pigment color change may be due to copper. We did this lab in chem where we took copper and turned it blue. Eh who knows? I’m not doing so well in that class.

  • great costumes ladies!

  • Hi – just as well that I read your post! I just bought a pigment pressing kit and would have probably (in my impatience) have also pressed the cloth in too early. Just a tip: according to the instructions that I got with my kit, you should put the pressed pigment into a low oven (about 90C) for a couple of hours, then press the cloth in with a coin or other heavy object. I suppose this is better than waiting a whole day for the pigment to dry! Will try it this weekend, and update if I have a lab disaster.

    Annie (Reply)
  • Hi there!

    I’m not a teen either (I’m 25) but I really love your posts: your style of writing is so young and fresh, I get to have some insight into the life of an American teenager (I was an English major at uni so every bit of info on American culture is a treat for me) and most of all you give some really useful beauty tips.

    I actually have a theory regarding the color-changing pigment. I did actually detect some blue in the original swatch which made me assume that perhaps the pigment is made up of (at least) two kinds of minerals: a lighter and a heavier one. You mixed the stuff with alcohol (a liquid!) so what if the heavier one (the actual sienna shade) sank down to the bottom of the pan due to it being heavier, while the smaller amount of blue shimmer in it floated atop? If this is the case you might eventually find yourself face to face with the sienna shade as you use up the upper layers. (Do I sound like a nerd? In any case I’ll shut up now… :-))

    Good luck with the boy!

  • I look forward to your posts too! =)

    Claudia (Reply)
  • Great tutorial. I actually like the Sweeter and Sweetest Sienna better than the original.

    Good luck with the boy!

  • I always look forward to your posts as well! What a cool, creative way to make pigments into eyeshadows!
    Whenever I get a free hour or two I’m definitely going to try and repair some of my broken eyeshadows.
    (…and I *am* happy for you and your friendboy!)

    Ashley Samantha (Reply)
  • Hey. I live on the other side of the world and i always look forward to your blog. Enjoy your teen years as much as you can because once it’s gone you can’t have it back. Wish i did that; goodluck with the boy ey. Now i have to rush down to the MAC counter and get a pot of Sweet Sienna, it looks good

  • Hey – I was on the e.l.f. site looking for the pans, but I didn’t see any. Where did you find them?

    Heather (Reply)
  • Hey Bree!

    I totally love your “corner” and I never even heard of pigment pressing, and after reading your tutorial, it was exactly what I needed to fix my cracked Stila Kitten shadows. I had one cracked and bought a new one and then I dropped that and cracked. I felt like I was not destined to have kitten, but after pressing them, they work bautifully and are no longer ugly bits of a whole!

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