How-To: Rock Out as Professor Plum

By Voxy  

Ow! Stop throwing things! OK, it was a bad pun, but I couldn’t resist. Put down that candlestick at once. At once, I say!

::dusts self off::

The other day A Biologist asked about how one could wear the plum shades that are so trendy for this fall without looking like one had just come from a vampire party. While I am in favor of vampire parties so long as they don’t involve the drinking of blood (and, in particular, mine), I agree that for work a more subtle way to incorporate trends is very helpful.

An easier way to incorporate most trends is to play with them on the eyes. There are exceptions, of course: if red lipstick is haute this year, then nothing but a red lippie/gloss will do (though even then you can modify the intensity of the red to your comfort level). But unless the it color is red or pink or coral, you’re probably looking at eye makeup as the easiest way to incorporate it.

Liners, Shadows, Mascaras

There are three main ways to use plums on the eyes (and for the purposes of this discussion I’ve opened it up to all shades of violet, though I’m trying to focus mainly on the warmer ones): eyeliners, eyeshadows, and tinted mascaras. You can use these together or separately, as you like, though I probably wouldn’t do all three in the same look.

Below are two swatches of (almost) every plum/berry/purple eyeliner I own. For some reason I did not include the recently-reviewed MAC Superslick in Smoky Heir (though I did incorporate it into one of the looks below). One swatch is in sunlight, the other in indirect natural light.


1. MAC Fluidline in Macroviolet (link) — gel
2. Physician’s Formula Shimmer Strips Cream Liner (review here) — gel
3. Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Eyeliner Pencil in Ransom (review here) — pencil
4. MAC Pearlglide Eye Liner in Designer Purple (limited edition, Spring 10; review here) — pencil
5. Rimmel Exaggerate Full Colour Eye Definer in 281 Aubergine (discontinued color? New product page here) — pencil
6. Kat von D Autograph Eye Liner in Turbo Lover (link) — liquid
7. Stila Convertible Eye Color in Berry (to be reviewed; link here) — pencil
8. MAC Pearlglide Eye Liner in Almost Noir (limited edition, Spring 10; review here) — pencil
9. NYC Automatic Eye Pencil in Plum Perfect (link) — pencil
10. Barbie Loves Stila Smudge Pot in Purple Pumps (link) — gel
11. Milani Infinite Liquid Liner in Endless (review here) — liquid

(By the way — the most difficult to get off my arm later? The Milani Infinite liquid liner. That thing did not want to budge.)

If you’re going to play with liner as a color, there are three basic ways to do it:

1. with same-color-family shadows
2. with neutral shadows
3. with a contrasting color family of shadows

I have four examples.

With same-color-family shadows

Because purples can be either warm or cool, I did two different looks here. One is a warm purple going into a warm taupe (warm purple going into magentas and pinks is not so good for eye looks). Taupes are mostly neutral, so this is a neutral-ish eye, but still with a plum tinge.

Look #1: Warm plums and taupe

Sorry, the closed-eye photo of this one didn’t turn out for some reason.

Liners used: Kat von D Autograph liquid liner in Turbo Lover (top); MAC Pearlglide in Almost Noir (bottom)
Shadows: MAC Satin Taupe on lid and traveling up towards browbone; deep wine with shimmer shade (second-to-right) from LORAC Private Affair Palette blended into crease and on outer third of lid (review and swatch here)
Other stuff: TFSI, Lancome Definicils mascara, Tarte emphasEYES brow pencil. I use these in all the remaining looks.

Look #2: Cool purples and violet

I do wear purple eyeshadow to work, so this is a look I actually wear. Here I’m using a cooler purple liner and blending it in with cooler purple shadows. If your liners lean warm and you want to stay within the same color family, stick with warm shadow colors; if they lean cool, pair ’em with other cool colors.

As you can see, from the side it doesn’t look all that intense.

Liners used: MAC Pearlglide in Designer Purple (top), NYC Automatic Eye Pencil in Plum Perfect (bottom)
Shadows used: Urban Decay Deluxe Shadows in Ransom and Frigid (blended together over lid and up towards brow bone); ULTA Vineyard in crease. Sorry for the sloppy blending. Nothing makes you see all the things didn’t realize you did wrong like sticking your face in a tungsten light tent and taking a picture. Yeesh.

With neutral shadows

You can take a regular simple neutral eye and pair a colored liner with it for a bit of pop. This is probably the easiest way to do it. Keep the shadow to a simple wash.

Look #3: Violet with neutral browns

Liners used: MAC Superslick in Smoky Heir with NYC Automatic Eye Pencil in Plum Perfect (top); NYC liner on bottom as well. The Superslick liners don’t blend on their own very well, but you can drag a pencil through them while they’re still tacky to pull out the line and blend it. This is a more vivid look in real life than it appears in the picture, but still very work-appropriate.
Shadows used: UD eyeshadow in Stray Dog and Deluxe Eyeshadow in Underground, applied as a simple wash all over the eye area.

With contrasting-color shadows

I love the combination of warm plum with warm coppery-rose colors like those in the LORAC Croc Palette, which provided the shadows for this last look. Why these colors work is that they’re contrasting but similar; they are all warm and tend towards red rather than blue. (In your box of crayons, it would be like red-purple and red-orange together.)

Look #4: Warm plum with sunset coppers

The only thing I might change about this look is that I’d consider tightlining with a MAC fluidline gel liner in either Macroviolet (er, violet) or Blacktrack (er, black) before putting the Stila berry liner on. The top lash line could do with a bit more definition.

Liners used: Stila Convertible Eye Color in Berry (top); MAC Pearglide in Almost Noir (top and bottom)
Shadows used: Moonstone, Serenity, and Garnet from the LORAC Croc Palette (review and swatches here)


After I had finished the looks above, I remembered that I had an unopened Almay Intense I-Color mascara lying around, so I decided to try it out. Since I already had black mascara on, applying the plum-colored mascara on top doesn’t make a huge difference. This week I’m going to try to use it on its own and see how well it works. But here is the product, and here also are the last two looks shot again with a coat of Almay tinted mascara (shade: Raisin Quartz) on top.

Subtle, but you can see it if you’re looking for it.


If you want to go big, there are plenty of dark berry and plum lip shades hitting counters now. The new MUFE Rouge Artist Intense series has some serious plums (#14 and #49 come to mind), and MAC always has some interesting less-common shades (Cunning and Kittenish are very bold plum/red shades). For most of us these would probably not be appropriate work looks.

One thing you can do, though, is pick up a plum gloss and wear it either alone or on top of another lippie to darken and deepen it. I have an order in for Guerlain Kiss Kiss Gloss Serum in shade 462 Violine for just this purpose. (And come on, it’s a music term, how can I resist?) I’ll be reviewing it and swatching it as soon as it comes in. I swatched several of these glosses at the counter and this was a lovely berry color. (The 420 Vermillion would be a fantastic shade for anyone looking for a red lip in gloss form; as you know I also like the Three Custom Color gloss in Candy Apple, and the fact that I already owned the 3CC one was the single thing that prevented me from snapping up the Vermillion as well. Hello, restraint — nice to meet you. Come around a little more often, will you?)

Delicious, scrumptious-looking plum photo by
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  1. avatar baz
    Posted September 11, 2010 at 1:43 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I have the Rimmel Aubergine. Some place suggested that my color brown eyes are most flattered by purple liners. Even though I most often go with the heavy, matte, black liquid liner I really do think the plums are the best color for me and have been wanting to purchase other options. This will be helpful.

    I can’t seem to get the liner as thin as I’d like. It might be me or the Rimmel.


    • avatar Voxy
      Posted September 11, 2010 at 2:22 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Yay for successful color experimentation!

      I would bet it’s the Rimmel, not you. Those automatic pencils are hard to keep really sharp, so I usually don’t even try. If I want a sharp line, I go for a gel/cream (preferably) or a liquid liner. Of the ones I own, MAC Macroviolet is probably closest to that Rimmel shade, but it will be darker and more intense.


  2. avatar baz
    Posted September 11, 2010 at 1:39 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I did the plum & coppers yesterday and really liked it. Ha! I had always done the plums with purples and blues. I have so much to learn!


  3. avatar Inthelab
    Posted September 6, 2010 at 10:40 am | Permalink | Reply

    AS if I needed another eye liner, you sold me on the warm plums, maybe the Stila.


  4. avatar a biologist
    Posted September 5, 2010 at 10:48 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Thanks Voxy! I can really see ways to add it to my look. Given these pictures and CBD’s description, I think my next Sephora trip will involve some plum eyeliner. Definitely wearable, even where I work.

    Oh, and I need a red lippie. NEED.


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