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How To Pick The Perfect Foundation

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The Violet Files

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Tim Quinn, celebrity makeup artist for Armani, on how to select and apply the perfect foundation for invisible, second-skin coverage.

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Have you ever had the experience of being properly fitted for a bra and realizing that, up until that point, you’d been doing it all wrong? That’s sort of what it feels like to go shopping for foundation with makeup artist Tim Quinn. But this is to be expected. After all, Quinn has been with the brand since the reveal of all three foundation lines for Giorgio Armani Beauty, which routinely appear on the must-have lists of editors, celebrities and experts. His knowledge of and sensitivity to variations in tone, texture, slip and coverage border on the savant. If you want your foundation to be undetectable to the naked eye—and who doesn’t?—Quinn is your guy.

Which begs the question: how exactly does Tim Quinn do “perfect” foundation? To celebrate the launch of Power Fabric foundation on VIOLET GREY, we asked the artist to walk our Beauty Director Jayme Cyk through his tried-and-true process. Turns out it’s a bit of alchemy that triangulates level of coverage, skin undertones and application technique. For more detail, read on and check out our full video tutorial, above.

According to Quinn, the first question to ask when choosing a new foundation is how much coverage do you need? Think about it like buying a coat—different formulations offer varying weights and textures, akin to the range between a featherweight jacket and an insulated down puffer. Within the Armani Beauty line, Maestro, Luminous Silk and Power Fabric represent light, medium and heavy coverage, respectively.

Still not sure what level you’re looking for? Here’s Quinn’s cheat sheet:

Maestro: “It feels completely weightless on the skin. Perfect for somebody who wants to control shine or has oily skin.”

Luminous Silk: “It’s long-wear and gives a luminous glow. It’s perfect for everybody—unless you’re really shiny already.”

Power Fabric: “Our most full-coverage option. For moments when you need your skin to look flawless.” But as with many things in life, it’s good to have options. “A lot of times I’m finding that women want a wardrobe of foundations,” says Quinn.

Within each of the three Armani foundation lines, shades are organized according to a numbered system in which higher values correspond to darker tones. If you’re fair to medium complected, Quinn recommends beginning at shade 5.5, and then adjusting up or down the scale. Likewise, olive complexions may start with 7.0 and darker complexions may start with 9.0 before toggling in either direction for a perfect match.

Once you’ve narrowed it down to two or three contenders, there are a few more steps to ensure that you make a perfect, second-skin match. “What I find most important is to be in the right kind of light,” says Quinn. Natural light is the least forgiving, so test driving different shades al fresco is optimal. And what about undertones? “You can usually tell by your veins,” instructs Quinn, “if they look more blue, you’re probably a pinker tone. And if they look a little more green, you’re more golden.”

After you’ve found the perfect shade, there’s just one final consideration: mode of application. Depending on the amount of control you’d like, Quinn endorses hands, foundation brushes or beautyblenders for putting on foundation. Whichever technique you prefer, the artist does recommend using a surface (like the back of your hand) as a palette, so as to avoid putting too much pigment directly on the tool.