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You could say that I have a love/hate relationship with makeup. Some days I enjoy playing with all the different colors and get excited when my smoky eye turns out perfectly.

But then there are those days when my liner refuses to go on straight, my bronzer makes me look like an Asian Snookie, or my lashes refuse to curl. That's when I want to toss my makeup bag out my bathroom window.

I had one of those days last week, and after walking into work wearing two very different winged tips on my eyes, my editor assigned me a new story: Go to makeup school and write about it.

Even if she was not-so-subtly telling me that I suck at applying my own makeup, I eagerly took the assignment. And I didn't just go to one school — I went to three. I hit up the Napoleon Perdis Academy in Hollywood, Calif., Make-up Designory in Burbank, Calif., and Make Up For Ever Academy in Los Angeles.

Each school has different types of classes, from special effects courses that teach you how to make realistic-looking zombies and vampires, to high fashion-focused programs that show you daring techniques seen on the runway and in magazine spreads. But for my purposes, the makeup 101 courses would suffice.

After spending my mornings learning about color theory and how to (properly) hold a makeup brush, I can say I'm now totally confident in my makeup artistry skills. Want to see the best techniques I picked up without spending the thousands of dollars (and crazy amount of time) it takes to go to makeup school yourself? Keep reading. What you'll find here is what I'm now referring to as The Cliffs' Notes Guide to Being a Pro Makeup Artist.

Image via Imaxtree

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Lesson No. 1: Spend some bucks on your tools
At Napoleon Perdis' Makeup Academy in Hollywood, Rebecca Prior, NP's National Educator, begins the first lesson by introducing us to our tools. "To me, tools and products are equally as important as the makeup skills that you have," she says. For example, let's say you were using mediocre brushes, mediocre products, and had average skill. Just by improving the quality of your brushes and using richer pigmented products, the application would immediately be better, even without improving your technique. So if you really want to apply your makeup like a pro, Los Angeles-based educator Felicia Alva says, "Do what the professionals do: Use the proper brushes for application."

Here are the eight basic brushes you need:

1. Foundation brush
2. Concealer brush
3. Fluffy powder brush
4. Blush brush
5. Small blending brush
6. Flat eyeshadow brush
7. Precision angle brush
8. Lip brush

Once you have your tools, you need to know how to hold them. Make Up For Ever educator Lijha Stewart says, "Where you hold a brush on the handle affects your control. The closer your fingers are to the barrel (the silver section beneath the brush head), the more pressure you put on the brush head and vice versa." In general, if you want to apply color evenly, place your fingers on the center of the brush handle. Another tip: You can easily turn a fluffy brush into a flat, angled brush by wrapping your hand around the bristles and flattening them.

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Lesson No. 2: Mix primer with your foundation
I'm sitting in Make-up Designory's Beauty 101 classroom and I'm anticipating today's lesson to be quite the bore-fest. I'm barely paying attention as Lead Instructor Gil Romero goes through the three different types of foundation: liquid, powder, and cream. Yawn. Wake me up when I'm going to learn something new.

It seems like Romero read my mind, because he immediately hit me with this tip: "You can wear cream foundation as is for opaque, full coverage, or you can break it down to be more translucent by mixing it with some primer," he says. What? Isn't primer only supposed to go on before foundation? But Romero says this is a surefire way to retain the foundation's coverage without looking caked on. Plus, you get to reap the long-lasting durability that cream foundation has over liquids and powders. Prior says this also helps the makeup blend seamlessly with the first layer of primer on your skin.

I raise my hand at this point and ask if cream foundation is OK for oily skin. This is a selfish question, because I struggle with a mid-day oily t-zone. Make-up Designory Creative Director, Yvonne Hawker (who also wrote the school's textbook) says everyone can use cream foundation, but those with oily skin should use a damp sponge to apply it. Most foundations have oil in its formula to give the coverage blend-ability. Using the sponge will "pick up the pigment, but not the oil in the foundation." You'll still get great coverage, but not the shine.

For dry or combination skin types, "use your foundation brush and buff the foundation onto the skin, concentrating on the center of your face, which is typically where your skin has the most discoloration," says Hawker. "The further you get from the center, the less coverage you want."

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Lesson No. 3: Love your flaws — then conceal them
It's Day 3 at makeup school and there's a color wheel on the whiteboard. "The key to being a successful makeup artist is being able to identify someone's undertones and know how to manipulate the color wheel to get rid of unwanted color," says instructor Gina Sandler.

And when Sandler says "unwanted color," I immediately tune in because I want to learn how to cover up my zits, the stubborn redness around my nose, and the bluish hues under my eyes. She says opposite colors cancel each other out, so green-pigmented concealer covers redness, and orangey concealer removes blue. "If you use your beige concealer, it'll only make those areas look muddy," says Prior.

Once Sandler shows us how she gets rid of zits, redness around the nose, and under-eye bags on one of the students, she then pairs us off and has us practice on each other's makeup-free faces. Immediately, all of my insecurities start bubbling up. My bags, my zits, my dark spots ... is someone seriously going to be inches away from them? Then one of the students says, "Ugh, I'm so ugly." Sandler responds, "No, you're so cute! You all are!" It's makeup school, but it starts to feel more like we're in a group therapy session. Sandler says practicing on each other is key because you quickly learn how to deal with all types of skin tones and facial features, which you will have to become comfortable with if you want to be a professional.

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Lesson No. 4: Fix your face shape
So here's a not-so-secret confession: I hate my face. It's rounder than a Cabbage Patch Kid's and I can't stand my button nose. So when Prior says today's lesson is learning how to contour properly so you can alter your face shape and features, I'm so eager to learn I actually volunteer to be her model at the front of the class. "Contouring is the art of highlighting and shading," says Prior. "Anything that is lighter than the skin tone will make an area more prominent, anything darker will make that area recede." Here's how you can easily alter your face:

If you have a round face and want to make it look more oval: Apply a bronzer a shade or two darker than your skin tone in a "3" shape alongside your face: on your temples, the hollow of your cheeks, and your chin.

If you have a prominent forehead: Shade around the outer edge of your forehead along your hairline to minimize the area with bronzer.

If you have a flat or wide nose: Shade alongside your bridge starting from your inner brows. Then highlight right on the center of your nose.

If gravity is taking a toll and your cheeks are sagging: Apply a highlighter just above your cheekbone all the way to your temple. Use a blush directly on the cheekbone, then use a bronzer in the hollow of the cheek, underneath your bone.

And if you really want to make your contouring stand out, use a sparkly highlighter, which will reflect the most light. Then for your bronzer, go for a matte finish, which will absorb light and create a stark contrast.

Image via igor_kell/Getty

You could say that I have a love/hate relationship with makeup. Some days I enjoy playing with all the different colors and get excited when my smoky eye turns out perfectly.

But then there are those days when my liner refuses to go on straight, my bronzer makes me look like an Asian Snookie, or my lashes refuse to curl. That's when I want to toss my makeup bag out my bathroom window.

I had one of those days last week, and after walking into work wearing two very different winged tips on my eyes, my editor assigned me a new story: Go to makeup school and write about it.

Even if she was not-so-subtly telling me that I suck at applying my own makeup, I eagerly took the assignment. And I didn't just go to one school — I went to three. I hit up the Napoleon Perdis Academy in Hollywood, Calif., Make-up Designory in Burbank, Calif., and Make Up For Ever Academy in Los Angeles.

Each school has different types of classes, from special effects courses that teach you how to make realistic-looking zombies and vampires, to high fashion-focused programs that show you daring techniques seen on the runway and in magazine spreads. But for my purposes, the makeup 101 courses would suffice.

After spending my mornings learning about color theory and how to (properly) hold a makeup brush, I can say I'm now totally confident in my makeup artistry skills. Want to see the best techniques I picked up without spending the thousands of dollars (and crazy amount of time) it takes to go to makeup school yourself? Keep reading. What you'll find here is what I'm now referring to as The Cliffs' Notes Guide to Being a Pro Makeup Artist.

Image via Imaxtree
BY SHARON J. YI | SHARES
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