How to Contour Abs: A Step-by-Step Guide


Everyone wants great abs. These days, with fitness crazes getting bigger than they ever were, having a toned six pack feels more like an absolute necessity than anything else. But, for all their beauty, abs are certainly not a beautiful thing to work with. At times, they can seem impossibly slow to grow.

The reason people often have trouble getting toned abs is because a lot of fat gets stored in the stomach. When you have even a thin lining of belly fat, your abs can get a little buried or even totally hidden. This leads to many a minute spent standing in the mirror asking- why aren’t my planks working?

So, while we’re all working our way up to toned, six pack abs, how can we make sure we’re looking good for the beach or gym? Is there a way to get magic abs? Just as we can contour our faces to get higher cheekbones, more defined cheeks or jaws, or just about any beauty feature under the sun, we can use contouring to give ourselves abs as well. It may seem like cheating, but we certainly won’t tell. Here’s how.

Table of Contents

  • Start With a Prep
  • Draw a Base
  • Add Muscles
  • FAQ

Start With a Prep

This is an important step, and one that many people are likely to forget. Not prepping your skin for a coat of makeup is like not prepping your walls before painting. Your makeup may look fine for a little while, but little things may start to go wrong.

For one, skin is pretty gross. Even if you’ve got the cleanest skin in the world, you’re still going to have dead skin, oil, dust, and even dirt hanging around. If you don’t clear all this gunk out, the makeup will settle on top of it, and as this matter flakes away your makeup will gradually look more and more fake.

When you clean your skin off before contouring, you ensure that any nastiness will be getting on top of your makeup instead of below it, which compromises the integrity of your makeup job. Doing a prep is as simple as simple gets.  

Wash Your Abs

This first step to a good prep is quick, easy, and will really save you when it comes to crunch time and your abs need to be looking good. Simply take some lukewarm water, and wash the skin above your abs with it. Easy, no? 

Use a Cleanser

This is where it gets a bit more complicated. Choosing the right cleanser can be a challenge, and we won’t go into it here. Just do some trial and error, and find out what works best for your skin. 


Exfoliation is possibly the single most important step of your contouring routine. Exfoliation gets rid of the main factor causing cakey or bumpy looking makeup- dead skin. Exfoliation will reveal the smooth, clear skin beneath all those flakes and give you a good, clean base to work with.

Apply Moisturizer

Moisturizer is something a lot of people already use, but for contouring your abs, it’s going to be especially important. Find a good moisturizer and apply it to the skin before you start putting on makeup. This lets the makeup seep into your skin and get a good grip so it doesn’t come up. 

Use a Primer

This is less for the makeup and more for your skin. Primer forms a thin protective barrier between your face and your makeup. This may not seem very important at first, but when you think of all the clogged pores and pimples that could occur, you’ll begin to thank yourself for applying primer.

Draw a Base

Now we can get to the fun, somewhat artistic part- actually applying makeup and seeing those magic abs. To do this, we have to workout where the center of our abs will be and work from there. 

This one, simple line is called your base, and it will help you make sure your abs aren’t looking funny. Real abs don’t curve erratically, sit too high or look terribly uneven- so why let your contoured abs do this? Get a base down before you start drawing on muscles.

To put down a base, you’re going to have to find where your abs would naturally sit. If you’re looking to contour some abs, you probably don’t have too much body fat. This means that finding out where your abs would be if they came through naturally will probably be fairly easy. 

If you don’t have much stomach fat, but don’t have showy abs anyway, you’ll probably be able to find them just by clenching. For those of us with a little bit of baby fat on us, though, it’s going to be a little bit more of a challenge. 

How to Expose Abs and Draw Your Base

Luckily, though, there is one simple trick to finding your all-natural abs. First, take your thumb and index finger and pinch an area of skin below the abs. Then, pull down towards your pelvis and up away from your body. This will move fat out of the way and reveal your abdominal muscles.

From here, the process of drawing a base is really quite simple. It couldn’t be easier, actually. Just take your contouring brush, get some makeup on it, and draw a little line up the center line you see running down the middle of your stomach. 

This line will be your guiding light in the actual contouring process, which will likely be a little bit difficult the first time around, so don’t forget about it. With that base line, you’ll be sure exactly where your abs would be if they came through more.

Follow your base line, and you’ll be more likely to come out of this makeup extravaganza with more toned and natural looking contoured abs. And if you don’t, just wash them off and start over. This is going to be a process of trial and error. 

Add Muscles

Easier said than done, we know. But, you don’t have to be an artist to create real-looking, toned abs. In fact, creating great abs can be a fairly simple process. You might pull out with some pretty goofy looking abdominals the first few times around, but after a few tries you’ll get better and better. 

Here are some tips for building beautiful, natural-looking abs with just a little bit of contouring makeup.

Balance Light and Dark

With real abs, there are lots of curves and ridges. These curves and ridges catch the light in different ways, create shadows in some places, and create pools of light in others. You’re going to want to capture all of this when you’re contouring.

To do this, it’s a good idea to figure out how your abs might catch the light if they came through more naturally. To do this, you might try looking up some pictures of toned abs. You might also go expose your abs how we suggested in our last section, and stand in front of a light source. 

There is a pretty good rule of thumb, though. In general, yout light spaces will be on the tops of your abs, where the individual muscles stick out, while your dark spaces will be in-between those muscles. 

Contouring is really quite simple when you get this step down. The name of the game with abs is figuring out where light would be most pronounced on a natural set of abs, and where the shadows would lie. After that, it’s just a matter of applying light contour on lighter spaces and dark contour on darker spaces.

Make sure to blend, too. There’s nothing worse than shoddily blended makeup, so you’re going to want to make sure you’ve got a good fade from light spaces to dark spaces. Light is a hard thing to fake, and you might need a couple tries before your abs start looking real. They may even look positively stupid at some points. Keep pushing and keep practicing, though, and you’ll be an expert in no time. 

Follow Natural Lines

When you’re contouring your abs, you don’t want to go outside the box. With your face, you can do all kinds of interesting alterations. The abs are a much simpler part of your body, and anything too extravagant will start to look a little suspicious.

To avoid this, make sure you’re following the natural lines present in your abdominal muscles- don’t stray from them too much. You might want to keep track of them by applying your shadowing first, following the lines of your abdominal muscles closely and not straying too much from the path. 

If you’re able to combine these three easy things- mastering light and dark, getting good at blending, and following the natural lines of your abs- you’ll be able to get your abs popping with little to no effort. Of course, it’s always great to keep a workout routine, but why not get a little helping hand from your makeup kit? 

Frequently Asked Questions About Contoured Abs

What type of makeup should you use?

Choosing makeup for contouring is a simple and fun process. Contouring can be done with a number of different kinds of makeup, all of which work just about as well as the others. Use different shades of concealer, foundation, bronzer, or other skin-altering makeup. Just make sure you get two different shades that match up with your skin.

When would you want to contour your abs?

This is an important thing to consider, especially since you can go wrong with contoured abs. Just ask yourself- will they be getting wet? Will I be sweating a lot? Anything that can ruin the abs is a no-go, provided you aren’t wearing waterproof makeup.

After this, it’s really up to you. Contoured abs look great in a crop top. For guys, you might want to get contoured abs for a boat trip where you might not be going in the water. 

Is contouring your abs weird?

As strange as it may sound, contouring your face is a whole lot more common than contouring your abs. Some people may think contouring abs is like faking something that requires more work than a pretty face, but we say- go for it. 

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A Final Word From Energetic Lifestyle

Some people might be skeptical about contoured abs. How real can they really look, after all, when they’re just made up of makeup? The answer? As real as you make them.

When painters paint a scene, they don’t usually worry about whether or not it’s possible to make that scene look real on canvas. They just follow the steps and, after a little work and attention to detail, paintings can start looking like photographs and exerting powerful energy on observers.

Contoured features are just the same way. Yes, they are just made of makeup, but we’re forgetting that just makeup can have a powerful effect on anyone who deigns to look at our contoured bodies. A face without contouring can look flat and unpronounced, while a face with contouring can look dramatic and stunning. 

Overall, it’s just about paying attention to the artistry of the matter. Pay attention to where your lines are, whether they’re symmetrical, and whether or not the light on your contoured abs is coming out in realistic places. Shadows are also important, and combining light and shadows can absolutely create real-looking abs. 

Just make sure you use no-drip and possibly waterproof makeup. While contoured abs can look real, a drip of water carving a path through them can give them right away, and having people find out you don’t really have a toned six pack is a bit different from having them find out you don’t really have sharp cheekbones. 

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Energetic Lifestyle Team

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