The MAC Eyeshadows That Will Get You Started

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When it comes to eyeshadows, you’ve got to love a bit of MAC haven’t you? The range, the textures, the colours and of course there’s the opportunity to turn all MUA and create your own customised palette from scratch. It’s easy to see why you usually have to sharpen your elbows to get close to them on counter. But here’s the thing – there are so many to pick from, where does a MAC newbie start? Well I’m hoping to answer that question today with a suggested starter pack to stuff into a quad if you’re not quite sure where to begin. The only requirements are that you are a lover of neutral shades – welcome to the club – and own a MAC 217 Brush, because eyeshadow application basically sucks without it…

First up there’s All That Glitters, which is the first MAC shade that I truly fell for – look I’ve hit pan! It’s a peachy, golden shimmer that looks good on everyone. It’s just one of those natural wash colours that you can layer up for a subtle layer of glimmer or sheer out so you’ve just got something on the eye. Aside from wearing it on its own the other way I like to don it is with a bit of Espresso in the crease to add a bit of oomph. This is like a warm, matte cocoa that can double up as a brow shade depending on your natural tone but is a good crease colour that never looks too OTT. It pairs up with anything and everything and blends like a dream. No chalkiness to be seen here.

So those two cover the more safe, everyday ground, but if you want a slight hit of colour then the next two are must-haves in your quad. I really like Sable. It’s a tough one to describe, but it’s kinda like a slightly reddy taupe. It doesn’t need all the special work that wearing a red on the eye usually requires (mounds of mascara, brightening eye drops etc etc), but it’s got a bit more punch than your usual bronzes. Wear on its own or with trusty Espresso in the crease. Then my most colourful recommendation of all is Cranberry, a burgundy, gold-laced red. Oof it’s just so scrummy to look at. Now this does require a bit more pre-game to rock (check out my tips here), but whether it’s one to put all over the lid, line with or just to do some smudging out underneath with it’s a game changer.

Four colours that can be mixed and matched to create everything from an everyday wash to an evening smoke. What would make up your does-it-all starter quad? Pop ’em below. 


  • Bella

    This was my exact Mac starter quad two years ago, snap!! They have since been rehoused in a 15 pan custom palette :D.

  • These shades are BEAUT! I’ll be jotting them down to take a look next time I’m at MAC – thank you 🙂

    xx angela | the sunday chapter

  • philippa

    Lovely picks! I own 3 at the moment but really want to get some more! (:


  • Sophie Bird

    I love Satin Taupe. It is such a gorgeous shade and always makes me look “done”.

  • Lovely colours, thanks for the tips Anna! Have a great day 🙂
    Hannah x

  • So many great shades, i’ve never tried anything red toned but it looks lovely!

    Josie XOXO

    Fashion Mumblr

  • Great picks, I’ve tried and loved three out of the four (ATG, Espresso, and Cranberry), so I might just have to pick up Sable as well…

  • Such a great idea for a blog post. I am thinking of starting my first own Mac palette soon. I have a lot of products from Mac but never went for their single eye shadows so far. I love the possibility to build your own palette since in all pre made palettes i find that there is always one or two shades at least i end up not really using.

  • Jodie Vernon

    Those are some lovely shades, I’m so tempted to pick them up all now!

    Jodie // La Lune Song

  • alison campbell

    Always liked the look of cranberry but very unsure what to pair it with, love all that glitters as my go to every day colour xx

  • Such lovely eyeshadow picks! The four in my quad at the moment are patina, naked lunch, quarry and satin taupe x


  • AvantiGarde

    I am not hugely into eyeshadow but I would certainly love to try some MAC eyeshadows. All That Glitters and Espresso seem gorgeous.


  • I own neither one of these shades, but started out with similar colors: Naked Lunch, All Races, Mythology and Satin Taupe. One of the is sadly LE, but I keep repurchasing the other three.

    Beauty, Baby and Backpacking

  • uhh i want to get cranberry so badly it’s bloody beautiful!! xx

  • All that glitters was my first MAC shadow as well! What a gorgeous colour!

  • I have sable, I’m not too sure I’d be able to pull off cranberry though!

    Kate xo //

  • Great colors! MAC Soft Brown is my all time favorite/must have, and of course the 217. Best brush ever.

  • emily couture

    love the all that glitters eyeshadow! will definitely be buying it 🙂

    emily xx

  • Cranberry is one of my favourite MAC shades. These are all gorgeous!

    Antonia x | Fifi and the Diamonds

  • clementine buttercup

    I’ve only ever bought MAC brushes. I find the choice at MAC so overwhelming!

  • I own a couple of the MAC basic shades and the only one I own that you have suggested is Sable. Owning up to the fact that the blog has been the inspiration for my MAC indulgent purchases so far I might have to invest in a few of these! AmberMarieMarie AmberMarieMarie

  • Two of the shades (All that glitters and sable) I own and I could not live without! Staples for sure…:)


  • Melissa

    YASSS All That Glitters and Sable are my faves and I would recommend them to anyone who hasn’t tried mac shadows before!! 😀

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  • Caz Durling

    Defintely Woodwinked! First MAC shadow I bought and it’s amazing. No need for an additional colour for the crease as when you start blending it, it goes all two-tone and amazing! Gorgeous browny/bronzy/goldy goodness!

    Can definitely vouch for All That Glitters and Sable, too as these were my second and third purchases! Cork is a good warm brown matte too for the crease, brows and lash line!

  • These shades are soooo pretty!

  • Rebecca Smith

    I haven’t bought any mac eyeshadows before so this post is perfect for me! Thankyou 🙂

  • Louise Smith

    Everytime I go into Mac, I promise I’m going to make a palette, maybe this time..

  • theblackblush blog

    I have all these shades and I love them, specially Cranberry!

  • Ooh lovely post – thank you. I’ve not ventured into MAC for years after a poor sales experience but I really need to give them another chance as there are so any lipsticks that I want to try from MAC too.

    Ting | The Ting Thing

  • Cranberry is such a beautiful colour~ I use it quite often during the autumn months or on nights out. It creates a nice soft smokey eye makeup look as opposed to the harsh typical black shade.

    I really ought to invest in the 217 brush soon~ ♥

    Ying | * Y i n g c b e a u t y *

    X x X x X

  • Safah Ahmed

    Cranberry is sooo beautiful !!

  • I love all four colours! I am definitely picking these up 🙂

  • I have had All That Glitters for quite some time now, and it’s always a safe choice! I really love that color. Sable was added to my palette recently, and I’m looking forward to creating looks with that one – so beautiful 🙂

    Scent of Fashion

  • I just got Sable and it hasn’t been off my eyes since I purchased it. Just the most beautiful colour ever!! I also have cranberry but have been to afraid to use it. When I was playing with it I looked like an evil water ship down bunny!! May have to have another go!!

    Sophie xx

  • All That Glitters was my first Mac eyeshadow and I still love it! Espresso looks beautiful, but right now I’m loving Mulch.

  • Cranberry & All that Glitters are must-haves 🙂 Gorgeous selection Anna!

  • Lauren Schroer

    These look gorgeous. I only have a few single MAC shadows (I prefer larger palettes from Sephora) but these 4 all look lovely! I’m especially loving the look of Cranberry.

    lauren / lipstick & lacquer

  • Diana

    My favorites are Satin Taupe and Antiqued. Cranberry i only use over an layer of Antiqued. Sable is now on my Shopping List 🙂

  • thriftoclock

    Loved this post! I’m starting a 15 palette and currently have Blanc Type, I think it’s a great shade to start out with! I really wanna try Sable & All That Glitters 🙂
    Maeve // Thrift O’Clock

  • Maggie

    All that glitters is like the basic staple!!

  • Becky Alyssa

    Lovely picks – like I need an excuse to buy more eyeshadows! Would love to see your picks for a cool-toned quad.

  • This is so helpful – I’m really wanting to build a MAC palette this year, and these are good ones to start with (especially because I already have Sable).
    Kelsey |

  • Cranberry looks gorgeous! My favourite would be Amberlights 🙂


  • All That Glitters is such a pretty colour!

  • Melissa Geittmann

    So pretty. I have a few Mac colors…Braun, Taupe and Espresso. I do love them 🙂 Love your blog too!!

  • Mandy Bajwa
  • I love the burgundy one 🙂

    I’m running a “Christmas” giveaway (lorac pro pallet+ the wet brush), if you’re interested, check this link:

    little taste of heaven

  • Ginn Marie

    I have Sable. It was the first MAC shadow I ever purchased, and I do not regret it. It’s gorgeous. It’s a shade that you pop on and go. It doesn’t require a lot of work, and allows be to be lazy, yet put together all at the same time.

  • Sable sounds amazing! Definitely adding to my next MAC purchase! I love Soba, it is the perfect crease shade. Not too dark, not too light!

  • Lovely picks, love the look of ‘Cranberry’. After seeing you rave about ‘All That Glitters’ that was first in my quad, followed closely by ‘Satin Taupe’, ‘Malt’ and ‘Beauty Marked’ and they are all SO beautiful! 🙂

    Amy • Amy’s Corner

  • beauty visions

    I’ll definitely add Sable to my Mac wishlist, looks like my kind of color! xx

  • Sonia

    I’ve always forget what a beautiful color cranberry is. I need to get my hands on them!

  • i love the look of cranberry, i just hate paying for individual shadows at mac

  • Kirsten

    I have to chose only 4? . . . so difficult. I would probably go with a soft, pale pink like Yoghurt (or my favourite: Laura Mercier in Ballerina Pink), Espresso is definately in there as it is so versatile, a glimmer gold such as All That Glitters (or Half Baked from Urban Decay) and finally . . . so tricky to decide, but it would probably a glitzy purple like Nocturnelle – a neutral with a bit of oopmh.
    I love the look of Cranberry, it is so pretty, but I am really not sure I could pull it off. Having a pinky undertone to my skin I have a horrid feeling it could make me look like a radish!

  • Danielle Mac

    Gorgeous colours

    Danielle Mac

  • Cranberry, Sable, Omega, Espresso, Patina, Shroom and All that Glitters would be my choice for a basic MAC-collection 🙂 It’s funny how when I first got into makeup my dream was to own every single one of the beautiful MAC shadows, but then with time as my interest for cosmetics and makeup developed I became more curious to find gems from other brands and sort of forgot MAC. Needless to say I still use MAC makeup and love every single one of the shadows I own. 3 full palettes later I sure know which ones I might as well have skipped buying and which ones will always have a special place in my heart 🙂

    Scandinavian beauty blog –

  • One day, I’ll start my own MAC collection. Thanks for the recommendations! 🙂


  • Ooh, loving the look of Sable- such a unique, pretty shade! Cranberry is one of my faves too 🙂

  • Lara

    For me it would have to be Brulé, Wedge, Charcoal Brown and Espresso. Can you tell I’m a neutral gal too? 🙂 A great everyday/office looks is Brulé all over the lid, Wedge on the outer corners and good ol’ all That Glitters as an inner color highlight.

  • Gunnhildur Halla Ármannsdóttir

    Gorgeous post as always Anna <3 I discovered you in november and now I check your blog every single day! I definitely need to add Sable to my collection! Lots of love from Iceland!

  • and I don’t own any of them … I need to up my game 😉

    Feathers and Brushes | Swiss | Beauty & Lifestyle

  • Have to check out Cranberry, everyone seems to love it! I think it will look great paired with blue eyes 🙂

  • These are beautiful. I love All That Glitters too.

    Erin | Erin and Katherine Talk Beauty

  • Kaiesha Ceryn Page

    I started my lipstick collection this weekend but defo need to get myself a palette soon! Will be bookmarking this page!


  • DiaryOfAMakeUpAddict

    I own all 4 of these and I couldn’t agree with you more. They are the ones I reach for most.

    Xoxo Nathalie

  • Love the look of Cranberry, such a pretty colour!

    Maddy, xo // UNSTITCHEDD

  • sian challen

    In love with all the shades, I definitely have to try them out

  • Viaductface

    I think you would LOVE MAC FALLING STAR.

  • All of these look beautiful and I love that they’re all so wearable. I really need to buy All That Glitters!

    Beauty and Lifestyle Blog


  • Ella

    Sharpen your elbows, HAHA that is so well put.
    I love Satin Taupe and Mulch the most for basic looks, but Mythology is a really cool shade as well 🙂

  • Anna Jane

    Such lovely shades! Love Espresso so much xx //

  • I have All That Glitters and Sable in my collection and they’re my two most used eyeshadows. I cannot wait to grow my collection more, definitely going to add cranberry x

  • Tania

    Got All that Glitter and Sable as well. Satin taupe is also a favorite.

  • Rachel

    Definitely going to order sable, even though I’ve ran out of room in my mac quad! Also, I NEED that 217 brush, everyone raves about it! xx

    Pillarbox Post

  • Allison

    Ugh, Anna. Now I have to go guy all of it. hahaha

  • I own Cranberry and I adore it! It’s so great for green eyes 🙂

  • Hope Richardson

    These colours are actually in my list of to buy MAC eyeshadows, such great colours to mix and match, definitely great starters!

  • Amber Hunter

    I have Sable and Cranberry! Sable was actually one of my 2014 beauty favorites because I wore it so often. It’s what I like to call my “one sweep shade” because even on its own it looks wonderful. Thanks for your other recommendations! I’ve eyed up All that glitters before but I’m not sure if I’ve ever swatched Espresso before. I’ve got about 7 spots left in my 15 pan palette and I definitely want to work my way up to it being built up!
    Amber | Lovely Notions

  • This post just took me straight to the MAC website and did a litttttle bit of damage on my bank account! Thanks Anna – great picks

    styleaked – Rayban giveaway

  • All That Glitters is one of my faves, Sable’s on my list to get next. I love MAC neutral shades because there is so much choice and the quality is fantastic.

  • Lauz Boyle

    Sable is one of my favourites! I feel its one of the most underrated eyeshadows!

  • I need sable in my life!! I see it everywhere and so many bloggers love it. This is my next MAC purchase for sure. Cranberry is just beautiful and love teaming it with antiqued. xoxo

  • Kat Lee

    This post is dangerous! So many gorgeous shades that I now *need*!

  • I recently got Star Violet which is similar to Cranberry and I LOVE IT – such a nice reddy shade. Nylon, Brule, Wedge and Mulch and my go-to shades, so wearable

    Lauren x

    Britton Loves | Lifestyle Food Fashion Beauty –

  • OOOH great picks!! I’m a huge fan of the reddy browns 🙂

    xx Alyson
    The Beauty Vanity

  • Chloe x

    Such great choices, I think Brule, Kid, Cranberry and Sketch would be my four favourites x

  • Emily

    HI thank you SO much for this post. I’m lost with MAC shadows 🙂

  • Great picks! All that glitters and Espresso were actually a few of my first MAC shades. Definitely staples!

    Linh | SimplyLinh

  • Cherie Tang

    I have cranberry and it’s a gorgeous lid shade with a purple smoky eye. My favourite is ‘Swiss Chocolate’ which is a stunning matte warm medium red brown. It brings out my brown eyes so much! 🙂

  • PeonyandPeach

    I’ve yet to be able to get All that glitters to work for me. It just looks too pink on me whatever I do, I’ve got my eye on gleam which is similar but more yellow toned.

  • Talisa Lauren Tossell

    MAC is the ulllltimate brand!

    The BOYFRIEND TAG + giveaway

  • Just picked up Swiss Chocolate so looking forward to giving that a try! x

  • Good picks! I only have six Mac eyeshadows because I’m so in love with Urban Decay ones and I have both Espresso and All That Glitters within that so I must be doing something right hehe.

    Lots of Love,

    What Abby Loves

  • This is such a good starter kit, especially cranberry! That pop of colour is a good one for starting.

  • I love this idea, I had no idea where to start when I bought my first mac palette, I no want to add these though, eeek.

    Mel x

  • Chantal

    These look like really handy shades to have, I’m definitely going to check them out when I next go to the Mac stand. x

  • Lillie Mysel
  • All That Glitters, Espresso and Sable are shadows that I started with and still love to this day. Cranberry is one I will have to check out! Great post Anna:)


  • Lili Rose

    Can’t wait to try out some of them out! I think I’ll have to go to MAC soon 😉

  • Waverly

    Hmmm~ the colours remind me of Charlotte Tilbury’s Dolce Vita palette. Do you guys prefer Charlotte Tilbury eyeshadows or MAC?

  • nia elinor mair

    I’ve been wanted to try All That Glitters and Espresso for the longest time! I adore Honesty and Woodwinked at the moment!

  • This post is so useful as I’m planning to buy my own MAC Custom Palette! I’m planning to get Cranberry, Wedge, Amber Lights, and either Dazzlelight, All That Glitters, or Naked Lunch!

    Catpacking | Beauty & Travel

  • oh yas, good choices. I love cranberry + all that glitters. i would say if i was just starting out + wanted affordable makeup i would want:

    revlon colorstay foundaysh
    maybelline hi light blush
    collection concealer
    l’oréal miss manga mazza
    revlon lipstick in pink pout (US only, I think?!)

    …I FINK

    annie |

  • I love all your choices. I think my favourites are all that glitters and cranberry. xx
    Lara from

  • Penny

    I love all that glitters, great choices! Penny from xx

  • I’ve never bought a MAC eyeshadow before. I’ve picked out various shades that I love, but they are so expensive! X

  • Pretty shadows! All That Glitters was my first ever MAC eyeshadow and I still love it a lot, but I don’t know which champany shade to buy next!

  • rebekah maryx

    All That Glitters was my first shadow I got seriously in love!

  • Katy Ferenczy

    My first MAC shade was Electra for my school prom but I love all four of these shadows too as I now have a small collection of MAC shadows.

  • I still have yet to buy any MAC shadows but these make me want them even more!

    She Likes to Shop

  • Virginia Alexander

    Jest is my ultimate everyday colour, such a perfect champagne. I’ve been wearing that with all that glitters for day or woodwinked (lovely bronze) for night since high school!

  • SamanthaSeries

    I don’t think I would like Cranberry… but the others look nice!

    Samantha Series

  • Great picks! I have been wanting to try MAC eyeshadows for a while now but could not figure out what colors to pick!

  • Cranberry is my all time favourite Mac shade. The gold in it makes it just the prettiest colour. I’ve never tried Sable so definitely one to add to the list!


  • Elise Kubberød

    I loved these tips! As I am looking for a new MAC eyeshadow, and I am torn between several different ones! I’ll check these out the next time fo sho!! 🙂 My own favorite, and the one who made me hooked is ANTIQUED, it’s such a gorgeuse wine red with a hint of gold!

  • Lovely choices! I would choose All That Glitters, Satin Taupe, Woodwinked, and Naked Lunch 😉 xx

  • Imogen

    My first mac quad was brûlée, handwritten, wedge and club! I figured I could mix and match from there and it has been a much used lickle palette.

  • Thank you for your suggestion anna. I really like Cranberry.

    Bisous, Marye

  • All That Glitters is my all time favourite eyeshadow. Simply stunning! x

    Renata | Speaking Beauty UK

  • Great suggestions! I guess mine would be Patina, All That Glitters, Wedge and Sable.

    Anouk |

  • They’re all so pretty! I really need to try more MAC products x


  • My one quad actually contains three of these! Except I have Woodwinked instead of Cranberry 🙂 x

    ellabooxo | beauty, lifestyle, etc.

  • My one quad actually contains three of these! Except I have Woodwinked instead of Cranberry 🙂 x

    ellabooxo | beauty, lifestyle, etc.

  • I’m definitely going to have to get Sable and Cranberry. I have a full 15 pan palette but need those shades!!

    Cass | CassandraMyee

  • Cranberry is one of my favorite eyeshadows, probably on my top 3 if not top of the list, it’s such a beautiful color. I’d switch Sable for Satin Taupe, even though Sable is one of my favorites as well, but I love to combine ST with Cranberry on a softer look 🙂 x

    | |

  • Judith

    Anna, what about a post like this but for lipstick? this was great and really helpfull!! Thank you!