Beauty · Tips & Tricks · Yay or Nay?

Soft Ochre vs Painterly – which one is for you?

If you’ve ever watched a make-up artist or beauty influencer on YouTube, the chances are you’ve heard of the MAC Paint Pots. They seem to be a beauty staple for so many – not only in the two shades mentioned in the title, but also in other colours for an easy cream shadow look or a base for different looks. But the shades Soft Ochre and Painterly are easily the most well-known, as many people use them in every tutorial or every look as their eyeshadow base. Some swear by Painterly, some swear by Soft Ochre, so really, what is the difference?

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I have both, and I use them as primers to cancel out any discolouration on my eyes before I apply eyeshadow, giving me a nice and even base to work off, but also one that will stop my eyeshadow from smudging or moving over time. These colours are clearly quite different from one another – Soft Ochre (on the right) is very yellow-toned, whereas Painterly (on the left) is a richer pinky-brown. Both are quite light, so unfortunately I don’t think either would work particularly well if you’ve got darker skin, but MAC has a wide range of shades in this line that could work for you. Alternative colours such as Groundwork and Layin’ Low are good options.

I have a strong red undertone to my skin, and while this isn’t meant to be like a foundation or a concealer, if it was a very different colour to your skin then it wouldn’t work. Soft Ochre leans very warm-toned whereas Painterly is more cool-toned, which is something to take into account. Both of these shades work for me, but I have to say that over time and prolonged use, and even a side by side comparison of day wear, I prefer Painterly, and I’ll tell you for why.

Because my skin pulls a lot more red, and I have very red eyelids with strong veins showing through them before I apply primer. Soft Ochre is very stark on my skin as a result, and you can tell I’m wearing a primer because I like to prime right up to my brow and use this to carve out the underside of it, and if that looks too yellow then it can look over-highlighted and more false than I want it to (as false as it can look when I’ve got stark carved-out brows and different colours all over my eyelids, but you get my point). Yet on days when I’m not wearing eyeshadow but I still want to wear make-up, I find that a wash of Painterly set with my setting powder just looks a lot better, and it works wonders in smoothing things out. Because my foundations are pinker-toned, it blends it at the corners too.

In short, it all comes down to undertone. If you’re more red/pink, then I would say Painterly. If you’re more yellow-toned, definitely try Soft Ochre. But regardless of your undertone, both of these are great products, they last for ages on the lid and they really do make your shadow blend better and last all day. Both retail for £16 and are available at or at various MAC stores and counters nationwide, though they do have a nasty habit of always being sold out!

If you’re looking for cheaper dupes, Maybelline’s Colour Tattoo cream shadows are also fab and a fraction of the price (£4.99 each). Soft Ochre could very easily be swapped out for Creme de Nude and Painterly for Creme de Rose. It’s almost like they knew what they were doing!

If you’ve got a preference then please do let me know below, I would love to hear your thoughts! Thanks for reading, you da best xoxox

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