MAC Paint Pots Overall Review with Swatches and Photos! (pic heavy)

mac paint pot reviews

MAC Paint Pot Overview

MAC Paint Pots ($17.50) are MAC’s take on Cream Eyeshadows. They are versatile products because there can be several uses for them. You can wear them alone on the lids, as a liner, as a primer or as a base color for powder eyeshadow/pigments.

A highly pigmented eye colour that goes on creamy but dries to an intense, vibrant finish. Long-wearing, colourfast. Creates seamless coverage without weight or caking. Blends smoothly over the lids. Cream-based, can be mixed with M·A·C shadows and liners.

MAC Paint Pots are available in nine shades: Bare Study, Soft Ocher, Painterly, Rubenesque, Indianwood, Groundwork, Constructivist, Quite Natural and Blackground. I own all of them, except Blackground and Soft Ocher. (None of which I have posted reviews for in the past, so I thought it’d be a good idea to gather them up and review them together.)

MAC releases limited edition shades every now and then in some of their collections, but the actual permanent collection is quite small and lacks much color. All of the colors are fairly neutral. MAC did have many more colors in the past, but almost all of them became discontinued and they never filled the void with replacement/additional shades.

mac paint pot reviews
mac paint pot reviews

Continue reading for individual reviews and swatches

mac paint pot swatch

Rubenesque – Golden peach with gold pearl (frost)
Rubenesque is very sheer, and has to be layered for opaque coverage. Because of it’s sheerness, I never wear it alone. I usually wear it as a base for when I’m wearing warm-toned eyeshadows such as orange, peach, gold, copper, bronze, melon pigment, etc, or sheer, natural shadows (sheer gold, sheer champagne, sheer ivory, etc.)
Consistency: Very smooth and blends easily.
mac rubenesque paint pot
Perky (Limited Edition, Fafi Collection ’08) – Warm pinky-peach with white pearl (satin)
Perky has good color pay-off and gives a soft wash of warm, vibrant pink to the lids. I personally don’t look that good with it worn solo on my eyes, so I usually use it as a base under any pink toned eyeshadows. It’s not one I reach for very often.
Consistency: Very smooth and blends easily.
mac perky paint pot

Painterly – Nude Beige Cream (cream)
Painterly is a neutral, matte pink-beige. It has good color pay-off and works as a perfect base for neutral eyeshadow looks. It’s a pretty versatile paint pot because it’s such a natural shade, it blanks out your lid, making it a smooth, even canvas for your eyeshadow to stick to. 
Consistency: Smooth, creamy and blends easily.
mac painterly paint pot

Bare Study – Soft Beige with gold pearl (frost)
Bare Study is another versatile paint pot that can work with a variety of looks. It’s sheer and frosty, and although it doesn’t add much to the lids when worn alone, it works as a great base for every color of eyeshadow with any finish. Because of it’s light, frosty color, it makes eyeshadows used on top of it stand out a bit more. For a natural look, it looks great applied all over the lid with a soft brown in the crease, and a little bit of liner and mascara. It also works good for a brow highlight. 
Consistency: Smooth and blends easily.

mac bare study paint pot

Indianwood – Metallic antique brown (frost)
Indianwood is a pigmented deep, metallic gold. It’s one of my favorite paint pots because it looks pretty on it’s own, or combined with other warm eyeshadows. I use it as a base often with shades like MAC Woodwinked, MAC Bronze, Urban Decay Half Baked, etc to intensify the gold. It also looks great when applied over the lids with a light dusting of shimmery pigment on top!
Consistency: Exceptionally smooth, easy to work with, blends easily. 
mac indianwood paint pot
Groundwork – Mid-tone neutral taupe (satin)
Groundwork is a shade that is suitable for every skin tone for a light wash of ash brown to the lids. It has good color pay-off, and can be layered for full opacity. It’s a great shade for medium brown smokey eyes and neutral eyeshadow looks. I often use it alone on my lids with a little eyeliner, mascara and a brow/tear-duct highlight when I’m in a rush or softly blend it across my top and bottom lash-line for a soft, natural effect. Consistency: Smooth and blends easily – drier than Indianwood.
mac groundwork paint pot
Quite Natural – Dirty chocolate brown (cream)
Quite Natural is a warm, medium brown with very good pigmentation. I was a little disappointed at first upon purchasing it, because the consistency is a bit dryer/thicker in comparison to my other paint pots. It’s still smooth to the touch, but I find that you have to work with it quickly because it dries in a short amount of time. I love wearing Quite Natural all over my lid, smoked out on the edges and blended in my lower lash-line. It’s a very quick, effortless look that is very pretty! It can also be layered for a darker effect. I also use it as a liner (usually smudged, rather than applied precise) and I’ve even used it on my brows for a filler. Lastly, it works as a great base for dark brown eye looks. 
Consistency: Drier than other paint pots, but still smooth to the touch. Blends easily, but dries quickly, so you must work quickly with it.
mac quite natural paint pot

Constructivist – Metallic brown with red pearl (frost)
Constructivist is another favorite, as I’m a lover of brown, and this is a gorgeous brown! It’s an extra-deep mahogany brown with slight shimmer. The uses for this paint pot are very similar (if not the same) uses as Quite Natural. I wear it in the very same way – all over my lid, smoked out on the edges and blended in my lower lash-line for a dark brown, simple smokey eye. The difference between the two is that Constructivist is a shade or two darker and on the eyes it’s noticeably not as warm as Quite Natural. I also wear it layered under other brown eyeshadows when I want a dark eye. 
Consistency: Exceptionally smooth, easy to work with.
mac constructivist paint pot

Constructivist is definitely a favorite, as is Indianwood and Quite Natural (despite the texture). For the lighter shades, I’d pick Rubenesque as it’s the easiest to work with and it’s a great base for all of the warm colored eyeshadows I normally wear.

I usually use my finger to apply Paint pots because I can pick up a good amount of product with my fingers, and my body warmth will soften the product, making it easy to blend on the lids. It’s also easy to blend out harsh edges with the fingertips. In terms of brushes, I find a flat synthetic brush works the best (often times I use a lip brush or small concealer brush) especially with the drier texture paint pots, such as Quite Natural. Fluffy brushes don’t pick the product up well, but they can work good to blend out rough edges.


MAC Paint Pots are housed in clear, heavy glass jars with a black rubberized screw-top lid. It’s the exact same packaging for their Studio Sculpt Concealer, and a bit smaller than their Fluidlines. They aren’t the most ideal for travel because they are a bit heavy, and you have to be careful not to drop them on ceramic tile, concrete, etc, because the glass can chip. (It’s never happened to me, but I’ve shattered many jars of Studio Fix Fluid over the years!)

Because these are cream products, you have to make sure to close the lid tightly each time after use, because they can become dry. If you have any issues with drying out, I’ve read that some like to pop the jar in the microwave for 10 seconds or so to soften it up again – I’ve tried it with Groundwork in the past, and it worked well.

mac paint pot swatches

Swatches from left to right: Bare Study, Painterly, Rubenesque, Indianwood, Perky, Groundwork, Quite Natural and Constructivist. (Indoors, without flash)

mac paint pot swatches
(Indoors with flash)

I guess you can say that I’m a pretty big fan of MAC Paint Pots. I’ve used other products – MAC Shadesticks (discontinued), MAC Paint, NYX Jumbo Eye Pencils, etc – and although they might be more convenient to use, I prefer Paint Pots. I do like MAC Paint though for records, I have Bare Canvas and Bamboon and they work really well – just loathe the packaging!

If you haven’t tried them yet, I definitely recommend trying one out at some point! I never thought I was going to like them. In fact, I thought they were an overrated product until I purchased my first one!

The Round-Up


  • Although the color selection is small, the shades available are very pretty
  • Creamy consistency (the frost finishes tend to be smoother)
  • Easy to use
  • Work great as a base or alone
  • Long-lasting (the cream/satin finishes tend to last longer without fading)
  • Good Value – one jar will last a very, very long time with daily use. Especially the darker, pigmented colors. 


  • Small color selection – all neutral or brown shades. Lacking a white shade (which is great for any eyeshadow – esp. colors and brights) and colors. It makes me wonder if they will discontinue the line all together. 
  • Isn’t very sanitary, considering if you use your finger each time and putting the product on your eyes. Taking a little product out with a brush or spatula would be your best bet, otherwise, make sure your hands are clean!
  • Heavy packaging – isn’t ideal for travel

Price: $17.50, MAC.

What’s your opinion on MAC Paint Pots?

73 thoughts on “MAC Paint Pots Overall Review with Swatches and Photos! (pic heavy)

  1. I always make sure to tighten them really well, and I've never had any problems with them pulling from the edges or drying out. I also keep them all in a closed container, so that might help as well. The only one that went a little dry was Groundwork because I forgot to close the lid for a while, and it didn't feel as creamy anymore. Putting it in the microwave until it melted and letting it set made it back to normal again.


  2. thanks you sooo much for doing a post on this. I've always wanted swatches for these and a pros/cons list.I live in Canada so I've always wanted a good product knowledge before I spend that kinda of money. I wish someone would do Dupes on these, I love my Rsvp by Benefit so I would like to try these at some point


  3. Great post. The only PP I have is soft ochre. I really like it, but it's kind of a dry consistence which I'm not to fond of. If I ever run out I think I'll get painterly since it looks creamier. Quite natural looks like it would be the perfect brow filler. I currently use Brun e/s for that. Do you find that the PP lasts a long time on your brows?



  4. Great post!!! Loved ur description and swatches.. Extremely helpful..

    I love constructivist too.. It's such an easy shade to pull off.. I recently bought groundwork and I don't love it as it tends to lean on the greyish side on my lids..


  5. THANK YOU for providing these swatches. Believe it or not, i've had the hardest time locating them. I haven't felt secure buying one (as an eyeshadow primer )without seeing it first and now I see I totally need Painterly. :3 Thanks again!


  6. Love this post! I use quite natural on my eyebrows, looks awesome, last all day without smudging and depending how you apply it, the color can look softer or darker.


  7. great swatches lady. I used to colelct paintpots so I have many of the old DC'd ones and the LE ones as well. Before these I used to collect their paints.

    Now that I've moved on to other brands for cream shadows though, I still use Painterly religiousely as my everyday base. I'm currently on my 4th pot 😀


  8. Thank you! I've been wanting to get Soft Ochre for a while now, but I probably don't need it, and I'm sure it won't get much use. I just feel like I have to complete the collection lol. Quite natural works great on the brows, and for myself, it lasts all day. It's similar to MAC Espresso in color. It's not quite as dark and more golden than Brun, so if Brun is your perfect brow match, you might not like Quite Natural.


  9. Loved your blog! Actually, I have 3 paint pots, and I had some problem with drying out, specially with the Blackground. I think that, the creamiest are more suceptible to dry… The microwave was a good tip (and I'll try with my gel liner too).
    Kisses from Rio de Janeiro! :)))


  10. I LOVE your blog.I kept wondering if the same products and applications would work for me. I am 59 years old. Maybe you can do the same tutorials on and for women who have aged a little. We would be so grateful!!!!!!


  11. Hi Natalie! Wondering if you can share how you apply it? Fingers? Brush? I have a hard time blending these with shadow as they tend to cake up with the powder when I have tried to layer them.


    P – Miami, FL


  12. Thanks Nat, I really enjoyed reading this, I went to a MAC counter, and no one even spoke to me. I guess they are used to people knowing exactly what they want, and just going for it. I want a paint pot, I think Constructivist is very nice, although most MUA use Painterly a lot. Keep up the good work, your a big help. Muah…


  13. Nice review of all the Mac paintpots, it is nice to see them compaired together! Btw a good tip to stop them drying out is to store them upsidedown. I really want to get groundwork. x


  14. hi!! I love the color Quite natural! could you tell me a mac eyeshadow dupe for the paintpot? – because I'm not crazy about the paintpot's texture. thanks


  15. I love the paints they are a great base for my shadows I can wear them all day without creasing. I decided I love paints so much that I wanted the paint pot to get more. I got the bare study and I have found that it creases every time I use it. So I wonder if it is the same formulas as the paints. Has anyone else ever seen this? I think I will only use the paints from now on they eliminate the bulky packaging and the unsanitary dipping of the finger into product


  16. Another tip to keeping them creamy I heard is to store them upside down and keep the lid tight. I found this works for paint pots and gel liners too. Once applied to the lid, pop some translucent powder over the top to keep it from creasing.


  17. hey I just came across your website, while browsing for MAC essentials and I must say it's amazing :)) I'm flipping through pages and just can't get enough, it's just wonderful! :))


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