MAC de-potting project … or how I finally organized my eyeshadow singles

MAC de-potting project opener


I hadn’t realized how many MAC single eyeshadows I owned, until one day they threatened to overflow the container I kept them in. So what did I do? I divided them up into colour groups of 15 shadows (the size of the large MAC palettes), and placed them in baggies to await their new home. And wait, they did. And wait some more.

It came to the point where I didn’t even know what colours I had anymore, and decided to “de-pot” them all; it helped that MAC dropped the price of their palettes (CAD $10.00) and inserts (CAD $2.00), which made this project so much easier on the wallet. Having never attempted this before, I scoured Youtube videos for how-to methods, and found one that worked for me (I don’t remember which video it was now … sorry!)

*Note that some of the photos are grainy and/or a touch blurry – they were taken in a rush with my phone.

The mission:

To de-pot +/- 65 single eyeshadows into 5 palettes


  • paper towels
  • small sharp knife
  • letter opener
  • tweezers
  • heat source (tea light candle)
  • pen & paper
  • 2-sided tape
  • transparent 1″ round stickers
  • Sharpie (I used red ultra-fine; white, silver or gold would be even better)
  • eyeshadows in their pots (like, duh)


  1. After laying down some paper towels on your work surface, begin by inserting the tip of your small sharp knife into the seam found on the eyeshadow pot (fig. 1) and add some pressure by twisting the knife slightly until the eyeshadow in its plastic “sleeve” pops out of the larger container (fig. 2). Remember to keep the knife pointed away from you.
  2. With the tweezers, firmly grip one edge of the eyeshadow (fig. 3) and place it over your candle, staying approximately 2-3 inches above the heat source. Remember that the purpose is for the bottom of the plastic to soften/melt enough, so that you can pop the eyeshadow out of its plastic “sleeve” – that being said, be aware that IT WILL GET VERY HOT. Turn it over often to check the progress – the entire process takes less than a minute.
  3. Once underside of the plastic pot has melted sufficiently (fig. 4), turn the shadow over and still gripping one edge firmly with the tweezers, use the blunted tip of a letter opener to push the shadow out of the plastic sleeve (fig. 5). The glue used to stick the shadow to the plastic pot will have melted and may be stringy – try to avoid it (fig. 6).  DO NOT TOUCH ANYTHING WITH YOUR FINGERS AT THIS POINT as the metal will still be very hot.
  4. Keeping the popped eyeshadow upside down on the paper towel, take the original plastic pot & gripping it by the edge of the lid (fig. 7), hold it over the flame once more (slightly higher and moving it around to avoid the paper label from scorching) for about 7-10 seconds, until an edge of the label lifts enough that you can peel it off easily with the tweezers (fig. 8).
  5. Working quickly, place the freshly peeled label onto the back surface of your popped eyeshadow and press into place (fig. 9).
  6. Before inserting your newly prepared eyeshadows in the palette, make sure to write down their names (and type ie: matte, frost, etc) and placement order on a piece of paper – necessary for the last step.
  7. Attach small slivers of 2-sided tape to each eyeshadow label (being careful to avoid placing the tape on the name) and pop each prepared eyeshadow into its place in the palette. With your finger covered by a tissue, add some light pressure onto the eyeshadow’s surface to ensure it adhered well.
  8. With a Sharpie, clearly list each eyeshadow on the transparent stickers (fig. 10), then using your previous written information as a guide, place these new labels on the underside of the palette, in the same order as the shadows appear within the palette (fig. 11).

Helpful tips:

Dividing your eye shadows into the colour groups of your choice BEFORE you begin a project such as this, makes it easier once you begin; this way you know exactly what will go where, with no unnecessary scrambling during the process.

By taking a few extra minutes to write down the eyeshadow names (and the order that they’ll be in their respective palettes), you eliminate the guesswork of what shade you’re dealing with.

Even though these palettes are said to have a magnetic base, I found that the de-potted eyeshadows did NOT stick in their individual slots at all. You can always buy a roll of magnetic tape to affix pieces to each eyeshadow, but that might add bulk; 2-sided tape is much sleeker to work with, and sticks like a charm.

MAC de-potting project shadow pots

the ‘Before’ shot: MAC single eyeshadows living in baggies

MAC shadows

splitting up the eyeshadows into their final colour groups (missing one baggie-full here)

MAC de-potting project empty palettes

a view of the insert (left) and the clear-topped palette

MAC de-potting project palette insert

a closer look at the insert

MAC de-potting project start

fig. 1: first stage in separating the plastic pot

MAC de-potting project shadow removed

fig.  2: eyeshadow in its plastic “sleeve” out of the pot

MAC de-potting project

fig. 3: holding the eyeshadow over the heat source

MAC de-potting project 2

fig. 4: bottom of plastic “sleeve” ready to have its eyeshadow popped out

MAC de-potting project 3

fig. 5: pushing the eyeshadow out of its “sleeve”

MAC de-potting project 4

fig. 6: glue strings

MAC de-potting project heating label

fig. 7: heating the label

MAC de-potting project peeling label

fig. 8: peeling the label

MAC de-potting project label applied

fig. 9: peeled label attached to de-potted eyeshadow

MAC de-potting project 5

fig. 10: writing down each eyeshadow name on transparent stickers

MAC de-potting project palette labels

fig. 11: transparent labels affixed to the back of each palette

MAC de-potting project completed

the completed results!

MAC de-potting project 6 palettes

the bottom right palette was created a few years ago – note the older style

*Click to enlarge each palette photo to view the names clearer

MAC Palette 1 cool shades

Palette 1: Cool Shades

MAC Palette 2 pinks & purples

Palette 2: Pinks & Purples

MAC Palette 3 warm shades

Palette 3: Warm Shades

MAC Palette 4 oceanic shades

Palette 4: Greens & Blues

MAC Palette 5 jewel warm smokey

Palette 5: Warm Smokey

MAC Palette 6 neutrals & staples

Palette 6: (Original) Neutrals & Staples


The only eyeshadows I didn’t de-pot, were the ones that came in limited edition packaging – I didn’t have the heart to ruin those (about 30 more, actually). Each of the 5 new palettes that I put together holds several limited edition shades as well, in case you’re wondering why some of the names aren’t familiar – but as their containers were the regular black kind, I had no qualms taking them apart.

Moral of the story: not only was this project fun to do, but totally cathartic as well to an organizing freak such as myself. The best part? I’m now actually USING my eyeshadows, as opposed to neglecting them. The slim lines of each palette makes them very portable and easily stacked, while the clear transparent lid means I can now see what each palette holds without needing to open it up first. Another unexpected bonus of this project, is being able to take advantage of the “Back to MAC” program so much quicker, where for every six MAC containers you bring back to the store, you can then exchange them for new products (the MAC store nearest me offers a choice of either a lipstick or eyeshadow) – I brought back enough empty pots to pick up about 10 new eyeshadows – which helped to complete my palettes. See? Nothing but benefits all around.

One warning, however: this type of project yields immediate results and becomes kind of, well, addictive. I’m thinking of attacking my blushes next …

MAC de-potting closer

38 Responses to MAC de-potting project … or how I finally organized my eyeshadow singles

  1. Denise says:

    Beautiful collection! 🙂 There is something ridiculously cathartic about de-potting eyeshadows, lol. I’m so glad MAC finally decided to bring out clear-lidded palettes. The make-up artist in me was seriously rejoicing. I bought MAC’s 30-pan palettes and had a heyday with them! I still have about 100 single eyeshadows to go but I can’t be bothered to buy more palettes right now so they’re just sitting in IKEA containers. 😛

    And now you can bring all of those containers to MAC for recycling! 😀

    • Eugenia says:

      I actually bought the 30-pan palettes first, but brought them back as I found them a bit too bulky, but they’re definitely way more convenient if you have even more shadows than I do. As to recycling the containers, I did — I mentioned in my post how I brought back my empty pots in exchange for any shadows I needed to complete the palettes! Love that program!

  2. Carina says:

    Ah, such beautiful colors! 🙂

  3. I can SOOO totally see myself doing this Eugenia! OMG this will be my next project. My biggest issue though is that most of the shadows I want to ‘depot’ are in other palettes. This could get messy… :S

  4. So did the eyeshadows stay in your palette? Or would you recommend using a small magnet to keep them in place? I’m sorry I was confused by what you said about tape…

  5. amandabambii says:

    Would also love to see your collection!!! I only own one mac shadow!

    • Eugenia says:

      If you follow me on Instagram and/or Twitter, you may have seen the photo I posted of the MAC limited edition packaging eyeshadows that I didn’t de-pot; I also own quite a few MAC palettes from several past collections. Then there are all the other brands I have…don’t even get me started, lol! Once my re-organzing is complete, I’ll definitely be showing my ever-expanding makeup collection!

  6. danishapop says:

    thank you very much for the tip!!

  7. PhotoGirl says:

    What a great idea! If only I had the patience…

    I would love to see a post about how you store all of your makeup. I’m thinking of splurging on one of those Clear Cubes, but I am always interested in seeing how other makeup lovers manage the storage issue.

    • Eugenia says:

      I’m actually in the process (which feels like I’ve been doing this forever) of re-organizing my entire makeup collection, so I wouldn’t be a good role model at the moment, on storage techniques, lol! I’ll be sure to update that once everything is in place. Regarding the clear cube, I like the idea of transparency as you’re able to see what you have or are missing, but depending on how large your makeup collection is, you might need several of those thingies — if that’s not an issue, then go for it!

  8. Nancy Dines says:

    I have been collecting mac eyeshadows for the last 6 years or so, and 2 weeks ago I got around to de-potting them.

    I found loads of helpful you tube videos. For my heat source, I used my flat iron, (which wiped clean afterward with an alcohol swab, when cool)!

    I rather enjoyed my craft project, and I love the fact that ALL of my mac eyeshadows are so easily accessible.

    Only one little problem: I keep all the items for my daily 5 minute makeup routine in a smallish cosmetic bag, and I balance it on the bathroom sink, (as well as my coffee, it’s 5:30 in the morning, I’m barely awake). I have the palette there too, so I can use my satin taupe shade.

    What I should do, eureka moment here, is just buy another satin taupe and then everything is kept nice and tidy in the bag, which I can shlep from place to place.

    In other words, palettes seem nice for when I want to sit down and pretend I’m a makeup artist and try a little of this and a little of that – not at 5:30 am when I just want to get the stuff on my face and get out the door!!

    And I can’t tell you how much I love and appreciate the back to mac scheme!

    • Eugenia says:

      I really wish more companies/brands had an initiative like that, but at least we can benefit from what MAC offers! As to your idea of buying a backup of a well-used shade, that’s excellent – this way, you can enjoy the best of both worlds! 🙂

  9. I don’t have enough solos to depot into these giant palettes but plan on acquiring some classic MAC shades in the future and building a set. The finished palettes look amazing! All those colours. *__*

    • Eugenia says:

      I love looking at the finished products…made me so happy to finally organize them! A tip for you: each large palette holds 15 eyeshadows, so depending on how many you already have, don’t forget that for every 6 empty pots you bring back you can pick up one free eyeshadow (make sure the free eyeshadow you pick up is in the regular packaging and not the refill — so you can bring that empty back as well!) so hopefully you’ll be able to make that palette quicker than you thought! Hope that made sense, lol!

  10. Deb says:

    These look great! A small suggestion if I may…

    The palettes are magnetic but in order to work, the eyeshadow itself has to have a magnet on the bottom (as they do when you buy them in Pro pan form). When the eyeshadow pops up and the glue is still melted, press a small found magnet onto the base (I get them at Michaels or hobby stores). When the glue cools, I just pop it into the pan. It makes removing them (putting them into a 4-pan for a trip, for instance) easy and quick. 🙂

    • Eugenia says:

      Thanks for the tip, Deb! As the eyeshadows are in a metal pan, they should have by all rights, stuck to the bottom of the palette – but apparently the magnetic bottoms on the new palettes is known to be on the weak side (I was told that MAC is looking into addressing this issue). I thought of picking up some magnets as you mentioned (which would have been easier to remove the eyeshadows), but I had the 2-sided tape on hand and thought that attaching magnets would have made the eyeshadows too bulky – I’ll look into it for future palettes, though! 🙂

  11. Dovey says:

    Hi Eugenia,

    GORGEOUS results! I really need to pick up more MAC palettes and get around to some depotting 🙂

  12. Larie says:

    That’s amazing, Eugenia! Everything is all neat and organized now, I love it. I love the idea of depotting but I am soooo not a crafty/DIY kind of person T_T My shadows would all be cracked and demented looking, LOL.

    • Eugenia says:

      Hahahaha! Thanks, Larie — you would not believe the intense sense of self-satisfaction that completing this project gave me! Fear not, my friend; no need for Martha Stewart-esque skills to do this … it’s easy-peasy! I just know you’d do a fab job!

  13. Snail Polish says:

    You’ve made a good dint into the Satin Taupe! It’s one of my faves – nearly used mine up, which is a miracle!

  14. Doc Blue says:

    I feel great lust for your eyeshadow collection.

  15. Sue says:

    Wow… That’s an impressive collection you got there!

  16. I did something like this a couple years back. Makes such a difference in storage, hey? I have the old MAC palettes though-these new ones are nicer!

    • Eugenia says:

      A HUGE difference, Lil Sis! What I like about the old palettes is that they’re even thinner and their magnetic base seems to be of better quality, but since they don’t make them anymore, that’s moot now, lol! Still, I love the clean & sharp lines of the new palettes!

  17. Good job! I always manage to crack an eye shadow or two. Yours look pristine 🙂

What are your thoughts, beautiful?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.