A Guide to MAC’s Matte Brown Eyeshadows

I don’t know about you gals, but I do A LOT of my shopping online. There isn’t a MAC store near me and the counter is about 45 minutes away — not to mention it is the busiest counter I’ve ever seen, and it drives me INSANE. I like to buy the pan form of eyeshadows so it makes much more sense for me to buy them online. Before purchasing, I frequently tried to find reviews/blogs describing and comparing MAC eyeshadows to one another in the permanent line, i.e. Saddle vs Texture, Cork vs Wedge, etc. I’m not looking to buy a bunch of dupes! I never really found anything that was detailed enough, so after collecting nearly every matte brown MAC has, I’m writing what I was looking for — an ultimate guide to MAC’s matte brown eyeshadows.

I will also discuss some of the Satin finish shadows that are commonly compared to the Matte shades. These are not ALL of MAC’s Matte browns — but nearly all of them. Whew! Now that I’ve got all that out there, lets begin!!!

I am NC15 — for swatching reference!

Left to Right: Wedge, Cork, Soba, Texture, Saddle, Soft Brown
Left to Right: Soft Brown, Era, Omega, Kid, Malt, Wedge, Cork
Left to Right: Brun, Espresso, Brown Down, Embark, Handwritten, Swiss Chocolate

WEDGE: Wedge is a beautiful slightly warm mid tone taupe brown that can be used for transition or in the crease. One of my most used eyeshadows! Wedge vs Kid –Wedge is very close in color to Kid but slightly cooler and darker. I do not think owning both is necessary. Of the two I would choose Wedge because it is more versatile and has a better texture — but I go back and forth between the two.

CORK: Cork is a “muted golden brown” and technically a Satin, but it appears Matte on the eye. It works beautifully in the crease on lighter skin, and as a transition color for tan skin. Wedge vs Cork —  Cork is darker and cooler. They are similar, but not dupes. I think it is justifiable to own both… but that’s just me.

SOBA: Soba is a “golden brown with gold shimmer”. It is super pigmented and buttery. This eyeshadow has a lot more shimmer and luminosity than most other Satins. It is almost a muted mustard/camal color, if they makes any sense… not the most flattering color on some skintones. I would try this one before purchasing. Soba looks beautiful when paired with Era, very pretty work appropriate look. Soba vs Cork — often compared as dupes but I could not disagree more. They give a completely different look on the eye. Soba vs Patina — I think they are similar, Soba is more pigmented and a darker gold.
SOFT BROWN: Soft Brown is a warm mid tone brown that is best used as a transition color. Some will find this to appear a bit orangey… but I happen to like it, even on my extremely fair skin.

SADDLE: Saddle is a warm orange brown. It has excellent pigmentation and is easy to blend. This is a beautiful transition shade for women of color. Saddle vs Soft Brown — they are definitely in the same family, but NOT dupes. They are gorgeous when used together — Soft Brown as a transition, Saddle to Deepen the crease.

TEXTURE: Texture is a Velvet, a “peachy-brown with shimmer” according to MAC. I would call this a straight up orange brown. It applies to the eye nearly Matte. There is a tiny bit of sparkle that helps it blend like a dream. This is also another great transition color for woc. Saddle vs Texture — close in color but differ in texture and use. I don’t think it is necessary to own both if you are beginning your MAC collection.

SWISS CHOCOLATE: Swiss Chocolate is a girl’s best friend… it is absolutely beautiful in both color and texture. A warm muted medium red brown, I don’t think there is a dupe in the permanent collection.  I have seen this used as a transition for tan skin but I’ve never used it for such.

HANDWRITTEN: Handwritten is a Matte2 (matte squared) finish and extremely pigmented. It is a dark warm brown. I think while the Matte2 shadows are super pigmented, they are a pain to blend and Handwritten is no exception. I typically use Handwritten for liner.

BROWN DOWN: Brown Down is a warm medium-dark brown that is VERY close in color to Handwritten — a much drier, less pigmented version. Brown Down has recently been discontinued, so if you were looking to purchase it, look no further than Handwritten.

ESPRESSO: Espresso is a cool toned medium brown that is very popular, but has rather lackluster quality. It has so-so pay off and it’s somewhat of a pain in the ass to blend. I don’t use Espresso as eyeshadow, but I do use it to add depth to my brows — Love it for this!

BRUN: Brun is a very cool toned dark black brown that leans on the ashy side of things — which makes it great for filling in dark brows. I love Brun as a liner as well. Brun vs Mystery — I personally do not own Mystery so I cannot say either way. I have heard they are dupes so many times that I have avoided Mystery all together. You tell me… are they dupes?

EMBARK: As you can see in the swatch, Embark is somewhat of a tragedy. It is a dark red brown that has a dry texture and sub par payoff. I used to love Embark, and this is my second pan… maybe this one is a dud. Handwritten and Brown Down are close in color to Embark.

Guide to MAC Transition Colors (click HERE) for a more in depth description of Malt, Kid, Era, and Omega along with Wedge, Cork, Soft Brown.

Guide to MAC’s Eyeshadow Finishes (click HERE)

Hope that as helpful! If I acquire anymore browns from MAC I will be sure to update the post.

What is/are your favorite brown eyeshadow/s?  Mine are Wedge, Saddle and Swiss Chocolate!

Cork vs Wedge, Soba vs Cork, Cork vs Soft Brown, Soft Brown vs Saddle, Soft Brown vs Texture, Texture vs Saddle, Handwritten vs Brown Down, Swiss Chocolate vs Handwritten, Embark vs Handwritten, Brun vs Mystery

One thought on “A Guide to MAC’s Matte Brown Eyeshadows

  1. Anne

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Anne

    Love your post! Even though I have a MAC store close by, I still research their colors online for much the same reasons as you. I could get into a lot of trouble going into the MAC store without a game plan of what colors I'm looking for! My current matte brown collection includes Wedge, Saddle, Embark and Brun. Recently I went into the MAC store to specifically purchase two colors (Amber Lights and Club) and also walked out with Swiss Chocolate. I'm rethinking this purchase given the current brown's I already have in my collection (I also have UD dupes for Expresso, Kid and Cork). In your opinion, is it really necessary, given my current brown collection, to keep Swiss Chocolate? Would Swiss Chocolate provide such a different look that I couldn't obtain with what I currently have? Don't get me wrong, the color is beautiful! Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated!! Just in case this helps, I'm an NC37, dark brown hair and brown eyes.


  3. Anne

    Thanks for your response and suggestions!

    I actually purchased Club when I first started with MAC and returned it…I guess the color was a bit intimidating for me at the time.I'm much more comfortable/confident with the various brushes and application techniques so I decided to try it again.Wish me luck!So many people online recommend this color.I hope it ends up being a keeper for me!


  4. admin

    My favorite way to wear it is packed on the lid for a cool twist on a smokey eye… it doesn't show up to well without a good primer though. Good luck!

  5. Complete Foodie

    Thanks for this post – it was helpful to a makeup and MAC novice like me. Can I substitute Soft Brown with something from the drugstore? I am just starting out with eye makeup and have a budget to stick to.

  6. admin

    Depending on which country you live in… Sleek makes eyeshadow palettes that have great matte shades in them. They aren't available in the US though. I think they are only sold in stores in Europe, but you can order them online and they are very inexpensive.

  7. Lindsay Marie

    So glad I found your blog.I'm NW15, and a Texan girl as well!That means you understand the heat and the fair skin issues I have, haha.

  8. Anonymous

    I have been searching for a guide to Mac's browns for at least a week. Thank you so much for putting this together! I'm building a matte palette right now and this is a perfect guide

  9. Anonymous

    Thank you so much for your post! I've been looking so long for the perfect matte brown for my hazel/amber eyes.
    Your pictures and descriptions are even better then the advise you get at the counters 😉 Really helpful, well done!

  10. Anonymous

    Nice selection of browns! A lot of people say that Embark is nightmare and rubbish to blend but I disagree… especially if you use other matteI tried it with Folie and Swiss Chocolate last Friday night and wow almost no blending needed, it was just sooo easy to work with it with another mattte shade (in this case Folie) that it has become one of my favourites. 🙂

  11. Anonymous

    Hey I am a woman of color (NW43) and I just wanted to say that I greatly appreciate you adding a guide for people with darker skin tones or people who wanted to do a darker eye. Just wanted to say thanks!

  12. badgerpaws mcgee

    Is Swiss chocolate and brown script similar? I didn't notice it on here

  13. Monica C

    I have mystery and brun….mystery is a bit redder and lighter. I love both

  14. LRH

    Also, on the off chance you are still answering questions, is there a MAC shade that is similar to Handwritten?I have about 20 browns and figure there has to be SOMETHING in my collection that is similar!Thanks!

  15. LRH

    I am late to this party, but I am just now finding your blog and am obsessed with it!Your product knowledge is so insightful, and the looks you've done are beautiful!Plus, you are pretty much my exact skin tone and eye color, which works out great for me! :)In short, you are an awesome resource… PLEASE COME BACK!

  16. Zara Hussain

    Love this post! Which shade would you suggest as a dark brown for the crease for someone who is an NC40. I'm looking for a dark brown that I can blend into a reddish shadow to create a warm brown gradient if that makes sense

  17. Christina

    Wow! What a great post! I have it bookmarked for future reference ;)Im pretty new to neutrals, and just picked up wedge!! How does wedge compare to era? Are they similar? After reading your post, Im thinking era might have been a better choice for me!?! I'm a brunette with NC25/C1/Light Plus skin.

  18. Christina

    I have been experimenting with wedge, and you are right, it's awesome!!!! Not to dark…and blends great! I can't wait to try some of the other colors as well 🙂

  19. Amber Smith

    This is a fabulous find
    At £10 a pan, I want to be sure – thanks for the guide!

  20. Unknown

    Thanks for the detailed review. Im a nw25 with green eyes, im debating beteween swiss chocolate, texture and saddle. What do you think i should get?


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