The key to flawless looking skin starts with beauty basics. First, there’s skincare upkeep like moisturizing, exfoliating, and protecting your mug from the sun—no brainers, right? But after that comes the tricky part: applying foundation. Take it from us, it’s way more complicated than it sounds.

First, you have to search for the foundation that will perfectly match your skin tone—while you don’t want to look like you were raised by the Addams Family, you also don’t want to look like you grew up with the cast of The Jersey Shore. That middle ground can be hard to find! Then comes the covering, dotting, and blending—oh my!—and that’s all before you add on any of the colorful stuff like blush or eyeshadow. So we’ve broken down the entire process into nine easy-to-follow steps that will have you painting on your face like a pro: it’s foundation 101 time!

1. How to Pick Foundation Like a Pro: First, identify your skin tone. You’ll fall into one of two schools: either cool (like the gal on the right) or warm (like the gal on the left), which you can determine by checking the color of your veins on your wrists or the undertone of the skin color around your jawline. If your veins appear green or your skin color undertone is yellow, look for “warm” foundations described as “tan,” “beige,” or “olive.” If your veins look more bluish and your skin undertone is pinky, then check out “cool” foundations described as “porcelain,” “ivory,” or “fair.” Lots of info, but it’s priceless prep. (via Refinery29)

2. Find the Right Foundation: Now you know what to look for (yay!), but the choices become more nuanced (boo!). Don’t freak out: there’s an easy trick to choosing if you’re a “golden peach” or a “peachy gold”: wear a deep V t-shirt to the makeup counter. Seriously, because according to this tutorial, the best area to color match is right around your collar bone. If you’re too bundled, swatching on your chin will do. (via Refinery29)

3. Everyday Foundation from Start to Finish: It’s settled! You have the product, so now learn how to apply it. This basic technique shows how to add your foundation first to the edges of your face and work inward. Invest in a few fluffy brushes to prevent streaking! (via Makeup and Beauty Blog)

4. Banish Zits and Dark Circles With Concealer: No matter what you’re out to camouflage on your face, ya gotta do it with concealer. If you’re out to lighten up dark circles under your eyes, dab some on your ring finger, blot, then use a brush to blend all the way up to the eye. To mask pesky zits, use a stiff bristle brush to grab a dense concealer and dab it on. Don’t forget to set it with powder. (via Elle)

5. Beyond Blemishes: Masking Acne and Other Problem Spots: There’s a serious secret to covering major skin spots like acne or rosacea: don’t cake on the makeup. Start off with a light base all over to even out the skin tone and then tackle the problem areas with a concealer or heavy foundation for a lightweight and natural-looking result. Watch this video: the transformation on screen is truly stunning. (via Lisa Eldridge)

6. Born to Blend: Okay, so you’ve got all this stuff on your face, how do you blend it in? Different pros have their preferences—from bristly brushes to your own two fingers—but we’re intrigued by this pebble-shaped sponge called the Beauty Blender that works with all makeup formulas, even cream blushes! (via Once Wed)

7. Get Glowing: How to Highlight: Stuck indoors all day? Get a natural glow going with liquid highlighter. Apply to key parts of your face like your inner eye and crease above your upper lip and blend it in to make your entire face shine. (via The Beauty Department)

8. Day-Glo Skin: So now—and only now—do you turn to the rest of your makeup bag and grab your bronzer, blush, and highlighter to start adding depth. But even these products should hit target areas, which this blogger has playfully plotted on her face to show how you can achieve Day-Glo skin. (via Keiko Lynn)

9. Contouring the Face: And now, for the Photoshop of makeup techniques: contouring. This method can seriously alter the way your face looks: smaller nose, longer face, higher cheekbones—you get it by mastering the intense balance of makeup that is too dark, too light, and right on-point. Intrigued? Once you understand the basics, check out what kind of contouring will work best with your face shape. (via Mac)

Got any favorite tips or tutorials for applying foundation, concealer, or any other beauty basic? Tell us about ’em in the comments below!