It’s Tinsel Town’s biggest night out, and the architects behind the perfectly smoked eyes, bold lips and glowing skin that we’ll see in spades on the red carpet are already setting up shop in the Hollywood hills.Before the madness begins, we’ve pulled them aside for inside tips on creating a special look that’s unforgettable.Skin is always inNo matter the color trend of a season, beautiful skin is the base of any winning look. “I start with Giorgio Armani Crema Nera Extrema Serum to boost the inner glow, and then the secret weapon of every makeup artist—Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation—for sheer perfection,” says celebrity makeup artist Tim Quinn, who will be working with presenter Glenn Close this weekend, of the liquid that is preferred by A-listers from Angelina Jolie to Megan Fox. (We recommend Sephora Collection Ultimate Brightening Serum and Physicians Formula Youthful Wear Spotless Foundation as budget-friendly options.)

Courtesy of Giorgio Armani, MakeUp Forever, Sephora

 It’s all about the highlight and contour“Contouring and highlighting is an easy way to transform your everyday makeup into red carpet-ready,” says Quinn. Use a powder bronzer to frame your face, starting at the temples and following the hairline along the cheekbone and down to the jawbone. Then tap a liquid illuminator above the cheekbones, on the browbones, inner corners of eyes, bridge of nose and top of the lip cupid’s bow to open up the face, instructs Quinn. (Get more insider contouring tips for every face shape here.)Use high-pigment colorFor a look that lasts through hours of schmoozing, camera flashes and the hot lights of the big stage, celebrity makeup artist Molly R. Stern, who will be working with Olga Kurylenko this weekend and who made up Reese Witherspoon the night she won her Oscar, uses intense yet blendable hues. “I am completely obsessed with my Make Up For Ever 12 Flash Color Case. The tones are so rich, and I really tap into the sensation of finger painting with it!” she says. These cream colors apply seamlessly to eyes, cheeks and lips, and intensity varies, depending on whether you tap on lightly with a finger tip or stroke on with a brush.Touch upPhysicians Formula makeup artist Joanna Schlip buys petite containers from the beauty supply store to sample out product portions that she uses on her celebrity clients so they can discreetly touch up as needed. “These tiny containers can fit into even the smallest clutch!” says Schlip. Don’t forget tissues, a mirrored powder compact and mints—all essentials to getting through a long formal evening looking as fresh as when you began.Pick a focus“One element—the dress, hair or beauty look—should be the standout,” advises Schlip. For example, if the dress is simple and streamlined, makeup can go dramatic. If the design is more complex, it’s visually more flattering to keep hair and makeup simple. When all elements are strong, you risk being overpowered and getting lost in it all—and looking like a reality TV fashion victim.Give yourself enough timeWe hope that date has a book to read. All three leading makeup artists we interviewed say that a complete Oscars hair and makeup look takes at least three hours to craft. While you may not have that kind of time (or patience!), planning enough time to get pretty can prevent you from feeling frazzled. Enjoying a cup of green tea or glass of red while getting ready will also help set the tone for the evening to come, plus sneak in some skin-savvy antioxidant and heart health benefits. “Sometimes we even pop champagne—it’s Hollywood’s biggest night, after all!” says Stern.MORE: Our Picks for Most Memorable Oscar Gowns of All Time