First of all, I am half Japanese so my eyelid space is limited so I understand your dilemma If you have small eyes, the best way to open them up is to put darker colors on the outer corners and light colors on the inner corners. This makes them appear brighter and wider. Also, don't fully line your lids/waterlines if your eyes start to look tiny after. Line the outer edges, at least of your lower waterline. In case you aren't sure, the waterline is the part of your lid that is closest to your eye (under your lashes on the top and between your lower lashes and eye on the bottom). You should start by playing around with some nice forgiving colors like white, beige, peach, pink, gold, etc. Once you get more confident, you can start trying out more dramatic looks.
Part of the problem you're seeing with the color on your lids not being visible when you blind is because you're only apply it to the crease I'm assuming? You want to apply it to the upper lid, in the crease and a bit above for an all over effect. This can seem like a lot, but when done right it doesn't look drag queen-ish, it just provides the shading and coloring you want! If you want, you can go to my site and actually see examples of eye looks that I've done (some dramatic, some neutral) that will show you what I mean about going past and using the crease to your advantage: http://bit.ly/eyhkqi
I hope this helps and feel free to message me with any specific questions!