A smoky eye is easily one of the most misunderstood and intimidating makeup techniques, but one that many women covet.
Essentially, the smoky eye is more about the style of shadow application, and less about color. You can do a classic black or gray smoky eye, but never be afraid to do a deep purple, espresso, or navy smoky eye as well. A traditional smoky eye has the bulk of its darkness concentrated at the lash line and a soft graduation upwards into the crease.

By Ivy Boyd
June 09, 2015
  • Eye Primer, such as NYX Eye Shadow Primer ($6, target.com)
  • Matte vanilla or cream shadow, such as CoverGirl Eye Enhancers 1 Kit Eye Shadow, Snow Blossom ($2.64; drugstore.com)
  • Matte warm brown shadow, such as bareMinerals Eyecolor in Pebble ($14; sephora.com)
  • Midtone shadow (we are using a middle gray), such as L'Oreal Color Riche Eyeshadow Quad in Black Pump ($7.99; ulta.com)
  • Dark shadow (we are using a charcoal gray), such as L'Oreal Color Riche Eyeshadow Quad in Black Pump ($7.99; ulta.com)
  • Soft, black pencil liner, such as L'Oreal Paris Voluminous Smoldering Eyeliner in Black ($8.95; drugstore.com)
  • Mascara, such as L'Oreal Paris Voluminous False Fiber Lashes Mascara ($8.95; drugstore.com)

Brushes You'll Need

  • Large, flat shader brush, such as bareMinerals Contour Shadow Brush ($14; beauty.com)
  • Smudge brush, such as Sephora Collection Classic Must Have #70 Smudge Brush ($14; sephora.com)
  • Small shader brush, such as bareMinerals Tapered Shadow Brush ($14; beauty.com)
  • Crease brush, such as bareMinerals Crease Defining Brush ($18; beauty.com)

Step-by-Step Instructions (See Below for Images)

  1. Begin any eye look with a primed lid. This will keep your shadow on longer, cancel out any eyelid discoloration, prevent creasing, and ensure your colors look truest.
  2. Use a small shader brush to apply a matte vanilla shade to the inner corner of the eye.
  3. Apply same shade to brow bone to highlight this area.
  4. Use a fluffy crease brush to sweep a warm, matte brown shadow into the crease. This will serve as a transition color and create a soft gradation of color. Without it, the dark shadows can create harsh lines, aging the eye area.
  5. We have now highlighted and contoured the eye area and have created a nice framework for the smoky eye.
  6. Use a large shadow brush to pat on your midtone -- in this case a middle gray -- from the lash line up toward the crease. Remember: Most color is applied where you lay your brush down first.
  7. Use a clean crease brush to soften line where your midtone shadow meets your crease shadow.
  8. Use a small smudge brush to apply your darkest color to the outer third of the eye only. The key is to place the color first, blend after.
  9. Use a fluffy blending brush to blend the dark color inwards toward, but not all the way to, the center of the lid. Sweep into the outer third of your crease as well.
  10. Use your same smudge brush to drag the dark shadow along lower lash line as well.
  11. Take a soft black liner and sketch a line along your top lash line.
  12. Use a smudge brush to smudge this line out. This is key to keep the look smoky and soft. No harsh lines needed here!
  13. Use the same black liner to line the inner rim of the eye.
  14. Apply mascara to your bottom lashes.
  15. Curl top lashes. You will be amazed at what a difference this makes.
  16. Apply mascara to the top lashes.

Finishing Touches

Because we've placed the emphasis and drama on the eyes, your lips can take a backseat. Try a pink/nude shade like L'Oreal Colour Riche Lipstick in Fairest Nude ($6, drugstores). Pairing a smoky eye with nude lips is a tried-and-true look with major sex appeal.

Extra Tips

  • When doing a smoky, shadow-heavy look, it's most practical to do your eyes first, before foundation or concealer. This way, when you need to clean up the fallout and smudges, you won't erase all your hard work!
  • Keeping shadows matte is a good way to keep a look from getting too glittery.
  • Define your brows with pencil or powder to really frame your look.

Smoky Eye Tutorial



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