Anyone who wears makeup can appreciate the look of a smouldering, smoky eye. With the right colors and application method, it’s a simple look to achieve.
Gathering Your Materials
Choose colors that will accentuate your eyes. You can give your eyes an extra attention-grabbing boost by using specific colors of eyeshadow and eyeliner. Consider the following colors based on your eye color:
- Blue eyes: light, natural tones like coral and champagne. Avoid an overly dark, smoky look, which may overpower your pale eyes.
- Brown eyes: most colors work with brown eyes. Neutral shades of salmon and bronzy gold, with a splash of black shadow in the crease of your eye, will make your eyes pop.
- Green eyes: muted purples and browns.
- Grey (or blue-grey) eyes: sooty and smoky shades of grey, blue, and silver. 
- Hazel eyes: metallics and pastels will bring out the flecks of green and gold in your eyes. Aim for something delicate, like a dusty pink, or a soft copper or gold.
Choose your eyeliner. Opt for a rich and creamy pencil eyeliner. It will be easier to smudge and blend.
- Classic eyeliner colors include dark brown, grey, and black for the upper lid, and softer shades of the same colors on your lower lash line — for example, tan, taupe, chestnut, soft brown, soft grey, or soft black.
- Eyeliners come in a variety of forms: pencils, liquid pens, gels. You can even apply eyeshadow with an angled brush for a more subtle effect. A good liner will go on smoothly, and give you a rich color. The easiest for beginners is a pencil.
Choose your eyeshadow. A good eyeshadow will be rich (not chalky) in color and smooth in texture. A classic smoky eye shadow color is earthy brown, but you can experiment with other colors as well. Choose 2 to 3 colors for your eyeshadow.
- Consider getting 2 colors in the same family: a lighter one for your eyelid, and a darker one for your crease.
- If a third color is used, it’s usually a much lighter, highlighting shadow used on the brow bone, just above the crease.
- Consider picking out a matte, transition color, that is close to your skin tone, to put in your crease. This will help blend out darker colors and make a more subtle gradient.
- 4Get something to prep your eyelids with. Priming your eyelids with concealer, foundation, or an eyeshadow primer (also known as an eye primer) helps make your eyeshadow look more rich and vibrant, and prevents it from smudging.
Pick up some good brushes. Brushes aren’t necessary in a smokey eye look, but having a good set of brushes can add great detail to your look. This will make it look more natural, polished, and professional. Consider getting the following brushes:
- Eyeshadow brush
- Crease brush
- Blending brush
- Smudge brush (optional)
- Small concealer brush (optional)
- Fan brush (optional)
- Angled definer brush (only applicable if you’re using it to apply eyeliner)
Choose complementary makeup. Before starting on your smoky eye, have an idea of what other makeup you might wear with it — for example, a tinted moisturizer, blush, and lipstick.
- If you’re going for a dramatic smoky eye, you may want to choose a lipstick in a neutral shade so as not to appear overly made up.
- If you are shading your brows, consider going darker than usual. This will help balance the face.
- Try using a fuller coverage foundation, as any imperfections will distract from the eyes.
Creating a Smoky Eye
- 1Apply a concealer, foundation, or eye primer to your eyelids. You can do this with your finger, a small concealer brush, or a blending sponge.
Apply eyeliner to your upper waterline. This will help make your lashes look fuller and your eyes look larger. Be sure to warm your eyeliner up by drawing on the back of your hand before starting. To apply:
- Raise your chin and gently lift the outer corner of your eyelid upward to expose your waterline (the strip of skin between your eyelashes and your eyeballs).
- With your dominant hand, hold the eyeliner vertically, and gently run its tip back and forth a few times, stopping about 3/4 of the way in toward your inner eye corner.
Apply eyeshadow to your eyelid. If you are using 2 colors of eyeshadow, use the lighter shade. If you are using 3 colors of eyeshadow, use the middle shade.
- Use an eyeshadow brush to apply the eyeshadow. Be sure to blow lightly on the brush after dipping it into the shadow to help with an even application. This will also prevent any additional eyeshadow from falling onto your cheeks.
- If you don’t have an eyeshadow brush, you can use your ring finger. Start in the middle of your eyelid and use your finger to pat the shadow back and forth on your lid.
Apply the darkest shade of eyeshadow to your eye crease. If you’re using the 2- or 3-shade method, apply the darkest shade of eyeshadow to your eye crease. If you’re only using one shade of eyeshadow, apply that to your eye crease.
- Using a crease brush: Start at roughly the last 2/3 of your eye and continue moving outward to the end of your outer eye, then run the brush back toward your inner eye corner, stopping before the last 1/4 of the crease.
- Using your finger: dip the tip of your ring finger in the eyeshadow and then place it in the center of your eye crease. Next, run your finger tip back and forth in the socket like a windshield wiper.
Blend the eyeshadow upward. Using either a crease brush, a blending brush, or your ring finger, gently blend the shadow from your eye crease upward to remove any hard lines.
- Using your finger: change the angle of your finger so that it’s diagonal, then blend the shadow upward, further into your eye crease. Don’t blend too high towards the brow.
- Flick your brush or finger upward at the outer edge of your eye to give the eye shadow an upward curve. You may wish to use tape to get a sharp line.
- If blending is hard, try using a transition shade on the brush, it will help it blend out easily.
Consider applying eyeliner to your upper lash line. You can do this using your pencil eyeliner, or a liquid/gel eyeliner for a for defined line. Start in the middle of your lash line, then in short, gentle strokes, pull the eyeliner outward, back through the middle, then toward your inner eye corner. Once you are done, you can smudge the eyeliner with a smudge brush, Q-tip, or your finger so that it doesn’t stand out from the eyeshadow in a harsh line.
- If you’re only using one shade of eyeshadow, eyeliner is a must as it’s necessary for creating that dark-to-light gradient look the smoky eye is known for. If you’re using more shades of eyeshadow, you can skip the eyeliner if you wish.
- If you try to wing the eyeliner out at the corners of your eyes but aren’t happy with the shape, you can adjust it by applying a small amount of face cream to a Q-tip and then gently nudging the eyeliner with the Q-tip to achieve the shape you desire.
Blend everything together. Using a blending brush, start at the outer corner of your eye and move toward the inner corner, then go back and forth like a windshield wiper until any lines created by your eyeshadow have disappeared.
- If you’re only using 1 shade of eyeshadow, plus a slightly darker eyeliner, you’ve likely already blended away the harsh lines by smudging the eyeliner. Still, you may want to run a blending brush over the top edge of the eyeshadow you’ve applied, just to soften the line.
Apply 2 coats of mascara to your eyelashes. For a more subtle look, choose a mascara in a dark brown, soft black, or grey; for more drama, use a very black mascara.
- Consider applying a lengthening mascara first. Let it dry, then curl your lashes with an eyelash curler, then apply a volumizing mascara to your eyelashes.
- To make your lashes look even thicker, dust a small amount of baby powder on your lashes between your first and second applications of mascara.
- For extra curl, apply mascara to your lashes while they’re in the eyelash curler.
- You can also apply false lashes at this point for a dramatic look.
Clean up the area around your eyes. If any eyeshadow or flakes of mascara have fallen on to your cheeks, now is the time to clean these up. Simply brush them away with a clean brush using gentle strokes; a fan brush is ideal for this.
- If you get this problem a lot, consider putting some loose powder on your cheeks under your eyes before you start doing your eye makeup. This will prevent the shadow from absorbing into your foundation. When you finish your eye makeup, simply sweep it away with a fan brush.
- 10Enjoy your smoldering, smoky eyes! Play around with your style and other makeup to get a sense for what looks good with the smoky eye. As an example, if you’re sporting a dramatic smoky eye, nude lips and formal wear will look nice.
Spicing Up the Smoky Eye Look
- 1Consider applying a nude shimmering color to your brow bone. If you’re doing the 3-shade method of smoky eye makeup, this will be your third and lightest shade. You can also use a highlighting balm or powder for this step.
Line your lower waterline with white eyeliner if you want to make your eyes look larger. This counteracts the effect that smokey eyes sometimes have of making your eyes look smaller. For a more natural look, use a nude-colored eyeliner instead. To apply:
- With your non-dominant hand, gently pull down on your cheek to expose your lower waterline. Still pulling down on your cheek, use your dominant hand color your lower waterline in white.
- Do this before you line your lower lash line, as the white may pick up any liner you have on your lower lash line, smudging it into the white on your waterline.
- 3Add a small amount of eyeliner to your lower lash line for a darker, more dramatic look. This can also make your eyelashes look more full. It can be the same shade you used before, or a slightly lighter shade.
Complementing Your Smoky Eyes
- 1Create a clear complexion. Use concealer and foundation or, if your skin’s already clear, a tinted moisturizer or BB cream, to even out your skin tone. You can apply these with your hands, a makeup sponge, or a foundation brush.
Apply blush to your cheeks. Apply a natural-looking shade of blush to the apples of your cheeks and then pull it upwards, following the natural curve of your face when you smile.
- The perfect shade of blush will match the color your cheeks turn when you’re flushed (e.g., after you’ve exercised).
- 3Highlight your face. Apply a small amount of highlighting cream or powder to parts of your face that you’d like to stand out. Key areas include the inner corners of your eyes, the upper cheekbones, and the dip at the centre of your upper lip.
- 4Add a dusting of translucent powder to your face. This will help seal your makeup and give your skin a creamy glow.
Apply lipstick. A lot of makeup artists recommend complementing smoky eyes with a neutral lip. To keep your lips looking natural, color them the shade they go when you’re flushed; you can add some gloss to make them look juicy.
- If you want to wear a brighter, more dramatic color, consider going with a more neutral eye.
- QuestionWhat colors do you use for a smokey eye?Makeup ArtistExpert AnswerLook for creative ways to use color. You can pair all kinds of colors for a smokey eye. I like orange and purple, because it creates this stunning sunset effect. Another one of my favorite combinations is green and gold, which reminds me of the architecture around Chinatown. I love to do a halo eye with green in the inner corner, outer corner, and through the crease, then gold on the lid.
- QuestionIs it in fashion to have a smokey eye?Community AnswerSmokey eyes are never out of fashion! In the summer you can select more earthy and light colors to create the smokey effect (like brown), and during winter you can either go with the all-time-classic black smokey eye and create a cat-eye style using some eyeliner or experiment with gold, mauve, copper, and bronze.
- QuestionDoes using sparkles in a smoky eye work just as well as solid neutral colors?Community AnswerSparkles in dark, bold, and smoky is super sassy. Neutrals are more modest and turn fewer heads.
Don’t forget to blend! Blending is key to ensuring that your makeup looks professional. The smoky eye depends on looking like a smooth gradient, not separate layers of color.
Some makeup artists recommend that you apply lipstick before applying eye makeup. This may help you gauge how heavy your eye makeup should be.
If you’re using your finger to apply eyeshadow, be sure to use a dabbing and light blending motion. Don’t press too hard; use your ring finger instead.
If you’re unsure of which colors to use for a smoky eye, start with one or two subtle, earthy colors that complement one another as well as your skin tone: browns, taupes, and greys are a safe choice.
When choosing your eyeliner and eyeshadow colors, it’s important to pair colors that are in the same family. For example: For example, all warm browns or all cool greys.
Be sure to wash your makeup brushes with a mild soap at least once a week. Failing to do so may cause the glands in the skin around your eye to become infected, which can be quite painful.
If you regularly wear eye makeup, make sure that you properly remove it, otherwise you may risk getting a skin infection — most commonly, a stye.
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