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Beginner’s Guide To Smokey Eye Makeup

October 7, 2020 By

Natural-looking smokey eye makeup can elevate even the most basic of daily beauty routines. No longer for just special occasions or nights out, a simple smokey look can play up your eyes and give them more depth and interest — even if you’re going for a natural look.

Like any makeup look, choosing the right shades and using the best technique can make or break your final result. Keep reading to learn how to easily recreate a flawless, eye-enhancing smokey shadow look. 

What is Smokey Eye Makeup?

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There’s more to the smokey eye look than just looking sexy and smoldering. By defining your eyes with a dark shade and highlighting with a light shimmer, you can open up and accentuate one of your best features. When done right, you can look both bright-eyed and mysterious… fresh-faced and sexy. Plus, a classic smokey eye with the right neutral-toned shade can make you appear more youthful, too.1

Check out these ageless celebs who rock the timeless smokey eye look on the red carpet:

  • Naomi Campbell: The copper hues used in red carpet-ready smokey eyes really complement her deep skin tone.
  • Diane Kruger: She certainly knows how to underscore her amazing bone structure by keeping her smokey eye clean and neutral.
  • Jennifer Connelly: She plays up her amazing eyes with a well-blended smokey eye.
  • Olivia Palermo: If you have deep-set eyes like this beauty, you’ll want to perfect a copper-toned smokey eye, stat.2

Of course, you don’t need to be a celebrity with a pro makeup artist on call to pull off these looks. With a little patience, practice, and great tools, you’re well on your way to perfecting a simple smokey eye look that’s beautiful and natural enough for daytime. 

What Makeup Do I Need For Smokey Eyes?

Don’t reach for that black shadow just yet. Stick to a more neutral eyeshadow palette to make this look more wearable. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Eye shadows in a couple of neutral, complementary shades to create the subtle gradient of blended color — think chocolate browns, tans and taupes, and deep espressos.3 Better yet, find an eye shadow palette that already mixes and matches the best shades from light, medium, and dark, so all you have to do is blend. 
  • Eyeshadow primer (optional, but helpful for extended wear) 
  • Brown or black mascara
  • Eyeliner (also optional, but useful for making eyes “pop”)
  • A fluffy brush or two specifically for eyeshadow, for precise application and easy blending4

How To Create A Classic Smokey Eye

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Perfecting the art of blending a smokey eye is just as important as having the right makeup shades and tools. For a classic smokey eye look, use neutral shades (like browns or grays) to subtly accentuate your eyes.

Here are five steps to help you achieve a simple, classic smokey eye. Once you’ve mastered this look, you may find yourself turning to this makeup technique on the daily. It’s perfect for a polished look — but not so attention-grabbing that it overshadows the rest of your natural makeup. Think your natural eyes, but with more depth and drama. 

Step 1: Apply Your Base Shade

Use your soft-bristled brush to apply an even wash of powder shadow across your entire lid, from the inner corner to the socket line (the space under your brow bone). Your base shade is usually the lightest or medium hue in your eye shadow palette. A shade close to your natural skin tone will also work great!

Step 2: Line Your Eyes

Using a pencil liner, gently trace across your upper lash line, making sure to deposit pigment between the roots of your lashes for a cleaner and more seamless look. Consider using a gel liner for a more foolproof and professional-looking finish.

Step 3: Blend In Your Accent Color

Using a densely-packed (yet still fluffy) brush, tap on some darker shadow over your eyeliner, and buff it about halfway up the lid. You’re aiming to create the soft gradient of dark to light color from the lash line up to the socket line or crease, so take your time and blend well.

Step 4: Smudge Along The Lower Lash Line And Apply Mascara

Gently smudge the same dark shade on your lower lash line, being careful to keep it tight on the lash line. Smudging gives your eyes that sexy smolder and definition, but a little goes a long way — err on the side of applying too little instead of too much. Swipe on a couple of coats of mascara to complete the look.

Step 5: Add A Little Highlight

Apply a light wash of subtle shimmer directly on the brow bone to polish your smokey eye look even further. You can also dot a little near the inner corner of your eyes to really open them up and give them that sparkle.5

How To Perfect Smokey Eye Makeup For All Eye Colors

While you can’t miss with a classic combination of brown-toned shadows, you can also experiment with shadow colors that accentuate your specific eye color. When you feel you’re getting the hang of your blending and shading technique, you can start playing with more dramatic looks as you see fit. These color options are great for more formal nighttime looks.

Brown Eyes And Gray Eyes

Jewel-toned shadows play well with brown eyes, so if you want to take your smokey eye a little darker, go for purple hues instead of the traditional black. For a more modern take, look for shadows marked as plum, violet, orchid, or other purple tones.

For gray eyes, burgundy is your best bet. It’s a bold color, but when blended in well, it can really make gray eyes smolder as they should.

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Blue Eyes And Green Eyes

You might be surprised to find that copper or bronze shades can really make blue eyes appear icy bright, since they are contrasting shades on the color wheel. For green eyes, it’s the opposite — shading your eyes with a similar green hue really emphasizes them in the best way. Look for emeralds and jades when selecting your shadow.

Hazel Eyes

Modernize the traditional black smokey eye by using a navy blue tone instead. It still gives the same nighttime drama, but really brings out the unique color of your eyes without being too dark.6

Perfecting The Smokey Eye 

Smokey eye shadow looks great on everyone — when done well. Take the time to choose the right neutral eyeshadow palette in a shade range and formula you love, and don’t be shy about using it. Practice your precise application and blending skills, and pretty soon, you’ll be able to show off sexy smokey eyes anytime you want.

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