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How To

How to master the smokey eye

January 1 | 3 minute watch


Words by Emily Deacon

Originally published on | April 15

A smudgy, sexy smoky eye is a forever classic.

We love that smoky eyeshadow can look however you want it: rebellious and rock 'n' roll cool, or glam movie star. And, it works for any time of day or any occasion.

But it can be a daunting makeup technique to pull off. All those products and blending? Toeing the line between artfully hazy and just plain messy? It's enough to send even the most makeup-obsessed among us into a spin.

Here’s the secret no one tells you: a smoky eye can be as easy or as involved as you make it. Want to use 10 different eyeshadows, 15 brushes and an entire hour to create a smoky eye look? You do you. But if you've only got five minutes and limited makeup skills, then this one's for you. And while we're still going to use multiple products (all that layering is what will give you the depth and dimension) we promise it's super easy and minimal.

Before you start...

  • Don't go into this thinking you need to achieve perfection. Remember, everything is going to get smudged, smoked and blended out, so take the pressure off. Also, it's makeup, and makeup can be easily removed, so no biggie if you feel like you've messed up. Remove it and start again!
  • The most successful smoky eye will keep colour rich and concentrated at the lash line and diffuse subtly outward for that beautiful smokiness we’re aiming for.
  • We said this is a ‘quick and easy’ smoky eye tutorial, so try to limit makeup items as much as possible. Leave the layers of smoky eye makeup for another time.
  • Blend like your life (or smoky eye) depends on it. The hallmark of a smoky eye is diffused, not block, colour that has dimension because of the product layering, so there’s really no such thing as too much blending!
  • Nowhere in the makeup rule book does it say that a smoky eye has to be grey or black. These steps will work with whatever colour you choose, whether that’s beautifully burnished browns and bronzes, or bolder purples and greens.
  • You can also play around with finishes! Your smoky eye can be a matte, shimmer, satin or glitter.

Step 1: Prep is key

Properly prepping eyelids is only important if you want your handiwork to last… and you do want it to last, right? (Prep is also important for anyone with eyelids that go greasy.) Use either a concealer or dedicated eyeshadow primer and wait for it to dry down before moving on to the next step.

Step 2: Colour with a crayon

Smoky eyes don’t come any easier than an eyeshadow crayon. Grab a crayon (like By Terry’s Ombre Blackstar in ‘Bronze Moon’) and scribble all over the mobile lid, working quickly to build the colour level you desire. Once the colour is on, blend and diffuse it out with a brush (try Smashbox Crease Brush).

Step 3: Layer a powder (or two)

Now you want to warm up the crease, so use matte eyeshadows in greys and blacks (or whatever colour smoky eye you’re creating – you can’t go wrong with the matte powders in Urban Decay’s Naked Heat Palette) and apply over the crease. Then, taking those same colours, dust some under the eye to add some more smokiness under the lower lash line, but don’t go any farther than the ends of lashes.

Step 4: Define the waterline

Darker and sexier is what we’re going for here, so amplify your eyes by running a waterproof eyeliner along the upper and lower waterline. Feeling extra? Use the shade ‘Scorched’ from the Naked Heat Palette on the center of the lid for added dimension and shimmer.

Step 5: Finish with mascara

Now, add lashings of mascara and adopt the mantra that more is more. Our suggestion is a go-the-distance waterproof or tubing mascara that won't smudge or flake, or smear itself all over your smoky eye gorgeousness.

Before you go...

  • To bring even more focus to your excellent smoky eye look, highlight the brow bone and inner corners of the eye with a flesh-toned, shimmery eyeshadow or illuminator. This also has an eye-opening effect which is important if you’re worried your smoky eye is making your eyes appear smaller.
  • Balance out the smoky eye with some subtle blush. You want a natural glow, not a pop of colour, so go easy.
  • As for your lips? The old ‘only highlight one feature at a time’ rule no longer applies, so wear what you want, from a bold red to a simple lip balm.

Related topics and brand tags

MakeupEye makeupEyelinerMascara

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