How to Get the Smoky Eye Look

We've all seen the smoky eye look on models and celebrities. The expertly smudged liner, the carefully blended highlighting shadow...it's a look that that makes anyone sexier and more mysterious. It can also be a bit intimidating to attempt. This is especially true if you don't normally wear a lot of eye makeup. The thought of properly applying all that dark liner can seem like mission impossible.


The smoky eye look is very hot right now, and, despite your doubts, a doable look for the everyday gal. You can use the smoky eye to gorgeous effect on nights out, holidays and special occasions. The look takes about 10 minutes to achieve when you know what you're doing, but probably longer at first. If you want this look for an upcoming event, get in a few practice runs before the real deal.

Some cosmetics companies make it much easier for you to create the smoky eye - and other precision shadow and liner looks - by offering complete professional eye cosmetics and tools. Stila and M.A.C. are two companies that excel in this area.

If you're not someone who frequently applies eye makeup you probably don't have (and don't want) a full set of professional shadows and brushes. But if you're going for a smoky eye, you'll want to have at least the minimum necessary to create this look. If you usually purchase discount store makeup and applicators, you might consider splurging for a higher quality than you normally get. Your makeup will have a better chance of blending nicely and staying put throughout the evening.


In addition to makeup and tools, be sure you have adequate lighting and a mirror that can give you a nice close-up view of your eyes. To really make this work look, balance it out with bare lips or a muted lip color.

Getting the Look


  • Eye shadow (a color-match duo works nicely)
  • Eye shadow primer (optional)
  • Eyeshadow sponge
  • Mascara
  • Black eye pencil
  • Small shadow brush
  • Cotton swabs

  1. Prepare the eyelids. The smoky eye look requires quite a bit of shadow and liner. It's important that it all stays in place once it's on. Smokey is sexy; the raccoon look is not. While eye shadow primer is optional, it can definitely set the stage for your shadow. If you don't have primer, at least have foundation and powder on your face before you begin work on your eyes. Save concealer for the end. {relatedarticles}
  1. Apply the liner to the inner rim of both your upper and lower eyelids. An eyeliner pencil with a smudging tip works best. Don't use liquid liner; it will create a line that will be hard to smudge once dried. A shadow brush dipped in dark shadow can be used instead of, or in addition to, the eye pencil for the lower lids.
  1. Smudge the liner on your lower rim by gently running a finger across it.
  1. Apply your light base color to the entire lid and on your brow bone. This light color will add shimmer and definition, and open up your whole eye area.
  1. Add dark color shadow. Start at your lash line and blend up. Also, smudge the upper eyeliner into the shadow so that there are no hard lines. Blending is key to creating the smoky eye look. Go for a "fade" effect where the dark color gets lighter as it reaches the brow area.
  1. Curl your lashes.
  1. Add mascara or false eyelashes. False eyelashes will add extra time to the smoky eye process, but they can enhance the look. You might want to use them for a formal event and/or if you have short or sparse lashes.{relatedarticles}
  1. Give yourself a once-over to assure that the eyes are done properly and match each other. Fix any mistakes and clean up any stray makeup with a cotton swab. You can now carefully add any under eye concealer, carefully avoiding your made-up lower lids.

Color Schemes for the Smoky Eye

The basic 2-color smoky eye commonly consists of a shimmery cream or silver shadow for the light base and grey-black for the defining shade. There are many variations on this scheme, making the smoky eye one of the most versatile and pretty shadow styles you can wear. For example, the brown smoky eye calls for a fawn base and a sable defining shade. There are also purple/violet and light/dark green combinations. Sometimes, the smoky eye palette calls for 3 colors instead of 2: a light matte base, a dark defining shade and a shimmer shadow that is used only as a highlight. Whatever color combination you choose, be sure it can be seamlessly blended and that it complements your eye color.

Brown eyes are the most common eye color, and they look great with just about any color shadow. You can try blues, greens, earth tones, or greys. Blue eyes look lovely with taupe, brown, or grey shadows. If your eyes are green or hazel, your eyes will be enhanced with warm amber-toned colors or purple/lavender hues. Because eyes can be a combination of colors, feel free to experiment with a variety of shadows to find out which look prettiest on you.


Harmonizing Other Makeup with the Smoky Eye

The smoky eye look is a fairly dramatic one. The rest of your face should be subtly enhanced so it doesn't compete with your glam shadow look. Pairing the smoky eye with bright red lips and apple-cheek blush will make you look way overdone and detract from the beauty of your eyes.

Your skin should be as perfect as can be to make your eyes pop. Foundation and luminescent powder can get you started on the right foot, followed by a light dusting of sheer peach or pink blush. You can finish with nude lip liner and clear or champagne gloss. It's that simple!