Things you will need:
• eye shadow primer (not 100% needed but a great item to use)
• eye shadow in various shades (dark, light) of the color you want your smoky eye to be
• cream shimmer or pale shimmery eye shadow
• Black or dark eye liner (depending on what color you want your smoky eye to be)
Make sure your eye area is prepped. Use appropriate eye cream depending on the condition of your skin (for dry skin, use a hydrating eye cream; for oily skin, you might even be able to skip the cream since you’ll have enough moisture in the area. If your eye cream has SPF, that’s an extra bonus! Any extra precaution you can take to protect the delicate eye area is always beneficial. It’s important to have your eye area prepped because it will affect the application of the eyeliner, shadow, etc. (If your skin is too dry around the eye, you’ll be forced to tug at your eyeliner, pulling the skin around your eye and causing more wrinkles in the long run).
Curl your lashes first so that you don’t mess up your smoky eye by sticking an eyelash curler on it after all your hard work. Mascara application is optional at this point. Some makeup artists apply mascara at the very end; others apply it in the very beginning. See Tips and Warnings for more on this.
Use a light sheer taupe or pale shimmery gold shadow and the wider shadow brush. Sweep this pale shadow onto the entire lid. Make sure you at least get the area right under your eyebrow highlighted with this. This will be your base color and will help your smoky eye have that gradual, shaded look. It will also open up and brighten your eye area. We’ll be coming back to this shadow later so keep it within reach.
Start with dark eyeliner. I usually go for classic black to give my eyes definition, but depending on the color you’ve chosen for your smoky eye, you can choose other dark colors. A dark navy will make the whites of your eyes pop, and will still match a dark blue smoky eye. A deep plum or purple will also look gorgeous next to a plum smoky eye shadow. A dark charcoal is also a nice alternative to black because it’s a little unexpected, but still adds definition. Black will match ANY smoky eye color so you can always just use black to be safe. You might need your other hand to pull the skin around your eye taut if the skin is sagging there or not as tight. Get as close to your lash line as possible and even dot some eyeliner in between your lashes to make your lashes look fuller. I recommend waterproof pencil eyeliner for the easiest and most foolproof application.
My secret trick here is to have a second eyeliner in a less severe color on top of the black liner. It’s not required because you can technically just use more eye shadow, but I find that it helps intensify the smoky eye and also helps the eye shadow to adhere and stay put longer. Usually, I’ll use a color that matches the shadow I will be using. So if I am making a plum/purple smoky eye, I’ll use deep indigo or deep plum/purple eyeliner lined above my black line from Step 4. This will also prevent the black eyeliner from becoming less black due to the eye shadow that you’ll be laying on top of it.
Then take your dark smoky eye shadow in the darkest shade you have (dark navy, plum, olive green, brown) and use a blending shadow brush to sweep it on top of your second eyeliner, and also the area just above where your eye folds. (If you have flat-set eyes or a really small eyelid fold, eyeball about third to a half of your eyelid area. Don’t get any of the dark shadow anywhere near your eyebrow.)
Most eye shadow palates come with different shades of one color. Use the lighter color (lavender for purple smoky eye, lighter olive green for green smoky eye, lighter sky blue for dark navy smoky eye, tan for brown smoky eye, etc.) and blend a small dab of it (with your third or ring finger to ensure a light touch) in the middle of your eyelid, right around where your dark shadow ends and the light taupe shadow begins. This is just to ease in the darker shadow into the rest of your eyelid and for that graduated color effect. Again, try not to get this shadow near your eyebrow because it will make you look clownish.
At this point, the color should be subtly graduated on your eyelid. Use the taupe shadow again or a lighter shimmery eye shadow/cream shadow and blend it in the inner corners of both eyes. I find that my finger works best for this because the surface area is so small and delicate. This will make your eyes pop and will accentuate the smokiness of the rest of your eye.
Make sure you cover up dark under eye circles if you have them. Otherwise, you’ll look like a raccoon. Use a creamy yellow-toned concealer and a small synthetic concealer brush, and set it with loose, translucent powder.
If you decide to apply mascara before everything else, you risk getting eye shadow powder onto your lashes and muddying up the dark, defining effect of the mascara. You can always clean this up later with an extra coat, or with a lash comb.
If you apply mascara after everything is done, you risk smudging it and also smudging your eye shadow (and messing up all your hard work!). If you’re careful, this shouldn’t happen but if it does, you’ll just have to do some damage control and reapply some shadow.
• The looks achieved by the above steps are for the basic, upper eyelid smoky eye. You can line the bottom rim of your eyes for a more dramatic effect but this does smudge easier throughout the night though.
• If you don’t want to bother with the second colored eyeliner, you can always skip that step and start directly with the shadow.
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