How to Apply Smoky Eye Makeup

By Elle Paula

The smoky eye is sexy and sultry and flatters virtually any eye. It's one of the most sought-after makeup looks by beginners and pros alike -- and also one of the most intimidating. The words "smoky eye" are enough to send many beginners running in the opposite direction. Sure, it takes practice, but with the right tools and enough blending, you can master the smoky eye technique.

The Tools You Need

The smoky eye doesn't take a lot of different products, but you do need to have the right brushes to get the job done. For this look, you need each of the following:

  • Pencil brush
  • Flat eye shadow brush
  • Fluffy blending brush
  • Tapered blending brush
  • Angled eyeliner brush
  • Black eyeliner
  • Black or dark gray eye shadow
  • Eye shadow that is one to two shades darker than your eyelid color
  • Eye primer
  • Black mascara.

Making It Work: Step One

Start by prepping your eye with a primer. You want to make sure to cover your entire eyelid – from your lash line to your brow – with the primer to prevent creasing and ensure that the smoky eye lasts all night.

Making It Work: Step Two

Apply the black eyeliner to your top lash line in a thick line. You don't have to be precise here, since you'll be blending the color out with your pencil brush. This will look a lot more intense than your usual eyeliner application.

Making It Work: Step Three

Blend the line out with a clean, pointed pencil brush. Your goal here is to have the color most concentrated at the lash line and then start to "smoke" out as it reaches your crease. Turn the pencil brush in circular motions over the eyeliner while also pulling the color up from your lash line to your crease. Don't extend the color past the crease.

Making It Work: Step Four

Pick up some of the black or dark gray eye shadow on your flat eye shadow brush and tap off any excess color. Press the color into your eyelid, concentrating most of the color on the lower half of your lid until you are satisfied with the intensity of the color.

Making It Work: Step Five

Blend the color out toward the crease with the clean, fluffy blending brush. As with the eyeliner, the color should be more concentrated near the lash line and then "smoke" out as it reaches the crease.

Making It Work: Step Six

Dip the tapered crease brush into the eye shadow that's one to two shades darker than your natural eyelid color and use it to blend out the dark shade. Place the tip of the crease brush at the outer corner of your eye. Move it back and forth across the crease, following the curve of your eye. This helps create a more seamless transition between the dark smoky shade and your skin color.

Making It Work: Step Seven

Dip the angled eye shadow brush into the black or dark gray eye shadow and tap off any excess color. Apply the color across the entire length of your lower lash line, staying as close to your eyelashes as possible.

Making It Work: Step Eight

Blend the color out by moving the pointed pencil brush back and forth across the line. You don't want to blend the color down and away from your lash line; the goal here is to smudge it out to make it look smoky. If you go too far down, your "smoky eye" will look more like "bruised, black eye."

Making It Work: Step Nine

Finish off the look by applying two or three coats of a thickening and lengthening black mascara.

Pro Tip

Although the traditional smoky eye is black or gray, you can use any dark color to create this look. Play around with navy, plum, brown and forest green. Using a color other than black or gray gives you a softer look and is more complementary to lighter eye colors. No matter which color you choose, the basic technique is still the same.