The smokey eye look has maintained its place in the makeup hall of fame for centuries. Cleopatra, we’re looking at you!
Hazy, smudgy, inky, and (yes) smoky hues create a focal point around the eye. The smokey eye is sexy, sure, but it’s also sophisticated and edgy. While an extreme smokey eye may be best suited to a night out, a gentler smokey eye is absolutely bride appropriate.
Why choose smokey eye makeup?
A smokey eye can enhance the colour and shape of your eyes, as well as adding just a peep of drama and glamour. When done well, a smokey eye (blend) melds seamlessly into the rest of the look and completely pops in photos.
If you are a beginner using makeup and you want to apply a smokey eye for your wedding day, don’t panic! I know that a smokey eye can seem daunting. Honestly, it’s so much easier than you might imagine. In fact, in some ways a clean, no-makeup look is more difficult to achieve as the rules are more defined. However, a smokey eye isn’t strict, it welcomes a little messiness and doesn’t mind a little excess. Plus, you can practise as many times as you need to perfect it!
Products and tools needed
- Base/primer: to help the shadows adhere to the lid, last longer and show the pigment more vibrantly
- Brow spoolie and pencil: to brush and fill the brows to create a frame for the eyes
- Three eyeshadow colors: a pale shade for the inner corner and brow bone, a dark shade for the lash line and outer corners, and a medium shade for the crease and for transitioning (see below for a recommendation for a super affordable and high-quality eyeshadow palette)
- Kohl eyeliner: for creating an inky effect on the upper and lower water lines
- Mascara: your go-to mascara, whether waterproof or not. As long as it thickens and lengthens the lashes, it’s perfect
The P.Louise Eyeshadow Base has been raved about by trusted beauty gurus in a BIG way. It’s a true cult hit, and for good reason. It lays down a blank canvas so your smoky shades will be true-to-colour, and long lasting. It’s a great product to choose if you plan on experimenting with more bold colours and techniques in the future — you may as well get a heavy-duty eye primer now.
Note: I also recommend the Mac Paint Pot further below, it’s another a go-to staple.
My go-to brow pencil is the cheap and cheerful L.A. Girl Slim Shady Brow Pencil. The formula has the perfect level of hardness and waxiness, but smooth enough for fast application. The spoolie on the end is a great too.
Quick tip: a cool-toned brow pencil makes the lips fuller if you draw the teeniest tiniest trace of it onto the outer edge of the lower lip and blend it in before applying your lip colour.
The Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Waterproof Liner is great for getting a rich, inky colour along the lash line, and for tightlining the eyes with smudge-proof colour (tear-proof and vow-proof, too!). However, it’s not designed for smudging.
For smudgy liner you can always use a matte black or brown eye shadow and a stiff brush. A cheap-but-great kohl liner is the Rimmel London Scandaleyes Waterproof Kohl Kajal Eyeliner .
- Medium, fluffy eyeshadow brush: for applying the crease shade
- Small, dense, stubby brush: for applying the deepest color on the lash lines
- Small fluffy brush: for applying the brow bone and inner corner colors (a finger also works well for the inner corner)
- Q-tips, cotton rounds and makeup remover: for cleaning up any mishaps and fall-out (when powder shadows sprinkle down onto the face)
When it comes to brushes, you can’t go wrong with Real Techniques, my personal favourite brand. They are designed by the fabulous Sam and Nic Chapman (aka. two of the very best makeup artists on Instagram/Youtube), so they’re trusted and makeup artist approved.
I recommend the Enhanced Eye Set. It has everything you need for laying down a base shade, adding depth to the crease, smudging the lash line and combing the lashes.
The Summer Nights Set is also a great option if you also need a base brush and concealer brush for the rest of the face.
The Expert Face Brush is perfect for buffing foundation into the face, and even buffing cream blush and highlight into the cheeks. And lastly, because you deserve to pamper yourself and your skin for the prettiest complexion ever.
I LOVE the Prep + Prime Set as it gives you the tools to exfoliate the skin and reveal new, glowing layers.
The under eye reviver gets rid of puffiness and fluid and the prep brush applies your glow-giving serums and creams before you apply the rest of your makeup.
Which colors to choose?
One thing I want you to know is that a smokey eye does not have to be grey or black. The “smokey” refers to the blended haziness, depth of colour, and the way the color smudges into the lash lines on the top and bottom of the eye. A smokey eye can be shimmery bronze, matte brown, even navy!
Personally, I adore a deep aubergine smoky eye with the tiniest hint of gold in the inner corner.
While certain eyeshadow hues absolutely bring out the certain eye colors, I don’t agree with hard and fast rules when it comes to makeup. The most important thing is that you feel comfortable and like yourself. If you’re a complete newbie, I recommend buying yourself a neutral-toned eyeshadow palette with a light, medium and deep shade. It doesn’t need to be expensive, in fact, some of the best palettes are from the drugstore!
Color Icon Eyeshadow 10 Pan Palette
My recommendation is the Wet n Wild Color Icon 10-pan Eyeshadow Palette. The color “Nude Awakening” is ideal as it has rich brown transition shades, shimmery champagne brow, lid and inner corner shades, and a deep charcoal for the lash line and outer corner.
There’s also a rich, warm brown if you want to keep on the warmer side of things. These palettes are SO affordable that you could get a few of them and experiment with different colors.
10 Steps to a Flawless Smokey Eye Look
Step 1 – Skin prep and brows
I strongly advise that you do your base makeup after you apply your smokey eye. When working with dark-colored powders and fluffy brushes, there’s bound to be a decent amount of fall-out. If you’ve already applied your foundation and concealer, then you have to deal with the rigmarole of cleaning away the fall-out and reapplying the base. Do your eye look with a clean face so you can simply wipe away the fall-out, add a little more moisturiser, and have a perfectly clean canvas for your complexion makeup.
The brows can be done before or after the eye look. Personally, I like to do them first (or partially, at least) so I have a frame to work with. All I do is brush the brows and fill them in with a pencil, lightly. They end up looking a little tidier and bolder.
- Cleanse and moisturize the face according to your go-to routine which suits your skin type
- Brush your brows with a spoolie
- Take a waxy brow pencil and gently fill in any sparse areas
- Use a clear brow gel to set the brows in place
You can always add more to the brows once the smokey eye is complete.
Oh, and please don’t fall for the Instagram brows!
Big, bold brows are fantastic. Whereas stencilled-on, flat, sharper-than-a-knife brows are a no-go in my books.
Step 2 – Primer
- Take an eyeshadow primer and apply it from lash line to brow bone. You can opt for a transparent primer, or a lightly tinted one. This step will help the colors to blend smoothly and help the makeup to last longer. You can also use a cream eyeshadow such as MAC Paint Pot in a shade to suit your skin tone.
- I use Painterly as my eyeshadow base. It doesn’t budge, doesn’t crease, and creates a smooth canvas on which the colors can be truly represented.
Step 3 – Crease Shade
- Take your mid-tone shade (not dark, not light, just in between) on a fluffy eyeshadow brush. Tap off the excess, place the brush on the outside corner of your eyelid, where the crease shadow sits. Move the brush in a back and forth, windscreen wiper motion through the crease of the eye from the outer corner, stopping at the inner 1/4 of the eye. Apply light layers until you achieve a rich shadow in the crease. Stand back and look straight on into the mirror. You should notice an increase in depth to the eye. People with hooded lids will see a smaller portion of the crease shade, but that’s completely fine (I have hooded eyes too).
- Clean off your brush and blend out the edges so that there are no skip marks or harsh edges and lines.
- Take a little more of the mid-toned shade on a smaller brush and dust it along the lower lash line, close to the lash.
- Don’t panic if things are looking messy or crazy! It all comes together.
Step 4 – Outer corner shade
- Take the deepest shade you have, such as a deep charcoal, rich chocolate brown, or deep plum.
- Dip a smaller, denser brush (or the one you used for the crease shade if you are short on brushes) into the product, tap off the excess and “wiggle” the color into the outer 1/3 of your upper eye. I like to extend the color a little past the outer corner of the eye, but never past the outer corner of the brow. Pat the color onto the lid until it is rich and almost opaque.
- Clean off your brush and blend the color at the edges, creating a smooth gradient between the deep color and the mid-tone color in the crease.
- Take a smaller brush and buff the deep color along the lower lash line, connecting up with the outer edge of the shadow on the upper lid.
- Again, take a clean brush and blend all edges out!
- Step back, look straight into the mirror and make any adjustments required to achieve an even, blended outer corner and lower lash line.
Step 5 – Liner
- Take your eye pencil and angle it down toward the lash line. Wiggle the pencil into the lash roots, no need to be precise or tidy. The aim is to thicken the appearance of the lash roots, and provide a deeper, thicker band of color at the lash line.
- Take a short, stubby brush and smudge the liner until the color is fully blended and smudged, seamlessly blending into the rest of the shadow.
- Personally, I don’t add liner to my lower lash line. I find it looks too heavy on me and migrates into the lines under my eyes. I find the look is fresher and more flattering to the face when the bulk of the shadow is located on the top lid.
- If you’re feeling up to it, you can line your upper waterline, this is called “tight lining” and it adds further depth and thickness to the upper lashes. Gently lift your upper lid up with your finger, being careful not to smudge your eyeshadow work. Draw the pencil onto the water line under the lashes. Only do this step if your eye liner has a smooth, slippery or gel-like consistency and requires very little pressure in order to get a rich payoff. A harder, chalkier liner will just hurt and irritate the eyes.
Step 6 – Blend and smudge
- This step is simply for the purpose of making sure the colors are all blended together seamlessly. Take a clean, fluffy brush and gently brush it along the edges of the shadows. You can also add a tiny dab of your mid-tone shade to the brush and use it to transition the shades together, and create a softer edge between the skin and the deepest shadow shade.
- Keep blending, blending, blending.
Step 7 – Add brightness
- Take your pale, shimmery shade on a very small brush (champagne, pearl and gold shades are fantastic for this step).
- Tap off the excess and press the color into the inner corner of your eye, extending slightly onto the side of the nose (slightly!). Blend the edges.
- Take the same shade on the same brush and very lightly dust along the brow bone, just under the eyebrow. I also like to add a little bit above the tail end and center of the brow. Use your finger to smudge and blend the highlight into the skin.
- If you like, you can also take a little of the highlighter and dab it on the very center of the eyelid. This creates roundness and dimension to the eye. Give it a go and see if you like it!
Step 8 – Clean up
- Take a cotton round with a little makeup remover on it.
- Use the cotton round to wipe away any fall-down on the cheeks.
- If you feel that the shadows on the upper lid are giving the appearance of a “downward” turning eye, you can take your cotton round and wipe away any shadows that have migrated too far outside of the outer corner of the eye. Place the cotton round at the outer corner and wipe upward and outward toward the temple. This will remove any rogue shadow and give the eye a more lifted appearance.
- Don’t forget to blend the edges again!
Step 9 – Lashes
- Apply your go-to mascara and/or falsies.
- If you’re going for falsies, I recommend some small, subtle individual lashes applied only to the outside corner of the upper lash
Step 10 – Finish the face
- Now it’s time to apply your primer, foundation, concealer and powder.
- With a smokey eye, I find that a flawless-yet-light base is best. The skin should be even, but not completely caked or covered as it can create a mask effect or a “stage makeup” look when paired with a heavy eye.
- Play with different lip colors. I like the good old nude-pink lip with a smokey eye, but a pinky gloss can look awesome too. Play around and see what you like!
- Once your entire face is done, the smokey eye will make much more sense!
You made it! And I bet you look completely stunning.
If you made a few mistakes or it looks a little iffy? Who cares! Wipe it off and start again, that’s the beauty of makeup.
Or, if it’s too deep or intense for you, try more subtle shades with the same technique. Tone down the depth of the outer corner shade. As long as you keep blending, work with light layers, and wait until the entire face is done to judge the eyes, you’ll be on top of your game.
May the smokey eye makeup force be with you!