Skip to main content

How to Do a Smoky Eye

"Every time I make an attempt, my eyes look comically small."

Amanda Seyfried's soft smoky eye look.

Q: I am a master of sparkly, champagne-coloured eyeshadow but a complete dunce when it comes to a matte smoky eye—or any smoky eye for that matter. I would really like to learn how to do a simple one, something subtle and not so Kardashian. I find every time I make an attempt, my eyes look comically small. Can you please give me any product recommendations or tips? Danke! — Mary

A: Mary,I love this question—I get asked it all the time! A smoky eye can be relatively easy. 

When most women think of a smoky eye, they think of it with black and dark brown matte shadows. This is a very traditional style of smoky eye, but it can be very intense for most of us to pull off. 

Using a shimmery eyeshadow instead of a matte one will instantly make it look softer, since the shimmer reflects light. Shimmery eyeshadows are also easier to blend and work with. Mattes are typically more a difficult a texture to apply.

When choosing a colour, think jewel tones: dark cranberry, navy, deep forest green, pewter or dark purple. When combined with black along the lash line, these shades give a sexy, softer look to a smoky eye.

How to Do Soft Smoky Eyes

Step 1: Apply your foundation over the entire eye area.

Step 2: Take a very black eye kohl pencil and run it along the lash line. The key is to use a kohl as opposed to traditional liner, as it will smudge better for the smoky effect. This line does not have to be perfect, as we are going to smudge it. It just has to be as close to the lashes as possible.

Maybelline Eye Studio Master Smoky Shadow Pencil in Black Smoke

Step 3: Take a smudger brush and run it along the kohl liner, along the lash line, blending up onto the lid. This darkness is what will give your smoky eye depth and will provide a base for the jewel-toned eyeshadow (so the shadow will look "smokier" as opposed to "bright/colourful").

Step 4: With a clean brush, apply your eyeshadow on the lid from lash to crease—but not above the crease. I like to use a basic eyeshadow applicator brush for this (usually a soft, square-shaped brush). Again, this doesn't have to be perfect—just stamp it onto the lid. The blending comes next.

Scroll to Continue

From The Skincare Edit Archives

MAC 213 Fluff Brush

Step 5: Take a swirl brush (a.k.a. a crease brush—a brush that is a circular with a rounded top). With NO product on the brush, start blending your layers. Blend along the edges and along the crease. This will soften the eye and create the smoky look. 

MAC 217 Blending Brush

You can move the brush in tiny circles and start blending out of the crease if you wish:

Marion Cotillard's smoky eyes.

Or keep it just to the eyelid:

Emma Stone's smoky eyes.

Blending out of the crease makes for a more noticeable application, whereas keeping it to the lid is more minimal. Continue blending until you reach your desired softness. The success of any smoky eye is in the blending.

Step 6: To really open up the eyes and make them pop, apply a champagne-coloured shadow to the very innermost corners of the eyes and to the brow bones (the area just under the brows). The contrast of the light and dark will definitely make a statement and keep the dark shadow from minimizing the eyes.

Step 7: For an extra burst of intensity, you can apply a black shadow along the lash line to re-darken the area where you first applied the kohl liner. This gives a very nice finish, but is not a necessity. 

If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission. See our Disclosure for more information.

Read Next

10 (Possibly Life-Changing) Makeup Tips From Makeup Pro Amanda Bell

The best way to blend, the secret to spectacular cat eyes... and much more!

Celebrity Makeup Artist Lauren Andersen Shares Her Beauty Secrets

How she creates red carpet-ready skin and how to find your signature beauty look.