Tuesday Tutorial: Smoky Eyes for Everyone

With the holiday season just around the corner (No, seriously, have you been to the drug store? What happened to Halloween?) it is never too early to discuss glamorous eye makeup, specifically, the smoky eye.  There are a lot of misconceptions around this look, here are a few:

  • Women think it always has to be done in shades of black. This leaves many looking like Taylor Momsen after a long night of partying.

    This is NOT the smoky-eye you want. I don't care what your inner goth wants!

    This is NOT the smoky-eye you want. I don’t care what your inner goth wants!

  • There is an age cut-off. NO WAY! There is a tasteful and age appropriate version of the smoky eye for everyone.
  • It has to be spackled on like drywall. Um, no. Just no. Layering is key to getting a wearable smoky eye.
  •  It is so unbelievably complicated I could solve for pi before I’ll ever master it. Not true! It does take some practice but with a few easy pointers you’ll be well on your way to glam.

These misconceptions allow many women to intimidate themselves out of even trying a smoky eye. They stick to their tried and true day makeup, wearing it to absolutely every event, no matter what the venue or occasion.

Repeat after me: “I will not get stuck in a rut. I will not get stuck in a rut!” Great! Now grab your tools and let’s do this.

Here is what you’ll need:

The Tools

The Tools

-Under eye concealer

-Three shades of shadow: a neutral base shadow, and two shades of your “smoke.”

-a rounded brush

-a tapered flat brush, for the crease

-a flat angled brush, for under the lashes

-liquid liner


-a couple of Qtips for clean up



 -a creamy highlight shadow pencil

 -an eyelash curler

First things first, with any dramatic eye you MUST prep your surface. If you just willy-nilly apply shadow on a naked lid, or over your regular foundation, you probably won’t be happy with the end results. A look like this requires some fine detail and blending. A completely naked lid allows the skin’s natural oils to smear shadow, or wear it away completely.

You can buy primer (and if you have particularly oily lids I recommend it), or you can use this inexpensive trick I’ve found. Instead of using primer, after I have applied my foundation, I cover my lid with yellow-based under eye concealer. This is the kind used to neutralize dark circles. I have found it makes an excellent base for a detailed eye.

Next, using the neutral shadow color and the rounded brush, cover the entire lid from lash-line to eyebrow. For this step I use a matte-finish cream color. No matter what shade of “smoke” I am using I always use this same base color. Keeping this color neutral and sparkle free keeps the look classy and clean. It also helps prevent sparkle from falling into any fine lines, which makes them appear more prominent.

neutral shadow on entire upper lid

neutral shadow on entire upper lid

After I have applied the neutral shadow I switch to glimmer. You can do this look with matte colors completely, and it looks great,but I like a little shimmer for that extra pop. You can use any color you like to achieve the same “smoky” look, as long as you have two shades of a similar color but. That said, I usually choose brown. I find brown to be forgiving on aging skin, and flattering with many different skin tones and eye colors. But feel free to cut loose, you have a purple dress? Do a purple/lavender smoky-eye. Knock yourself out!

some color choices (I lean towards brown...can you tell???)

some color choices (I lean towards brown…can you tell???)

 Next you’ll take your lightest shade of (for our purposes) brown (surprise!) and starting at the outer corner of the lid apply it from the crease down to the lash-line, using the rounded brush. Tread lightly here. Start with a thin application and then layer it on darker until you achieve the desired level of drama.

apply medium shade from crease down to lashes

apply medium shade from crease down to lashes

Now that you have a two-toned lid, it is time to add the dramatic accents. Switch to the flat tapered brush for the crease. Apply your darkest shadow from the outer corner of the crease in to the inner corner of your eye. Picture a curved wedge shape, with the widest part of the wedge being in the outside corner of the eye and tapering into a point, at the inner corner of the eye. Keep in mind you always want the look to pull up at the outside of the eye. Never tilt your eye makeup down at the outside corners, it is aging.


dark shadow applied to crease in edge shape

dark shadow applied to crease in edge shape

Remember, just like with shading the lid, build the color, don’t go in guns brushes a blazin’ and slop a big glob of dark shadow all over your face. Take your time, layer it on and step back from the mirror every so often to get a look at the whole face. Sometimes what looks good up close is terrifying when you step back. You’ve been warned!

Once you’ve accentuated the crease take the angled brush and apply the dark color to the lower lash line from the outer corner to the middle of the lower lid. Don’t go all the way into the inner corner. Too much dark lower lash liner closes off the eye making it appear smaller. Lining just half of the lower lid with dark powdered shadow opens the eye and still adds drama without a harsh unbroken line.

line lower lashes half-way with dark shadow

line lower lashes half-way with dark shadow

Clean up any smudges with the Q-Tips.  Now, apply liquid liner to the top lash-line. Keep it simple you don’t need a dramatic cat eye here and you don’t want to make the eye too busy. A simple line from one corner to the other of medium thickness will do the trick. Let it dry for a few seconds and use the other Qtip to gently smudge the edge.

line upper lashes with liquid liner

line upper lashes with liquid liner

 If you want you can now curl (see my previous tutorials about my passion for lash curling) the lashes and apply mascara. If you choose, now is the time to add a little bit of the crème highlight-shadow just at the brow bone. This is great if you have the few extra seconds because it draws the eye up and makes your brows look lifted. Don’t go overboard, you don’t want to look like a glimmering cyborg.

a little highlighting never hurt anyone

a little highlighting never hurt anyone

There you have it, a fairly easy smoky-eye. Do you have tips or tricks for your own smoky-eye? If so we’d love to hear them! We’re always on the lookout for the best/newest/fastest/easiest way to get the glamour we love (and get a few extra minutes on the snooze button too!) Leave your comments below!

Smoky Eyes are easy

Smoky Eyes are easy(ish)




My name is Autumn and in my current incarnation I am a Features writer for the Charleston Gazette. I love fashion & step to the beat of my own inner design-team. My parents once told me, "You can be anything you want to be when you grow up." I misunderstood I thought they said, "You can be EVERY thing you want to be." and I've spent my life trying it all. I like to design and sew some of my own clothes and I enjoy playing with new makeup and I spend way too much time perusing fashion and DIY blogs. I also homestead so I am always reusing and repurposing things for fashion's sake.

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