Perfect Smoky Eye Guide

The smoky eye is sultry. It’s alluring. It’s enigmatic. Think ‘smoke’ – it’s dark and mysterious. There are no hard lines and it blends into nothingness.

Okay – I’m being a bit dramatic. Here’s a basic ‘smoky eye’ look with step-by-step visuals to help you along the way.

*Use the red highlights to show you where to apply makeup.

Step 1 – Prep

Apply eye cream. Allow it to absorb for a few minutes. At this time, you can apply a primer – this will help your makeup glide on and stay crease-free.

Step 2 – Conceal

Use your finger or a synthetic concealer brush to apply concealer around the eye. Pay special attention to the inner corners of the eyes. That’s where darkness lurks!

Blend in a gentle patting motion. Don’t wipe, you will simply remove the concealer. Make sure there are no obvious streaks or lines.


Step 3 – Create barrier

Pat a generous amount of loose translucent powder under the eyes. Your eye shadow will sprinkle down on top of the powder. When you’re done with your eye makeup – use a powder brush and dust away the mess.


Step 4 – Neutral Lid Color

Using an all-over lid brush, apply a neutral color (think vanillas, butterscotch, bisque and champagnes) from lash line to brow bone. (I love using MAC’s “Rice Paper”)


Step 5 – Liner

Line eyes with a dark pencil (I absolutely adore Avon’s Glimmersticks waterproof eyeliner), gel, or cream liner – something you can smudge. If you’re using gel or cream out of a pot, use an angled eyeliner brush to apply the product.

The liner should be thinner towards the inner corner of the eye and gradually increase in thickness towards the outer edge.

Line the lower inner rim. Don’t apply too much liner close to the tear duct – it’ll goop up and you’ll end up with black eye boogers (ech!)

Step 6 – Smudge

Use a Q-tip or a tight bristled brush to smudge the edges of your liner. A good smoky eye shouldn’t have any hard lines.

After you’ve smudged your liner, blend a dark shadow directly over the smudged line. Don’t go too far in to the corners of your eyes unless you have wide-set or protruding eyes.

Step 7 -Highlight

Use a small eyeshadow brush (something that will fit in the corners of your eyes and under your eyebrow) to apply a highlighter shade.

Highlighting colors are light, often reflective. They make the areas you apply them to come forward.

I use “Nylon” by MAC for a dramatic look. For a little more subtle look, I use “Shroom” by MAC. If you have a deeper skin tone, “Ricepaper” by MAC could be a good highlighter for you. Use any drugstore store or department store brand you like, as long as it does what it’s supposed to do.

Step 8 – The Crease

The crease step is important. Just one dark eye shadow alone can look harsh.

Use an eyeshadow that is in the same color family as the eye shadow on your lid, but lighter. Apply it above your lid, on the outer edge of your crease. Then, using a loose blending brush, blend the shadow in a circular motion. Blend the crease shade slightly up and inward.

The crease should be darkest at the outermost corner – gradually getting softer as you move towards the brow and the center of your lid.

Make sure there are no hard lines between the dark lid shade, the medium crease shade and the highlighter on the brow.

Step 9 – Finished Look

Finish your look by defining your brows. A strong eye look desperately needs a defined brow – your makeup won’t look complete without it.


*Smoky eyes look best with neutral lips. Strong eyes plus strong lips will make you look like you have too much makeup on.

**Smoky eyes don’t have to be black. You can use browns, plums, navy – be creative!

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  • Jess

    Great tutorial, well the words are. Would be much better if the pictures were actual photos of the make up being applied as aposed to obviously photoshopped copies of the same image.

  • Majid

    nice tutorial 🙂 quite helpful

  • 120 Eyeshadow

    wow.. what photoshop can do.. miracles.

  • Lindsey

    Nice tut! Next time I’d like to see actual make instead of photoshop. I like that this is very detailed and explained well. Thank you.

  • Dana

    Very good tips … It’s an easy way to have home-made smoky eyes!!

  • Maggie

    I love this tutorial. Its so simple, cute and easy to follow. Take a peek at my place too, I have a ton of beauty stuff too. 🙂 Hope to see you soon!

  • noman

    useful information of eye makeup

  • fashiomatic

    Seems you have worked hard to discover the precise areas for the application of makeup.

  • Nicole

    Great tutorial! Smoky eyes can be hard to master. I know because I have had many failures. I won’t give up; I’ll keep on trying. Gonna use your advice given here. I never added an eyeshadow to the inner corner of my eye. Maybe that’s what I’m missing to make my eye look really pop.

  • Jacqueline

    I just want to let you know I really appreciate you taking the time to put this tutorial together. I have way to much makeup and not enough skill to put it on correctly. This is a perfect visual for me!! I just used this technique with Tarte Call of the Wild in Call, Instinct & Wild. Also, I did not realize how much of an impact filling in my eyebrows makes on the overall look. Next time I will do the black smokey eye! Thanks again!!

    • Vivi

      Thanks for the tutorial (although it’s photoshopped). 🙂 It’s very detailed and it made me realize what I might possibly be doing wrong in my ‘smoky eye’ trials. I always end up looking like someone gave me a black eye, haha. But now I know I shouldn’t go too crazy in spreading the dark eye shadows.

  • http://aldjfie Io

    This is not a make up tutorial. This is a photoshop job. You’ve got no business telling people anything about make up. Just like a make up artist has no business teaching others photoshop.

  • Cindie

    Love all the steps you went into. Smoky eyes have been everywhere in fashion this season, thanks to Chanel!

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  • Sallie

    Great tutorial. Smokey eyes are certainly in.

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  • Kayla Brooks

    Thank you ! I understood this post better than any I’ve seen