Categories: Makeup

Smokey Eye Makeup: Step-by-Step Guide with Pictures

To call the “smokey eye” look just another makeup trend would be a gross injustice. Trends become passé, but the mystic allure of smokey eyes is eternal. Everyone wants a perfect pair of smoldering eyes that exude oomph and power, but sadly, not everyone is “born with it.”

Pro tip: don’t let simple genetics dull your sparkle, for there’s nothing that a little makeup can’t fix.


Pick up your eyeshadow brush and use it as a magic wand to give your eyes definition, structure, and a magnetic appeal. For the longest time, smokey eyes were largely synonymous with shades of black and charcoal grey.

Classic smokey eyes makeup tutorial with pictures

But over the years, the color scheme for conjuring this signature look has expanded to include the whole spectrum of your eye shadow palette.

From traditional favorites like black, brown, and grey to the more edgy and out-there options like purples, greens, and blues, you can use virtually any color that catches your fancy to perfect this timeless technique.

If you are a novice, you should play it safe by using nudes and lighter shades at your first attempt. Move to bolder colors once you have acquired enough expertise to seamlessly apply, crease, and blend the different hues into a perfectly finished look.


Step-by-Step Guide to Smokey Eyes Makeup

Given that everyone has their own eye shape, there is no one way to get the classic look. But if you already have an idea of the eyeshadow placement that is required to achieve this look, you have got it half-licked.

Everyone learns through trial and error. But once your foundations are clear, the task becomes a whole lot easier.

Things you’ll need:

Gather the items needed to create a smokey eye
  • Primer
  • Concealer
  • Eyeshadow brush
  • Eyeshadow of your choice - 3 shades (Neutral, Light, Dark)
  • Mascara
  • Black eyeliner

Preparing Your Eyes

Preparing your eyes for the perfect smokey eyes involves three steps:

Prepare a base for your smokey eyes
  • Priming your eyelids
  • Concealing
  • Applying a neutral shadow

1. Prep and prime your eyelids for the look to ultimately deliver.

The first step toward a successful makeup look is to prep your skin for it. The importance of cleansing, moisturizing, and priming your eyelids cannot be emphasized enough.

To create a smooth base for your eye makeup, you must first prime your eyelids. Applying a primer base not only helps smoothen the skin texture but also makes your makeup stick to the skin and last longer.


If you are aiming for a look as intense as smokey eyes, this foundational step is all the more important as it helps the colors to blend more easily.

  • Nowadays, you can find a variety of primers that are specially formulated for the delicate eyelid skin at any beauty store. If you don’t have one, a regular face primer should do the trick.
  • Gently dab the primer onto your eyelids and under your eyes using your ring finger. Less than a pea-sized amount of the product should suffice, given the area that you have to cover is pretty small.

2. Conceal any discoloration.

The primer will make the texture of your skin more uniform, but you may have to do some color correction to get a uniform skin tone. If you notice any discoloration over your eyelids or under your eyes, apply minuscule amounts of concealer to even out your patchy skin.

  • The concealer should be closest to the color of the targeted skin or a shade lighter. Using a concealer that is darker than your original skin tone will dull down your entire face.
  • It’s preferable to use a cream-based concealer rather than a liquid one for your eyes, as it has a thicker consistency and does not settle into the creases. Use your ringer finger to blend the product and give it some time to seep into the skin before moving onto the eyeshadow palette.

3. Apply a muted, neutral shade all over your eyelid.

A smokey eye look usually involves the amalgamation of at least three shades of a similar hue. What color scheme will work best for you depends upon the color of your skin and your eyes.

But that doesn’t mean that you have to stick to the tried-and-tested route. You can try out different shades to see which one suits you the most.


When you have decided upon the three colors that you will be working with, use the medium-tone shade to apply all over your lower lid. For instance, if you choose a brown palette that contains dark brown, warm brick, and shimmery gold shade, the neutral-toned brick will work as the neutral base for your look.

  • Take a dome-shaped eyeshadow brush to apply the shade to your lids.
  • Keep the application within the natural crease, rather than sweeping the color up to your brow bone.
  • Leave the inner corners of your eyes completely bare, as that is where your highlighter will go. If you paint the entire lid with broad sweeps of eyeshadow, the highlighter will get mixed with the base shade and not stand out as well as it should.

The Classic Smokey Eyes Tutorial

1. Apply the lightest color to the inner corner of your eyes and under your brow.

A highlighter can make or break a perfect makeup look. This wonder product helps to contour the facial structure by drawing attention to your high points. When you brush on this shimmery goodness onto your skin, it reflects light in such a way that makes your face look sculpted.

You can also use the lightest color in your palette as a highlighter to accentuate your brow bone. To make your eyes look shapely, dab some on the inner corner of your eyes as well.

Start by applying the lighter shadow under the brow
  • Use a small, flat eyeshadow brush to sweep the highlighter directly under your eyebrows. Underline your eyebrows with this light shimmery shade and then use a fluffy eyeshadow brush to blend it with the previously applied medium shade covering your lid.
  • For the look to come together, you have to blend the different shades to make them appear completely seamless.
  • Then use a clean small, flat brush to apply the highlighter to the inner corners of your eyes. You can use the same brush you used for the medium shade, but only after wiping off any of the old colors that may still be on it.

2. Sweep the darkest color onto the outer triangular edge of your eyes to tone down the look.

Now, we move on to the darkest color of the chosen three, which will be used to accentuate the shape of your eyes further. Given that this color is more dominant than the rest of the shades, you will have to be extra careful when applying it.

It is very important not to go overboard and pack on more color than you need. The darkest shade will naturally be quite pigmented, so you only need a little product for maximum effect.

The color has to be layered partially onto your outer eyelid while keeping the inner one-third completely free of the dark shadow. You should start by sweeping the darkest shade from the outer corner of your eyes and go about halfway down your lash line.


Apply the eyeshadow in a “C” shape to cover almost half of the lid, but never go too far in. People with heavy-lidded eyes should be extra-careful not to apply too much product.

Apply the darker shade on the outer edge
  • Preferably use a flat brush that’s tapered at the end to apply the dark eyeshadow shade. Start from the outer corner of the eye, and then smudge it upwards and inwards up until you reach the halfway point of the lash line and the upper crease.
  • Apply thin layers of the eye shadow by using a very small amount of the product, rather than packing on too much product in one go. It’s essential to use a minimal amount of the dark shadow at first and then gradually build up the color intensity if and when required.
  • If you feel like you can do with a bit more color, blend a little more shadow on the outer triangle of the eyelid.
  • Keep the inner one-third of your lid sans the dark shadow to make your eyes look open and bright.

3. Blend your eyeshadows for a smooth finish.

Once you have applied the three shades in the specified areas, you will have to blend them all to get rid of any distinct outlines.

Blend in the different shades for a seamless finish
  • Take a fluffy blending brush and swirl it on your lid all the way from the outer corner to the inner corner of your eyelid and up to your brow bone. Gently blend the shades starting from the outer corner of your eye, moving along your crease, then along the bottom of your eyelid, and all the way up to your brows.
  • You have to use a light touch when blending the shades, and continue doing it until the darkest shadow naturally and gradually fades into your skin tone without any obvious or harsh lines. Don’t try to rush the process, as it can ruin all your hard work.
  • At this point, you can even apply some extra color if you feel the need for it.
  • If you don’t have a separate blending brush, you can use your standard eyeshadow brush for this purpose. Make sure that you rid the brush of any remnant eyeshadow before you start blending, so you don’t end up transferring the colors.

4. Use a dark eyeliner and mascara to define your eyes.

Now, we come down to the final touches. Dark eyeliner and a bit of mascara can add a whole lot of drama to your smokey eye.

You can use a pencil, cream, or liquid eyeliner to define your eye shape. In fact, you can elevate your smokey eye look with a simple upward flick of the eyeliner, creating a cat-eye.

Outlining your eyes with eyeliner can lift them to look big and beautiful. And mascara does the same for your lashes. Curling your lashes with mascara makes them appear long and luscious.

Finish your look with eyeliner and mascara
  • Take the eyeliner that suits you best, and draw a line from the inside corner of your lash line to the outer corner of your eye. If you want a smudgy finish, keep the line thick and then use your fingertip or a small brush to blur its edges, blending them into the shadow.
  • Another important but overlooked step is tight lining your eyes, which essentially means using your eyeliner to define your lash line.
  • Use an angled brush to sweep a little of your dark shadow along the outer half of your lower lash line, such that it mirrors the dark shade on your upper lids.
  • When applying mascara, be very careful not to transfer any of the product onto your lids or under-eye area. With a steady hand and a firm grip, wiggle your mascara brush between your lashes.
  • Apply no more than two coats of mascara on your upper lashes and only a single coat on the lower ones. Excessive product application can clump the lashes together and increase the risk of smearing. Moreover, you don’t want your lashes to look unnatural.

5. Wipe clean the fallen eyeshadow or smudged mascara.

Once you are done with the makeup application, you should check for any smudges, smearing, or product transfer.

You are good to go with your smokey eyes
  • Use a large, fluffy makeup brush to sweep away any eyeshadow that may have fallen onto your cheeks or under your eyes. Use quick, broad strokes and a light touch to sweep away the unwanted product off your face.
  • As for the tighter spots like the edges of your eyes or to remove any mascara that may have smeared along your eyelid or cheeks, use a narrower tool that can get the job done without messing the rest of the look.
  • You can dip a Q-tip in makeup remover and gently scrub off the mascara. If any extra makeup gets unduly removed in the process, reapply it and use your blending brush to fix the damage.
Published by
Kinshasa Hunter (Lead Makeup Artist, Skincare Consultant)

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