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How To Nail a Smoky Eye Like the Pros With This Step-by-Step Tutorial


A smoky eye sounds simple in principle, but can be pretty elusive in practice. That’s because there is such a thing as too much smoke (I know, we didn’t think it was possible either).

After all, smoky eyes are supposed to be the rebellious, rock ‘n’ roll alternative to meticulously neat makeup. But, there’s a delicate balance to be struck between looking “sexily dishevelled” and just plain messy. So it’s pretty understandable that over 21 million of us have typed in “how to do a smoky eye” on Google recently.

What is a smoky eye?

First things first, what makes a smoky eye? Effectively, it’s a blended or diffused eyeshadow rather than one block color which creates dimension. You can use one shade and smoke it out at the edges, but usually, you’ll build up layers with different shades and textures. In his video tutorial on metallic smoky eyes, celebrity makeup artist and King of the smoky eye, Hung Vanngo explained “all the layers create so much dimension. You may wonder ‘why do I need to do a pencil first and then the shadow, and then another shadow?’ But it’s for the depth that you create. It shows through in the pictures you take and it’s beautiful. Basically, you craft a gradient from really dark and fade it out.”


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A post shared by Hung Vanngo (@hungvanngo)

We asked Bobbi Brown’s Global Pro Artist, Amy Conway for a smoky eye step-by-step, complete with her top tips for getting it right. The clincher? Blending (lots and lots of blending).

3 things to know before starting your smoky eye

– The key is to always keep the darkest point at the lash line. It keeps the makeup really modern and fresh, and ensures you are drawing more attention to the eye vs the makeup.

– Keep it simple. Stick to no more than three shadows and a liner to make your eyes pop.

Blend is your friend. Brushes are super important to get that blend. When it comes to a smoky eye, it doesn’t matter how dark you go, or what colors you use, it’s how well you can blend the liner and shadow. That’s what gives it that sultry look.

How do you do a smoky eye look?

1. Start by applying a mid-tone eyeshadow all over the lid. Opt for grays, browns or heathers to create a subtle smoky base.

2. Apply a liner along the lash line, making sure you’re coating and depositing color between the lashes to instantly enhance the eye. Choose a gel or glide-on formula like Urban Decay’s 24/7 Glide On Eye Pencil, for easy application. Just make sure you smoke it out with an eyeshadow brush before it sets, because once it does, it won’t budge all night.

3. Layer a dark-toned shadow like espresso, charcoal or smoke over the liner, blending halfway up the lid and into the lid shadow. Apply along the lower lash line by softly pressing the brush onto the root of the lower lashes. Then smudge out with fingers for a smokier finish.

4. Add those all-important final touches with a mascara, like Bobbi Brown’s Smoky Eye Mascara, layering 3-4 coats for a full lash effect.

5. Finally, you can add a sparkle shadow with your finger to give it that real luxe finish. It’s great for smoothing out the lid and giving that blend through the crease of the eye.

Sound too hard? There’s a cheat’s way too…

“A long-wear cream shadow and a long-wear gel eyeliner blended together is a quick and simple way to create a smoky eye with minimal products”, Amy says.

Simply apply the shadow all over the lid, blending it over and over towards the outer corner for the smoky effect. Then apply the gel eyeliner along the bottom lid and lash line, smudging it with a small eye brush.

If you want an intense evening smoky eye, Amy recommends using a dark cream shadow, or for a soft, daytime alternative, she recommends a shimmer cream shadow.

Not all smoky eyes are the same. Here’s all the different ways worn by celebs…


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A post shared by Hung Vanngo (@hungvanngo)


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A post shared by Ash K Holm (@ash_kholm)


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A post shared by ROSÉ (@roses_are_rosie)


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A post shared by Hung Vanngo (@hungvanngo)


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A post shared by Makeup Artist Patrick Ta (@patrickta)

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