How to Do a Smokey Eye

Smokey eyes can be really dramatic, but they can also be nice for daytime too — it all depends on what colors you choose for your look and how much you pack them on. You can even start with a natural smokey eye during the day and just add a darker color on your outer V to make it more dramatic for nighttime! For this Technique post, I will show you how to do a smokey eye with notes on how you can adjust it based on how natural or dramatic you want yours to be.

Select three colors for your smokey eye look — one light, one dark, and one color that’s in between the two. This middle color will make the transition between the light and dark colors much smoother (as well as make blending much easier). I used the following MAC eye shadows (shown in the picture, left to right): “Brulé” (soft creamy-beige), “Copperplate” (matte mid-tone gray), and “Black Tied” (black with silver sparkle).

Although I choose these three colors to create more of a classic black smokey eye look, you can also use these colors for a daytime look as well if you apply them lightly (like in the picture above, the colors don’t look very dark). For the most natural smokey eye, you can choose a cream, light brown, and medium brown as your three colors, for example.

Before you create your smokey eye:

  • Apply foundation, if desired.

Sometimes people prefer to apply foundation after their smokey eye is complete to clean up any fallout, but I always like putting my foundation on first. If you put your foundation on first and you get some eye shadow fallout on your cheeks, just pick up some loose face powder on a powder brush and sweep it off.


Apply an eye primer to your entire lid and highlight area (see my eye makeup map if you’re not yet familiar with these terms).

You can use a colorless eye primer (like Too Faced Shadow Insurance or Urban Decay Primer Potion) or one that is a color that’s similar to your skin tone. I recommend these types of primers if you’re doing a neutral daytime smokey eye.

For really dramatic black smokey eyes, you could use a black base on your lower lid (like MAC Paint Pot in “Blackground”), but I’ve found that my everyday primer (MAC Paint Pot in “Soft Ochre”, which I’m using here) works well for just about any look I’m going for.


Apply the lightest eyeshadow as a wash (click here to see how to apply an eyeshadow wash).

I’m using MAC 227 Large Fluff Brush.


Apply the medium eye shadow color to the center to outer part of your lower lid. This medium color will help transition the darkest color (that you will apply in the next step) with the lightest color you have as a wash.

I’m using a MAC 239 Eye Shader Brush to pack in the “Copperplate” eye shadow. If you’re wearing this during the day, don’t pack the color in as much so that it will be lighter than shown here.


Use a blending brush (like MAC 217) to apply the darkest eye shadow color on your outer V. Blend it out along your crease.


Apply more of the lightest eye shadow on your highlight area to bring out your brow bone. I used a fluffy brush (MAC 224) for a softer effect.

Also pat more of the lightest color on your inner corner using a dense brush, like MAC 239 (you can just use the other side of the brush you used in Step 3).


Line your upper lash line. For a more dramatic look, use a black liquid or gel liner and wing out the ends (like I did on the right).

If you’re going for a daytime smokey eye, use a brown color to create your line.


Using a small angled brush (like MAC 266), pick up some more of the darkest color and lightly apply it on your outer to center lower lash line. Then line your lower waterline with a black pencil if you’re going for a dramatic smokey eye. Otherwise, use a brown pencil (or skip this step altogether) for a daytime look. You can always quickly line your waterline at night!


Curl your lashes and apply mascara, and you’re done!

If you want to apply false lashes, read my tutorial that covers everything you need to know about false eyelashes to finish your smokey eye look!

To really make your smokey eyes the focus of your face, make your cheeks light as well as your lips. I used MAC Mineralize Skinfinish in “By Candlelight” on my cheeks and MAC Slimshine L/S in “Bare” on my lips.

Have fun experimenting with colors and creating different kinds of smokey eyes! :)

August 25th, 2010 in Techniques | Share