Beauty Tutorial: Three Ways to Get a Smoky Eye

model with a smoky eye

Photography: Juan Satizabal

Slept in, smudgy, smoky, sexy. This smoldering look transcends time and trends. “A smoky eye frames your eyes like magic,” says Colleen Creighton, one of our favorite makeup artists who created the looks you see here. “It’s hypnotic. It stops traffic. People stare into your eyes when you’re wearing it.” Creighton creates every level of smoky eye with the exact same thing. A warm brown powder eye shadow. “It’s a nice, easy base that you can build on. Plus, it works on absolutely everyone.” 

Daunted? Don’t be. The secret to pulling it off without looking like a hot mess lies in one word: Blending. And we all know how to blend, right? “Don’t apply color all over,” says Creighton. “The trick is to concentrate it at the lash line. Then you fade it up and out with a Q-tip for that seamless, “smoke” like- finish. No clear lines, no harsh edges.” So, grab those Q-tips. You’re about to become a Smoky-Eye pro.

Start here: Slow Burn 🔥
Time: 2 minutes 
Products: 1 

“Brush brown shadow along your top lash line,” says Creighton. “Blend the color right into lashes. Then smudge a little along the bottom lash line also, for balance.” If you’re looking for a subtle take, you can stop right here. This touch of color gets low-key smolder across all on its own. 

TIP: Skip the mascara and brow filler. “Less lash and eyebrow makes the understated smoky eye pop even more.” 

Turn Up the Heat 🔥🔥
Time: 5 minutes 
Products: 3 

Want to kick it up a notch? Take that simple base and add eye liner and a touch of mascara on upper lashes only. “Use a dark brown eye pencil, preferably a skinny, waterproof one. “Line the upper lid, emphasizing the outer corners of eyes especially, then smudge color right into the lash line with a Q-tip or your finger.” You can stop there, or for a bit more pop and definition trace the pencil along the lower lash waterline. 

Tip: Don’t worry if your shadow or liner smudges. It’s inevitable, and even covetable. Just go in after with a Q-tip to clean up and even things out.

Total Smokeshow 🔥🔥🔥 
Time: 10 minutes 
Products: 5  

When you’re ready for maximum drama, break out the black. Specifically, adding some inky eyeliner and matte shadow. “There’s something about the richness and intensity of black that really levels up the look,” says Creighton. “The technique is still super-simple: Take a creamy, jet pencil and line all along the upper and lower lashes. Blend. Then, with a small eye shadow brush, trace over the liner with a matte black eye shadow. It doesn’t have to be a lot—a little goes a long way. There’s no need to dust color all over the lid or into the socket, unless you’re feeling it. This is about you, after all.” Do one final blend with your finger or a sponge tip applicator.

Tip: Creighton especially loves using these super-absorbent Japanese charcoal swabs for blending a smoky eye.