What Every Makeup Artist Needs to Know About Creating Smokey Eye



The smokey eye is makeup’s timeless look, delivering a sexy, smoldering effect worthy of an evening on the town, a black tie event, a runway, or a wedding day.

If there’s one look that your clients will be asking you to create it’s the smokey eye, so you better make sure your colors are on point, your blending technique is impressive, and your repertoire includes the latest trends in the smokey eye.

You can be sure that your initial makeup artist program will include instruction in the smokey eye. But if you’re already in the makeup game, you’ll find advanced courses in eye makeup techniques are always a good idea for propelling your makeup artistry career forward and for keeping you up to speed on the latest trends.

There’s a few things every makeup artist must know to pull off the beloved smokey eye:

Nailing the Technique

The smokey eye is dramatic and bold, so it often looks complicated. But it’s actually quite simple, provided you know the secret: It’s all about blending. You must be a master blender to achieve that shadowing effect that makes the look so great.

It’s also important to pair up light base colors with rich dark colors. You can deviate from the charcoal and gray shades with pairings like a soft gold base with a deep purple upper lid or a champagne base with a vivid green upper lid. Just remember to combine light bases with rich dark colors and blend until it looks flawless.

The best smokey eye is one that uses three shades from the same color family: a light base for the entire lid, a darker shade, and a deep shade. Assemble your shadows and a coordinating dark eyeliner to get started.

  1. Prep the lid.

    Instead of applying shadows to a bare lid, you must prep it to ensure that the makeup stays put and the dreaded eyelid crease doesn’t appear. Brush the primer over the entire lid and let it dry before you continue. Many makeup artists prefer brushing a cream concealer over the lid and setting it with powder.

  1. Apply eyeliner.

    Apply a dark eyeliner (try black, brown, or gray) along the upper lash line, drawing the line thicker in middle of the eye. If you are going for a jewel-toned eye, switch up the liner with a bold violet, blue, or green.

    Repeat on the lower lashes. After you finish, use your finger, cotton swab, or small makeup brush to smudge the line.

  1. Apply the light base shade.

    Sweep the light base over the lids to the brow bone. A light, shimmery shadow works best.

  1. Blend in the medium shade.

    Begin to blend in the darker color on the bottom lid, about halfway across the eyelid. Blend the shadow upward and outward into the crease of the eye.

  1. Blend in the darkest shade.

    Using a high-quality shadow brush, sweep the darkest shade (gray or black works best) into the outer corner of the eye. Remember to blend, blend, blend. Use a circular motion to really create a smoky effect.

  1. Highlight and create contrast.

    Create contrast by dusting a small amount of the medium shade over the brow bone. Continue to blend until you’ve achieved a flawless look.

  1. Finish with several coats of mascara.

    Make sure to finish your smokey eye with several coats of mascara so that the lashes are dark and bold.

Makeup Artist Tips and Tricks

There are plenty of tips and tricks for pulling off the perfect smokey eye:

  • Finish the smokey eye before applying foundation and concealer to avoid shadow dust from ruining your base.
  • If you touch up the eyes after completing your client’s makeup, you can erase any mistakes by dipping a cotton swab in concealer and skimming it over the skin. The concealer will pick up the shadow dust without smudging it.
  • You can create the smokey eye with many different color palettes, but stay away from blue shades—they can make your clients look like they have under-eye circles.
  • Achieve a subtler, everyday smokey eye look by using shimmery brown shades.
  • Keep the lips nude when creating a smokey eye. Put the focus on the eyes, or the lips, but never both. Consider using a light bronzer for all over color.
  • Keep a good selection of colors from the same color family in your makeup artist’s bag so you can experiment with ease.
  • Use good-quality brushes if you want a professional look for your smokey eye. Have a flat shading brush, a mid-size shadow brush, and a fluffy blending brush on hand.
  • Want to really play up the eyes? Use false lashes for your next smokey eye.
  • Lighten up the look by adding a little shimmery white shadow to the inner corners of the eyes.

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