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Tuesday, 1 January 2013

How To: Create A Black Smoky Eye

Most of you reading this will be super clued up on smoky eyes, but it’s one of the things I get asked most for help with by my friends. I taught a friend to do a look very similar to the one in this post a couple of weeks ago, and she said I should write it up because she found it so useful. Like the others in my How To series, this is quite an in depth post, so grab a cuppa! This look can be easily adapted for monolids, but this tutorial is for an eye with a crease. The look we’ll be doing is this:


Black Smokey Eye Makeup

Black Smoky Eye Makeup Tutorial
Black Smokey Eyes and Red Lips

You will need:

Eye Primer (See my primer post here)
Black eyeshadow ( matte)
Cool brown eyeshadow (matte)
Skin tone coloured eyeshadow or face powder (matte)
A silver or gunmetal colour (shimmer/satin)
Pencil and/or liquid liner as preferred
Flat, paddle like eyeshadow brush
Fluffy blending brushes (preferably two)
Small detailer brush

As you can see, it’s a matte black smoky eye,  but it’s not too deep, dramatic harsh looking so will go with lots of dress styles and personalities! I’ve chosen matte because that’s what springs to mind when I think of the word smoky, but you can use shimmer if you like, especially if you’re new to makeup as a lot of people find them easier to work with. Many people are really scared to use black eyeshadow, and it’s something even people who are more used to wearing makeup struggle with sometimes , so before I go into the full how-to, some general tips for the look:

Keep a spare, clean blending brush handy in case yours gets too dirty to blend effectively
Do your foundation and concealer after your eye makeup so you can clear up any fall-out
Don’t worry if it’s not totally perfect – it’s called smoky for a reason! In my opinion, slightly messy dark eyes can look great, so relax
Never ‘cut’ your eye in half – if you put a colour on and it’s not going all over the eye, make sure it goes 1/3 or 2/3 of the way across, never half way. Going half way across the eye and stopping in the middle can make your eye shape look very odd!


1: Base Colour

Apply your eye primer and let it set.  If you want to apply a black base to really make your colour dark, then do so now. You could use a kohl pencil or a black paint pot, and just take it up to your crease. I didn’t want to go too full on, so I chose not to, but you could and it won’t affect the rest of the instructions in the post! Then pack your black eyeshadow with a flat paddle brush onto your entire upper eyelid, to the crease in your eye. Don’t worry about  being too neat at this stage, but take care not to extend the black too far past the end of your lid. You might have seen this diagram before in regards to eyebrow shaping:

Line B is a pretty good guide as where your eyeshadow should stop – when you’re learning and figuring things out, at least. If you go too far out past your line B, you’ll be applying makeup outside where the socket of your eye is (have a feel!), which when you think about it, means you’re not really defining your eye any longer. We don’t want to go too far with our black colour at this stage as we still have to blend it later.


Step 2: Inner Corner

Taking a small detailer brush, dab a silver into the inner corner of your eye and gently fade the colour out with small sweeping motions along your lower lashline Using the same small sweeping motions motions, fade the colour out upwards towards your crease. You can see in the second photo that I’ve placed the colour slightly above the black – this is so it can join up when we blend our crease later.

The reason I picked silver/gunmetal is simply because it’s easier to blend into black than a gold or a pale shimmery champagne or skin tone colour without looking muddy or dirty, but of course you could use one if you wanted to. The rest of this look is matte, so a little touch of shimmer is really pretty in my opinion (and shimmery colours are easier to blend, generally)

(I should made a note at this point that the order of these steps doesn’t matter too much, these are just the way that doing an eye makes sense to me!)



Step 3: Lower Lashline

Apply a soft eyeliner pencil to the lower lashline from the outside corner to about 2/3 of the way in, and smudge it in toward the inner corner, starting at the outside with what black shadow is left on your flat paddle brush. Add a little more black shadow on the brush if you need to. Go gently across to meet up with the silver. You shouldn’t have any problems with blending the colours together as you won’t have much black product left on your brush by the time you meet up with the silver.

If you like a darker look, or if you don’t want to apply liquid liner later, you can use the same technique on the top lashlines too.


Step 4: Crease Colour

This is probably the trickiest part of the whole thing and where the smokiness comes in – you want a nice blended crease. It’s very hard to explain how to do this part in writing, but I will say one thing that will really help newbies… STEP AWAY FROM THE BLACK!

black and brown comparison

I don’t use black to blend out a black smoky eye. Especially with mattes, black can be very difficult to blend and can often look muddy, patchy, and you won’t get a nice faded-out effect once you’re done. On the left is a smudged black shadow, and on the right is a smudged cool brown shadow - they don’t look that much different, do they?  Dark, cool colours like browns ( or purples and navy blues) are quite often going to be more pigmented and less patchy looking than black eyeshadows, so if you’re scared of or new to black, go for a brown (or purple or navy) to blend out your crease. You’ll still get the depth you need, and you’ll get that faded-out effect much more easily.

brush placement


Again, it’s hard to explain how to blend, but take a fluffy blending brush and just a little shadow at a time. I usually use a MAC 217 for this as the slightly flattened shape fits nicely in my crease, and I like natural hair bristles for blending powder products a bit more – I find that shadow clings to it a little better. Crown do a nice dupe as well for much cheaper.

When blending, look straight ahead for both eyes, and keep your eyes open. If you look down too much or have your head at an angle when you’re blending, you won’t necessarily be applying far up or out enough and you won’t see anything when you open your eyes or when you face forward again. Anyway, start with your brush in the outer corner as shown and find your socket.  Sarting there, blend in little circular motion, and as you take the colour in toward your nose, use smaller windshield wiper motions. Add more product if you need, but don’t go in with too much – you can always add more, but taking it away is pretty much impossible, so tap off any excess. Make sure to hook the colour up with the silver you placed earlier.

Check to see if even

From time to time, look at your eyes at different angles to see if they’re even from different viewpoints. See how the shape looks really different from this angle compared to the last photo? It’s a little weird, but looking at a different angle can be really helpful if you’re not sure if you need to add extra to one eye and not the other! Making sure you’re doing your makeup in a mirror where you can see your whole face, and not just one eye at a time is always really helpful for this.


Step 5: Additional Blending

Phew! The eyeshadow part is nearly finished! Take a clean fluffy brush and some either some skin coloured shadow or your face powder, and gently blend out any hard lines or edges on the top of the brown shadow you’ve just applied. Use the little windshield wiper motions again. This is a really useful little step and makes the whole thing look a bit more polished.


If you need to, take a bit more dark brown and blend out the outer corner of your lower lashline. You can use your flat paddle brush, and gently do a little windshield wiper motion on the underside of the black – your blending brushes will be too big for this area. Again, this is a just to make it look a bit more polished and so it matched up to the top. The upper and lower lashlines don’t need to fully connect (my eyes always water there anyway, so personally I don’t bother) but there shouldn’t be a big old gap between the two or it can look a bit jarring.

You may have noticed that I didn’t add a highlight to this look. Of course you can if you want, but I chose not to. I really like an almost wholly matte smokey eye, and sometimes it can be hard to find a highlight colour that won’t be too shimmery against your pretty much exclusively matte look. I find with this look, because you’ve created a nice gradient with the black-brown-skin tone, if your brows are nicely groomed, your natural skin colour will help create that lifted effect anyway. I also find a lot of drugstore palettes lack a nice mix of textures, so sometimes it’s just easier to skip! For example, the Sleek Storm palette has a matte black, brown and tan you could easily do this look with, but the highlight colours are chunky and very metallic!  It’s really up to you whether you choose to add one or not.

eyeliner application
fail liner

Step 6: Quick Winged Liner Tip!

Well, that’s your shadow all done! Now you can add liner, brows and mascara as you wish. I pretty much always wear winged liner, and I’m going to do a separate post on that at some point but I do have one tip right now! When doing your wing, imagine you’ve drawn liner along your lower waterline and you are following it out toward the end of your brow, like in the top photo. If you trace your upper lashline and follow that out, this will make your liner point slightly downwards. Every eye shape is of course different, but this is a good rule of thumb in my experience.False lashes are always fun and dramatic, so of course you can add those if you want. I was heading downstairs to sit on the Xbox so I couldn’t be bothered!

I finished my look by filling in my brows with powder so they looked defined but not too harsh. I then went full out with a red lip, and kept my cheeks neutral. The best thing about a black smoky eye is you can wear pretty much anything on your cheeks and lips and always look pulled together. Yay!

Black Smokey Eye Red Lips Makeup

Products used:
Eyes: Sleek Black, Inglot Dark Brown and skin tone shadows, Wet N Wild Silver, Urban Decay Perversion pencil, Miss Sporty Lash Millionare mascara, MUA Professional Brow Kit
Cheeks: MAC Buff, Boots No 7 Vital Enlightening Highlighter
Lips: LA Colors Lip Liner in Forever Red, Wet N Wild Shine On Lipstick in 514A Cherry Frost

I hope that was useful to someone! Thanks for reading all the way if you did! If you have questions, or I if I missed anything stupid or obvious, please let me know.


  1. This is so helpful, thanks for the tips! I am really terrible at doing smokey eyes, but your tips to use gunmetal instead of champagne to blend in the inner corner, and to use something other than matte black to blend into the crease will help fix some of my common problems. P.S., love that red lip on you!

  2. Great tutorial! A lot of what you said made sense but I've never actually thought of that. For example, the blending out with dark brown bit - usually I ended up making it look too harsh and then rectifying it by using a skin colour on top and blending with that, which is quite messy. So I'll keep the brown bit in mind for the future! Another thing that I've learnt in this post is blending the outer corner of the eye, I've never paid much attention to that so its always looked sloppy! You look gorgeous with the smokey eye and I would try this out but I think it might be a bit OTT with my black hair and eyebrows eek!

  3. Really good tutorial! I am going to try the brown shadow to see how much of a difference it makes to my usual smoky eye x

  4. Thanks for the tips, especially about winging the eye-liner. Makes sense! xx

  5. Love your smoky eye. Classic and beautiful.

  6. Love it! Thanks for share.

  7. I actually followed this the other night! Can you believe I forgot how to do a smoky eye, as ive not done one in so long. Oops <3

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  9. Amazing tutorial, thanks. Could you give any tips for adapting it for a hooded eye?


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