The Smoky Eye: Makeup Techniques to Get This Look

The smoky eye is one of the best ways to achieve a sultry, sexy look with your makeup. From smudged and smoldering to polished and elegant, these easy steps will teach you how to use one of the most versatile eye makeup techniques to get the look you want.

Though it’s not necessary, using a primer on the eyelid will ensure a smooth application, and will help to extend the staying power of your makeup masterpiece. You can use a primer specifically made for the eye, or a creamy concealer- either will work fine. Apply a tiny bit across the entire eye area, blending from lash line to brow. To ensure super staying power (if you’re, say, hitting the club for an all nighter), lightly swab the eye area with an alcohol free toner before priming, then dust a layer of translucent powder over the primer afterwards. This will help to prevent oil and sweat from causing creasing.

The classic smoky eye is traditionally done in shades of black, grey, or brown- but that doesn’t mean you’re limited to only those colors. Violet, forest green, copper, bronze, gunmetal, and silver all make equally excellent choices, and can spice up your look if you’re bored with using conventional hues.

The darkest color used in your smoky eye will be your liner. You can use liquid liner to achieve a thick, dramatic, and angular line (that has superior staying power), but you might prefer to use a pencil liner for two reasons. First, unless you’re experienced applying it, liquid liner can be tricky to put on. Second, unlike wax based pencil liners, liquid liner dries quickly, and is not ideal for smudging. If you’re going for a more rock n’ roll feel, stick with the pencil- or strike a compromise, and use a pot liner like MAC Fluidline ($14.50, or Stila Smudge Pots ($16.00, which goes on with a brush like a liquid liner, but still affords you better spreadability.

The thicknesses of the line is up to you, but regardless of dimension, try to get as close to the lash line as you possibly can, even dotting liner between the lashes. Doing so will make your eyes “pop” through the contrast of the whites with the super dark color of the liner. The most traditional line is one that is drawn all the way across the lash line, growing slightly thicker in the middle and continuing to the corner of the eye. At the end of the line, you can wing it out, turn it up for a cat-eye look, or extend it to a thickened point ala Sophia Loren. The choice is up to you!

And don’t neglect your bottom lash line. The key to the smoky eye’s intensity is, again, contrast. You can either line your lower lash line with the same dark liner for a very intense look, connecting the top and bottom lines at the outer corner of the eye OR soften the look up a bit by using a dark powder to line and define.

Of course, the smoky eye is nothing without the blended eye shadow that gives the look its name. Start with the lightest color first, sweeping it over your entire eye, from lash line to brow. Though some people like to work with a light, medium, and dark color, you can achieve a smoky eye using just a light and dark color if you prefer. If you choose to incorporate a mid-point hue, apply it all over the lid, and slightly into the crease, being sure to blend well. Finally, it’s time for the “smoke”. Using a shadow brush, sweep the darkest shadow color across the lid, blending up and out towards the crease. The effect you’re looking to achieve is called a gradient, where the color starts out extremely concentrated near the lashes, and fades as you move towards the brow bone. Once you’ve achieved the perfect blend, step back and make sure your work on both eyes is symmetrical and equally concentrated. If there are any mess-ups: use a tiny, tiny bit of non-oily eye makeup remover to dampen a Q-tip, and gently blot (DON’T RUB!) mistakes away. When you’re satisfied with your work, apply a few coats of a volumizing or thickening mascara, and make sure your brows are polished with a pencil or brow powder (the combo of the lush, dramatic eye makeup just doesn’t look right framed by a sparse, messy, or unkempt brow).

You’re done! Tradition says it is better to keep the rest of your makeup light, going with a nude mouth to avoid looking TOO overdone- but that’s mainly a tip geared at those who are wearing the look during the day. In nightclub or bar, the pairing of dramatic lips with equally dramatic eyes can work well to help spotlight your best features in the type of lighting (or lack thereof) that night spots tend to use. Still, regardless of where you plan to go, your new intense eyes will have you looking sultry, dramatic, and very very sexy.

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