Smokey Eyes: A Step By Step For Getting The Iconic Eye Look

Get the instant starlet look with this tutorial on smokey eye makeup.

Certain accessories function as automatic sex appeal; you have the little black dress, the signature red lipstick, and the sultry and sexy smokey eye makeup.

In this article, we’re going to break down the ins and outs of smokey eye makeup: what it is, where it started, which celebs rock the look, and a smokey eye tutorial for beginners.

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What Makes a Smokey Eye Look

Smokey eye makeup, as the name implies, consists of dark eyeshadow and eyeliner blended into lighter eyeshadow to create a “smokey” effect. This can range from a smooth and soft blending of shades to just-slept-in-my-makeup levels of smudging.

Usually done with blacks and greys, the smokey eye has evolved into a technique to be used with all sorts of colours: warm tones, cool tones, rainbow colours, you name it. As long as your colour choices create the contrast needed, the sky’s the limit.

Nowadays, smokey eyes are highlighted with a pop of light metallic or shimmery eyeshadow in the inner corner of the eye. This elevates the look and adds more drama and contrast, making it a staple among influencers and celebrities alike.

Where Did Smokey Eyes Come From?

The dark, smudged eye makeup can find its roots in Egyptian culture. Egyptians incorporated cosmetics into their everyday lives. Using Kohl and powders from crushed mineral stones, they lined their eyes to both beautify themselves and ward off eye infections and evil spirits.

In pop culture, it was Elizabeth Taylor’s iconic look from the film Cleopatra (dark blue eyeshadow with bold black eyeliner) that put smokey eye makeup on the map. Other silver screen stars, such as Jane Fonda in Barbarella, Olivia Newton-John in Grease and Michelle Pfeiffer in Batman Returns made it an essential part of their on-screen characters.

In later years, the likes of Beyonce, Keira Knightley, and Jennifer Lopez would go on to being known for their stunning signature smokey eyes.

Celebs Who Rock The Smokey Eye Look

Kim Kardashian-West shows off her cool grey and brown smokey eyes for the promotion of her Glam Bible (Smokey Volume I) eyeshadow palette.

Keira Knightley has made dark smokey eyes her signature look, giving the actress an edgy vibe to her overall attire.

Keira Knightley at the UK 'A Dangerous Method' Gala
(Credit: Getty)

Jennifer Lopez showed how a classic smokey eye makeup look is done: neutral tones paired with a nude, glossy lip.

Jennifer Lopez at the 2014 American Music Awards
(Credit: Getty)

Actress and dancer Jenna Dewan adds her own flair to the smokey eye look by creating a cat-eye wing with the shadows, rather than the liner.

Jenna Dewan with Vegan Magazine
(Credit: Getty)

What You’ll Need To Create Your Own Smokey Eye Look

To properly achieve the smokey eye look, you’ll need the following:

  • Eyeshadow primer or concealer
  • A pencil or gel liner in a dark colour, such as brown or black
  • An eyeshadow palette with the following: 
    • A middle eyeshadow shade to act as a base colour
    • A darker eyeshadow shade for adding depth
    • A light shimmer or metallic eyeshadow to highlight

Doing Your Own Smokey Eye Makeup

The look may seem daunting, but the smokey eye is actually an easy eye makeup look once you know the tips and tricks behind it. Follow our step-by-step tutorial to getting that coveted signature smokey look. 

1 – Prepare your eyes

Use eyeshadow primer or concealer as a base on your eyelid. This ensures that the eyeshadow will last and stay put throughout the day.

2 – Cover your eyelid with your middle shade

Your middle shade will be the foundation of the eye look, so make sure to pick a colour that complements your darker shade. For a more subtle look, you can opt for neutral browns and beige.

3 – Line upper lid with a dark eyeliner pencil close to your lashes and smudge

When lining your eyes, make sure to get between your lashes for coverage without gaps. Don’t worry about how perfect the liner is since it’ll be smudged and blended with the rest of the eyeshadow.

4 – Use the darker eyeshadow shade over your liner and in the crease and outer corners of your eyes

For classic smokey eyes, you can use black, grey, or navy. If you’re looking to do a more colourful look, jewel tones like deep red, purple, green can work.

5 – Add a light shimmer on the inner corner of your eye for contrast

When choosing a colour for the light shimmer, try to pick one that complements the other colours from the look. Gold or silver can suit more neutral smokey eyes, while light colours like pink, orange, or blue can suit more colourful looks.

Watch makeup artist Lisa Eldridge as she demonstrates how to do a smokey eye that can be worn in both daytime and night:


All things considered, the smokey eye is essential for that star-quality glamour in any type of look. Its versatility ranges from sultry to rebellious depending on the colour and level of messiness. And best of all, it’s easier than it looks, making it low-effort but just as chic.

Tons of celebrities have rocked this iconic makeup look over the years, and we’ve seen it in every colour you can imagine. Some have even incorporated the look into their identity, making it their go-to makeup for every red carpet appearance.

So now that you know how to achieve the look for yourself, it’s time to get out there and turn some heads!

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