Smoke Signals!

Smoldering, sexy, alluring, sophisticated, classic, that is this Pro's definition of a Smoky Eye! In the world of professional makeup artistry, the request for a smoky eye is made daily by my clients no matter if it is day or night. Probably the most popular eye makeup look of all time both on the runway and in real life, the smoky eye has past the “trend” label and become a “staple” look for most women.

You don’t need to attend a red carpet event or concert to rock this look, but what you will need is a little…attitude, which seems to come naturally when you wear a smoky eye. Your demeanor will change and don’t be surprised if you turn heads more than usual! Whether you are in the boardroom or ballroom, this look commands attention and will get you noticed (in a good way if you follow instructions).

There is a “standard” smoky eye look and there are “unconventional” smoky eye looks and this Pro is a lover of them all. Society tends to think that you have to be a rock star, actress or diva to wear this look and that the everyday women could not or should not try to pull it off! This Pro says, step outside of your comfort zone and give “them” something to talk about!

Done right, this look will make your eyes “pop” and speak to the world louder than your words ever could! The smoky eye is like the “bad boy” for women and I often wonder who created this movement. Maybe it all started with “ladies of the night” or witches or vampires. No matter, whoever created it should win an Oscar for their achievement in makeup artistry!

This look can be tricky, messy, frustrating and can make you appear older if you don’t follow the “rules!” Traditionally, the look is created using heavy black, charcoal, silver and purple colors, but cosmetic lines have branched out creating deep tones of blues, browns and greens to bring the consumer a variety and help to make this look acceptable for daytime wear.

This post is going to take you through the steps to create a smoky eye for both day and night, but first you need to gather your tools:

* Eye Shadow Primer
* Tweezers
* Eye Shadow
(4 colors) light, medium, dark and a base color (neutral vanilla shade).
* Eye Liner
(cream, gel, pencil – your choice – in black or coordinating color)
* Brushes
(2 flat eye shadow brushes & 1 each of a fluffy blender, sponged smudger, stiff crease, large powder brush)
* Translucent Powder
* Cosmetic Wipes
* Black Mascara

Here is the how-to for day:

1. Begin with the skin prep (moisturizer, primer, eye cream). Now, apply your eye shadow primer and blend. Give the skin 10 minutes to absorb product and “blot” with Kleenex to remove excess. Analyze your eyebrows and use tweezers to clean up issues. A polished eyebrow is essential for this look!

2. Do not apply foundation or concealer yet – we are doing the eyes first. Take translucent powder and heavily dust the under eye area with product – you want to see the powder under the eye – do not blend in. This technique will “capture” any fall out eye shadow and you will be able to whisk it away after application is complete.

3. You can either apply the liner (of your choice) now to top lashes only and use smudger brush or wait to apply after eye shadow. Remember, you are wearing this look during the day so your color choices should be in the brown or earth tone hues. Save the black, blue, green or purple for nighttime! Another option is tight lining the eye.

4. Using one of the flat eye shadow brushes, apply eye shadow base color all over lid to brow bone (this is the neutral vanilla color and it acts as a base which gives the shadow good “grab” and color intensity). Take a clean flat eye shadow brush and apply the medium tone shadow from lash line blending upward into the crease (depositing most of the color on lid and lash line) – do not take this into a cat eye effect.

5. Using crease brush load deep color and apply to outer corner of eye creating a “V” shape and blend. Take clean blender brush and blend, blend, blend all color together minimizing hard demarcation edges. Return to the flat eye shadow brush used to apply base color and load lightest eye shadow color applying to brow bone and blend again!

6. Taking medium and dark eye shadow hues move to lower lash line, dip crease brush into both shades and apply. Line the eye from outer to inner corner and smudge. Contrary to popular belief, it is okay to line the inside lower water line for a day look with coordinating eyeliner color – I give you permission, but it will be more dramatic!

7. Analyze eye application and add color if necessary. Fill in brows if needed and apply two coats of black mascara to your upper lashes and one coat to your bottom lashes for definition.

8. Use powder brush to gently whisk away translucent powder, take cosmetic wipes and clean up the under eye area. Now is the time to apply foundation, concealer and complete your look. Be careful not to remove liner or shadow when using wipes, eye cream or other cosmetics.

Pro Tip: It doesn’t matter if you are wearing the smoky eye look for day or night the same rule applies with blush and lipstick/gloss. Use a light dusting of bronzer and highlighter for cheeks and a nude or natural tone lipstick/gloss. Do not apply heavy or very pigmented blush and lip colors because that will “age” and “date” this look and take you immediately back to the future ala Joan Collins on the set of Dynasty and you will arrive there via Marty McFly’s DeLorean time machine! Get it? Good!

Here is the how-to for night:

Follow steps 1 and 2

3. Decide if you are creating a “traditional” smoky look using black, charcoals, etc., or a “colored” smoky eye using purples, greens, blues or metallics. Grab 3 shades (light, medium, dark) and the neutral base color. Apply in same manner as directed above, but you can be slightly more heavy handed and create that cat-eye effect if you wish. Build on the color and play with the look. The messy, slept-in smoky eye is hot right now!

4. Use coordinating liner in a deep hue or black and smudge into upper and lower lash line and in the bottom water line.

5. Analyze look and add color if necessary.

6. Apply three coats of black mascara on top lashes and 1 coat on bottom lashes for definition. This is also the time to use a false lash if you choose.

7. Whisk away translucent powder and clean up eye area same as above.

8. Apply the rest of your makeup and follow Pro tip rule pertaining to cheeks and lips.

Here is a list of this Pro’s must have smoky eye products that are rich in pigment with exceptional blendability:

Chanel Quadra Eye Shadow

Tricia Sawyer Beauty Smoke and Mirrors

Make Up For Ever


Urban Decay

All product listed above can be purchased at your local Department Store or Sephora.

This Pro just read a very valuable tip from InStyle Magazine and Pro Makeup Artist, Linda Cantello. She says, “the biggest mistake people make with a smoky eye is using a lighter shade of shadow to blend in the darker color – it takes away from the richness of the look!” So basically that means, if you feel that you applied too much color, clean off your blender brush and blend the color in more. That way, your pigmentation will stay true and not change because you added your lighter color on top of or over your darker color.

So ladies, if you think you are too old to smoke out those peepers here is a shot of what 42 years old looks like with a smoky eye!! Grab yourself a "venti" sized helping of self esteem and rock this look like I do and because this Pro is all about changing the conventional image, I will even go one step further and show you how incredible this look can be on a much older woman! Take a gander at the gorgeous Carmen Dell'Orefice, she is working that smoky eye at almost 78 years old!!

Up next on IMPO: Tween to Teen - this Pro has been blessed with two amazing daughters and you can imagine how much they love makeup because of my chosen profession. IMPO's next post will focus on everything you need to know about skin care and makeup for the younger generation!

*face chart courtesy - Wendy Whitelaw, Pro Makeup Artist and some photos courtsey of Haper's Bazaar


  1. For me, a must for smokey eyes is undereye concealer. I love that photo of the Asian girl; the smokes look great on her! :)

  2. I agree! Concealer is a must! My technique is to put it on after the eye shadow. Pigmented colors have "fall out" and if I apply first, then I don't worry about having to clean up under my eye and reapply the concealer. I love that shot picture too - wish that was mine, but can't take the credit!

  3. That's what I do too! :) A q-tip is best for this purpose; it cleans up the lashline and undereye area so well. Great blog, by the way...I linked you a while back. I like how clear you are in your advice and the product recs.

  4. Thanks so much! It is great to hear that I am giving out good info that is easy to follow! I can get "wordy" if you know what I mean! Thanks for the link too!!! Thank goodness the other "Pro" is my editor or this blog would be 5 pages long!

  5. This is a great tutorial! I'm actually going to give this a shot today - we'll soon see just how "idiot proof" it is, lol

    Since I use EDPP, and have to depot it (instructions with photos here, I found that I really prefer using a soft concealer brush much better than the doe foot that comes with the product to apply shadow primer. Better than a flat liner (IMHO), as the rounded end makes it easier to apply and spread evenly. Have you tried using a concealer brush? Am I doing this wrong?

    They make these things called Shadow Shields (I saw them at the Makeup Show) that you apply to catch the fallout. They work really well, but the instructions weren't clear enough, and I ended up putting them on too close to my lower lashes, and ended up with double vision (now try applying shadow with double vision!), but they did do the trick. I also found that you can whisk away fallout with a baby buki - I have one sitting in my drawer (one of those Bare Essential freebie things that aren't good for much else) specifically for this purpose.

  6. Hi Robyn,

    You can use any type of brushes you wish - the brushes listed on my blog are just suggestions and what I use when I apply a smoky eye!

    If I can make a suggestion - use your cream to powder shadows and there will be minimal fall-out (in fact, the photo of me is Purely Cosmetics Cream to Powder Eye Shadow mixed with Eve Pearl Eye Palette - the samples you sent me in the black and purple are perfect colors for this look).

    I have seen those Shadow Shields, but have never had the pleasure of trying them - I am sure they work, but when I am working on an actress sticking something to their eye area gives me an uneasy feeling - I should test them out sometime! Good luck - let me know how it goes!

  7. You know, as silly as it sounds but finally these last few months it seems that I finally "got" using empty brushes to blend (rather than adding more color to blend)...I really like that tip PRO....Now if I could only put on my "big-girl panties" do a smoky eye and wear my hair down for a night (that NEVER happens...)!

  8. Hi Josi! You are so funny! Confession - I rock a smoky eye almost daily! When I was a young girl my boyfriend was a drummer in a rock band (no lie) so wearing this look takes me back to a time when I was "sort of" a rock star! You should try it! You can do it!!!

  9. Oh and one more thing - that Smoke & Mirrors from Tricia Sawyer is a smoky eye in a bottle with a wand-tip applicator - takes the guess work out of which colors to choose. I use this at night for a quick look and it applies & blends easily. Pro tip: if you use this product, tap off excess before application to eye!

  10. OK - here's a post request: Smokey Eyes for people with no creases. I've got lotsa upper lid, barely any lower lid (covered by my flabby upper lid, lol), and my crease is so well hidden, the Tooth Fairy couldn't find it. There's no such thing as an "outer v" on my eyes...

  11. Robyn - for eye shapes like yours - blend together the medium and dark tone color and just put on lid - use lighter color on brow bone. Don't try the V technique - it will look strange. It is a modified smoky eye!