How To Create The Perfect Smoky Eye

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The ultimate makeup prowess, creating a beautifully-executed smoky eye, can take any look up a notch — or three. Whether subtle and understated or bold and striking, I love a smoky stare paired with a sun-kissed glow and nude lip, or complementing a creamy complexion and deep purple pout. Though the smoky eye is a must-have in your beauty repertoire, it requires a bit of technique. Below, a primer on how to get that smoldering look — be it playful or polished.

Know Your Eye Shape
Your eye shape informs shadow placement. Start by curling your lashes, which will reveal their true shape. As a general smokey eye rule of thumb, the darkest shadow should not extend past the tips of your eyelashes. For ladies with round eyes, apply the darkest shade on the outer corners of the eye and close to the lash line, creating a cat-eye appearance. For those with smaller, less open eyes, opt for shimmery shadows. Soft metallic shades tend to reflect light, making your eyes appear larger.

Avoid Black Eyeliner Or Black Eyeshadow
A more modern take on the smokey eye can be created by incorporating shades of coffee, charcoal, ash, sable and violet. These earthy, more sophisticated eyeshadow shades offer a ladylike twist on the classic, seductive smokey eye look. When creating your smokey eye, choose two different shades (one darker and one lighter) of the same color, avoiding jet black. For eyeliner, opt for a dark, smudgy pencil (charcoal, chocolate, brown, coffee, plum,etc).

Choose Your Tools Wisely
Keep things simple by only using the necessary tools and products. A flat paddle eyeshadow brush and a small blending brush is all you need. The flat shape and thin edge of a versatile brush such as MAC #213 is particularly excellent for packing on the shadow. A dome-shaped and small, fluffy blending brush (MAC #217) is ideal for mixing and toning down color in a single stroke.
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Apply The Shadow
Start by using the paddle brush to sweep the lighter-toned shadow from the lash line to the crease and from the inner corner to the outer corner of your eye. Using the same brush, carefully place the darker toned shadow tight to the lash line and lid, being careful not to extend past your brow bone. Next, use your pick of eyeliner (I adore a dark charcoal as opposed to black) to line the upper and lower lash line, including the inner rim of your eye, particularly if you're feeling bold.

Learn The Art Of Blending
Now, the most crucial element to an expertly applied smokey eye: blending! After applying the liner, choose a tone slightly warmer than your natural skin tone. (Insider tip: For blending, For blending, I use my favorite bronzer or contour cheek color instead of a shadow because it's just a touch warmer than my natural skin tone.) Using your blending brush and a touch of bronzer (or colors from this Tom Ford Quad), swish the brush back and forth inside your brow bone first and then dust along the lower lashes. This lets the eyeliner line appears smudgier and less defined. With a naked brush, swirl the bristles back and forth to spread the product slightly past the brow bone creating the perfect dreamy diffusion of color.
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Don't Forget The Lashes!
Although I recommend avoiding pitch black eyeshadow, I love it for mascara. Using a mascara that is blacker than black will help lashes stand out against the variations of dark shadows. When it comes to applying mascara, more is definitely more here!

Holding the mirror near your chin, look down in order to avoid getting mascara on the eyeshadow you just exquisitely applied. Starting with the wand at the base of the lash, roll it forward to capture each lash and then zigzag up towards the tip. Repeat, this time by pulling the wand through the lashes in different directions, which is an essential technique for avoiding clumps.

The versatile smokey eye can be played down by opting for softer, more neutral colors and implementing minimal smudging. A perfect day-to-night look, you can easily amp up the drama with more layers of mascara, more eyeliner and darker shades of shadow. I even love a nice, chunky ‘90s-inpired lash, which is totally on trend at the moment! And, if you're concerned about sporting a full face of makeup, keep in mind that it’s also super chic to pair a bare face with a bold eye and either a statement lip, or no lip at all.

NEXT: Pair Your Smokey Eyes With The Perfect Ponytail

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