I have a new eye makeup tutorial for you with some top tips for creating a foolproof smokey eye. This tutorial is in collaboration with Boots who are running a campaign called “Eyes on the Prize”, encouraging people to try bold new eye looks for the party season. With winter festivities almost upon us it’s time to brush up on our party makeup skills – I know that mine are a little rusty from having not gone to any parties, ever, for the past almost-two-years – and find the eye makeup looks that will suit us and perform perfectly time after time.
Smokey eye makeup tutorials are one of the most-searched beauty things on the whole of the internet and for very good reason: the opportunity for a smokey eye to go horribly wrong lies quietly in wait at every step of the way. Too much shadow underneath the bottom lashline and you look like Alice Cooper, not enough blending out and your liner makes your eyes look like tired and tiny. Blend out too enthusiastically and your smokey eye ends up halfway to your temples, go too heavy with the rest of your makeup and you risk looking as though you’re about to appear in a pantomime.
It’s a beauty minefield and I have to admit that I have searched for smokey eye tutorials on Youtube more than I have ever searched for any singular other thing. (Apart from “big cats in boxes”.) I also know that if anything in my makeup routine is going to malfunction it’ll be the smokey eye step.
Over the past year or so, though, I have been trying to hone my smokey eye skills. Interestingly, this has not involved going “bigger and bolder” with my shadows and liner, or playing with jazzy colours, it has been more a process of evaluation and recalibration. I have been studying past photos and videos where I’ve been really pleased with my smokey eye makeup and trying to work out what it is about certain processes that seem to guarantee a successful smoke.
I’ve taken my conclusions and learnings and applied them to a brand new makeup tutorial – the written version is below and the video is on Instagram here. It’s a very uncomplicated smoked-out eye that’s quick to do but requires a bit of thought and patience, because it’s the building-up of the shadow and liner that creates the softer lines and the slightly elongated shape that lifts the corners of the eyes and stops everything from looking a bit sad and…jaded.
(Fake it until you make it, eh? Haha.)
(To be clear I’m not sad, but definitely feeling jaded this year.)
Here are my top tips for foolproof smokey eye makeup; I have been sticking to these rules and I have to say that I’ve been having a much higher success rate with my eye makeup. You can find a full step-by-step on Instagram here and all of the products shown, including brushes, are available at boots.com.
Always apply a wash of base eyeshadow colour to the lid. I often used to skip this stage, wondering why on earth it would be important to apply a shadow that was almost identical in tone to your own eyelid skin, but there’s method to the madness.
The eye shadow creates a different surface to bare skin – it’s less oily, it’s smoother and it means that other (darker) shadows applied on top seem to blend more easily and with a far superior finish. It’s a really worthwhile step.
Here I’ve applied Deep Chic from the NARS Voyageur “Suede” palette (at Boots here), which is one of my all time favourite eyeshadow palettes. I can find a use for every one of the six shades and a couple of them (namely Soleil and Jumeirah) can be used alone, blended over the whole lid, for an instantly glamorous look. In around fifteen seconds. It’s also happens to be really petite which makes it much more portable than the majority of palettes and the shadows themselves are densely pigmented and long-wearing.
Use a chunky buffing brush to blend out your darker shadow – it feels clumsy but it saves time and leaves a seamless finish!
Here I’ve placed my darker shadow shade – I’ve used the deepest shade in the palette, Graffiti – in a sort of V shape, going along the outer half of the top lashline and then into the crease. I’ve then used Real Techniques’ excellent Deluxe Crease brush (300, here) to blend out.
The “darker shade” step is where it can all go a bit wrong. And the placement of the darker shade is also a little dependant on your eye shape, just to add some more trouble to the mix. I like to elongate my eyes slightly and so I tend to pull the shadow upwards and outwards towards the tail end of my eyebrow. A good trick is to follow the curve of your lower lashline – take a look at my Instagram video to see how I create a very small “wing” or “flick” to lift my eyes.
Take the same shadows – base and darker – beneath the lower lashline, building them up in the same way you did the lids. I start with the base using my fluffy brush and then take a smudge brush (Real Techniques again!) for the darker shadow.
Blending this shadow in means that eyeliner doesn’t look so hard or stark – I find that it really hazes out the lines and is so much more flattering than eyeliner alone. I used a Bare Minerals Mineralist eyeliner (in Graphite and then Copper, I only used both because I can’t see without my glasses and thought the Graphite was black – tip: wear your glasses to read labels!) inside my waterline.
It helps to keep your eyes open as much as possible when you’re looking in the mirror to do your eye makeup, rather than closing the one you’re working on. When it comes to creating shadow, your eye looks totally different when the lid is open and that’s how it’s going to be the majority of the time when you’re in your makeup so I find that things turn out better if I try to look at the mirror levelly when I’m blending and adjusting.
I’ve used a great mascara here, to finish off the eyes – Urban Decay’s Perversion (at boots.com here).
I don’t usually like these large brushes but this one creates really good volume and I love that it’s buildable. You can even go back in ten, twenty minutes later and layer on another coat. It doesn’t go crispy or hard like a lot of mascaras so when you want to add that extra boost it just slips on nicely!
Keep the brows understated for a fresher overall look. I never want my brows to fight with the smokey eye (ding ding, in the red corner!) and so I tend to do minimal grooming.
In this look I’ve forgone any sort of actual brow product and simply sprayed my Benefit brow brush with some Elnett hairspray to comb upwards and fix the hairs in place.
You can see that the rest of the makeup is really pretty minimal too. Once you’ve done the building and blending on the eyes (maximum of ten minutes, including mascara, even though it sounds like it would take longer) the skin takes minutes and the lips are just a quick graze-and-pat of a my-lips-but-better shade of lipstick.
I used Dior Forever Skin Glow in shade 2N followed by Fenty bronzer in Private Island and a touch of Benefit’s Galifornia blush.
I lined my lips with a shade very close to my natural one (this is a NYX pencil in Nude Pink) and then grazed my lips lightly with the side of my Bare Minerals lipstick in Grace. No opaque lip colour here, just graze and pat for a “my lips but better” sort of look.
And ta-dah, it’s done. I reckon the eyes, with all of the blending and building up, take me around ten minutes and all of the rest another five. There are faster ways to a smokey eye (crayons that you scribble on and then blend) but I like the depth that this one has to it, it’s slightly more sultry.
Just add very low-cut spangly bodysuit (which raises all kinds of questions about the wisdom of subjecting yourself to gusset fastenings and a garment which basically cuts you in half from the bottom up) and big, textured hair (I tonged mine and sprayed it with the aforementioned L’Oreal Elnett!) and you’re ready to party.