How to Do 3 Easy (and So-Pretty) Smokey Eyes

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How to Do 3 Easy (and So-Pretty) Smokey Eyes
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Photo: Tory Rust

Smokey eyes are like the holy grail of gorgeous, check-me-out makeup. Like, we dare you to look through a bunch of smokey-eye pictures and not be mesmerized by the buttery-soft colors that somehow melt seamlessly into one another. But, like most excellent things in life, the expectation-versus-reality divide is huge, and more often than not, your attempts at mastering a smokey eye result in you looking like a sucker-punched raccoon. Until now.

MORE: 11 Insanely Pretty Going-Out Hair Ideas

Because we picked the three prettiest and most-popular smokey-eye looks—colorful, subtle, and holy-wow glitzy—and decoded them for you, breaking each step down with pictures, and listing the products that were *actually* used to create the looks, so you’ll have literally no barriers (or excuses) standing between you and these impossibly pretty smokey eyes. Keep reading for the full tutorials, and then get ready to have approximately fifteen people compliment you on your makeup this weekend. And trust us—it feels good.

MORE: 25 Perfect Outfits for Literally Any Occasion

Photographer: Tory Rust
Model: Marina with IMG Models
Makeup: Ashleigh Ciucci
Hair: Jasmine Green of Hair Rules

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The Colorful Smokey Eye
The Colorful Smokey Eye

Ganni Hayden Velvet Dress, $308 (was $440); at Shopbop

Photo: Tory Rust
The Colorful Smokey Eye
The Colorful Smokey Eye

STEP 1:

“The key to making bright, colorful eyeshadow wearable is giving it a warm, neutral base,” says Ciucci. “It sounds counterintuitive, but creating a soft halo of brown around the eyes makes any bright color easier to wear.” So, with a fluffy blending brush, blend a warm-brown, satin-finish eyeshadow, like Make Up For Ever Artist Shadow in Taupe, across the crease of your eye (avoid the eyelid itself), sweeping it around the outside of the eye and underneath the lower lash line.

Photo: Tory Rust
The Colorful Smokey Eye
The Colorful Smokey Eye

STEP 2:

Trace an eggplant-colored gel liner (“gel and kohl eyeliners are easiest to blend out,” says Ciucci, who used Charlotte Tilbury Rock ‘N’ Kohl Eyeliner in Elizabeth Violet) along the upper and lower lash line—keeping the line as thin and as close to the lashes as possible—then soften it by rubbing a clean smudge brush back and forth over the liner to smoke it out.

Photo: Tory Rust
The Colorful Smokey Eye
The Colorful Smokey Eye

STEP 3:

Dip a clean blending brush in both a shimmery, dark-purple shadow and a shimmery light-plum shadow (Ciucci used the two purples, M.A.C Eye Shadow in Beauty Marked and Trax, to add depth and dimension to the smokey eye) and blend the brush back and forth over the entire eyelid.

Photo: Tory Rust
The Colorful Smokey Eye
The Colorful Smokey Eye

STEP 4:

Now for the colorful part of the colorful smokey eye: Dip a crease brush into bright violet pigment (Ciucci used NYX Pigments in Nightingale), shake off the excess, and blend the pigment straight into the crease of the eye, buffing in small circles around the crease and underneath the lower lash line. Then tap whatever’s left on the brush over the lid (don’t blend too hard—you don’t want to remove any of your base colors). Line the lower waterline with black kohl eyeliner, like M.A.C Eye Kohl in Smolder.

Photo: Tory Rust
The Colorful Smokey Eye
The Colorful Smokey Eye

STEP 5:

Curl your lashes and apply a thick coat of black mascara, like L’Oreal Paris Voluminous Carbon Black Mascara, to the top and bottom lashes to finish off the eyes, then sweep a sheer bronzer, like Nars Laguna, under your cheekbones and around the edges of your face. On the lips, Ciucci used a semi-matte plum lipstick (M.A.C Lipstick in Verve) to warm up the face without overpowering the lips.

Photo: Tory Rust
The Subtle Smokey Eye
The Subtle Smokey Eye

Navy Fit-and-Flare Mock Neck Dress, $125; at Pixie Market

Photo: Tory Rust
The Subtle Smokey Eye
The Subtle Smokey Eye

STEP 1:

Line your top and bottom lash lines with a bronze kohl eyeliner (Ciucci used M.A.C Teddy Eye Kohl), then soften the line by dipping a smudge brush in a dark brown, satin-finish eyeshadow (Nars Single Eyeshadow in Mekong), tapping off the excess, and buffing and blending the eyeliner out until your eyes have a hazy rim around them (seen here).

Photo: Tory Rust
The Subtle Smokey Eye
The Subtle Smokey Eye

STEP 2:

“A good smokey eye needs dimension, or it falls flat and looks heavy,” says Ciucci, who used a fluffy blending brush to pat a warm, medium-brown satin shadow (Nars Duo Eyeshadow in Key Largo) over the entire eyelid, then blended the shadow up and over the crease, buffing in small circles over the crease and lid to make sure the two shadows were seamlessly blended.

Photo: Tory Rust
The Subtle Smokey Eye
The Subtle Smokey Eye

STEP 3:

Using your same bronze-y kohl eyeliner, trace your upper and lower lash lines again, then line your bottom waterline (hot tip: kohl is the one type of eyeliner that actually adheres to wet waterlines).

Photo: Tory Rust
The Subtle Smokey Eye
The Subtle Smokey Eye

STEP 4:

Curl your lashes and apply a thick coat of black volumizing mascara, like Benefit They’re Real! Lengthening & Volumizing Mascara, to your upper and lower lashes. To keep the smokey eye from looking too heavy against your skin, dab a melon-colored cream blush on the apples of your cheeks and swipe a sheer, nude lipstick over your lips (Ciucci used La Prairie Cellular Radiance Cream Blush in Rose Glow and Marc Jacobs Sheer Gel Lipstick in Margo).

Photo: Tory Rust
The Dramatic Smokey Eye
The Dramatic Smokey Eye

Joseph Turtleneck, $140; at Misha Nonoo

Cassidy Dress, $445; at Ramy Brook

Photo: Tory Rust
The Dramatic Smokey Eye
The Dramatic Smokey Eye

STEP 1:

"When you’re doing a smokey eye with a ton of pigment and sparkles, you want to use a cream shadow as a base to give the glitter something to adhere to,” says Ciucci. So pick a cream shadow one shade darker than your skin tone (Ciucci used M.A.C Pro Longwear Paint Pot in Groundwork) and use your finger to blend it across the lid, over the crease, and under the lower lash line.

Photo: Tory Rust
The Dramatic Smokey Eye
The Dramatic Smokey Eye

STEP 2:

Line your upper and lower lash lines—skip the inner corners of your eyes—with a black gel eyeliner, like Marc Jacobs Highliner Gel Eye Crayon in Blacquer, then soften the line by dipping a smudge brush in an opaque-black eyeshadow (Nars Dual-Intensity Eyeshadow in Sycorax) and buffing and blending the eyeliner out until your eyes have a hazy rim.

Photo: Tory Rust
The Dramatic Smokey Eye
The Dramatic Smokey Eye

STEP 3:

With a fluffy blending brush, sweep a shimmery, charcoal-hued shadow, like Nars Duo Eyeshadow in Brumes, into the crease of the eye, buffing in small circles over the crease, across the eyelid, and underneath the lower lash line, then line the top and bottom waterlines with black kohl eyeliner, like M.A.C Eye Kohl in Smolder. Then, with your finger, lightly dab a champagne shadow (Ciucci used Nars Dual-Intensity Eyeshadow in Rigel, which was only a few shades lighter than the model’s skin tone) on the inner corners of your eyes and on your brow bone.

Photo: Tory Rust
The Dramatic Smokey Eye
The Dramatic Smokey Eye

STEP 4:

With your ring finger, tap black cream shadow, like Make Up For Ever Aqua Black Shadow, over just the center of your eyelid (this will act as a base for your glitter), then tap grey—not silver, lest you want to look like a disco ball—glitter (Ciucci used Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics Glitters in Slate) on top, keeping it centered to the middle of your eyelid. Curl your lashes, apply a lash-plumping and super-volumizing mascara, like Maybelline The Falsies Push-Up Drama Mascara, to the top and bottom of your lashes, and sweep a nude or tinted lip balm on your lips to finish off the look.

Photo: Tory Rust

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  • The Colorful Smokey Eye
  • The Colorful Smokey Eye
  • The Colorful Smokey Eye
  • The Colorful Smokey Eye
  • The Colorful Smokey Eye
  • The Colorful Smokey Eye
  • The Subtle Smokey Eye
  • The Subtle Smokey Eye
  • The Subtle Smokey Eye
  • The Subtle Smokey Eye
  • The Subtle Smokey Eye
  • The Dramatic Smokey Eye
  • The Dramatic Smokey Eye
  • The Dramatic Smokey Eye
  • The Dramatic Smokey Eye
  • The Dramatic Smokey Eye
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