My first attempts at a passable smokey eye looked like a mix between Cleopatra, played by Elizabeth Taylor, and KISS’s Gene Simmons. It was not a pretty sight. Since then, I like to think I’ve learned a couple tricks, or more, that have helped me on achieve this iconic makeup look that every girl should master.

The real money tip is that the whole thing is best broken down in stages. Think of it like building a tower. The top won’t sit well – and can’t even be placed! – without the foundation and the middle bits. I’m not the best at similes, but you get the idea, right?

Without further ado… here are the stages to achieve your perfect smokey eye…

Stage 1: Preparing the foundation.

Start with a clean and primed canvas. That means you do your full skincare routine before starting on your eye makeup. And then use an eye primer that will hold product well. VDL’s Expert Color Primer for Eyes is a great product that is delicate enough for the skin around your eyes.  It helps the colors that come next show up clear and strong, while also preventing them from creasing.

Stage 2: Laying the base.

Find an eye shadow that is one tone apart from your natural skin tone. Many beauty experts suggest something in golden bronze, but a nude shade that goes up a notch or down a notch will work, too. This color should be close enough to your skin tone that you don’t need to be too picky about how you get the job done. Just apply it over the lid of your eye and spread it out all the way almost touching your brow and under and around the bottom of your eye, too. A cream-based eye shadow will help to grab the rest of the colors that are in stages 3 and 4.

Stage 3: Applying the shimmer.

If you have one of those smokey eye palettes in your makeup kit, then figuring out which color comes next is a breeze. But if you don’t, you’re looking for a color one step bolder and darker than the base color. If you want to use one with a little shimmer here, that can enhance the look a lot. Apply this second color to your eye lid right up to your eye’s fold/crease. Then, with a slanted brush, use a third color that is a tad darker than the second to accentuate the crease and the bottom of your eye. You shouldn’t see lines of where one color meets the next, so make sure to use a smudge brush like this one to help everything blend beautifully. (The right makeup brushes are key here, truly.)

Stage 4: Gilding the lily!

Some people (me!) might consider this the tricky part as the next color is midnight black to outline the immediate eye area. An eyeshadow brush with an angled point is a lot more forgiving than eye pencils, in my experience. But if you have a steadier hand with eyeliner pencils, use what works for you. Draw in the bottom and top eye line and then go back to make it darker (if you want). When in doubt, use eSpoir Pro Intense Spot Makeup Eraser Ad to fix an oopsie.

Finally, I like to use an intense black on my lashes to complete the look. And you’re done!

Last bit of advice that will be your saving grace in a pinch: If something doesn’t look quite right, smudge and then smudge some more. It’s a wonder what good blending can do.

—Emma Jean

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