How To Do The Perfect Smoky Eye With Only 2 Brushes
It’s not as hard as it looks.
Since what feels like the dawn of time, the smoky eye (or “smokey eye,” if you spell it wrong) has been upheld as the sign of true makeup skill or talent. But I’m going to let you in on a little secret: It’s not.
Really, it’s just a bunch of bold eye shadow that’s blended really well, and it’s not all that hard or expensive to achieve, despite looking really, ridiculously good. With their massive makeup vaults and 4-million-piece brush sets, though, beauty YouTubers will have you believing they’re some kind of elaborate myth.
In fact, I’ll make a bold statement: Smoky eyes don’t need anything but two brushes maximum. I’ll prove it to you myself.
Believe me when I say you can achieve makeup greatness with next to zero time and resources.
After a few tries, a smoky eye this dramatic should really only take a handful of products — expensive, drugstore, or whatever floats your fancy — and five minutes.
To get the look pictured above, I used this brush duo. But 99% of the time, I need only a blending brush and (maybe) a smudging brush.
The blending brush (left) is a Morphe Round Blender ($5, Morphe); the smudging brush is one from NYX Cosmetics In Your Element Brush Set ($32, NYX).
To make this even simpler, I used only one eye shadow: Sabbath, the sole black shade from Kat Von D’s limited-edition Saint + Sinner palette.
You, however, can use whatever dramatic shade — or combination of shades — you so desire. I’m using black just to prove it’s not as scary or hard to apply as people seem to think.
Before I did anything, I prepped my eyelids with my current favorite primer, bareMinerals Gen Nude ($20, Ulta).
The first thing I always do when I’m creating a dramatic eye is to use the blending brush and a transition shade to create a sideways V shape that starts just above my outer crease and ends at my lower lash line.
“Transition shade,” bee tee dubs, is just makeup artist speak for a shade that’s lighter than the darkest shade you plan to use but darker than the lightest shade you plan to use. A middle shade, if you will.
But because I used only one black shade this time and didn’t have a transition, I simply applied it very light-handedly until I got that shape.
The key to not overdoing it or getting that dreaded fallout smear at this stage, especially with a black shadow, is to tap or gently shake away any excess shadow off the tip of your brush every time you dip into the pan.
Then, where most would usually use a packing brush, I used my ring finger to swipe on that same black shadow with a helluva lot more pigment — but only on the lower lid.
Then — you guessed it — I applied more black shadow with the blending brush! Really, the blending brush does 90% of the work in all of my eye shadow looks.
Once I blended the upper lid and crease to my desired effect, I used the smudging brush to pack a dense line of black shadow just underneath my lower eyelashes. Then I’m almost done.
Sometimes I even do this with the blending brush because I’m lazy — but that’s usually at times when I’m using less intense colors than black.
The shadow alone might look incomplete, but that’s where eyeliner comes in.
To make any eye shadow 10 times more intense with little effort, I pop a gel-based pencil eyeliner inside my top lash line and in the outer corners of my lower waterline. Right now, my pencil of choice is Lancôme Drama Liqui-Pencil ($23, Sephora).
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An eye shadow shade this bold deserves all the drama, so I said “fuck it” and also added a massive wing using Urban Decay Perversion Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner ($22, Sephora).
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And mascara, without which even the most dramatic eye shadow look is incomplete.
The final result? A lazy-girl-who-still-wants-to-party’s dream.
A smoky eye can be done in a countless number of ways with unlimited color palettes at any budget range. As long as you have the techniques down and have one or two tried-and-true tools on hand, you’re golden.
So, uh … take that, beauty YouTubers.
Take your hard and elaborate tips home.
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