Fashion Week Runway Tips: Smokey Eyes 101

Published in: MAC Makeup, Makeup Tips/How To

Smokey eyes are all over the frickin’ place at NY Fashion Week. Check it: warm brown smokey eyes and neutral lips at the Boy By Band of Outsiders show.



Le sigh… I both love and hate this at the same time. Love it because it’s really pretty and sexy (and dare I say, smoldering); hate it because for the life of me I can’t get it right. I’ve got two left feet (hands?) when it comes to doing smokey eye looks. I aim for “stylish rave vampire” but end up more “barefoot Britney walking into a gas station restroom.”

There are times when I feel like your friendly neighborhood beauty addict won’t ever prevail over the elusive smokey eye. She’ll be forced to hang up her brushes to live a life of smokey eye-free debauchery.

Despite my proclamations of klutziness, Gordon Epsinet, Vice President of Makeup Artistry for MAC Cosmetics, insists that just about anyone (even me) can do a hot smokey eye.

How to get the look

“To do a beautiful smokey eye you must start with a fabulous dark pencil,” says Gordon. “You have to have MAC Smolder [eyeliner]. “It blends beautifully together with shadows and cream colors and MAC paints as well.”

“Start with lots of black pencil on the eye,” says Gordon. “Apply the pencil around the rim of the eye first, then blend it with the #219 brush, which looks like a fat little pencil.”


“You’re going to blend that, smudge it in a bit, so it looks like a smokey stain.”


Next, blend a dark brown eyeshadow into the black liner to create a mix of brown and black colors. Blend the brown shadow over the black pencil stain you just created. Gordon suggests using…

    MAC Espresso – muted golden brown (matte)
    MAC Brun – muted blackish brown (satin)
    MAC Mystery – muted plumish brown (satin)

For this I chose MAC Brun, and here’s what it looks like after I blended it on top of Smolder.


Gordon then suggests using a MAC #224 brush (a soft, fluffy, tapered brush), to blend a lighter eyeshadow into and above the dark brown layer you just created. His favorite colors are…

    MAC Kid – beige cashmere (veluxe)
    MAC Soba – golden brown flecked with golden shimmer (satin)

I have a MAC #224 but find it gets shadow all over the place, so I ended up using a Billy B Paint Brush #6 to apply Soba over the Brun/Smolder mix.


Ultimately, says Gordon, the final look should have the darkest colors at the lash line, and the colors should transition into lighter colors the farther you get away from the lashline.


And here I am in the final look. The only thing missing from this picture is a black beret and a copy of On the Road.


Okay, okay, this wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be. With a lil’ bit of practice, I think I’ll be able to get the color transitions to look more subtle and smoother. Come fall I’ll be ready to rock it with the other trendsetters.


Speaking of smokin’, the other night I watched Donnie Darko for the umpteenth time and was reminded of how totally unfair it is for Jake Gyllenhaal to be so hot. Why doesn’t he call and ask me to make out with him?


Of course I’d say no (married, hi), but it would still be nice to be asked.

Anyway, if you’re hunkered down in front of a TV watching the Superbowl, I’ll be with you in spirit. Besides the tight pants and the prospect of eating profound amounts of junk food, I don’t care much for the big game, so I’ll be out and about running errands today. Eat a hot dog for me!

Your friendly neighborhood beauty addict,


P.S. Your weekend ain’t over yet! Here are the best posts o’ the week from the Beauty Blog Network…

Canadian Beauty weighs in on Benefit’s Thrrrob Blush.

15 Minute Beauty Fanatic shares a great tip for fast, perfect skin!

A Touch of Blusher reviews Chanel Irreelle Eyeshadow Duos.

Savvy Skin tells you her opinions about the super popular Proactiv Solution for Acne.

For moisturizing and silky smooth lipstick, Beauty Anonymous loves Guerlain KissKiss Lipstick – Pretty in Pink.

Girl Gloss found a lip plumper that actually works!

As SugarShock grapples with a change of skin type in winter, she discovers a superhero for dry skin: Liz Earle’s Superskin Moisturiser.

Temptalia shows you how to look flawless and natural with ease!

Beauty and Personal Grooming writes about her skin and hair care routine in winter

Glossypink pays homage to her favorite beauty icon and has a simple way to recreate her signature look! goes on the street to meet up with John Stapleton for a Tokyo Hardcore inspired Makeover.

Spoiled Pretty found a genie in a bottle that grants three eye makeup wishes. Find out what they are!

Karen from Makeup and Beauty Blog gives you pictures and swatches of Shu Uemura’s spring eyeshadow collection .

All Lacquered Up reviews Essie’s spring collection – In The Mood.


Makeup Moxie’s getting fresh with her Bella Il Fiore Sweet Talk Mint & Lipgloss Set

The Muse features Laneige’s Ultra Chic, Tiny, Portable and Sweet Darling Big Eyes Palette!

The Beauty Ideal February Issue from The Beauty Blog Network is live! And it’s all about love and beauty…..

Stylish Opinion finds a cool way to customize your cosmetic bag. Make your own!

The Beauty Blog Network gets link love from WWD for some of their beauty bloggers in the network!


Like this post? Tell your friends!

So far, 42 people have commented on this article. How cool is that?

  1. slvrlips says:

    Hey Karen,
    This looks super easy to do. I have been trying to acheive the perfect smokey look but, everytime I come out looking a hot black-eyed mess. I’m off now to try this look out.
    Thanks for the post
    Have a great weekend

  2. TUPRNUT says:

    I have got to check out the #219!!! It looks awesome!

    Donnie Darko is one of my hubby’s favs of all time. I can’t count the amount of times I have watched the film and listened to the soundtrack. That bunny is crazy and I love that Patrick Swayze is in it…so random.

  3. Holly says:

    Hi Karen,
    Wow those eyes are really effective, particularly considering how few products you used to create it!
    I think maybe my main smokey eye mistake is using too many different shadows!
    Im going to pop into Mac this week for the duo brow powders (have you tried them?) so i think i may be tempted by that liner too!
    P.s. those models are terrifying!!

  4. Glosslizard says:

    Love the fierce smokey eyes on you! Thanks for the great tutorial, now maybe I can do a smokey look that doesn’t just look like I haven’t slept in three nights! 😉

  5. Karen says:

    Hi Slvrlips!

    It is super easy. Do you have Kid or Soba? I just tried Kid this weekend and can’t wait to get it into my eyeshadow collection. You have a good weekend too! 🙂

  6. Karen says:

    Hi Tuprnut!

    The 219 is okay; I like for smudging and that’s about it. I know some like to use it for detailed work in the crease or the outer V but I can’t always get it to work right.

    I can’t count how many times I’ve seen the movie, either (“Sometimes I doubt your commitment to Sparkle Motion!”). Every time I finish watching it I have to listen to Tears for Fears a few times! 🙂

  7. Karen says:

    Hi Holly,

    I’ve seen those duo brow powders. Nothing can tear me away from my Concrete eyeshadow and my 266, though!

    While you are at MAC check out Cream Color Base in Pearl and Kid eyeshadow. An awesome makeup artist used them on me this weekend and they are pretty cool.

  8. Karen says:

    Hi Glosslizard,

    I always end up looking like a crazy panda when I try to do smokey eyes! This was thankfully not too difficult. I hope you had a great weekend! Do anything fun?

  9. U rock smokey eyes like no other gorgeous

  10. jessica says:

    you looked super gorgeous in those pics 🙂
    hurray to a more refined and simplified smokey eye

  11. Jot says:

    Thanks for that tutorial Karen, you make it look so easy i’ll definitely be giving it a go.Hopefully my result will be just as good x

  12. Karen says:

    Thanks Jessica! Happy Monday!

  13. Karen says:

    Hiya Jot,

    You are very welcome. I hope your smokey eye turns out smokin’ hot! What colors do you think you’ll use?

  14. May says:

    Hi Karen! Great look! May I suggest that you try blending the shadow up to just above your crease for a super smoldering look?

    What do you think about the 266 vs. the 208? I have the 266 but was thinking about the 208 for a more precise application.

  15. Karen says:

    Hi May,

    Thanks for the tip. I usually don’t wear smokey eyes but maybe I’ll try that next time I have a big night out.

    In regards to the 266 versus the 208, I think it really depends on what you need it for. I like the 266 only for filling in my brows with shadow. If I need to line my eyes I use a fine tipped brush like the 209, or the 212 to line the waterline.

  16. ponikuta says:

    Hey Karen,

    I am loving your smokey eye. You made it seem so easy. I always stuff mine up.


  17. Karen says:

    Hi Val,

    Thanks, girl! This was super easy – magic words to a lazy beast like me. I’ve found out thing that really helps is to go easy on the color. It’s always easier to add color than to accidentally add to much and have to take it away. So, dilute, dilute, dilute and go slowly!

    Happy Monday!

  18. May says:

    Thanks, Karen! For some reason, I always thought you lined your eyes with the 266. I was also thinking about the 209 as well. Grr… decisions, decisions.

  19. Karen says:

    Hi May,

    I find the 266 a lil’ too stiff to get too close to my lashline. 209 gives you great flexibility because you can draw a very thin line but can also build it up if you need to. Plus, it’s comfy and doesn’t hurt or feel scratchy, and you can use it on your waterline, too. If there was one brush I’d recommend out of the three that’s the one.

    What are you going to be using the brush with? If you’re using the 209 for Fluidline it’s most excellent. Another option for Fluidline is the covered lip brush, the 316!

  20. kia says:

    *snapping fingers* fabulous darling!

  21. Karen says:

    Thanks girlfriend! I hope your week is off to a good start, Kia! 🙂

  22. Tania says:

    Totally diggin the smokey eye thing. Problem though is that it looks wierd on my lower last line. Will keep practicing though. However I DID master applying Studio Fix Fluid without looking like one of my cupcakes. Thanks for the tips and keep up the good postings!!

  23. Karen says:

    Hi Tania,

    Thanks girl! I here ya about not really feeling the color on the lower lash line. I’m usually just an upper lash line kinda girl but have been trying to break out of my shell. I think with a little practice it will get easier for you. If you have a digital camera that helps, too. That way you can really see what your work looks.

    Congrats on mastering the art of the Studio Fix! I wish I could wear it (looks great in pictures) but it always breaks me out, boo hoo. 🙁

    Anyway, I hope you had a good Monday!

  24. Mrs. Lynne says:

    That is definitely smokey mi’lady! Nice.

  25. Karen says:

    Yo, thanks Mrs. Lynne. I can’t wait to try it with other colors, like smokey blues!

  26. Jacks says:

    Thanks so much for this tutorial, Karen!
    I always thought I could never pull of the smokey eye because of my Filipino eyes (ALWAYS jealous of my creased-eye friends back in high school hehe), but after going through the steps I must say I was successful! I couldn’t wait to go buy the MAC products suggested in your tutorial so I made due with what I had: MAC Icon Eyes eye kohl, dark brown Chanel and light browny-gold Napoleon Perdis eyeshadows. And it worked out splendidly!
    Looking forward to more of your tutorials! =)

  27. Karen says:

    Yay Jacks!!! I’m so glad that it went well for you. I was thinking the other day that there’s so many ways you can modify this, like, use some blues or greens over smolder, or maybe even a goldish color like Woodwinked might look pretty too.

    BTW, if you do end up going to pick up the products for sure pick up Kid or Soba! 🙂

  28. Jot says:

    Hi Karen, I tried this look in my night class last night (i’m doing beauty therapy)with random browns and it looked great on my model.
    I had a quick go this morning and with some practise it will hopefully get there. I just used what i had in the house which was black kohl, embark for the lash line and gold stroke for the lid x

  29. May says:

    Before I got the 266, I used the 316SE for lining with fluidlines 🙂 Do you think the 209 is better for tightlining or 316? I really appreciate your advice, Karen! I love your blog, lol. And the pics of Mr. Bale :Þ..

  30. Karen says:

    Hi Jot,

    Beauty therapy sounds interesting. How long have you been doing it?

    I think I have Embark (it’s around here some where, LOL!) and Gold Stroke, so I might try the look you did for my makeup today! 🙂

  31. Karen says:

    Hi May,

    When I do tightlining I use a variety of brushes (whatever is clean!), but honestly I find that most often I reach for the 212 because it gets the job done quickly. The 209 works but takes slightly longer.

    Thank *you* for reading and commenting! I always enjoy meeting new people and helping them! Have a good day. 🙂

  32. Amanda says:

    another GREAT tutorial! yay!

    I’m so glad I’ve been doing smokey eyes “right”, LOL. I only figured out this technique earlier in the fall, but have loved it ever since. I use the “smudge-y pencil liner first” method too, but usually just use the darker powder on my lower lash line….

    Again, so glad brown will be in this fall, and I also love using this look for either a green smokey eye or blue smokey eye. 🙂

  33. Karen says:

    Hi Amanda!

    One thing to try is Woodwinked or Mulch over a smudge-y black pencil. It’s beyoootiful!

  34. Hillary says:

    Wow! Smoky eyes look GREAT on you! I can’t seem to pull it off. I have fair skin, and blue, very deep set eyes. It always makes me look like a raccoon after a few hours, and my eyes look totally hollow. It sort of ages me. I love how it looks with brown eyes, though. Work those bedroom eyes, you sexy thang! 🙂

  35. Karen says:

    Thanks Hillary!

    Hmmm, have you ever tried using a gold color? If you can’t handle a full on smokey eye, one modification that I like to do is to use a gold shadow like Woodwinked on top of a black eye pencil. It’s very subtle and pretty, yet still smokey 🙂

  36. Hillary says:

    Thanks Karen! I’ll give it a try.

  37. Karen says:

    You’re welcome! I hope it works out. 🙂

  38. Jot says:

    Thanks Karen.
    Did you try the embark, goldstroke version? I like the idea of woodwinked too so i’ll have to try that sometime.
    My beauty therapy is just a 20 week course which is nearly over 🙁 its been good fun though

  39. Kirsty says:

    I just tried this look on a whim – it looks ace!

    I’m always scared of looking too made up or gothy in black liner like that, but the brown on top makes it so wear able!

    I’m going to have to check out some of the MAC browns though – I’m in the UK, so all mine are from Boots and a little too light!

  40. Almira says:

    Your eyes… your eyes are beautiful! <333333! I’ll probably practice this a million times before I’m even close, but I’ll definately print this as a reference.

    Almiras last blog post..How To: Get a Job, Pt 2.

  41. luckymirai says:

    Hi Karen,
    this is a very sexy look and easy makeup to do. You look very pretty. Thanks for sharing.

    luckymirai´s last blog post..TAG: What I am using right now ?

  42. Claire says:

    I love the smokey eye. It’s timeless

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge