There’s a reason a smoky eye is a timeless classic—it’s effortlessly sexy, sultry, and downright seductive. Whether you’re headed out on the town or looking for a subtly dramatic look for everyday, packing on the shadow and blending out the crease is a great way to look and feel fierce. Universally flattering and endlessly adaptable, the smoldering eye look really is the little black dress of eye makeup.
And, like the LBD, each season brings with it a slew of fresh takes and iterations on the beloved classic. Keep scrolling for 29 smoldering dark eyeshadow looks we’ll be recreating all year long.
A classic smoky eye never really goes out of style, does it? To really let the eyes pop, keep the rest of the look minimal, as seen here on Dakota Johnson.
Celebrity makeup artist Georgie Eisdell created this eye on Anya Taylor-Joy using three shades—a glittery gold in the center, a shimmery tan-bronze to buff, and satin brown blended around the eye. Swipe on a generous coat of black mascara, and you’re good to go.
Makeup artist Pati Dubroff knows the key to accentuating radiant skin is a strong, mysterious eye, as seen here on Jodie Comer. Black liner adds structure and focus to the eye without taking away from the overall look.
Sometimes, more is more. Need proof? Look no further than this iconic take on holiday makeup by Priscilla Ono, who is casually Rihanna’s personal makeup artist. From the pop of green on the lid to the two-toned lips, we’ll be repeating this look whenever celebration is in store.
Warm and Sensual
There’s something about a vampy eye paired with rosy cheeks and glossy lips that just works. It’s the perfect mix of girly and grunge, and keeps the dark eyeshadow look from feeling heavy and overpowering the face.
Hot and Cold
We love the way this cool-toned eye complements Julianne Moore’s stunning red hair. From the bold lashes to the contrast under the lash line, this is a masterclass in the smoky eye.
Rock and Roll
“I wanted to give Doja a smoldering eye with a rock and roll edge to it,” says celebrity makeup artist Ernesto Casillas. “The trick to achieving this eye look is to take your time layering and blending the shadows.” For a look like this, try Viseart’s Petites Mattes Neutral Eyeshadow Palette ($40).
This look uses Nudestix’s Dark Romantics Kit ($27) to create smolder with some serious depth, thanks to shades of smokey-green, eggplant, and a rich greige. The outcome? An easy, editorially chic eye. Plus, the pop of white on the waterline brings an unexpected brightness that complements the rest of the look’s natural glam.
This is proof that a dark eyeshadow look doesn’t have to be heavy. Keep the eyelids neutral and smoke out some black liner on the bottom lash for a sultry look that takes mere minutes. Try a pencil like Makeup by Mario’s Master Pigment Pro Pencil in Super Black ($22), which comes with a brush on the end for easy, on-the-go blending.
Lush and Lifted
There’s something about the contrast between smoky shadow and a sharp cat eye shape that lifts the entire face. Add blush on the high points of the cheeks along with some subtle contouring for an absolutely snatched look.
You don’t need an arsenal of shadows to nail a smoldering eye this winter. In fact, you don’t even need shadow at all. For this look, makeup artist Diane da Silva simply smudged out a plum-colored pencil liner (she used Master Pigment Pro Eyeliner Pencil by Makeup By Mario) and topped with mascara.
Bronzed and Beautiful
“For a contoured smoky eye, I’ll often use a bronzer to sculpt out the eye before layering darker shadows over the top,” Casillas shares. “This makes for a cleaner transition, as the bronzer shade ties the look in with the rest of the face. I blend that all around the eye first, then lay down a deeper brown. You can use any metallic shade on the lid to make the whole look pop.”
Black-rimmed eyes and sparkling lids are pretty much a foolproof combo when it comes to getting that smoldering, sexy look. Buff and blend black shadow into the outer creases and below the lower lash line to complete.
We give you the bedhead bombshell look of our dreams. Keeping the smoked-out shadow constrained to just the lid makes for a more lived-in, less overtly glam eye that still packs a punch.
There’s something about the contrast of the liner and lid that just works here. And while the bold lip packs an absolute punch, we think this would look just as good with a glossy, neutral pout. By the way, if you were curious, this look gets its maximalist touch from Pat McGrath Labs products.
For this absolute bombshell of a look, makeup artist Allan Avendaño used the Anastasia Beverly Hills Primrose Palette ($55). “Although it looks like one shade, I used quite a few of the shades in the palette within the same tones in order to create the subtle dimension in the look,” he spills.
Soft and Striking
To achieve this eye, Avendaño started by carving out the shape of the eye using the deeper shades in the Nars Saint Germaine Des Pris Palette ($49). Then, he subtly topped the center of the lid with a shimmery golden shade.
Whoever said dark under-eyes are a bad thing clearly hasn’t seen this photo. The strong eye perfectly balances out the bleached eyebrows without looking kitschy or overwhelming the rest of Ruth Negga’s face.
According to makeup artist Ash K. Holm, the key to this look is starting with a base of black liner along the lash line. Then, smoke it out up the eyelid, making sure to swoop it up and out on the outer corner to lift the eye. Don’t worry so much about creating the perfect line here—it’s a smokey eye so the smudgier, the better.
Hello, glitter wing of our dreams. When it comes to creating a super-sharp flick like this, use concealer and a small brush to really clean up those lines.
Celebrity makeup artist Alexx Mayo tells us he really wanted to create something impactful and striking for Tinashe. “She has a song called ‘Stormy Weather,’ and I couldn’t get it out of my head that day,” he says. “I guess it subconsciously influenced the look. I started by using a navy metallic pencil to sketch a rounded shape with a slight wing on the outer corners; blended the pencil out with a small dense fluffy brush and added a matching navy metallic shadow on top, with a more silver tone in the center of the eyelid and inner corner. Top it off with two coats of mascara and voila!”
Smoke and Ice
There’s something about a smoky, icy makeup look that brings out the best in blue eyes. Lightly tap an icy, light blue shadow into the center for an added pop.
Dark eyeshadow looks aren’t limited to grays, silvers, and blacks. Switch it up with some gold for a brighter feel. We love the hints of green and maroon in this look on Lucy Hale.
An important reminder that bold brows are not going anywhere. Patrick Ta makes a compelling case for the high-low method by keeping brows bushy and natural (with just a slick of gel to keep them in place) while going all out on the eye.
Take monochromatic dressing to the next level with matching shadow. The dark eyeshadow below the lash line adds an edginess that takes Hunter Schafer’s coordinated look from preppy to daring.
House of Smolder
Because sometimes glam is meant to be glam, go all out this season with bold brows, smoldering lips, and a dark, almost vampy lip. Compliments are guaranteed.
After lining the entire eye, extend the liner slightly past the inner corner to create a sexy, lifted look, as seen here on Bretman Rock. Then, smudge below the lash line, stopping right before the end of that inner wing.
Add an unexpected element to your classic smoky eye by using shades of maroon. Bonus points if you pair it with a lip in the same color family, as seen here on Tessa Thompson.
For hooded eyelids, focus the darkest color along the lash line to avoid overwhelming the eye. Add subtle smokiness to the lid and pair with natural makeup on the rest of the face for maximum effect.