Smoky Eyes Don’t Have to Be Gray — Try These Technicolor Looks Instead

I've created some rainbow-colored smoky-eye looks that will add some prismatic power to any blah black-and-white day.

If you've read some of my articles thus far, you might have gathered that I love glitter and bright lights and unicorns and color. Lots and lots of color. Pretty much the entire spectrum (like red, yellow, green, brown, scarlet, black, ocher, peach...).

Existing in a sea of gray-, brown- and black-toned smoky eyes is like living in the beginning of The Wizard of Oz. It's cute. It's classic. But, to be honest, I'm always waiting with bated breath for the technicolor moment when Dorothy arrives in Munchkinland, where the jewel- and pastel-toned color palette is a delectable feast for the eyes.

Neutral and gray-toned smoky eyes are great! I wear them the majority of the week myself. But when it's the only option, the week can get a bit monotonous. So I've created some rainbow-colored smoky-eye looks, ranging from super-easy to a bit more advanced, that will add some prismatic power to any blah black-and-white day.

But before we get into the individual looks, let's break down a couple key phrases.

Ask 50 different makeup artists (in the industry, on Instagram, and beyond) to define the term "smoky eye," and you will get 50 different answers. The term used to refer to an eye look that was deepest in saturation at the lashline, utilizing smoldering tones. YouTube and social media have widened the definition to include looks that are darkest in the crease and colors that are more "natural" or "nude" for a "daytime smoky" effect.

Basically, smoky has come to mean an eye look that is darker at one point and gets lighter and lighter as it gets further and further away from that darkest point, creating a smooth gradient from saturated color to no color at all. Think about a puff of smoke. It's darkest at its point of origin and gets lighter and lighter as it trails off into the sky.

Here, I'll be referring to three different types of smoky eyes: the classic smoky, the smoky crease, and the halo smoky.

  • The classic smoky is saturated with color on the lid of the eye and starts to transition in the crease. This look is generally the easiest to create and is great for those with bigger lid space and bigger eyes over all. It's also great for those with a monolid.
  • The smoky crease is saturated with color in the crease (couldn't see that one coming, could ya?) with a lighter, contrasting color on the lid. This look is great for those with more brow bone space or hooded eyes.
  • The Smoky halo has recently been making its rounds on Instagram and is characterized by darker inner and outer corners, with a lighter center of the lid. This look is great for those with almond shaped eyes or a flatter eye plane.

However, you can do any of these looks, no matter the eye shape. I have the most hooded eyes and I still wear all of these styles on a weekly basis.

When you're using bright colors, you may need to lay down a base to boost the visibility of the pigment. Because I'm already as pale as a sheet of paper, I just use Urban Decay Primer Potion in Eden, which has a slight nude color and helps to cancel out any darkness on my lid. If you really want colors to pop, you can also use the NYX Jumbo Eye Pencil in Milk all over the ball of the eye. It's like priming a wall before painting with a new color.

For all these looks, I used three double-ended brushes. The first brush, the gold Urban Decay, is for precision blending, when I really want to deepen my gradient with a diffused, but saturated color. The second black Urban Decay brush is for patting color on the lid and the corners of the eye, both inner and outer. The last Anastasia Beverly Hills brush, which is the fluffiest of them all, is for diffused, soft blending, like adding transition colors or smoothing out harsh edges between tones.

OK, let's do this!

Red Classic Smoky Eye

After I apply my primer, I use the bigger end of my flat Urban Decay brush to pat Make Up For Ever Artist Shadow in ME744 (metallic Poppy) onto the ball of my eye. Because I'm going for the classic smoky effect, I start at the center of my lash line and work my way up to the crease.

I then blend over any harsh edges between the shadow and my skin with my fluffy Anastasia blending brush. I begin at the outer corner and make my way toward the inner corner using small, light circular motions.

To create a transition, I go for a color that's two shades darker than my skin. Since I'm using a warm-toned red on my eye, I chose a warm-toned peach for the transition. If you want to switch up the lid color, you totally could. Just remember: warm goes with warm, cool goes with cool.

I opt for Ludwin from the Kat Von D Shade & Light Eye Contour Palette (if y'all read my glitter article, you already know this palette is my best bae). Using the same Anastasia brush, I look straight ahead into a mirror and blend the color into my crease. I start at the outer corner and work in circular motions toward the inner corner. I keep repeating this process until all the harsh edges have disappeared, leaving behind a smooth gradient of red to peach to skin.

What goes up must come down! Using the smaller side of my flat Urban Decay Brush and the ME744 shadow, I draw little dashes between my lower lashes. I use the smaller side of my fluffy Anastasia brush, and blend some Ludwin over the red to create a soft gradient.

To prevent my eyes from getting lost in all of the color, I use the Lancome Drama Liqui-Pencil in the shade Noir Intense to define the perimeter. I line the upper and lower waterlines, making sure the liner is as tight to my lashes as possible.

I top my lashes with a coat of Marc Jacobs Velvet Noir Mascara and... smokin'.

Orange Classic Smoky Eye

This look starts similarly to the former. I once again start with my flat Urban Decay brush to apply color onto the lid, but this time I use NARS Blush in Taj Mahal. I have a million orange shadows, but for some reason, this blush is 10 times as pigmented. I always get compliments when I wear it as a shadow. I'm 100% for using products in a plethora of ways.

Just as I did in the previous look, I used my fluffy Anastasia brush to blend out any harsh edges before applying Ludwin as my transition color in my crease. Ludwin works as a fantastic transition color for both looks because it is a couple shades deeper than my natural skin tone and, like the lid colors, it's in the warmer family.

If you are trying this technique with a cooler color, make sure you pick a cool transition shadow. If you have darker skin than I do, make sure you're choosing a transition color that's two shades darker than your skin tone.

I use my small flat Urban Decay brush to apply Taj Mahal into my lower lash line. I blend out with my small Anastasia brush and Ludwin. I apply liner into my lashline; because the orange is a bit less intense than the red shadow, I opt for the pencil Smokeout from Urban Decay, which is a rich charcoal brown, rather than my black Lancome. To increase the smokiness, I add a bit of liner above my lashes as well.

I blend it out using the same small Urban Decay brush. Smoky eyes are best if they have a little bit of messiness to them, so I don't concentrate too hard on making my liner perfectly smooth all the way across.

As you'll see in all these looks, I top my lashes with my Marc Jacobs mascara and I'm good to go.

Yellow Smoky Crease

Now we're going to get a bit more fancy. Like always, I start off with my Urban Decay primer and I use my flat Urban Decay brush to apply a saturated color to my lid. This time, I opt for a lemon yellow: Anastasia Beverly Hills' Phresh.

I blend out the harsh edges and add Ludwin into the crease with my fluffy Anastasia brush.

NOW FOR A NEW BRUSH! I use my tapered Urban Decay blending brush to blend Solas from the Shade & Light palette into my outer corners using Ludwin as a guideline. I choose Solas because it's in the same color family as my transition, but quite a few shades deeper, adding more depth to my eye shape. I start at the outer corner, and work my way halfway across the crease. I make sure to leave some of the transition still visible above Solas. Just as I did before, I use a small circular motion with my brush.

I smoke out the bottom lashline with my small Urban Decay and Anastasia brushes using Solas and Ludwin. Just as I did on top, I keep Solas in the outer corner and sweep Ludwin all the way across. I use a deep plum liner, Orchid from Dolce & Gabbana, on both my top and bottom waterlines. The purple truly pops against the yellow and is especially magical on brown eyes.

As I did in the look before, I let the line be a little bit messy and I blend it out with my small flat Urban Decay brush. I top it with mascara and bam!

Green Halo Smoky

This look may seem a bit familiar. A few weeks when I wrote about the awesome Drybar Dry Conditioner, a couple people asked me how to create my look. So here it is!

Now, Halo smoky eyes work a bit differently. Because I want my lid color to truly pop in contrast to the outer corners, I save it for last.

After I prime my lid, I start this look by defining my crease. I use my Anastasia fluffy brush and my same transition technique to apply Lazarus from the Shade & Light Eye Palette to my crease. Because I'm working with a cool lid tone (green), I opt for cool transition colors this time.

I use the small part of my Urban Decay flat brush to pat Saleos from the same palette in my inner and outer corners. Again, the messier, the better.

I use my tapered Urban Decay blending brush to smooth out the transition between Saleos and Lazarus. Always start blending directionally: start where there's more saturation (the corners) and go toward areas of less saturation (the center).

I keep Saleos on the inner and outer corners of the bottom lash line and I use Lazarus to smooth out any harsh edges.

Using my flat Urban Decay brush, I apply Absolem from the original Urban Decay Alice in Wonderland palette to the center of the lid (which is kinda close to their current Kush eyeshadow). I use my tapered Urban Decay brush to get rid of any harsh edges between the corners and the lid.

I use my small Urban Decay flat brush to press Absolem into the gap I've left in my lower lashline. I return to my black Lancome liner to help the lashes stand out, lining the top and bottom waterlines. I add my mascara and... we're in the money.

Blue Halo Smoky

This is by far the most difficult look, but it combines all of the techniques we used in the previous applications.

As per usual, I start with my primer. This time, I use my fluffy Anastasia brush to lightly apply Savage from the Urban Decay Electric Palette to my crease. Lightly is the key word. It's always easy to add more; harder to take it away once it's there.

I use my small Urban Decay Brush to apply Gonzo from the same palette to my inner and outer corners, keeping it messy like always.

I use my Urban Decay tapered blending brush to get rid of any harsh lines, using my same previous technique. I then repeat the same outer corner steps with the color Chaos, which is a deeper blue shade. It adds more depth to the eye shape.

Just as a did in my yellow look, I make sure I don't lose the colors I've already applied. The deeper in color I go, the less shadow I use.

Using my flat Urban Decay brush, I apply Liberatus from the Shade & Light palette to the center of my lid to heighten the contrast. I use my small flat Urban Decay brush to smudge Chaos into my lower lashline. I use my small Anastasia blending brush to create a gradient with Savage.

For an extra added flair, I use glitter (of course). I tap some of my Violet Voss glitter adhesive onto the center of my lid, and then place some of Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics Fae Glitter on top. I use my finger to apply both the adhesive and the glitter.

I line my top and bottom waterline with Clinique Skinny Stick in Denim. I add my mascara and some false lashes. The result is bright graffiti magic.

Regardless of the look you choose to recreate, let your creativity be your guide. The brighter the better. Don't let the black and white world dim your technicolor glow.

  • What colors do you like seeing a smoky eye in?
  • If you recreate any of these looks, please post in the comments below! I'd love to see them!