halfass smoky eye tutorial

If you’re a loyal so-and-so, you know that about six weeks ago I held a contest on the est. 1975 Facebook page for people to swing by and drop their best blog post ideas on me. Three winners were chosen, with the prize being:

  • An awesome blog post, written by my awesome self, about their awesome winning topic;
  • A bunch of est. 1975 vinyl stickers;
  • A free plug on my site; and
  • A surprise that may or may not have ended up being a pop-up card.

The second winning idea (read the first at “10 after 30”) comes from my girl B, and though she doesn’t want or need a plug, I still want to assure you guys that she’s a really cool lady. B enjoyed my post “halfass makeup tips” a while back and was wondering if I could help her achieve a quick and somewhat halfass smoky eye while not making her “look like a hooker.” To which I said that I would rise to the challenge and teach y’all


To kick this off, I asked my girl T (who just happens to be a Cosmetics Queen and Smoky Eye Extraordinaire) to select a YouTube tutorial for me to use as a baseline. She chose the one below, and it’s a terrific pick because:

  • It’s a very good tutorial, but at the same time it’s kind of long and overly complicated. Which is all the better for me to show you how to “half ass” it in comparison.
  • The makeup artist makes some weird elephant-being-fucked-in-the-butt noise at the beginning.

Makeup Tutorial by YouTube artist Megan McTaggart: “Naked 3 Tutorial”

I highly recommend watching this tutorial as you read along with this post. The makeup artist clearly knows what she’s doing, and if you follow her instructions you will learn how to do a lovely yet subtle smoky eye. No question about it. But if you’re like me — very lazy, a little bit cheap, and truly in the market for something quick and halfass — we’re going to have to cut her tutorial down to size.

Before we start, I would just like to mention that I do already own the eyeshadow palette used in the above YouTube video. I’m not going to front – it’s expensive as shit, and I had to ask for it for Christmas. DO NOT GO OUT AND BUY IT JUST TO DO A HALFASS SMOKY EYE. To help you keep this whole process on the cheap, I’ve included a picture of each eyeshadow, so that you can substitute something you already own, or search the Internet for a cheap dupe.

On that note, let’s start beating our face!


Behold my red, wrinkly, naked eyelid. This is our vaguely ball sac-looking blank canvas.

STEP ONE. Highlight the brow bone. Our makeup artist’s first step was to highlight her brow bone with a $20 Benefit Cosmetics’ High Brow pencil and then blend it with a $15 Sigma E15 makeup brush. I’m going to interrupt here and tell you that I don’t have any of this shit, so like my grandmother during the Depression, I made do with what I had.

Using an old crusty sample of YSL TOUCHE ÉCLAT Radiant Touch that I dug out of the bottom of my makeup case, I spent about .005 seconds smearing a vague highlight under my eyebrow and then blending it in with my dirty gross finger. NOTE: If I hadn’t stumbled across the Touche Éclat sample, I would have completely skipped this step because meh. 

Thank God I had this shit laying around.
You better believe I only used this because I had a free sample. This shit costs more than $40 a tube. NOPE!


STEP TWO. Prime the eyelid. Our makeup artist’s next step was to prime her eyelid with Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion. I took her advice here, because:

  • I actually do own some UD primer potion; and
  • I have incredibly greasy eyelids. If I don’t use primer, my eyeshadow slides off my face onto the floor.

NOTE: If you don’t already have this product, and if you don’t have Seriously Oily Problem Eyelids like I do, consider this step worth skipping.


STEP THREE. Apply a base eyeshadow. Next, our makeup artist applied the shade Limit as a base eyeshadow, mainly on and above her eyelid crease. Those of you paying attention will mark this as the first step I’m actually recommending that you *don’t* skip. Gurl, you always need a base.

Urban Decay describes Limit as a “light dusty rose matte.” I describe it as “like a taupe or something.”


STEP FOUR. Highlight the brow bone… again? Next our makeup artist applied the shade Strange directly to her already-existing brow highlight.

Urban Decay describes Strange as “pale neutral pink matte-satin.” I describe it as “dingy diaper.”

“But Sarah,” I hear you saying. “It seems like she’s just using a vaguely dirty-pink eyeshadow to trace over what she’s already done with a vaguely dirty-pink eyebrow pencil.” Yep. That’s exactly what’s she’s doing. And I’ve gotta say that I find highlighting your highlight to be a little redundant. NOTE: SKIP!

Here’s me after applying Limit and Strange, not with a clean $15 Sigma E40 Blending Brush as recommended, but with whatever moderately not-disgusting brush I had available:

Me after applying Limit on and above the eyelid crease, and Strange directly on top of the brow highlight. As I said before, I would skip the Strange next time. Nobody likes pointless Strange.


STEP FIVE. Start applying “the smoke.” Our makeup artist’s next step was to start applying what I’ll call the “smoke.” Taking a shade called Darkside, she used a $24 MAC 217 Blending Brush to swirl it around the outside corner of her eyelid.

Urban Decay calls Darkside a “deep taupe-mauve satin.” Or, you know. Gray.

Here’s me after mashing some Darkside around the outside corner of *my* eyelid with whatever piece-of-shit didn’t-cost-me-no-$24 makeup brush I could find. I’ll also mention that it took me WAY LESS than the 40 seconds it took our makeup artist. Like, 38 less seconds.

Me after applying Darkside to the outer corner of my eyelid. SMOKY!


STEP SIX. Continue applying lid color. Our trusty makeup artist then continued to flesh out the smoky eye by applying a shade called Burnout to the remaining 1/3 of the lid, followed by a shade called Liar over the center of the lid to create a gradient effect.

Urban Decay calls Burnout “a light pinky-peach satin.” I call it “these descriptions are starting to piss me off.”
Urban Decay: “Medium metallic mauve shimmer.” Me: “Brown.”

The makeup artist then beefed up the “smoke” with a highly pigmented shade called Blackheart.

Urban Decay calls this a “smoky black matte w/rosy red micro-sparklOH FOR CHRIST’S SAKE IT’S BLACK

To reinforce the “smoke,” she basically just darkened that same corner of the eyelid a little more and then blended it all out with the $65 million dollar blending brush she has on loan from the Queen of England.

Here’s me after applying Burnout, Liar, and Blackheart (and blending for about .002 seconds):

See the gradient? Isn’t it GREAT-ient? I’ll show myself out.


STEP SEVEN. Tightline and waterline. For those of you who don’t know what this means, I’ll sum it up for you: IT MEANS STICKING AN EYELINER PENCIL PRACTICALLY INTO YOUR DAMN EYEBALL. Needless to say, I say a hearty “FUCK THAT” to this step. NOTE: Just put some regular black eyeliner on the edges of both your upper and lower lids. No need to get fancy.

Here’s me after blending a little and throwing on some regular old Maybelline eyeliner:

You’ll notice that my top eyeliner doesn’t reach across as far as my bottom eyeliner. This is because I fucked up. THANKS FOR POINTING IT OUT MY GIRL T


STEP EIGHT. Conceal yo eye bags. This is where I completely departed from the YouTube tutorial. At this point, the makeup artist started to throw three or four additional shades of eyeshadow under and around her lower lash line… and girlfriend, I DO NOT NEED ANY MORE PINKS AND PURPLES AND GRAYS UNDER MY EYES THANK YOU VERY MUCH. I HAVE QUITE ENOUGH AND AS A MATTER OF FACT I WOULD LIKE LESS.

So instead of accentuating the negative, I chose to cover up my eye baggage. I personally like the Benefit Fake Up stick because it has a moisturizer built right into it, but it is very pricy and not really necessary. This is a halfass makeup tutorial, after all. Use what you already have/what works best for you.

Coverin’ up dem eye bags. This picture is before blending, obvi.


STEP NINE. Mascara. Continuing with the trend of “not doing what the YouTube tutorial said to do,” I completely eschewed liquid liner and false eyelashes because AIN’T NOBODY GOT TIME FOR THAT SHIT. Instead, I used one single coat of Benefit’s They’re Real mascara (which some people hate) followed by *several* coats of the bestiest mascara in the whole damn world: Cover Girl Clump Crusher (which everyone loves.)

This was the result:

Sure, they’re no falsies. But who the fuck has time for falsies? Not me, RuPaul.


STEP TEN. Eyebrows… and Done! I’ve been accused of being overly self-deprecating on this site. But I’m going to step away from that for a second and admit to y’all that my eyebrows are pretty good. And by that I mean they aren’t a lot of trouble. They have a decent natural shape, they aren’t too thick, they aren’t overly sparse in places, I haven’t over-plucked them into oblivion, etc.

Still, whenever I do my eyes I like to at least touch up my brows, and I mainly use two products: the Clinique Brow Keeper Pencil and Brush (which I got ten years ago) and the Urban Decay Brow Box (a more recent acquisition.) With these tools I basically just fill my brows in, brush them out, apply a bit of wax, and voila! NOTE: You don’t have to do *any* of this shit if you’re perfectly happy with your eyebrows the way they are. They’re not going to affect your smoky eye in the least bit. Go ahead and skip this step if you’ve a mind to.

And here’s the finished product!

Halfass smoky eye IN YOUR FACE!


And that’s the end! My girl T accused this of being a “3/4 assed smoky eye” so if you’re still overwhelmed, here’s a *very* simple TL:DR.

These are your ESSENTIAL steps and there aren’t that many of them. Witness:

1. Apply a light taupe base shadow on and above the crease.

2. Apply a medium gray to the outside corner of the lid.

3. Achieve a gradient effect by using taupe on the inner lid and a brownish color in the center.

4. Reinforce the “smoke” with a dark gray or black eyeshadow.

5. Blend.

6. Eyeliner.

7. Mascara.

See? Easy as pollution. GET IT? POLLUTION? SMOKE? SMOKY EYE? GET IT?

I’m out.