If you’re like me, black eyeshadow was your first foray into makeup. Before we worried about our complexions—with my 13-year-old skin, foundation wasn’t a concern yet—many of us were clumsily dabbing loose powder onto our eyelids for 7th grade parties and dances. What a time.
Well, black eyeshadow is officially bigger and more refined than ever (and my inner 13-year-old is squealing). And between smudged smokiness and sharp cat-eyes, there’s really nothing you can’t do with a good black eyeshadow, no matter what your skin tone, eye color, or eye shape is. Below, find some of the ways to get in on the dark, sultry trend with these 30 black eyeshadow looks.
Winged Smoky Eye
The best way to create a dramatic, winged smoky eye is by starting with black eyeshadow first, and creating a gradient on your lid. Work darker charcoals, grays, and silver on your lid with the lightest at the top, and blend, while only utilizing your black shadow for the actual wing. Smudge out the wing slightly (and gently!) with your fingers to create a wing with soft edges, rather than a sharp and precise tip. Get a gorgeous palette that has all the components you need, like the ColourPop Blowin' Smoke Shadow Palette ($14).
Double the Wings
Go for an ultra-subtle smoky eye that still brings the drama by applying a mini-wing to your lower lash line too. On your lids, apply the dark shade above your crease and a slightly lighter one on your lids before blending. Then, use black liner to create a wing on your lid, and use a precise eyeshadow brush for your lower lash line. Extend the shadow on the bottom past where your lash line ends, and sweep it down in a slightly downward motion to create a wing opposite of the one on your lid.
Opaque Matte Cat-Eye
Bring the drama with a totally opaque black eyeshadow look—like this smoky, matte cat-eye. (Or should we say, matte-eye.) You’ll want a highly pigmented formula like Kiko Milano Wet and Dry Eyeshadow in Matte Black ($2) and if this look seems a little bold for you, you can focus on your lids first. You can leave the lower lash line bare for a bold modern look, or create a thick line of shadow under your lower lash line and connect it to the top line. Pair with a nude lip to offset the drama.
For a slightly sparkly final product, you’ll want a good finishing gloss like Jillian Dempsey Lid Tint in Dew ($28). Sweep your black eyeshadow across your lids and above your crease. Use a smudgeable black eyeliner pencil below your waterline, and then add a dab of finishing gloss to your lids and rub in with your fingers. Finish with mascara, and voila.
There’s nothing better than a classic smoky eye—especially when you have eyes that “pop” like Adriana Lima (if only we could all be so lucky). Thankfully, this look is universally flattering and relatively easy to achieve with the help of a good dark-charcoal or raven-hued eyeshadow. You can use your fingers to apply to your lids, but we definitely recommend a precise eyeshadow brush for below your lash line—just finish it off with black eyeliner and mascara for extra definition. (And a dab of highlighter around your tear ducts for an extra brightening boost.)
Soft Cat Eye
The key to a black eyeshadow cat-eye is the perfect formula. Use something pigmented and matte (like NARS Hardwired Eyeshadow in Night Breed) and a precise eyeshadow brush to achieve your wing, and make sure to connect it around your lower lash line too. Of course, you can have your favorite black liquid liner handy too to fill in any gaps and sharpen the tip. (Pro tip: Remember to not stretch the skin around your eye—otherwise, the shape will be compromised when you let go.)
Fun fact: You can use your eyeshadow as eyeliner, but not necessarily the other way around. (So if you’re deciding which one to splurge on, shadow is always a good choice.) For this look, you’ll want a matte black shadow and an ultra-thin eyeshadow brush for precision. Take your time and work it all the way around your eye—including around your tear ducts and under the lower lash line—for maximum impact, and finish it off with your favorite mascara.
If you’re a pro with liquid liner, this black eyeshadow look is definitely worth taking for a spin. Apply your black shadow on your lid and a lighter shadow or highlighter under your brow and blend with your fingers. Clean up any residue with a Q-tip and makeup remover, and then take your favorite black liquid eyeliner and create a sharp wing underneath where your shadow cuts off. For added drama, create a “V” with your liner around your tear ducts.
Negative-space eyeliner has been a trend in the past—and now negative-space eyeshadow is officially taking over. The secret is to make sure your look has a distinctive shape (in this case, a smoky, blended wing). After applying your shadow, take a clean Q-tip with makeup remover and carefully rub the section of your lid to remove the shadow and create a negative space (we recommend trying the section closest to your tear duct so the shape of your wing remains). Make sure to apply your eyeshadow above the crease of your lid so the lines and shape of the look are still evident in the final product.
Your options run the gamut when it comes to choosing the perfect black eyeshadow—and if you’re looking for something with a little sparkle, there’s certainly something for you. You can opt for a shadow with subtle golden flecks to make a bold cat-eye a little more playful. After applying eye primer, opt for a shadow with subtle golden flecks in it like Victoria Beckham Beauty Lid Lustre in Onyx ($36) and apply with a thin shadow brush. Make sure to connect it around your entire eye for a quick, one-step eye look that only looks tedious.
It’s all about the application—and if you don’t want something too dark, opaque, or dramatic, a soft smoky eye is super easy. Using your eyeshadow brush (with a teensy bit of charcoal shadow on it), apply minimal pressure and simply sweep the brush in an upward motion. Blend it as needed, and pair it with ultra-thin black liner as the perfect finishing touch.
Dark to Light
Sweep black eyeshadow carefully across your lid with a brush, and choose the lightest color you want for the look (in this case, a gorgeous bronze hue). Then, decide on your medium color (for instance, a dark, chocolatey brown that falls between black and chestnut on the color spectrum). The beauty about black is that it goes with any color combination you’re in the mood for. When you’re applying, you can choose to either blend it to perfection, or leave the hues unblended for an edgy cut-crease look.
Black eyeshadow isn’t only for going-out makeup (and 7th-grade dances, in my case)—you can totally utilize it for safe-for-work, everyday makeup too. To get the look, sweep subtle black eyeshadow on your lids and gently blend with your fingers. Finish it off with either matching black (or brown) eyeliner on your lower lash line and some mascara for a gorgeous-but-work-appropriate black eyeshadow look.
So often we’re seeing eyeshadow only on the lid while the lower lash line gets totally neglected. No more! Turn this makeup trope on its head by applying black eyeshadow carefully on your lower lash line, and either leave your lid bare or apply a light, golden shadow for contrast. And a good rule of thumb is to accompany this risky look with a glowy highlighter under your brow arch and on your cheeks—so you don’t get mistaken for a tired girl with bags under her eyes (not that you would, but it’s always good to err on the side of beauty caution).
Eyeliner can’t take all the credit, because the best, most dramatic kinds of cat-eyes are achieved with black shadow too. It might be easier for you to get a sharp wing with your favorite liquid liner, so simply fill in as much of your lid as you can with opaque black shadow, and then bring it home with a sharp point via liner. If you want the wet look that liquid liner provides, try a sleek finishing gloss like girlacktik Eye Glosser ($17), and add a highlighter or bright-white shadow under your brow arch for a finishing touch.
Touch of Blush
Here’s proof that black eyeshadow can be totally girly (rather than severe or gothic). On top of your black smoky eye look, you can use either a pink shadow or your favorite cream or powder blush. Pair it with pink cheeks and lips for a playful take on the monotone-makeup trend. Our new mantra: black eyes, pink lips, can’t lose.
Fleck of Gold
We love a super-subtle smoky eye—and the dash of gold on the lid is the perfect contrast to a dark, ashy hue. After applying your favorite eye primer, use a light touch with a black shadow to achieve the soft, subtle smoky look here. Then, use a liquid gold shadow as the finishing touch, like Haus Labs Glam Attack Liquid Shimmer Powder in Legend ($20).
Ever heard the piece of unsolicited beauty advice that says to never extend your cat-eye past the tail of your eyebrow? Well, we’re here to tell you it’s outdated—especially when you use a subtle-enough shadow to achieve it. All you need is an ultra-precise brush to make sure the wing is sharp, and have some Q-tips and makeup remover handy for any fallout or smudges.
The beauty of eyeshadow is you don’t have to worry about messing it up nearly as much as you likely do with other makeup products—especially if your goal is a smudged, gorgeous smoky eye like this one. Apply a black eyeshadow all over and connect it around your lower lash line. Then, take a Q-tip and clean up the bottom edges (so the deep black shadow under your eyes looks nothing but intentional).
Bright & Glowy
Combine your black eyeshadow with a glowy, golden-hued shadow (like the shade "Stone" by Anastasia Beverly Hills, $12) for a fresh spin on a standard smoky eye. Cover your entire lid in the lighter shade, and use light pressure to sweep your black shadow into an upward motion above your lid crease and out into a cat-eye. Use black eyeliner to follow the cat-eye and line around your lower lash line. Clear up any fallout from the wing to keep it clean and sharp, and you’ll be good to glow.
Lighten up a classic black eyeshadow look with a dash of metallic around your inner duct. Using your favorite light metallic eyeshadow, work the hue around the inner corners of your eye (and extend it to your under-eyes too) with a brush. It’ll brighten up the entire look and add major dimension.
This might look difficult, but a cut-crease eyeshadow look is totally attainable (with a few YouTube tutorials) and the right tools. You’ll want an extremely thin eyeshadow brush for extra precision—you can use the same shade of black eyeshadow above your crease and on your lid with a lighter shade in the middle. The crux of cut-crease eyeshadow is to—rather than blend—leave the contrasting colors like so. Use your brush to apply into an upward motion to connect the colors into a sharp, three-dimensional cat-eye.
Dark & Gothic
Amp up the drama factor with a bold cat-eye with shimmery black shadow like the one from Tom Ford’s Extreme Eye Color Quad ($88). Connect it under your waterline, and keep the wing blunt and soft for an edgy, on-trend look. Leave it at that, or finish it off with a bomb eye gloss for a multidimensional, glimmery final product that gives off the best kind of gothic vibes.
Black & White
It’s always a striking combination. To get the look, apply white eyeshadow to your tear ducts to brighten up your eyes. We recommend limiting the white eyeshadow to your lid for extra impact—and since it’s siloed off from going above your creases, it’ll create extra contrast for the black cat-eye above your crease, ideally swept up into a wing (and finished off with a gorgeous burgundy lip).
Pop of Color
Who said a black eyeshadow look has to be, well, black? For a colorful take on black eyeshadow, pick a bright, pigmented hue to pair it with (like an on-trend bright orange shade) and create a color-block moment. Apply the color first (since it’s lighter), then carefully sweep on the black eyeshadow into a cat-eye without blending. The contrast between two starkly different hues is perfection (and a good red lip doesn’t hurt either).
Inside the Lines
Add an edge (literally) to your black eyeshadow look by outlining it in slick black liner. After applying black eyeshadow and blending it with another hue of your choice, apply another color above your crease line. (A nude palette with a black pan like the Honest Beauty Get it Together Palette, $23, is perfect for this.) Then, line your upper lash line you normally would with liquid liner, extend the black shadow into a wing with it, and then taper the line as it gets closer to your tear ducts.
Add Some Bronze
Black eyeshadow will give your usual bronzey or brown smoky eye an extra-sultry touch, perfect for a night on the town. Try a palette like Juvia's Place Warrior ($20) for every hue you'll need to achieve this look (including a sparkly gold for your lid). After applying the bronze hues—including sweeping above the crease line—use a thin eyeshadow brush to create a soft wing with your black eyeshadow.
Warning: This look isn't for the faint of heart. But if this is something you're down to experiment with, you'll want a black shadow crayon (like this one by Sephora Collection, $14). Apply it all around your eyes until it comes into a blunt "wing" that you can smudge to your liking. You certainly don't need to be a perfectionist to achieve this look, which is one of the reasons we love it.
All the Smoke
Give us a bold smoky eye paired with a nude lip any day of the week. For this look, you can use a palette with gunmetal tones. Apply the darkest black above your eyelid and under your bottom waterline, and extend the lighter, metallic colors above your crease to create a gradient. Finish it off with E.L.F. Liquid Glitter Shadow in Black Magic ($5) and black mascara.
Black & Blue
Another way to incorporate a pop of color into your black eyeshadow look is to pair it with (always-flattering) blue hues. Pick a palette that has black, navy, and a lighter cobalt (like the Morphe 18A Blue Ya Away Artistry Palette, $20), and create a gradient with the black on your lid and the lightest blue extended above your crease. If you're feeling bold, extend the navy under your bottom lash line, and blend. This color combo will make any eyes stand out—whether they're brown, blue, or somewhere in between.