Smoky eye makeup not only never seems to go out of style, it flatters pretty much everyone and works for so many occasions. Going out for drinks? You need smoky eyes. Off to work? Daytime smoky eyes for you! Going on a date? Duh, smoky!
That's why we'll go on record saying a smoky eye palette may be one of the best makeup investments you can make. Great smoky eye makeup isn't just about blacks, browns, or grays, either; you'll find amazing smoky eye palettes containing all the colors of the rainbow.
We quizzed three professional makeup artists on their favorite smoky eye palettes—and added a few of Byrdie-approved palettes to the list, too.
Keep scrolling to see the 21 best smoky eye palettes.
Meet the Expert
- Monica Ninh is a makeup artist based in Portland, Oregon, whose work has appeared in campaigns for Nike and Adidas and in the pages of Paper magazine. She is the founder and co-owner of Beautysession salon.
- Katey Denno is a Los Angeles–based celebrity makeup artist and brand ambassador for Credo Beauty. Denno's clients include Vanessa Kirby, Zooey Deschanel, and Olivia Munn.
- Jenny Patinkin is a makeup artist, founder of the Jenny Patinkin line of beauty tools, and author of the book "Lazy Perfection: The Art of Looking Great Without Really Trying."
Ninh recommends Viseart's investment-quality smoky eye palettes, with highly pigmented matte shades that "don't go on ashy." She praises the 01 Neutral Matte palette, saying it's "perfect for creating a warm or cool smoky eye" on "porcelain-to-medium skin."
Aether Beauty Summer Solstice Palette
"Smoky doesn’t have to mean dark," Denno says, calling out this eyeshadow palette from buzzy Aether Beauty.
"At first glance you might think it’s just a light, neutral pinks, mauves, and purple-y brown palette, but it’s so much more," she insists. "The textures are really soft and blendable with a surprising amount of color and shimmer payoff."
"I am a huge fan of NYX as a budget-friendly line that makes it so easy to play and experiment without making a big investment," Patinkin says. The charcoal shadows in this NYX palette can be easily blended with more vibrant shades for a surprisingly wearable, colorful smoky eye.
Patinkin calls Surratt Beauty's "silky smooth" eyeshadows "pure luxury"—a fitting description, considering its eyeshadow quads come with three-figure price tags. But if you love a blue smoky eye, you can put together a seriously memorable look with these multidimensional, color-shifting shades.
Ninh loves the smooth, blendable eyeshadows in this Lancôme palette, with emerald, olive and moss shadows that look "amazing" against hazel eyes, she says. The neutral champagne and tan shadows are "subtle" for a daytime makeup look but "still very enhancing," she adds.
Urban Decay's Naked eyeshadow palettes are reliably amazing for creating smoky eye looks. The Naked Wild West Palette is the first fully vegan palette in the Naked series, with 12 pressed powders in shades of beige, gold, chocolate, silver, charcoal, and a few unconventional hues such as sea foam, burgundy and teal. It's right on trend, and like its forebears, it creates some seriously stunning smoky eyes.
"The Ilia Necessary Eyeshadow Palette in Warm Nude offers an alternative to the black smoky eye with the beautiful warmth of a red, a surprisingly wearable orange, and a combo of matte and shimmer neutrals," Denno comments. The hues are especially flattering against blue and brown eyes, she adds.
Huda Beauty's candy-inspired smoky eye palette contains nine pressed powders, five of which are metallic shimmers, four of which are mattes. The mix of beige, gold and brown tones allow you to create a subtle smoky eye fit for the office or a striking smoky eye fit for dinner and drinks.
We would happily reach for any Pat McGrath palette when attempting to master a smoky eye look, although lately we've had a particularly passionate love affair with this one, called the Bronze Seduction Palette. (We're suckers for bronze, gold, and copper). Yes, it's expensive, but the 10 ultra-pigmented shadows in this palette are the real deal.
This four-shadow palette from Vapour Beauty "has the perfect array of colors to really help streamline your application: one for the base, one for the crease, one for the detail, and one for the lash line," Patinkin explains.
She particularly loves the palette's shimmery navy shade, a departure from standard gray, black, and brown smoky shadows. "The color really makes the whites of the eyes pop nice and bright," she adds.
For a gray smoky look, you can't do better than this Charlotte Tilbury quad, which contains four pressed powders: Prime, Enhance, Smoke, and Pop.
Use the Prime shade to create an even base, Enhance to add definition, then Smoke to achieve the diffused and blended look. Finally, apply the shimmery Pop onto the center of the eyelid for dimension and brightness.
Ninh calls Revlon's petite eye shadow palette "minimal and wearable with the perfect amount of twinkle." In four shades of beige and brown, these "easy to use" cream shadows can be applied with a brush or fingertip, making the palette a no-brainer buy.
A Byrdie editor or two depend on this smoky eye palette chock-full of warm, rosy browns. Tarte's evergreen best-seller comes complete with 12 matte and micro-shimmer shades that run the gamut from ivory to russet.
If you struggle to find shadows that stay true to color on dark skin, you have to check out the palettes from Black-owned beauty brand Juvia's Place.
Ninh recommends the Warrior Eyeshadow Palette for its "super-pigmented" shades of champagne, gold, brown, and bronze that don't "go ashy" on deep complexions. "The reflective finishes layer so nicely on top of each other," she says.
If you prefer subtle smoky eyes—those that are soft and diffused instead of dark and moody—then this Anastasia Beverly Hills palette is for you. It contains just enough smoky shades, along with just enough light shimmers, to create a romantic, dimensional look.
W3ll People's reasonably priced, five-shadow palette "is a go-to for me, personally and in my pro kit," Patinkin says.
"The range of colors in each has so clearly been designed by a makeup artist because they are so complementary, and the wear time I get on these without a primer is really impressive," she explains. "The violet-based hues are so pretty for blue, green, or hazel eyes in particular."
Bh Cosmetics creates surprisingly high-quality products for such low price points. With 24 colorful shadows (12 matte, 12 shimmery) inspired by the zodiac—plus a highlighter that casts a moonlit glow—this affordable palette is capable of creating some out-of-this-world smoky eyes.
Sigma's Warm Neutrals Volume 2 Palette is one of the brand's best-sellers for a reason. It combines 12 silky shadows in matte, shimmer, and glitter finishes. The warm browns, golds, pinks, purples, and reds allow for practically endless iterations on smoky eyes.
"For a deep, sultry smoky" look, Denno recommends this eyeshadow quad from clean beauty brand Johnny Concert. "The colors complement all eye colors, but the purple can really make any green or brown with yellow/green undertones pop," she comments.
For an "intense, colorful" smoky eye, Denno recommends using a wet eyeshadow brush to apply these shadows; for a "subdued, soft smoke," use a dry brush.
For all your brown smoky-eye needs, try this Smashbox Cover Shot Palette, which is aptly named the Minimalist. It covers all the basics, containing eight pressed powders that range from pale taupe to chocolate brown.
Patinkin calls out the best-selling Day-to-Night eyeshadow palettes from as favorites for creating smoky eyes. "They're so cleverly designed, with four matte and four shimmer colors, and the base color of each comes in double size so you don't run out of them at an uneven pace," she says. The matte shades on top are perfect for daytime, and the shimmery shades along the bottom add some punch for evenings out.