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You'll be hard-pressed to find a makeup technique more versatile than the smoky eye. It can take a more classic, daytime-friendly approach just as easily as it can be used to add some rock 'n' roll edge to your look. But no matter how you customize your shadow, the best smoky eye palettes will include a minimum of three shades that are within the same color family to give your eyes depth and dimension. You can opt for a palette with more color options (and most palettes will have more than three shadows). But, for example, if a brown smoky eye is what you’re going for, your palette should have a mid-tone nude for the base, a darker brown for the outer corners of your eyes and your crease (you can also use this shade along your lash line), and a lighter neutral color for the inner corners of your eyes.
Of course, there's no one way to do a smoky eye (in fact, if you asked several makeup artists to create a smoky eye, you'd likely get several different interpretations). You can experiment with various colors and finishes, from shimmering plum and matte navy to something brighter like the currently trending orange-peach shadows popping up on Instagram. Just make sure you have a good blending brush on hand to diffuse the eyeshadow and soften any sharp edges, as well as an eyeshadow primer to prep your lids for long-lasting (and crease-free) makeup.
Ahead, these are the best eyeshadow palettes that will help you achieve whatever smoked-out look you're after.
1. The Cult-Favorite
Urban Decay launched the original Naked palette in 2010, starting one of the most in-demand makeup ranges in the beauty world (it has reportedly reached over $1 billion in sales since its debut). The Urban Decay Naked2 Basics Eyeshadow Palette was one of the original palette's earliest follow-ups, pairing six neutral shadows that can be worn on their own or blended together to create a wide range of smoky looks. ‘Naked2’ is also perfect for anyone who’s averse to metallics and shimmer, as every color offered here has a velvety matte finish.
2. Best For Beginners
Despite its enduring popularity, a smoky eye can be intimidating at first. To demystify the how-to, Almay introduced its Intense I-Color Shadow Palette. Curated to complement your eye color (the palette comes in options for brown, hazel, blue, and green eyes), each compact contains five shimmery shadows that are numbered in the pan to indicate the order you should apply them in. No matter which palette you choose, you'll get two base shades, one for your crease, a darker color meant to line your lower and upper lash lines, and a frostier highlight for the inner corners of your eyes and your brow bone.
3. Best For A Classic Smoky Eye
Blending out several brown colors is perhaps the most classic take on a smoky eye. Stick with softer shades like warm taupe and camel for a daytime-friendly look, or add drama to a night out with shimmering bronze and dark espresso — there are endless possibilities. Maybelline’s The City Mini Eyeshadow Palette in ‘Chill Brunch Neutrals’ is the perfect in-between palette, pairing six neutral colors with a soft shimmery finish (for a close color match minus the shimmer, try the palette in ‘Matte About Town’).
4. Best For A Plum Smoky Eye
Revlon’s ColorStay Looks Book Eyeshadow Palette gives you eight coordinating shades to work with, but at the size of a credit card, it's still compact enough to throw in your smallest makeup bag. ‘Enigma’ is the perfect color palette for anyone who wants to dip their toes into creating bolder looks, as it pairs everyday neutrals with soft purple and darker plum shadows in a mix of matte, shimmery, and metallic finishes.
5. Best For A Navy Smoky Eye
Want to amp up your average smoky eye? Go for a deep navy blue. The Haus Laboratories Four-Way Shadow Palette in ‘Poolside’ pairs stunning matte shades of midnight blue and steel gray with a shimmering denim and pearly white that can be worn together for an elaborate smoky look, or applied in any other combination you like. If you’ve never worn blue eyeshadow before, trust us: It actually looks amazing on anyone, regardless of eye color/skin tone (especially when the shades are as gorgeous and understated as these).
6. Best Color Options
If you like to get creative with your smoky eyes, the NYX Ultimate Shadow Palette in ‘Smokey & Highlight’ is a must-buy. The 16-shade palette comes with a mix of matte, satin, shimmer, and metallic shadows in an impressive range of colors, which allows for you to create Burgundy, blue, and green smoky eyes in addition to classic black, gray, and brown. These colors will all look gorgeous worn on their own or mixed together, so it’s an extremely versatile palette, too.