Beauty

8 Black Eyeshadow Looks That'll Amp Up The Drama This Season

A smoky eye isn't your only option.

Steven Ferdman/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Wearing black eyeshadow may feel about as difficult to navigate as a perfect winged eyeliner. Applying the bold pigment can result in full-on raccoon eyes or it can coat your entire face with eyeshadow fall-out — so it isn't exactly a breeze. But these actually easy-to-achieve black eyeshadow looks from makeup pros make the style much less stressful.

If you're scratching your head wondering what black eyeshadow looks exist besides a smoky eye, rest assured: There are a slew of more subtle ways to incorporate the dark pigment into your glow-up. From creating a base color to layering with lighter shades — or even turning to eyeliner as a form of black eyeshadow — the color is actually pretty versatile.

Bustle spoke with top makeup artists, including Sephora beauty director Myiesha Sewell and celebrity makeup artist Robert Sesnek, for their tips on rocking the boldest eyeshadow out there. If you're ready to try black eyeshadow looks on your own, check out these eight expert-approved dark makeup looks.

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1
Black Velvet
Michelle Clark/M.A.C. Cosmetics

Michelle Clark, senior national artist for M.A.C. Cosmetics, recommends a diffused look she calls "black velvet" that features smoky outer and inner corners, a lighter lid, and lined waterlines. "When I think of black eyeshadow, I think matte, round, and velvety in texture," she tells Bustle. "Not overthinking the shape or how to achieve it is key."

To get the look, Clark says to first apply concealer over the lid to create a soft canvas. Then, use a black kohl liner (like M.A.C.'s Eye Kohl eyeliner) and apply it to the inner corner, outer corner, and upper and lower waterlines. Next, use a soft, fluffy brush to blend out the color, keeping it close to the waterline and away from the center of the lid. "This adds dimension and makes it look like you used multiple colors when, in fact, you are only using one," she says.

To finalize it, use a soft, round brush and set the kohl with a matte black shadow like Anastasia Beverly Hills' shadow in Noir, and you're good to go.

2
Charcoal Drama
Deney Adam/Ulta

Ulta Beauty pro team member Deney Adam loves a black and charcoal smoky eye. "It’s dramatic, mysterious, and can take your look to a whole new level," he tells Bustle. Adam's take on using black eyeshadow features an elongated shape that pulls the eye upward mixed with an inner corner highlight for a touch of brightness.

To get the look, Adam says to use a creamy eyeliner like Urban Decay's Glide-On Pencil in Black Market to draw a half-wing, then smudge the liner inward in a circular motion for a smoky effect. Next, use a black shadow (shimmer or matte) and apply it all over the lid, into the crease, and out toward the temple with a fluffy brush. Then, use the same shadow below the bottom lash line before lining the waterline with your eyeliner. To finish the look, Adams says to "use a light shimmery color on the tear ducts," then apply a bold, volumizing mascara (he recommends KVD's Go Big or Go Home) to your top and bottom lashes.

3
Colorful Smoky Eye
Myiesha Sewell/Sephora

Sephora beauty director Myiesha Sewell has what may seem like an unexpected way to use black eyeshadow: via a colorful smoky eye. "Colorful smoky eyes are actually more of my vibe, but those colorful looks always start with black," she tells Bustle. "Black is what creates the smokiness, drama, and definition that any smokey eye needs."

To get the look, Sewell actually recommends using a cream shadow, not a powder. "Cream shadow underneath powder eyeshadow acts as a magnet for color, meaning you won’t have to dip into your palette multiple times to build up pigment," she explains. "Cream shadows also give you camera-ready results since flash photography won’t blow through them like it can sometimes do with traditional shadow."

First apply a cream shadow (try Surratt Beauty's Prismatique Eyes in Scandal Eyes) all over your lid using a synthetic brush. Once applied, use a fluffier brush to blend the color into the crease to create a faded effect. Then, it's totally up to you — Sewell says you can polish off the look by layering duo-chromes, like the ones in Pat McGrath Labs' Mothership III palette, over the top for a quick and colorful finish.

4
Bold Definition

Robert Sesnek, celebrity makeup artist for Catrice Cosmetics, turns to black eyeshadow to define the eyes. "I also love to use black eyeshadow as a template before I use cream or liquid eyeliner to really see how much of a wing or shape I want to do before laying the down cream or liquid," he tells Bustle.

But Sesnek also uses dark shadow to define an otherwise more colorful look. "Using black eyeshadow with a damp angled brush also allows for much more definition to the eye shape," he says. "This is a great tip [to use] either over pencil as a template or as-is to add more definition."

5
Bedroom Eye
Steve Granitz/WireImage/Getty Images

Melissa Mangrum, professional makeup artist and VaultBeauty ambassador, says a good "bedroom eye" is always in style — aka using black eyeshadow all over the lid and then blending into a transition shade. "The key is product placement directly on the lid and blending properly with a transition shade based on your eye shape," she tells Bustle of the sultry look. To do it yourself, she recommends applying something like the NYX Jumbo Eye Pencil in Black Bean all over the lid and then using Carbon Eyeshadow by M.A.C to blend up to the brow bone.

6
Cat Eye

Another great option? The classic cat eye. "I love to add a touch of black eyeshadow in the outer corners of the eyes to create some depth and definition to any look," Nydia Figueroa, professional makeup artist and VaultBeauty ambassador, tells Bustle. To try it out, Figueroa recommends using a soft, tapered eyeshadow brush to blend black shadow (she recommends Inglot's Matte NF 391 shade) in circular movements toward the outer corners of the eyes, building up the color as you go.

7
Smoky Base

Maybelline global makeup artist Erin Parsons says that using black eyeshadow is all about creating a base, and admits she actually uses eyeliner (try Uoma Beauty's Afro.Dis.Iac Cleopatra Liquid Ink Eyeliner) for her dark, smoky looks. "There are different ways to do smoke, but something like [using eyeliner] is the easiest way to create a base for any kind of other shadows," she tells Bustle. "If you're going to do a metallic shadow on top or you're going to do glitter, you want to create a base around the lash line and smoke out the eye. Anything you add on after that is really going to look amazing."

To create the perfect dark base, Parsons recommends applying moisturizer to your lid first. Then, apply the liner close to the lash line and use a brush to smudge it out until you've created a more sheer wash as the color travels up the lid. "When you do that, you can lay anything on top," she says.

8
Glittery Smoky Eye
Steve Granitz/WireImage/Getty Images

Sarah Tanno, celebrity makeup artist and global artistry director of Haus Laboratories, tells Bustle that black eyeshadow is actually extremely versatile. "You can use a black eyeshadow in so many ways," she says. "Some of my favorite [looks] are to define the lash line by using an angled eyeliner brush. You can create depth by using it in your crease and even your lower lash line for a stunning smoky look."

One of her favorite looks, though, is this dark black eye from Lady Gaga at the 2018 Grammy Awards. At the time, Tanno used Marc Jacobs Beauty products to get the glittering look: the Highliner Gel Eye Crayon Eyeliner all over the eye, and a loose silver glitter over the top. But you can also get the look using the Haus Laboratories Glam Attack in Chained Ballerina.