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23 Ways to Embrace Your Makeup Dark Side with Black Eyeshadow

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We choose our eye makeup based on a lot of things: our mood, our outfits, and as of 2020, our face masks. Sometimes that choice leans toward bright colors, sometimes cool metallics, and sometimes deep, dark hues. But even those who are drawn to moodier shades may still leave black untouched in their eyeshadow palettes.

“It really is such a versatile product, but it gets a bad rap,” says celebrity makeup artist Allie Renee. “You can utilize it to create looks from subtle to smoky and sultry and everything in between.” But no matter what level black eye makeup look you try, remember the key is to “use it in a way that complements your eye shape,” according to the makeup artist.

We’re here to take the intimidation factor out of black eye makeup. Whether you’re looking to do a touch of black liner or more heavily pigmented looks, get inspired by these 23 sexy, stunning celebrity makeup ideas for every makeup level, along with Renee’s expert advice.

About the Expert:

Allie Renee is a celebrity makeup artist based in Los Angeles.

Black eyeshadow looks to try

1. Heavy Metal

Zendaya smirking and rocking a dark, metallic smoky eye makeup look
Photo by Jon Kopaloff / Stringer/Getty Images

As Zendaya demonstrates here, a little grey shadow helps take the edge off of black shadow—and deepens the color of brown eyes. “The metallic grey shade used under Zendaya’s eye helps soften the look and enhances her eye color,” says the makeup artist.

2. Subtle Shading

Selena Gomez looking chic in a soft smoky eye makeup look and silver hoop earrings and purple dress
Photo by Andreas Rentz / Staff/Getty Images

Selena Gomez proves that sometimes just a little bit of shadow can go a long way. “Selena’s soft and subtle smoky eye is incredibly chic, and easily goes from day to night,” says Renee. The only other thing that completes this simple look? A bit of concealer, such as MORPHE Fluidity Full-Coverage Concealer, which comes in 31 shades.

3. Classic Smoky Eye

Ciara looking fierce in a classic smoky eyeshadow look
Photo by Michael Kovac / Stringer/Getty Images

Ciara used a classic makeup trick to wake up her stunning eye makeup look. “Ciara’s look adds brightness to a classic smoky eye by adding a highlight to the inner corners of the eye,” notices the makeup artist. You can use an eyeshadow brush to apply highlighter to the inner corners, or try a pencil like NUDESTIX Hi-Lite Pencil to copy this tried-and-true technique.

4. Smudgey Cat-Eye

Kristen Stewart rocking short hair and an edgy graphic liner look
Photo by Carlos Alvarez / Stringer/Getty Images

With an artistic cat-eye like Kristen Stewart’s, you don’t need much else to make a statement. “This edgy graphic liner look is striking and effortlessly cool,” says Renee. “The look is balanced well by creating the emphasis on her eyes and pairing it with a natural lip.”

5. Touch of Metallic

Adriana Lima looking fierce in a bronzy, metallic smoky eye makeup look and green sequined dress
Photo by Dia Dipasupil / Staff/Getty Images

The finishing touch to Adriana Lima’s dramatic eye makeup look? A wash of metallic shadow that goes all the way up to the brow bone. “Adding a bronze tone to Adriana’s smoky eye complements and brightens her eye color,” says Renee.

6. Grunge Gorgeous

Bella Hadid looking fierce in a grungy black eye makeup look
Photo by Vittorio Zunino Celotto / Staff/Getty Images

Bella Hadid’s makeup look may have been from a runway show, but anyone can rock it IRL. “This smudgy black shadow look is grungy and impossibly stylish,” says Renee. “To get the look, use an eyeshadow stick and use your fingers to blend.” Our product pick? JULEP Eyeshadow 101 Crème-to-Powder Eyeshadow Stick in Onyx, which comes with a built-in smudging tool.

7. Date-Night Glam

Shay Mitchell looking glam in a smoky eye and nude lip makeup look
Photo by Gabe Ginsberg / Stringer/Getty Images

A ring of blended dark shadow—along with a nude lip and matte skin—keeps all the focus on Shay Mitchell’s eyes here. “This look does an incredible job of using liner to enhance Shay’s eye shape without weighing it down,” says Renee. We like NYX PROFESSIONAL MAKEUP Slide On Pencil in Jet Black, and don’t forget to finish with a lengthening mascara such as ANASTASIA BEVERLY HILLS Lash Brag Volumizing Mascara for extra pop.

8. V-Shaped Smoky Eye

Cara Delevingne smirking and rocking a dark, metallic smoky eye makeup look
Photo by Lars Niki / Stringer/Getty Images

Black eyeliner and smoky shadow can accentuate almond-shaped eyes like Cara Delevingne’s. “Cara’s metallic smoky eye complements and elongates her eye shape by focusing the depth on the outer corners and pulling into a V,” says Renee.

9. Statement Shadow

Julianne Hough looking fierce in a glam raccoon eye makeup look
Photo by Amy Sussman / Staff/Getty Images

Julianne Hough brought the drama with black shadow not just on her upper lid, but lining the waterline and lower lash line as well. Since the shadow is so intense on its own, “Wear a natural-toned lip to balance out an all-over smoky look like Julianne’s,” advises Renee.

10. Two-Tone Liner

Kim Kardashian looking edgy in a dark eye makeup look
Photo by Jesse Grant / Stringer/Getty Images

You may not notice it at first glance, but the intensity of Kim Kardashian’s makeup is tempered with the addition of a surprising shade: dark brown. “This look keeps the drama, but softens it by diffusing a deep brown tone to the edges of the black,” says Renee.

11. Retro Winged Eyeliner

Candice Swanepoel rocking a bold winged eyeliner look
Photo by Mike Coppola / Staff/Getty Images

“To create a full-lid wing like this one worn by Candice, use a gel pot to create a sharp, precise look that won’t smudge or fade,” advises Renee. We like BOBBI BROWN Long-Wear Gel Eyeliner, and get our cat-eye makeup tutorial here!

12. Holographic Eyes

Ashley Graham rocking a glittery dark green smoky eye look
Photo by Dia Dipasupil / Staff/Getty Images

“Incorporating color into your smoky eye, like Ashley Graham has, is a fun and modern way to update the classic look,” says the makeup artist. We love blue eyeshadow for contrast—or, try a shade with iridescent pigment, such as DOMINIQUE COSMETICS Beautiful Mess Liquid Eyeshadow in Cold Heart, for a memorable, multi-dimensional look.

13. Touch of Shimmer

Priyanka Chopra looking glam in a shimmery smoky eye makeup look
Photo by Jon Kopaloff / Stringer/Getty Images

If black on its own is feeling a little heavy, call in the sparkly shadow to lighten things up. “Adding a little sparkle can make your smoky eye more playful,” says Renee. “Try using a shimmer shade on the lid, as shown here by Priyanka Chopra.”

14. Faux Wing

Kate Hudson smiling beautifully in a faux wing eye makeup look
Photo by Rich Polk / Stringer/Getty Images

Kate Hudson’s look here is a triple threat: It achieves the effect of winged liner, takes half the time, and creates a more open appearance. To get the look, “Use a black eyeshadow to create a winged look that connects the top and bottom lash lines to add drama and elongate the eye shape without making the eyes appear smaller,” says Renee. Genius.

15. Smoky Under Eyes

Cara Delevingne rocking a blonde mullet hairstyle and smoky eyeshadow makeup look
Photo by Jerritt Clark / Stringer/Getty Images

The under eyes have been getting a lot of attention lately, like reverse cat eyes and this smoky lower lash line. Cara Delevingne’s punk-glam eye look uses a minimal approach on top (just a touch of black eyeliner) and a black eyeshadow that’s softly blended on bottom. Top with a fab pair of falsies—we love TARTE tarteist™ PRO cruelty-free lashes.

16. Ombré Effect

Katy Perry rocking a gradient smoky eye makeup look and silver dangling earrings on the red carpet
Photo by Mike Windle / Staff/Getty Images

A standard smoky eye is taken to the next level, as seen on Katy Perry. To get the look, you’ll want to have shades of matte black, charcoal, and grey on hand to create a gradient wing that extends up and out toward the edge of your brow. Then, use a concealer brush to clean up the edges.

17. Classic Old Hollywood 

Selena Gomez rocking a cat eyeliner makeup look paired with red lips
Photo by Pascal Le Segretain / Staff/Getty Images

Is there anything more elegant than Selena Gomez’s black cat eye and bold red lip? We think not. Use a gel or liquid liner to create a slightly tapered wing and top with a matte black shadow like Turban Legend in the ONE/SIZE PATRICK STARRR Visionary Eyeshadow Palette. This will deepen the pigmentation of your wing and enhance its staying power.

18. Paired With Gold

Megan Thee Stallion looking glam with a smoky eye makeup look at the red carpet
Photo by Steven Ferdman / Stringer/Getty Images

When paired together, gold and black are a match made in heaven. Add a touch of this warm metallic to any smoky eye as an inner corner shimmer, a pop of dimension in the center of the lid, or a little bit of both like on Megan Thee Stallion. The super versatile JECCA BLAC Play Pots in Gold Touch can be easily applied and blended with fingers or brushes.

19. Gem Studded

Kid Cudi rocking lime green hair and rhinestone-laden black eyeshadow makeup look at the red carpet
Photo by Mike Coppola / Staff/Getty Images

Kid Cudi turned heads at the Met Gala with neon green hair and a rhinestone-laden eyeshadow, which also happens to be a perfect match for our October Glam Bag design. This monochromatic studded eye is a piece of cake as long as you have the right tools—black gems, a good pair of tweezers, and a bit of lash glue. Pro tip: Apply gems while looking straight into a mirror to avoid accidentally placing them in your crease.

20. Pop of Neon

Emma Chamberlain rocking a black and neon green eyeshadow look at the red carpet
Photo by Theo Wargo / Staff/Getty Images

Another neon green and black combo that stunned, courtesy of Emma Chamberlain. The electric liquid liner is layered over a matte black shadow (that’s brought down to the lower lashes) in thin lines along the center lid and inner corners. When working with vibrant neon shades, let them be the main focal point of your look by keeping the rest of the face fresh and minimal. A rosy nude lipstick like CONTEXT SKIN Matte Lipstick in Tears Are Falling is all you need to complete the look.

21. Graphic Shapes

Zoë Kravitz rocking a blonde braided hairstyle and graphic eye makeup look
Photo by Pascal Le Segretain / Staff/Getty Images

The best part about graphic eye looks (like this modern cut crease on Zoë Kravitz) is that they can be created with anything you have on hand—powder shadows and an angled liner brush, cream pigments, and eyeliners in gel or liquid form. Starting at the inner corner of your eye, use gentle strokes just above your crease to draw a floating line. Then, create your cat eye and extend the wing until it meets the edge of your floating line.

22. Sharp Inner Corners

Smiling Vanessa Hudgens rocking a black eye makeup look with sharp inner corners
Photo by Jamie McCarthy / Staff/Getty Images

Feline, sleek, and edgy, Vanessa Hudgens’ dramatic black eye look pairs fluttery lashes and bold liner that’s sharply drawn as an inner corner wing. Begin by gently smudging black eyeshadow into the upper lash line and then take your trusty liquid liner (we’re partial to GERARD COSMETICS’ Eternal Eyeliner in Noir) to layer a line on top, starting at the outer edge and extending it past your inner corner. This can be a bit trickier than it looks, so try working in short strokes to get your lines sharp and precise.

23. Bold & Matte

Charli XCX rocking a bold and thick cat eye makeup look
Photo by Cassidy Sparrow / Stringer/Getty Images

In contrast to the delicate lines above comes this bold, ‘60s inspired, full lid look on Charli XCX. To keep the process and wear time as mess-free as possible, reach for an eye primer like THRIVE CAUSEMETICS Eye Lift 360° Waterproof Primer™. Then with a black cream pigment and angled brush, sketch the shape first before filling in your lines. Top with a matte shadow in the same shade and rim the eyes kohl liner, slightly smudging along the lower lash line. Don’t worry if you make mistakes! A cotton swab and makeup remover can clean up any stray lines.

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About the author
Lindy Segal
Lindy is a contributor at IPSY, a beauty and lifestyle writer, and Real Housewives aficionado. She was an editor at People and Glamour, and her freelance work has appeared in Harper’s Bazaar, Who What Wear, and Cosmopolitan, among other publications.
About the author
Hannah Cassidy
Hannah is a beauty editor at IPSY and has been creating content for fashion, beauty, and wellness in Los Angeles for over five years. Outside of the beauty world, she’s an avid vintage collector and dog mom to Pumpkin and Turtle.
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Article Last Updated September 22, 2021 12:00 AM