Which smoky eyeshadow palette is best?

There are few looks as iconic and fundamental as the smoky eye. It’s the perfect look for night, making eyes look dramatic and interesting. The smoky-eye eyeshadow palette should have three basic components: a great, skin-tone-friendly foundational color, a dark shade for the crease, and a spectacular, often shimmery tone for the brow bone, the center of the lid and sometimes the inside corner of the eye. If you’re searching for the complete look, Nars Mini Voyageur Eyeshadow Palette in Suede is the top choice. 

What to know before you buy a smoky eyeshadow palette

Smoky look

The shade that sets the tone for your smoky eye is the foundational color, the wash of color that goes on first all over your lid and out beyond your crease before you build the rest of the look. Often, that color is a shade of brown or a variation on nude, which begins to build that smoky look. But you can play with other shades, ranging from grays to mauves and, for an on-trend twist, burnt orange or plum.  

Minimal vs. all-out

While the smoky eye is associated with red-carpet-ready, dramatic evening eyes, you can apply its principles to your daytime looks as well. If you want an understated smoky eye that’s appropriate for daytime, use a less-pigmented smoky eyeshadow palette that lets you put on thin, translucent color. You can always build it up for nighttime if you like. 

Liquid eyeshadow

Dramatic smoky eyes, especially those involving shimmery or glittery highlight colors, can be created effectively with liquid eyeshadow. It has the advantage of blending well and staying on, particularly in glittery looks that, in powder, can create fallout.

What to look for in a quality smoky eyeshadow palette

Cool or warm

While the smoky eye looks good on just about everyone, it can be made to suit your skin’s undertones by your choice of cool or warm tones, particularly in your foundational and highlight colors. For cool skin tones, lean into the grays and cool silvery highlights. For warm tones, try toasty browns and color-saturated golds.

Long-lasting color

Because smoky eyes are so often an evening look, invest in a palette that gives you long-lasting wear so you look as good at the end of the night as you did at the beginning. Extend the life of your eyeshadow application by misting on a setting spray after you’re finished applying your eyeshadow.

Shimmer or matte

Whether a smoky eye leans more to the dramatic side or the day-ready side often depends on how much shimmer you add. For a glamorous evening smoky eye, make sure your palette has a good selection of shimmer or even glitter. Nudes and mattes are good for daytime.

How much you can expect to spend on a smoky eyeshadow palette

A drugstore smoky eye makeup palette gets the job done for as little as $10. Prestige brand palettes with luxurious, long-lasting formulas can run $40-$70.

Smoky eyeshadow palette FAQ


Do smoky eyes only work for warmer skin tones?

A. Not at all. If you’re concerned that too warm a color palette will look too yellow on cool skin, lean into the cooler options, particularly for your base color. Taupes and grays are a great choice for cooler skin.

How do you keep a smoky eye from looking too stark?

A. Blending is the key. While the crease color can be dramatic, taking your time to blend it to a soft fade at its edges will give you smolder instead of harsh lines. If you’ve never gone for the smoky-eye look, feel free to practice, wash off and reapply until you achieve a look you love.

How do I make my smoky eye last all night?

A. As with all eyeshadow looks, the key is in the preparation and the final step. Wash  your face well, including using a mild cleanser in the area where you’ll apply the eyeshadow. Next, use a quality primer. The final step is the most important. After you’ve gotten your smoky eye looking exactly the way you want it, use a good setting spray, and give it time to dry thoroughly before heading out.

What’s the best smoky eyeshadow palette to buy?

Top smoky eyeshadow palette

Nars Mini Voyageur Eyeshadow Palette in Suede

Nars Mini Voyageur Eyeshadow Palette in Suede

What you need to know: Nars creates eyeshadow palettes with real depth and visual interest, and this is among their finest.

What you’ll love: The velvety texture makes these shadows go on smoothly and evenly. The shimmers and glitter options are multidimensional and long-lasting.

What you should consider: Test this palette, if you can, as some users report the colors aren’t entirely true to the photos.

Where to buy: Sold by Sephora

Top smoky eyeshadow palette for the money

L'Oreal Paris Makeup Colour Riche Eye “'La Palette Nude” Eye Shadow Palette

L’Oreal Paris Makeup Colour Riche Eye “’La Palette Nude” Eye Shadow Palette 

What you need to know: This is a full-service palette with a great selection of nudes and neutrals in warm and cool tones.

What you’ll love: The trusted drugstore brand consistently offers shadows that blend well and have the right amount of layerability to create soft or more dramatic looks.

What you should consider: The lack of shimmer options makes this palette mostly one for daytime looks, with no sparkle or drama for evening.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Ulta Beauty

Worth checking out

Huda Beauty Wild Obsessions Eyeshadow Palette in Jaguar

Huda Beauty Wild Obsessions Eyeshadow Palette in Jaguar

What you need to know: Huda is well-known for its intensely pigmented eyeshadows, so you’ll get all the color saturation you want from this palette.

What you’ll love: This palette leans to the cool side, so if you have been on the hunt for a good smoky-eye palette for cool-toned skin, you may have just found your go-to.

What you should consider: The darker colors can go on dry. Make sure you’ve applied a good layer of primer or foundation to ease the application.

Where to buy: Sold by Sephora


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Maria E. Andreu writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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