6 Pro-Approved Palettes That Make A Smoky Eye So Easy

Back in middle school, a thick line of jet-black eyeliner under the only drugstore eyeshadow we owned was the fastest route to a smoky eye. Despite our lack of experience, you couldn’t tell us that our smudgy, onyx lid wasn’t a work of art. Of course, what we thought was a cool makeup look inspired by Avril Lavigne more closely resembled a panda Halloween costume.

Luckily, the inky black makeup we once swore by has grown up, too. In 2020, we have finely-milled black shimmer, universally-flattering toasted chestnut, vampy eggplant sparkle, and tons of user-friendly formulas to create whatever bold look we crave. But with all the makeup on the market — namely smoky eyeshadow — how do we sift through the clutter for the best of the best? You got straight to the pros.

Ahead, we asked talented makeup artists to share the smoky shadow palettes they reach for day in and day out.

At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.

Charlotte Tilbury Bella Sofia Palette

The Pro: Justin St. Clair, makeup artist to Celine Dion and Amal Clooney

Best For: A foolproof smoky eye

You don’t need jet-black shadow to intensify your lid. Instead, pro MUA Justin St. Clair suggests opting for an easier-to-apply dark brown. “This is my go-to for a smoky eye that isn’t black,” he says. “The colors are gorgeous on a variety of skin tones, and the blendability of the formula is second to none.”

Charlotte Tilbury Bella Sofia Eyeshadow Palette, $, available at Sephora

Huda Beauty Nude Obsessions Palette

The Pro: Neil Scibelli, makeup artist to Elle Macpherson, Chloe Lukasiak, and Larsen Thompson

Best For: A shimmery smoky eye

Neil Scibelli keeps this palette in his kit for when his clients request a vampy look. “I love this smoky gold range,” he says. “It has matte browns and foiled shadows so you can create dimension.”

Huda Beauty Topaz Obsessions Eyeshadow Palette, $, available at Sephora

Urban Decay Naked 2 Palette

Best For: A classic smoky eye

Scibelli’s favorite smoky eye palette is the Urban Decay Naked 2. “This offers a versatile range of shimmers and mattes, from neutral to black, so you can really experiment with day and night looks,” he says. “It’s a great staple for beginners and experts.”

Urban Decay Naked2 Palette, $, available at Sephora

NYX Cosmetics Swear By It Palette

The Pro: Allan Avendaño, makeup artist to Vanessa Hudgens and Joey King

Best For: An affordable smoky eye

“I carry this palette with me when my clients have no idea what look they’re going for because it has options,” Avendaño tells us. “The deep shades are perfect and super pigmented for creating smoky eyes.”

NYX Professional Makeup Swear By It Shadow Palette, $, available at Nyx Cosmetics

Nars Studio 54 Hyped Eyeshadow Palette

Best For: A retro-inspired smoky eye

Don’t be fooled by the pops of pink in this palette, Avendaño blends the black, taupe, and brown shades in this kit to create soft smoky eyes inspired by the ’70s. 

NARS Studio 54 Hyped Eyeshadow Palette, $, available at Nordstrom

Viseart 01 Eyeshadow Palette

The Pro: Editorial makeup artist Kasey Adam Spickard

Best For: A matte smoky eye

Spickard turns to this 12-pan compact of neutral matte shadows for a shine-free smoky eye. “This is the only palette I use to create smoky eyes in my kit,” he says. “It has versatile taupes and gradient blacks that you can use to define your lid, plus highlight shades you can use on your brow bone to complete the look.” 

Viseart Eyeshadow Palette, $, available at Sephora

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