Upon first glance, a shadow quad compact seems like a beautifully packaged, cost-effective way to get four shadows for the price of three and a half, curated by someone who's probably a very chic and tasteful head of product development, like one Alexis Page. But they lack the complete freedom of choice you get from singles, and aren’t exactly the pigment buffet you get with a good palette. To me they seem like a challenge sent down from Lauder corporate: Can you even get all four of these shades to fit on your eyelid?
The answer’s usually a solid “nope,” but mostly because a full-on, gradient eye look isn’t part of my normal routine. That is, unless, I have somewhere awesome to be and an extra hour before I need to be there, in which case I’ll do whatever iteration of a smoky eye my cleanest shadow brushes allow.
You see, there are more than four billion smokey eye tutorials on the Internet, none of which are right. A smoky eye is personal and ephemeral, and much like tie-dye, it can never be exactly replicated—even on the opposite lid, to be honest. We can't even decide on the proper spelling of “smoky,” even though it's technically correct without the “e,” And that’s OK. Though when you’re staring down at four shades of grey wondering where to swirl your brush, I have a few loose rules to help with the application process:
The middle-most shade is a good jumping-off point. Brush it over the lid, from lash line up to the crease to see what you’re working with. If it’s dark enough, try blending the pigment out to create a cat-eye shape, extending beyond the outer corner of the eye.
If you have two middle-most shades in your quad, which math says you will, one of them will probably be the sparklier. Use your ring finger to dab it into the middle of the lid to add a glossy finish and dimension by visually bringing the center of your eye forward, making it appear rounder and more doe-eyed.
The darkest shade can add contour to the crease if you want that effect, but it can also be wet with eye drops and used as liner.
The lightest shade, which years of quad research have shown will have some sort of shimmer ingredient, can be reserved for the inner most corners of the eyes to brighten them up and give an even more wide-eyed effect. Lightly load a fluffy shadow brush and blow off any excess before blending the shade over to the middle of the crease.
Since this is a powder-heavy look, the tops of your lashes will inevitably be coated with frosty shadow crumbs. Take a flat, stiff liner brush and load it with some mascara. Place a folded tissue over your bottom lid and close your eye on top of it so that it’s sandwiched between your upper and lower lashes. Paint the mascara on top of your upper lashes, which will remove any powder and obviously it will darken this oft forgotten section of the lash anatomy.
If you feel challenged when it comes to blending, try your best throughout the application and once you’ve gotten all the shades where you want them, take a clean, fluffy (but not too flimsy) shadow brush and sweep over the entire lid, concentrating on areas that feel too disjointed. The shape of the lid might even change as you carry pigment further and further out from where you applied it. And such is the nature of the smoky eye.
Quads in order of appearance: Japonesque Velvet Touch Quad in Shade 1 , MAC Mineralize Eyeshadow in A Waft of Grey , Dior 5 Couleurs Eyeshadow Palette in Pied De Poule , Charlotte Tilbury Luxury Palette in The Rock Chick , Chanel Les Ombres in Smoky Eyes , Burberry Complete Eye Palette in Smokey Grey . Photographed by Tom Newton.