Few looks achieve drama better than a dark, cool-toned smoky eye. But, working with blue, purple, and maybe even black eyeshadows? It’s not for the faint of heart. One wrong move, and it’ll look like your flyer’s sneaker crashed into you while twisting out of a bow-and-arrow.

Here are some tips to keep your blue eye look as flawless as your competition routine. For this look, be sure to start with clean skin (give yourself 15-20 minutes after washing/moisturizing before picking up a brush) and do your eyes before applying makeup to any other part of your face. Don’t be afraid to get messy—it’ll be clean in the end!

Start in your comfort zone. You begin a blue eye look the same way you would with any other color. Apply a thin layer of eye shadow primer and give it a few seconds to dry. You don’t need to buy a product specifically labeled ‘primer’; you can use anything from a dot of concealer to a cream shadow that matches your skin tone, such as Maybelline’s Color Tattoo line or MAC’s Paint Pots. Your base layer will cover up any veins on your eyelids on top of allowing for fuller coverage and smoother application of your product, which is key when working with blues. Always apply cream products carefully near your eyes!

Use a translucent powder or an eyeshadow that matches your skin tone and gently tap a thin layer over your lid and crease to lock in your base. For both the primer and lock, apply thinly to avoid having a cakey final look.

Next, apply your crease shadow. Go for a neutral or slightly warmer color that is just a shade or two darker than your skin tone and blend it into your crease. It’s very important to avoid brown eyeshadows with grey, taupe or purple undertones because you’ll have a cool tone all over your lid, and a cool-tone crease will blend too much and make your blue eyeshadow look more bruised than boss. Contrasting a cool lid with a neutral or warm crease will emphasize your blue look.

So far, this is pretty much the no-makeup makeup look, giving your eyes just the slightest touch of depth. Step one of blue eyeshadow should be totally within your comfort zone, even if you are new to makeup. Next up…

Slow and steady. The worst thing you can do with blue is rush. This color gets messy very quickly and can have a lot of fallout, which is why it’s important to do your eye makeup before applying foundation. It’s best to have a shadow applicator or brush that you are using exclusively for the blue shadow so that it doesn’t mix in with other colors. Blue shadow is notoriously bad at playing with others.

Dip your brush or applicator into the blue shadow and carefully tap off any excess product to limit fallout. Apply gently to your lid. Focus on applying a single layer of shadow; you can build up the intensity later, but your first priority should be coverage.

When applying blue (or purple or black), keep the color close to the lashline. Begin by tapping shadow to the center of your lid, but don’t let the color get too close to the crease just yet. If you get blue fallout under your eye or on your cheeks, it’s easy to wipe away, so don’t worry about that. Tap your first layer of blue all over the lid only, and give yourself a few seconds with your eye closed to avoid blinking blue into your crease.

When you first open your eye at this point, the blue is going to look faded and messy. That means you’re doing it right!

Build up. Repeating the previous step, keep taking product, tapping off excess, and applying only to your lid. After the first layer of tapping blue onto your lid, use your applicator or brush to press the eyeshadow in. That is, when you put brush to lid, apply some pressure (not too much—no pain or discomfort, especially near your eyes!) and hold it in place longer than when you tapped color. If coverage was the concern before, intensity is the priority now.

Two layers should provide good color without looking cakey. That is, the layers on your lid at this stage should be: (1) primer/base, (2) tapped-on color, (3) pressed color level one, and (4) pressed color level two.

At this point, your lid should be undeniably blue. If your crease color has faded, you can go over it again, very carefully and without blending into the lid color. You should see contrast between crease and lid, and now that you’ve got layers of blue, the shadow doesn’t look as messy.

4. Take your time. 
There is no rush with blue shadow. Apply your makeup as carefully as you can, and take the time to apply what works best for you. Rushing may result in having blue in your crease or all around your eye, which makes it harder to achieve a clean final look.

5. Keep makeup remover close. 
Once you’ve finished applying blue shadow, even if you worked as cleanly as possible, there will be some fallout. No problem! Keep a makeup removal wipe or makeup remover on a tissue handy. Run your wipe/tissue along under your eye and follow the angle up towards your eyebrow to clean up any fallout or color sliding off your lid. If any shadow fell down onto your cheek or face, be sure to wipe it away and let it dry before applying any further makeup.

After your face has dried, you can apply eyeliner and/or mascara (neither is required, but both increase the intensity of a blue eye look; black or blue mascara look especially good with blue shadow). Once your eye makeup is fully applied, give it a few seconds to dry. Then you can apply your foundation as usual.

After applying foundation and before blush or highlight, use a translucent powder or a powder foundation and gently tap along under your bottom lashes and your cheekbone around your eye. Just in case there is any additional fallout, having a powder barrier will make it easier to take a tissue and wipe away the eye shadow.

6. Practice, practice, practice. 
Even a step-by-step guide like this one is no good without practice. At night before you go to bed or on days when you have time to play around with makeup, practice your technique. The more you try blue shadow, the less scary it seems and the more confident your hand becomes when applying it.

Makeup isn’t permanent, so if you mess up, you can always wipe it away and try again. Think of blue shadow as your competition routine: the more you run it, the more you’ll own it.

How’d it turn out? Show us some of your handiwork in the comments!