Lining your eyes is an art form, with many techniques available to attain that stroke of perfection. Having a proper working knowledge of those techniques—from smudging to creating a cat eye—and the right tools to achieve them are all that's needed to become a master painter. Here are the essential tips you need to know to apply eyeliner.
What the Eiffel Tower is to Paris, smudged liner is to the smoky eye. To achieve this über-sexy look, makeup artist Nick Barose recommends starting with a pencil that is sharp and pointy “to really get into that lash line.” Try: L’Oréal Extra-Intense Liquid Pencil Eyeliner in Carbon Black. Simply skim your pencil along both top and bottom lash lines, not worrying too much about precision (this is the one makeup look where a steady hand doesn’t particularly matter). Then immediately smudge the color into your lash lines with a sponge-tipped smudge brush, taking great care to work quickly before your liner sets. Clean up any excess with a Q-tip dipped in makeup remover to ensure the look doesn’t get too messy.
The classic cat-eye liner is perfect for giving you that coy, flirty look. While liquid liner is the obvious go-to (try Urban Decay 24/7 Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner), beginners can benefit from using a flattened angled brush and a gel eyeliner, such as Lancôme Liner Design Long Wear Calligraphy Gel Eyeliner.
“For perfect cat eyes, the key is making the right shape,” Barose says. Sit in front of a mirror, preferably one with a table or flat surface in front of it. Dip the angled brush into your pot of gel eyeliner, plant the elbow of the arm holding the brush onto the table (to steady your hand), and proceed to paint a thin line starting from the outer corner of the eye and working your way in. To make the process easier, be sure to look forward and slightly down as you apply. Always avoid tugging on your skin while lining. Constant tugging can leave a crooked line when you release the skin and can eventually cause wrinkles.
To create the signature flick at the tail, angle the flat tip of your brush slightly up and out. Press the tip into the skin to create the guideline for the flick and slowly sketch the wing at a slant. Then proceed to connect the end of the flick to your lash line, about one-fifth of the way in from the outer corner. You can choose to connect the line closer to the middle of your lid for a more dramatic look. Fill the flick in with gel eyeliner, and you are done. “Add some extra mascara on upper lashes, too, because that lifts the eyes,” Barose says.
Tightlining and Waterlining
For instantly defined eyes and thicker-looking lashes, line the inner rims of your lower lash lines—which is called "waterlining"—and the inner rims of your upper lash lines—which is called "tightlining." A swipe of basic black waterproof liner (try Make Up For Ever Aqua Eyes in Black) is all you need here.
A Note on Types of Liner
While there are many different types, finishes and colors of eyeliners available, what you choose to go with should be based on the final effect that you’re seeking. Looking for something to complement your green eyes? Go with a purple-based liner, like YSL Dessin Du Regard Crayon Yeux Haute Tenue Eye Pencil in Smoky Purple. Want something more sparkly for a night out? Opt for a glitter liner, like Too Faced Starry-Eyed Liquid Eyeliner.
How do you prefer to line your eyes?