After you ace the skill of applying pencil eyeliner, it's time to take on a new challenge: liquid. Liquid eyeliner may seem intimidating, with one false swipe potentially leading to a mess. But no one can deny the appeal of a chic, perfect black line, either for natural subtleness if done so thin that it hugs the lash line or for a dramatic flicked-out cat eye à la Sophia Loren and Brigitte Bardot.
“The benefit of using a liquid liner versus a pencil is that a liquid makes the thinnest and crispest line,” says makeup artist Gabriel Almodovar. "No matter how well-sharpened the tip of your pencil is, nothing compares to the look of liquid liner. Just practice it a few times before you plan to rock it.”
Assuming you have the right application tool, formula and these few tricks for how to apply it, you too can master liquid liner in just a few sessions. Here's how.
Opt for Markers, Not Brushes
Lots of liquid liners come with a tiny brush for application. The downside is they require a more precise and experienced hand since the brush can move or splay out, making your line wobbly or unevenly thick. “I always recommend liquids with a marker-type tip because it's stiffer, which means it's easier to control,” says makeup artist Christiane G. Try: Lancôme Artliner Precision Point Eyeliner.
Pick the Right Formula
Some liquid liners can peel off in a strip once they're dry, so a more moisturizing formula works better. “Urban Decay 24/7 Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner is great because it truly stays on all day and all night, and it comes in a wide range of colors so you can experiment beyond basic black,” G says.
Almodovar likes Maybelline Line Stiletto Ultimate Precision Liquid Eyeliner for its dense shade of black and Dior Style Liner because it dries quickly, so you don't risk smudges or a half-moon of black being transferred to your creases if you blink.
Hold Steady, Hold Sideways
Now is the hard part: how to actually get the color from the pen to your lid. “Instead of drawing straight on, use the side of the felt-tip applicator," Almodovar says. "First glide it along the eyelid, as close as you can to your lash line, from the inner corner of your eye to the middle. Stop and reposition, drawing a second line from the outside corner of your eye to meet your original line in the middle. Two strokes really make it more user-friendly than trying to go all the way across in one fell swoop.”
For extra stability, G recommends “applying the liner with one hand and using your other hand's index finger to gently hold down your eyelid, which helps reduce the fluttering that can make for a wonky line.”
Choose Your Level of Drama
Liquid liner isn't just for creating cat eyes. It can also be used to subtly and seemingly naturally enhance your eyes. “Use the thinner part of the marker and line from corner to corner of your top lid (without extending it)," Almodovar says. "Keep it as thin as possible the whole way, or you can widen the line on the outside corner ever so slightly. Don't line under the entire eye, since liquid never looks natural that way.”
For a more dramatic evening look, it's all about adding thickness and length as you go toward the outer edge of your eye. “Use the curve of your lash line as your guide, flicking out as far as you dare," Almodovar adds. "Then line the bottom outer one-quarter to connect it to the wing.”
Clean Up for Crispness
Even makeup artists admit it's tough to get a perfectly even, smooth line on the first try. Luckily, there are two easy ways to instantly erase your mistakes. “Simply dip a Q-tip in eye makeup remover and roll it across where you erred, which can thin out the line,” Almodovar says. Try:Lancôme Bi-Facil Double-Action Eye Makeup Remover. Or use a bit of concealer on a brush and swipe it right above the line, advises G. Try: Dermablend Smooth Indulgence SPF 20 Concealer.