How to Apply a Cat Eye for Your Eye Shape

June 05, 2020
By: Tembe Denton-Hurst | by L'Oréal

In the great book of classic makeup looks, it’s safe to say there would definitely be a chapter dedicated to the cat eye. The winged eyeliner look dates as far back as the 1920s, when Josephine Baker helped popularize the cat eye by pairing it with super dramatic, lush lashes. Since then, cat-eye connoisseurs like Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren and Brigitte Bardot have helped make the wing a mainstay in beauty.

And these days, we’re happy to report the cat eye is still going strong. Cat eyes differ from the classic winged-liner look and tend to be dramatic — both the top and bottom lash line are lined, resembling the look of a real cat, rather than only lining the top lash line.

To create the perfect cat eyeliner, grab your weapon of choice — gel, cream, pencil or liquid eyeliner — and check out these tips from celebrity makeup artists Elle Leary and Emily Oliver. Here, they’re sharing their expertise on applying a cat eye on every shape. One thing we should explain, though, is that the technique stays the same for everyone; it’s the thickness of the line and the length of the wing that change depending on your eye shape.

Editor Tip: From almond or round shapes to monolids, sometimes it’s difficult to know what shape your eyes actually are. If you’re not sure, we’ve put together an eye-shape guide that can help.

Once you know your eye shape, the basic cat-eye method goes as follows:

STEP #1: Find the Right Angle

Take a piece of tape and place it on a 45-degree angle beginning at the end of your upper lash line. This step is going to ensure your wing is going directly upward instead of facing down or too horizontal.  

STEP #2: Start Lining

Using your eyeliner of your choice, draw a line along the edge of the tape. “The line should start as a continuation of your last lash, going up and out toward the outer edge of your eyebrow,” says Leary.

STEP #3: Concentrate on the Inner and Outer Corners

Go back and line the rest of your top lash line to your inner corner, staying as close to the lash line as possible. Do the same for your bottom lash line. Then make sure you fill in the area between the top line and bottom line at the outer corners with eyeliner.

STEP #4: Find Your Shape

Now that the foundation is in place, find your eye shape below to figure out where and how much to build out the wing.

The dramatic wing of cat-eye makeup can sometimes widen your already-wide-set eyes. Minimize the effect by keeping your wing short and pointed upward. “I love to keep the eyeliner on the waterline, using YSL Beauty Dessin du Regard Waterproof Eye Pencil,” says Oliver. “When working with a liquid eyeliner, I love to extend the line inward a bit at the inner corners of the eyes to create intrigue and balance the look.”

Just as you would want to draw wide-set eyes inward, you’re going to want to extend close-set eyes outward. Make your line sleeker and longer and slightly more horizontal, so it widens the eye shape. “I love to line the waterline of the top lid,” says Oliver. “Try the Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil, as these really stay put. Make sure not to bring the liner all the way to the inner corners. Keep the focus outward to open up those eyes.”

For smaller eyes, try smudging the line a bit because a very precise line can make the eyes appear even smaller. “Oftentimes I'll forgo a pencil and use a liquid eye shadow, such as the Giorgio Armani Eye Tint Liquid Shadow in 10 Senso,” says Oliver. “This pops open the eye and adds structure without closing down the lid. Should you want to use a waterproof eye pencil, line the waterline of the top lid and push the product into the lashes on top of the lids.” Add your wing and smudge it out, so it takes on a more smoked-out effect that will enlarge the eye area.

“Because the lid is hooded, if you do a small line you will never see it when you open your eyes, so the thicker the better.” We recommend NYX Professional Makeup Matte Liquid Liner and an angled brush to perfect this cat eye. Oliver recommends getting under that hood to let your liner take full effect. “I’ll get under the top lash line and into its waterline to add some balance,” she says. “I also love to smudge the line outward a little for a sexy, smoky cat eye.” For hooded and small eyes, Leary also suggests forgoing eyeliner along the bottom lash line, as it tends to make the eyes look smaller. “Instead, just keep it at the outer edge of the bottom lash line."

To accentuate an almond shape and create the look of bigger, longer, more seductive eyes, Leary says to keep the line thin along the length and through two-thirds of the eye. “At that point, intensify the thickness and finish with a semi-dramatic wing at the end” she says. For this shape, Leary also recommends bringing the liner onto the bottom lash line to really drive home the cat eye makeup shape. We recommend using the IT Cosmetics No-Tug Waterproof Gel Eyeliner for a seamless application.

Upturned eyes take on a similar shape to almond shapes, but they have a natural lift at the outer corners that draw them upward. This makes them ideal for a cat eye. “Follow the natural uplifted shape and work the liner outward toward the temple,” says Oliver.

Downturned eyes droop slightly at the outer corners, so a wing is ideal in creating a nice, natural lifting effect. “The trick here is to start the line much higher than you would think,” says Oliver. “Try leaning your head back and making a line that points at a 45-degree angle, starting from the middle of the eye outward toward the temple.” 

Because this eye shape doesn’t have a crease, you want to keep the liner as close to the lash line as possible, and then go for a thick, elongated wing. “It really helps to give the eye some definition, shape and length.” To create a precise line, Leary likes to go over the base pencil eyeliner with a liquid formula, like the Maybelline New York Hyper Easy Liner. If you want your eyes to look rounder and more doll-like, Leary suggests keeping the liner thicker in the middle of the eye and shorter at the wing. “This will create the illusion of an eye that is more curved,” she says.