How to Apply Eyeliner: 10 Looks for Beginners and Pros
Whether you want to know how to create a basic straight line, perfect your cat-eye, or learn creative new tricks, consider this your complete guide to all things eyeliner
Oh, we hear the excuses already: You're too busy getting everyone ready in the morning; you don't want to emerge from the bathroom looking like you got punched in the eye; the list could go on. Which is why you resort to your usual thin, black eyeliner look. (Yawn.)
Sorry, but if you're not the new princess of Wales, there's no excuse for wearing the same blasé eyeliner style day in and day out -- especially when there are so many different ways to apply eyeliner. Whether you're an eyeliner rookie or a winged-tip-wearing-snob, we break down the basics and bring you the expert techniques you need to master these stunning eyeliner looks on your first try.
Skip ahead to see the 10 new ways to use eyeliner now.
Think about it: Eyeliner is not only a way to play with color and make a statement, but it's also the perfect instrument to reshape your eye. You don't have to go under the knife for bigger-looking eyes if you know how to wield an eyeliner brush for your eye shape. Don't believe us? Take it from eye makeup guru, Taylor Chang-Babaian, author of "Style Eyes."
"Wherever you put darkness is where your eye is drawn to," says Chang-Babaian, "which means eyeliner allows you to change the shape of your eye." Got small eyes? Make them bigger with a smudged, smoky wraparound. Want to elongate your eyes' width? Do an exaggerated winged tip. The possibilities are endless -- we've got 10 eyeliner styles to get you started. Here, how to achieve them with your favorite liquid, gel, pencil or marker eyeliner.
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Beginner Eyeliner Look: Top LashlineWe'll start with the simplest, can't-screw-it-up way to wear your eyeliner. Apply a kohl eyeliner pencil (like Make Up For Ever Kohl Pencil, $17) from the inner to the outer edges of your upper lashline. Close your eye and pull your lid taut to draw your line. For your first pass, wiggle it in between your lashes (it will make them look thicker), and on your second pass make the line thicker if you want. Then use a small chiseled brush or an angled brush to smudge the line to make it softer. "Smudging is key when you're afraid you won't create a straight line," says Chang-Babaian. "When applying eyeliner, it's not about creating a straight line with the pencil, but going back and forth with your brush until the line is smooth."
Beginner Eyeliner Look: Brighten EyesWhen you look like you only slept 20 minutes last night, the oldest trick in the book to appear awake and bright-eyed is to apply a beige-colored eyeliner to your lower inner rim (aka your waterline). "It helps counteract tired, red eyes," says Chang-Babaian, "and makes your eyes look larger." With your index finger, gently pull down your lower lid to expose your inner rim. Then with your pencil, gently go over your waterline, taking care to not poke yourself in the eye. Try Tarte EmphasEYES Inner Rim Brightener, $18.
Beginner Eyeliner Look: Colored Bottom LinerIt's easy to wear a statement eyeliner look even if you don't have a steady hand or hours of practice. All you need for this bold eye makeup look is a long-wear pencil eyeliner in a bright color of your choice. Long-wear eyeliners are usually twist-up pencils, so you can't control the sharpness of the tip, which prevents drawing a straight edge. However, unlike kohl pencils, long-wear pencils will give you bold matte color that'll last for hours. (We like Nars Larger Than Life Long-Wear Eyeliner, $23.) Apply the eyeliner to just your lower lashline from the inner to outer corners, using short strokes. To pull it into a cohesive look, you can apply eyeshadow in the same color family to your upper lids, but make it two shades brighter. Break up the bright color by applying a thin black line to your upper lashline and apply mascara.
Beginner Eyeliner Look: Natural DefinitionThe upper inner rim doesn't always get as much attention as its lower counterpart, but it's an equally important area to define. Applying black eyeliner to your upper rim will intensify your lashline, giving you natural looking definition without the hard edge of a liner. All you have to do is lift up your upper lid, while looking down into a mirror, and apply the black eyeliner pencil in short strokes.
Intermediate Eyeliner Look: Smudged WraparoundThe smoky eye is way easier than it looks. All you need is a black kohl pencil and a flat angled brush. With your pencil, scribble a line along your upper lashline from the inner to outer corners. Line your lower inner rim with the liner as well for instant definition. Then draw a line along your lower lashline until you connect the two lines at the outer edge. With your flat angled brush, smudge the lines out around the entire eye until you've achieved your desired level of smokiness. Chang-Babaian stresses the importance of smudging. Otherwise, you'll end up with a hard line that resembles raccoon eyes a la Kate Middleton. And that's the one royalty trait you don't want to copy.
Intermediate Eyeliner Look: Winged TipA winged tip eyeliner style is one of the most versatile eye makeup looks. You can choose to do a subtle wing or one to rival the late Amy Winehouse's. For this look, you need a good, smudge-proof cream or gel pot. Chang-Babaian recommends Shiseido The Makeup Accentuating Creme Eyeliner, $26. For a drugstore alternative, we love Maybelline New York Eye Studio Lasting Drama Gel Eyeliner, $9.99. Chang-Babaian recommends using a pot over a liquid liner for this look, because liquid tends to have a more reflective finish.
Apply the liner with an angled or pointed brush from the inner to the outer edges of your upper lashline. You want to make your line at a 45-degree angle, starting from your outer corner. The key to achieving the right winged tip is to "really consider your eye shape," says Chang-Babaian, which means to follow the slants of your eyes. Expert tip: Draw the winged tip with eyeshadow first, so that it's easier to erase if you mess up. Then go over the shadow with your cream liner. And to make sure that the wings are straight, hold a business card against the outer corner of your eye to use as a ruler.
Intermediate Eyeliner Look: Elongated EyeFor those with close-set or small eyes, you can lengthen the width of your eyes by focusing your eyeliner at your outer corners. Using a cream liner, draw a line from the middle of your upper lashline to the outer edges without winging it. Then apply eyeliner to the outer third corner of your lower lashline, connecting the tip to the line you made above. "This is perfect for rounder eyes to create more angles and add a hint of sexiness," says Chang-Babaian.
Advanced Eyeliner Look: Cat-eyeThe cat-eye eyeliner look is a throwback to the '70s-era Barbra Streisand with her big hair and greasepaint-lined lids, so if you're feeling like a diva, this is the perfect style to try. With a cream eyeliner (like Make Up For Ever Aqua Creamliner, $22), apply a thick line to your upper lashline, extending past your outer corner. Then using short strokes, draw a line from the inner corner of your lower lashline all the way across until you connect to the line on top. You can make the bottom line thicker if you want to evoke a Sophia Loren look.
Advanced Eyeliner Look: Double Winged Tip"This take on the winged tip is a little bit edgier," says Chang-Babaian, but totally wearable. After drawing your winged tip on your upper lashline, take your cream or gel eyeliner and mimic the winged tip on the outer corner of your lower lashline. First, draw the line for the tip starting from your outer corner and making it parallel to the tip above. Then, line your lower lashline from your outer corner to about half of your lashline. Finally, connect the two endpoints, creating a triangular shape and fill it in. To provide contrast, you can apply a highlighter to the inner corners of your eyes on your lower lashline.
Advanced Eyeliner Look: '60s-inspired Winged TipFor this throwback to the '60s look, you'll need a black liquid liner (try Urban Decay 24/7 Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner, $18). Using the liner, apply a thick line to your upper lashline, then angle it at the outer corner of your eye at 45 degrees, creating a dramatic winged tip until you hit your crease. Work the liquid liner into your crease from the winged tip. Expert tip: If you have oily lids, apply the eyeliner slightly above your crease to prevent the makeup from transferring. For an extra bold look, apply a matte, bright-colored eyeshadow to your lid before applying eyeliner.
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