Introduction to Eyeliner

Eyeliner goes along your lashline (right by your eyelashes) and/or in your waterline (the line right between your eyeball and lashline) and adds definition to your eyes.

Often, it’s a better idea to keep your eyeliner on your top lid only rather than lining both the top and bottom of your eye. Unless you have very large or round eyes, or want a dramatic look, putting eyeliner on the top and bottom can close your eyes in and make them look smaller. Or you can line your top lid and then apply a thin line of dark eyeshadow to the outer third of your lower lash line for added definition.

Applying liner only on the bottom lashline will drag your eyes down rather than giving them lift. However, one nice way to include some color in your look is to apply regular dark eyeliner on your top lashline and a colorful liner on your bottom lashline.

If you have small or narrow eyes and want to make them look bigger, you can apply a beige-colored eyeliner in your lower waterline. Try Rimmel Scandal Eyes eyeliner in Nude. (White can also be used, but can look harsh or unnatural, especially if you have medium or dark skin.)

If you have light skin and hair, keep in mind that black eyeliner may look harsh or dramatic, and brown may be better (you can also buy brown or brown-black mascara).

Tightlining (wiggling the liner in between your eyelashes instead of on top of them, as you see in the image to the right) is a great, subtle way to make your lashes look thicker. See this tightlining tutorial.

Cat-eye/winged liner “lifts” your eyes, can make them look longer/more almond-shaped, and can make them look wider-set because they draw attention to the outer corners of your eyes. A few tips for winged liner:

  • To get the angle of the wing right, use your lower lashline as a guide, like you’re just extending that line out. However, if you have round eyes, try keeping your eyes open as you do your wing, and angle your wing towards the end of your eyebrow, as shown in this video tutorial from someone with round eyes.
  • You can use some scotch tape (after sticking it on your hand a few times to make it less sticky) to define the line of the wing.
  • To make your wings even, you can try making a little dot at the point where you want each wing to end, then connect the dot to the corner of your eye.
  • Try using some dark eyeshadow on an angled brush to draw your wing on, then make any necessary corrections before going over it with your regular eyeliner.
  • If you have hooded eyes, you’ll need to tweak how you do your winged liner, as described in this picture tutorial or this video tutorial.

To start out with eyeliner, I would advise using an angled brush with dark eyeshadow; this is very easy, and if you do mess up, it’s much easier to clean/fix than regular eyeliner. Wet n Wild’s Panther eyeshadow single is a good black drugstore eyeshadow. You can also use eyeshadow to set regular eyeliner; after applying your liner, put eyeshadow on top of the liner in order to increase wear time.

For application, don’t try to draw one long continuous line; it’ll go wobbly at some point. Just do your liner a bit at a time, in little dashes.

Gel eyeliner comes in little pots and provides a good balance between precision and ease of use.

  • Maybelline Lasting Drama
  • L’Oreal Infallible
  • Black Radiance Continuous Creme

Pros of gel liner:

  • It’s pretty easy to use, even for a beginner; you just dip your angled brush in the liner and “stamp” it along your eyelid. That is, press the brush against your lashline, then lift it up and press it down again next to the bit you just did, and keep going.
  • You can be pretty precise in your application – make the line as thick or as thin as you want – and the liner applies very smoothly.
  • It’s usually pretty long lasting and smudgeproof.
  • It’s really good for tightlining, but you can also use it for a regular liner look or cat-eye/winged liner.
  • It can be used to line the waterline.
  • It’s also good for smudging (before it sets) if you want a smudgy look.


  • Gel liner can dry out if you regularly leave the lid off the pot for too long, or if it just gets old; you need to screw the lid on really tightly and store the pot upside down. However, supposedly there are ways to re-liquify dried out gel liner – I’ve never tried it.
  • You have to wash your brush each time you use it, or at least swipe it with a damp cloth. Otherwise the gel liner left on the brush will get all crusty and gross.
  • Unlike pencil or liquid liner, you need a brush to apply it.

Pencil eyeliner is very easy to use and a great choice for beginners.

  • Milani Liquid Eye
  • Prestige Total Intensity
  • Pixi Endless Silky Eye Pens

Pros of pencil liner:

  • It’s easier for beginners than gel or liquid liner, so it’s a good place to start.
  • Pencil liner lends itself to smudging if you want a smudgy liner look.
  • It can be used to line the waterline.
  • No brush required.


  • It can be harder to obtain a precise or thin line with a pencil, if the pencil is worn down at all.
  • Pencil liner is not best suited to tightlining or a cat-eye.
  • Most regular pencil liners require sharpening (you can get a sharpener from the makeup supply section of any drugstore or Ulta; the $2 Essence sharpener at Ulta is good). This results in wastage, though you can reduce how much is wasted by putting the pencil in your freezer for a while before sharpening. Retractable liners do exist, and they are very convenient, but they typically contain less product than regular liners.

Liquid eyeliner is the most difficult liner to work with for beginners. Liquid liner comes in felt tips (like little Sharpies) and brush tips (sort of like nail polish, where the tip is dipped in a little tube of ink). It’s generally easier to control felt tips, but they usually don’t provide as much precision/thin lines as brush tips do.

Felt tip liners should be stored with the tip down so it’s always saturated in ink and doesn’t dry out. Brush tip liners should be stored horizontally, since the pen has a metal ball that moves along the barrel to keep the ink flowing. These pens will last longer if you keep that ball in the middle of the barrel during storage.

Quick tip – when applying liquid liner, don’t use the very tip of the brush; tilt the brush a little so you’re using the side rather than the tip. This will make it easier to do a straight line.

  • Milani Ultrafine liquid liner (felt tip)
  • Physicians Formula eye booster (in silver tube – brush tip)
  • Jordana FabuLiner (felt tip)

Pros of liquid liner:

  • It offers a great deal of precision; you can use it to create very sharp lines, as thick or as thin as you want.
  • It’s easier to do very intense, opaque lines with liquid liner.
  • It is usually very smudgeproof and long-lasting, better than pencil or gel. If you have oily and/or hooded eyelids, liquid liner is great.
  • It’s good for a cat-eye look.
  • No brush required.


  • It requires more of a steady hand than other kinds of liner, so it’s not ideal for beginners.
  • It’s not ideal for tightlining.
  • It should not be used on the waterline.
  • Felt-tip liquid liners can dry out.



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