Perfect Eyeliner : How To Apply Eyeliner The Right Way

I must be a slow learner. I’ve only just started using eyeliner in the past few years and wow, I don’t know how my eyes ever did without it. What a difference it makes! It’s not that my eyes looked bad before just that they look so much better now.

perfect eyelinerI have to say that there is nothing better to accentuate your eyes. Eyeliner defines them and can not only make your eyes look bigger if you apply eyeliner properly but can also give you thicker lashes.

You can do all kinds of effects with it from natural to smoky to downright dramatic depending on how the mood takes you and whatever your overall look there is an eyeliner style to suit. If you want your eyes to look better or you want to improve any look from sultry to stylish, glamorous to sexy then you need eyeliner.

If you already have eyeliner and you just want to know how to apply it, then jump down to the How to Apply Eyeliner Tutorial. But otherwise first of all I should tell you a bit about the types of eyeliner there are so you can decide what to try first.

Eyeliner Pencil

Pencils are the easiest to apply, and if you make a mistake, they are easy to correct. The type of line you can create depends on the thickness and softness of the pencil. Some of the cheaper ones tend to drag the skin and not go on so easily and yet if the substance is too soft then the line won’t last.

eyeliner pencilYou need a happy medium so try the tester on the back of your hand and see how much it drags the skin. Another option to try is a soft kohl or kajal pencil.

Hard pencils hurt when you apply them as you have to press too hard to release any color. Softer pencils are great for smudging and creating a smoky eye effect. That’s why you need a bit of a compromise.

If you have a pencil which has gone hard you can soften it a bit by melting the tip with the heat of a hairdryer. Most pencils need to be sharpened using a sharpener – if you don’t have a sharpener designed for your specific pencil eyeliner you may be able to get by with a normal pencil sharpener but watch out for any rough or jagged edges before you use it.

Some of the newer pencil type liners don’t need a sharpener. You can get eyeliner crayons where you twist the base to release more of the liner. I love these when I want to create a smoky eye effect as the crayons are generally soft too.

Liquid Eyeliner

This is traditional eyeliner and it’s great for creating the most dramatic looks such as cats eyes and Egyptian style eyeliner. It comes in a bottle generally with a fine applicator brush.

Blinc EyelinerAlthough liquid eyeliner works for many styles of makeup, it is the most difficult to apply and needs a steady hand as well as a lot of practice. Mistakes are not so easy to wipe clean. Once the color dries you will need to use a cotton swab and eye makeup remover to make corrections.

If you manage to get proficient with this type of eyeliner, you are doing well as most of us never practice long enough to achieve that. There is a way you can cheat though. Choose one of the liquid eyeliners with a felt tip. This is far easier to apply than a brush and you will have the same great effect without the grief!

Gel Eyeliner

Gel eyelinerGel or creme eyeliners come in a little pot and you use them with the brush supplied or your own fine tipped or angled brush. They are thicker than the liquid eyeliners and are therefore easier to control, making them a great place to start if you want a more defined or dramatic look than you can get with a pencil but you are not sure about using liquids.

You simply wet your brush (or use it dry depending on the effect you want to create) and drag it through the color removing any excess and then draw your line.

Cake or Powder Eyeliner

cake eyelinerThe first eyeliners all came in a block or cake. Similar to using gel, you used to wet your brush and take up a bit of color with it but in this case the color was much harder to load onto the brush, the brush had to be quite wet and you could get in a right mess if you didn’t know what you were doing.

Now the format of cake or powder is much softer and you can load a dry brush with color then stroke it onto your eye. This produces quite a soft smudgy effect compared to gel, liquid or pencil.

If you want a more defined effect use a fine tipped or angled brush and dampen it a little before loading with color.

Eyeshadow Used as Liner

You can make eyeliner from any type of powder eyeshadow you have. Use it like a cake or powder eyeliner with a wet or dry brush to create a fine or smudgy line.

How to Apply Eyeliner like a Pro (Professional that is!)

Ten steps to applying eyeliner perfectly….


The Right Order

Apply eyeliner after your eyeshadow and before mascara when putting on makeup.


Good Lighting

magnifying lighted makeup mirrorHave a mirror with good lighting so you can see what you are doing. I use a makeup mirror that has lighting surrounding the mirror with a magnifying mirror on one side that swivels to act like a normal mirror on the other. I’d be lost without it (and I usually am when I go on vacation – must make note to self to find a travel version). The mirror in the picture is by Jerdon and is available on Amazon.


Steady Your Hand

To apply eyeliner properly you need a steady hand. The way to achieve this is to rest your right arm (if you’re right handed) on a hard surface in front of the mirror and rest your wrist on your face in a position where you can comfortably reach your eye with the eyeliner brush or pencil.

It is also best if you keep your eyes half open and tilt your head back slightly so that you have easy access to your eyelids but can still see. If using a gel or liquid, practice getting the position right before you load up the brush with color!


Try Not To Pull Your Eye If You Can

You can draw the line with your eye in that position. You may find it easier to pull the eyelid out and up a little at the outer corner with your other hand, but I prefer just to leave the eye alone because it doesn’t do the skin any good to keep pulling it and I also think it is easier to get the line right because you can see what it will look like when you are finished. It’s not distorted by your eye being pulled out of shape.

Getting Your Eyes To Match
Sometimes you can do one eye perfectly and then you can’t get the other one to look the same. Once you are a dab hand at eyeliner application you won’t have this problem but until you are, there’s one thing you can try – the alternative eye method. It’s a bit of a pain as you have to keep swapping focus on each eye, but you can try painting a tiny way on one eye and then a tiny way on the other so that you are keeping them even and correcting mistakes as you go.

Short Strokes

Whatever kind of eyeliner you use it is easier to draw the line in small short strokes than to do this in one go as you make fewer mistakes. Focus just on the tiny part you are working on and not the whole eyelid if that is easier for you.


Start In the Middle

Start by drawing a line from the middle of the upper lid outwards to the corner, above the lashes but keeping as close to them as possible to give the illusion of thicker lashes.

Extend the line beyond the corner with a flick if you wish depending on the style you’re going for. Then start at the inner corner of the top lid and (using short strokes) join the two lines together.


Build Up Gradually

For a thicker line build up the color gradually. For the best look, start thickening from the center of the eye outwards. Don’t make a uniformly thick line straight across.


Smudge or Allow to Set

If you want a smudged or smoky look, blend or smudge the edges at this point with a brush or finger otherwise allow liquid or gel eyeliner to set before you fully open your eye.



eyeliner along the waterline For the lower lids, you have the choice to apply below the lower lashes or along the inner rims (or waterline). You can see the waterline version on the left.

Most people look better with eyeliner below the lashes, the theory being that dark liner along the inner rim makes your eyes look smaller but your mileage may vary and you can try white eyeliner pencils or another light color there instead to brighten your eye. You may want to experiment with both positions to see what works for your eyes.

If you like to draw a line along the inner rim of your eyes it’s worth knowing that eyeliner pencils are the only kind that you must use there and you should choose a pencil which has been ophthalmologist tested to avoid problems with your eyes. Simple reason for that, putting liquid or gel liner there can sting and eyeshadow will not last.


Eyeliner Below the Lashes

For the bottom lids, especially below the root of the lashes, most people look best with eyeliner which starts about half to two thirds of the way towards the outer corner and doesn’t go near the inner corner but it depends on eye shape and size. That’s another place to experiment.

When applying to the lower lids draw the line (whether above or below the lashes) as close to the roots of the hairs as possible so that it helps make your lashes seem thicker.

You won’t be able to draw a smooth line in one go as the lower lashes, tiny though they tend to be, will get in the way a bit. Get between each lash with a pencil or stiff brush and carefully join the short lines up if you need to.

Eyeliner Application in Action

If you have time, you can get some great tips and actually see various types of eyeliner being applied in this great video – it’s 14 minutes or so long. Tiffany makes it look nice and easy but she has had a lot of practice. Don’t expect it to be that easy if you are a beginner. All you need is to keep experimenting and it will be easy for you to define your eyes too.

Long Lasting Eyeliner

Choose an eyeliner product that is advertised as lasting all day. Liquid and gel eyeliners typically last longer than pencils but some of the waterproof pencil eyeliners are good too, though you will usually need to reapply these during the day. For more about making your eyeliner look good as long as you need it to, see Long Lasting Eyeliner : 8 Tips To Make It Stick Around

Eyeliner For Mature Eyes

Once you start to get crinkly eyes, you need to be a bit careful with eyeliner. It can disappear into the folds in different ways on each eye and look quite strange. It’s best to keep things quite subtle, and the more wrinkly your eyes the more subtle you need to be to avoid looking like an aged movie star lacking a face lift.

eyeliner for mature eyesUse a very soft thickish pencil and draw lines as close to the lashes as possible where there are generally no wrinkles to worry about.

Then smudge upwards so you have a dark line near the lashes with a gradually lighter color as it goes upwards.

If you prefer a more defined look apply eyeliner and then soften with shadow over the liner. If you extend the lines even slightly beyond the outer corner check that the flicks are even on each side when you smile as that is when the eyeliner might disappear in a different way on each side and give you a lop-sided effect.

Eyeliner for Small Eyes

You don’t need huge eyes to be beautiful. Just think of Cameron Diaz and other sultry beauties to see that, but there are ways to achieve the effect of larger eyes if you want.

small eyesThe main way to use eyeliner to create the effect of bigger eyes is to avoid closing off your eyes. When you paint the upper line don’t start right in the inner corner and don’t go right to the outer corner either but continue the line upwards a little.

On the lower lashes, again don’t start in the inner corner and stop before you reach the outer corner.

This means you should have a little of the natural flesh showing at each corner of your eyes. If you go too far remove a little with a cotton swab dipped in eye makeup remover or paint over soft eyeliner with a nude eyeshadow.

Use a thinnish or smudged line and don’t paint inside the waterline. Paint just under and along the root of the lower lashes to open the eyes out.

Also avoid anything too dark for your coloring – brown or charcoal gray would work better than black in most cases.

Eyeliner Colors

Couture 12 Colors Water Proof Liquid Eyeliner Gone are the days when you had to have blue eye makeup to match blue eyes but the end of that rule can create confusion about what color eyeliner to choose (and you can find it in so many colors like the set on the left, that it can be overwhelming).

First of all if you are going for a natural look, choose a brown eyeliner if you have blond, red or light brown hair. Choose dark brown, charcoal gray or black if you have dark brown hair and black if you have black hair or lashes (and use mascara in that shade or slightly darker to match).

If you want something a bit more colorful, that will be noticed, use a contrast color which will show off the beauty of your eyes.

Blue eyes look great with a brown liner, green eyes with a plum color and brown eyes with navy. As for hazel anything goes but you will find that different colors bring out different shades in the flecks in your eyes.

There has been a trend lately for glitter, bright or even neon eyeliner. This looks great on the catwalk and for wild nights out but over the top for day wear. If you’d like to try something a bit more colorful during the day you can try a pretty shade of mauve or aqua eyeliner and see how it complements your look. Just make sure you don’t get eyeliner on your lashes or you cover any mistakes with mascara.

Eyeliner styles

You can create all kinds of styles with your eye liner from soft and natural for day wear and bridal makeup to dramatic looks with Asian or Egyptian eyeliner for when you want your eyes to make an impact. Here are the main styles you might want to try for an everyday look and how to create them.

Soft natural look

natural lookUse a pencil, powder or cream (gel) eyeliner rather than liquid.

Choose natural colors (see the section on colors above) and smudge the lines slightly before they are dry.

Don’t extend the lines to the inner corner on lower lashes or paint dark eyeliner along the inner rims of your eyes.
Classic look

classic lookPaint a line close to lashes along the whole length of the upper lids but only part way along lower lashes to outer corner.

Use a brown or black eyeliner depending on your natural coloring with either a slight smudgy effect or a well defined line slightly thicker from the center of the eye outwards on the upper lashes. A small flick at the outer corners looks good with this look. Experiment to get the angle right.

Old Hollywood Glamor Look

hollywood glamor lookFor this very clean style you have eyeliner only on the upper lids on top of a nude or natural base.

Paint a line from the center of the eye and when you move the brush to the outer corner move the line up so that there is a small flick upwards. Paint from the inner corner of the upper lid to meet the line in the center. Paint over the first line to add thickness for a more exaggerated Marlyn Monroe effect.

Use mascara and red lipstick to complete the look.

Cat Eyes

cat eyelinerThe cat eye style is normally a very strong look but you can see in the picture here how you might modify to be more suitable for everyday with softer colors and lines.

If you want the full cat look, use black eyeliner to outline the eyes right from the inner corners. With this look you can pencil along the waterline rather than just below the lower lashes if you have large eyes and this looks good on you.

Typical cat eyes have a thick line on the upper lid and a small flick at the outer corner. A double flick at the sides like exaggerated eyelashes can work well with cat eyes too for a slightly different look.

More Eyeliner Tips

If you know any more tips for perfect eyeliner that work for you, please share them in the comments below.


Experiment On Bare Eyelids

As you need to practice a lot, especially with liquid eyeliner, don’t do this over perfectly made up eyes when you are ready to go out. Have a go with bare eyes whenever you have a moment and perfect your technique so you are ready in future when it matters.


Use a Guide Line

If you want to have a go with a liquid or gel liner for a night out but you are not too confident, apply a thin line to your bare eyelid with liquid liner or fine dark pencil and only once you have that right, apply the rest of your eyeshadow. Then go over the line with liquid liner as it will be easier to apply once you have a perfect line to follow. You can apply in tiny short strokes if necessary to get it right.


Less is more

Once your line is too thick, it’s hard to make it thinner. Apply a thin line and then thicken in stages if you want to.


Be Ready To Deal With Mistakes

You’ll probably make lots of mistakes when you begin to use eyeliner, but it’s also easy to go wrong sometimes even when you are experienced, especially with the liquid kind. As you apply your eye makeup have a cotton swab and eye makeup remover at the ready so you can quickly correct any mistakes before the liner sets.

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