What’s the Best Way to Apply Eyeliner?

Already mastered eyeliner?  Time to move on to contouring!  

Have you ever heard of the panda smudge? Or what about the double flick and dropped flick, which sounds more like varying degrees of high school foreplay than anything else?You might be familiar with the soft smoke or classic bar.  I’m best-versed in the cat eye but I say that hastily because I have pretty poor vision in my right cornea so whenever I’m applying a coat of liner on my left lid, it looks much more like a distorted valley in the midst of a flood, but I digress.

The reason I’m talking about this at all is because on Saturday night I set out to do my makeup for the first time since, I don’t know, I wrote this piece on why I don’t wear makeup. I spent a lot of time appraising the way Alexa Chung wears liner over her lids and wanted to go in for a similar kill (I ended up with one flooded valley and one kind of regular eye, which together looked pretty Clockwork Orange-y). This then turned into a YouTube video search where I learned that there is pretty much an underworld dedicated solely to eyeliner application — both above and below the lid; enter the panda smudge (a smokey eye?) or those high school foreplay flicks.

A thin flick is probably my best bet given how thick my eyebrows are (what I’ve learned from my cat eye is that the liner comes out too thick, practically touches my brows and just like that, I’m George Whipple).

But I wanted to ask you: are there any surefire eyeliner application tricks that you’ve picked up? Like a sort of universal method that works for everyone? Or more easily, just for you? Krista in our office looks pretty cool in her cat eye and so does Elizabeth, while Amelia, who is more prone to wear mascara — hold the liner — will sometimes sketch a classic bar into her upper lid and come out looking like a movie star (Tiffany, the doll from Bride of Chucky). I’m still trying to figure it all out, so from a purely user-interest point of view, I ask: what have you found to be the best way to apply eyeliner?

And if you have actual eyeliner recommendations (I think the liquid liners of Eyeko and Dior are pretty great, so is this Charlotte Tilbury pencil), I’ll take those too.

Illustration by Amelia Diamond, GIF by Krista Anna Lewis


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  • I bought this eyeliner by mistake thinking it was the mascara, but I decided to keep it because it makes winged/cat eye pretty easy to do. So if I’m feeling FAWNCY, I’ll do that. For a regular ole saturday night I use a pencil on the top of my lid, only half way though- from the outside corner to the center of my eye ball. sometimes ill add the same to the bottom, but then that ends up ALL OVER MY FACE.


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  • mollie blackwood

    I too have struggled with the eyeliner thing. I prefer a small line and a cat eye a la Alexa Chung as well. I recently have discovered the “tape trick” and my life has seriously changed. I use a L’oreal Super Slim eyeliner pen. For the tape, place a piece of regular tape diagonally from your bottom eyelid up towards the end of your brow. The tape ensures a perfect point on your flick. Youtube it! I was skeptical but it so works and is super fast. I also use the side of the pen tip instead of using the pen perfectly perpendicular (if that makes sense.)

  • jerica

    The best formulated, easiest to use eyeliner is Kat Von D’s tattoo liner imo. Only since that purchase have I been able to do a good cat eye.

  • Lara

    I’ve been hooked up to Eyeko’s thin eyeliner since I tried it for the first time, I would absolutely recommend it. Also, it really is waterproof but easy to remove with make up remover (such a winning combo). As to applying it I just draw the bar with my eye open trying not to make it too thick and then sort of draw the end with my eye closed following the arch of the eye.

  • Lizzie

    Stila Stay All Day liquid liner. I also do the classic bar, but turn it into a cat eye at the end if I’m feelin’ fancy and/or I’m going out later and won’t have time to reapply. Usually will make a tiny dot on both sides of my face where I want the end of the foreplay flick to end, then connect the dots

  • Ede

    i use the Loreal Super liner perfect slim. Its very good for cat eye.

    This tip by Goss could be really helpful https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F3rU_6FpNdk

  • dk

    From all of the beauty guru’s videos that I have watched, I can say that (according to said beauty gurus) Kat von D’s tattoo eyeliner is the only way to go. I refuse to wear mascara on the regular which also explains why I have never tried to master the cat eye. Also, I have hooded eyelids. There is no place for the liner to go. But do try it, and post a selfie.

  • caligoanimus

    Stilla, stay all-day, waterproof liquid eyeliner is literally the best and I have had my share of eyeliners. It is the easiest to apply leaving any dumbfounded non-makeup-er feeling like this is their profession.

  • Bella Charlwood

    I use a gel pot thingo and a brush and it works like a charm. Bobbi Brown eye liner gel thing and then a mac eye liner brush (the super skinny one). It stays sharp and super easy to apply

  • The best way to apply eyeliner? Maybe while driving and drinking coffee when you are rushing to get to work 🙂 Just kidding, of course, but i’ve seen it happen! Either way you will always have a pretty Ellen Vicius necessaire to carry your makeup! http://www.EllenVicius.com/necessaire.

  • Emily Katherine

    Trish McEvoy brush/palette situation. THE ONLY THING I EVER WEAR. EVER. It is SO EASY.

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  • My eyeliner style varies a lot, depending on my mood. If I’m feeling particularly patient and feminine, its a cat-eye and if not, its just a thick line on my upper lid.
    xo stylefile.in

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  • Thanks so much! I have green eyes and i have always had such trouble picking the right color of eye liner for myself! This is a perfect article for those like me! I was just wondering if it would be a good idea for me use a white liner instead of the kohl. I’ve heard it makes the eye pop out??