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Eyeliner 101: How To Apply Eyeliner Like a Real Pro

21 Oct 2022

If enhancing your eyes is important to you, then out of all the products in your makeup bag, eyeliner should be a top priority. And if you're anything like us, you want to rock all the eyeliner looks, from sharp wings to grungy, smudged-out looks. But wanting and doing are two very different things. This is especially true when it comes to eyeliner, which often has to be applied precisely to achieve your desired effect. That’s where we come in. While learning how to apply eyeliner properly is mostly a “practice makes perfect” type of situation, we have a handful of tips that can help you get there faster. From lines to designs to making your eyes pop, let NYX Professional Makeup teach you how to do eyeliner like a seasoned (and steady-handed) pro.

How To Choose Between Types Of Eyeliner

Before getting started, it’s important to recognize that not all liners are created equally. The look you’re after should dictate the type of eyeliner you decide to use—liquid formulas, for example, are best suited for crisp, clean looks, while pencils can be used to create a more lived-in, smudgy effect (think: rockstar post-party). Here, we’ll give you the run-down on the different types of eyeliner we offer at NYX Professional Makeup and when to use them.

Liquid Eyeliner

Liquid liner is incredibly versatile—it can be used to create a variety of eyeliner looks, from simple eyeliner suitable for every day to more dramatic night-out looks. One of the main benefits of liquid liner is that, when applied properly, the lines are precise and clean. It’s therefore particularly useful for when you want a crisp liner look.

At NYX Professional Makeup, we have several different liquid liners to choose from. Our classic Epic Ink Liner eyeliner pen boasts an easy-to-use brush tip that can be used to draw both thin and thick lines. The fluid formula is available in two intensely pigmented shades—black for bold looks and brown for a more natural effect—and offers a waterproof, smudge-proof finish.

If you prefer a classic liquid liner (that is, not a pen), try Epic Wear Liquid Liner. It has a thin, brush-tip applicator ideal for precise detailing and comes in an array of shades, including bold hues like yellow, lilac, and red. There’s also Epic Wear Metallic Liquid Liner, which offers a bold, pigmented metallic finish that lasts for up to 36 hours. Choose from six hyper-reflective shades to create an out-of-this-world look on your lids (or even on your bod).

Pencil Eyeliner

For easy eyeliner looks, consider using a pencil liner—they’re great for newbies. Because you use eyeliner pencils just like a pencil you’d write with, applying them is pretty simple: Just draw where you want your lines to appear. In addition, unlike liquid liners, there’s no drying time, making them a great option for both busy mornings and touch-ups on the go. Use our classic Slim Eye Pencil to line your upper and lower lids for a soft, natural effect, or draw thicker lines with our intensely pigmented Epic Wear Eyeliner Sticks (available in 27 smudge-proof shades) for a graphic look that pops.

Cream or Gel Eyeliner

Pencil and liquid liners are generally considered mainstays, but they aren’t the only eyeliner types out there: There are also gel and cream formulas. Gel liners deliver long-wearing color and apply smoothly and evenly. Keep in mind that you’ll need an eyeliner brush to apply them (we’re particularly fond of the Pro Angled Eyeliner Brush, which offers a thin, tapered tip ideal for creating precise lines).

How To Apply Eyeliner In 4 Steps

Once you’ve chosen your eyeliner (or eyeliners—you can totally mix and match), you’re ready to get started on creating your look. Here, learn how to put on eyeliner for an eye-catching look that lasts.

Step 1: Prep Your Eye Area

As with any type of makeup application, the prep work is what helps ensure your look stays put. So first, wash your face and apply your moisturizer and eye cream as usual. Next, smooth on an eye primer. We like Ultimate Shadow & Liner Primer, which boasts a creamy formula and helps extend the wear of your shadow and liner (bonus: it helps boost color vibrancy, too). Lastly, if you plan to wear eyeshadow, apply that before reaching for your liner—you’ll get the cleanest finish that way.

Step 2: Start Lining The Top Lash Line

After prepping your lids, gently place the tip of your chosen liner onto your upper lashline, starting at the inner corner. Using light, gentle strokes, slowly extend the liner toward your outer corners, keeping as close to your lash line as possible. Once you’ve finished drawing your line, you can go back in and thicken it if desired, then move on to the other eye. Keep in mind that with eyeliner, symmetry is key, so don’t rush the process.

Pro Tip: If you have trouble drawing a straight line, try propping your elbow on a hard, immovable surface, like a countertop, to help steady your hand.

Step 3: Lengthen The Eye

If you’re after a classic liner look (read: not winged), you can move on to step four. Otherwise, here’s how to draw a wing. Place your chosen liner at the outermost corner of your eye, where your upper and lower lids meet. Then, draw a line upward and outward as if you were extending the trajectory of your lower lash line. How far you drag this line out is up to you—the further, the more dramatic the effect. Once you’ve nailed the angle of the wing, connect the line to your already-drawn upper eyeliner and fill it in as needed. Again, take it slow: If you make a mistake here, you may have to start from the beginning.

Step 4: Line The Lower Lash Line

To complete your eyeliner look, line the outer half of your lower lash line with a pencil liner and smudge it toward your inner corner for a soft, balanced finish. Once you’re satisfied with how it looks, throw on a few coats of mascara and lightly mist your face with setting spray—with your eyes closed—to help ensure it all stays put.

How To Apply Eyeliner On The Top Lid

If you need more guidance on how to apply liner on your top eyelid, we’ve got you covered. First, we recommend beginners reach for a liner that effortlessly delivers precise, controlled lines. Eyeliner pens, like our Epic Ink Liner, are great for beginners and pros alike. The easy-to-use pen has a felt tip brush to help you sketch along the lash line to create your preferred eyeliner shape (which tends to be easier for beginners than trying to swipe it all on in one fluid motion).

If you’re still not getting the result you’re after, try drawing your liner on first with a pencil, then tracing on top with a liquid liner to create a clean, even line.

How To Apply Eyeliner on the Lower Lid

When choosing eyeliner for the lower lid, reach for a high-impact eyeliner pencil like Epic Wear Eyeliner Sticks. These power-pigmented eyeliner pencils deliver 36 hours of waterproof, smudge-proof color and are available in a wide variety of shades. Sharpen the pencil, if needed, then use the tip to color in your waterline. If you want to smudge it out, use a small detailed eyeliner brush to soften the line for a more subtle gradient effect.

How To Apply Longwear Eyeliner That Won’t Budge or Smudge

For long-wear benefits, we recommend using a smudge-proof, waterproof eyeliner with a striking matte finish like our Epic Wear Liquid Liner. This liquid gel eyeliner delivers semi-perm pro artistry with no crack, bleed or fade, just high-impact color with up to three-day wear. Start by stamping the eyeliner along the upper lash line. Then follow the lower lash line and extend it toward the tail end of the brow. Connect the top and bottom lines and fill in the wing.

How To Get Extra Defined Smokey Eyes

Create gorgeous eyeliner looks like smokey eyes using an eyeliner stick, like our Epic Smoke: Smokeshow Liner. Begin by gliding the eyeliner along your top lash line—no need to be super precise because you’re going to blend it all out later. Then, trace the lower lash line and extend the line toward the tail end of the brow. Once you’re done with your liner, soften up any harsh lines with the included paddle brush or our Micro Smudging Brush. For an even smokier effect, you can trace over your liner with eyeshadow in a similar shade. Buff it outward to give your eyes a gorgeously smoked-out appearance.

More Eyeliner Tips and Tricks

  • Make sure you have a place to rest your elbow while drawing on your eyeliner. This makes it easier to apply and gives you a steady hand, enabling you to get a clean finish.
  • You can use eyeshadow as eyeliner if you want a super soft effect. Simply dampen an eyeliner brush, dip it into the shadow of your choice, and draw onto your lashline for a subtle, smoked-out finish.
  • Utilize a magnified mirror. The magnification will allow you to have a closer view of your lids, which may help you attain a cleaner, more precise finish.
  • While applying your liner, keep your gaze downward or straight-on rather than looking up—pointing your eyes skyward can impact how your liner looks head-on.
  • Avoid stretching your eyelid as you draw your liner on—doing so can warp your wing and even damage your skin.
  • If you’re struggling to create a clean wing, try putting (skin-safe) tape on your skin from the outer corners of your eyes toward your temples. You can use the tape as a DIY stencil to help draw your wing. Once you’re finished, remove the tape and enjoy the crisp, clean finish.
  • Use a cotton swab dipped in makeup remover to eliminate any unwanted smudging or unevenness.

Next: Check out our article Why Setting Sprays Really Work to learn how to keep your makeup masterpiece looking fresh all day.

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