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Liquid Eyeliner: Our Guide

How To Apply Liquid Eyeliner: Our Guide For All Skill Levels

13 Oct 2022

You’ve undoubtedly heard the phrase “practice makes perfect”—it’s used as a motivator in a variety of circumstances, like when you’re learning a new language or trying to perfect a skill. It’s also incredibly relevant when it comes to makeup. Often, learning how to flawlessly execute different makeup techniques, like how to apply liquid eyeliner, requires some practice. Here at NYX Professional Makeup, we want to make that process as easy (and fun) as possible. So here, we’ll share with you some of our favorite methods for applying liquid eyeliner. Whether you’re a newbie or a seasoned expert looking to perfect your craft, you’ll find our best liquid eyeliner tips and tricks ahead.

Types Of Liquid Eyeliner

There are a couple of different types of liquid liner out there—and the type you choose plays a role in how you apply it, as well as what the end result will be.

Brush-Tip Liquid Eyeliner

Brush-tip liquid eyeliner typically comes in a tube and features a thin, paintbrush-like applicator for creating your lines. The applicator brush is dipped into the tube to pick up the liner, and then it’s drawn onto the lids to create your liquid eyeliner look. Our Epic Wear Liquid Liner is an example of a brush-tip liquid eyeliner. It boasts an ultra-fine applicator tip for maximum precision and is available in eight waterproof, smudge-proof shades. Plus, the flexible brush tip can be used to create a range of looks, from subtle wings to bold, graphic designs.

Felt Tip Liquid Eyeliner

As the name suggests, felt tip eyeliners have a marker or pen-like tip rather than a brush. The stiffer felt tip tends to offer more control than a brush, which can take a bit of practice to get the hang of. Thin felt tip liners, like our classic Epic Ink Liner, are great for precision work, while chunkier options, such as our Super Fat Eye Marker, are ideal for creating dramatic cat-eye looks. That said, choose whichever option works best for you—both can be used to create a range of head-turning liquid eyeliner looks.

How To Apply Liquid Eyeliner

There are a few different techniques for applying liquid eyeliner, some more foolproof than others. Ahead, learn how to apply liquid liner for beginners, as well as some more advanced tips for pros looking to elevate their eyeliner routine.

What Is The Easiest Way To Apply Liquid Eyeliner?

The dotted-line technique is one of the easiest ways to apply liquid liner, especially for newbies. Ahead, learn what this method entails with our easy liquid eyeliner tutorial for beginners.

Step 1: Prime your lids. First, prep your eyelid with an eye makeup primer. We suggest using our Ultimate Shadow & Liner Primer, which comes in four skin-adapting shades and helps extend the wear of eyeliner and eyeshadow.

Step 2: Steady your hand. While you let your eye primer dry, prop your elbow on a hard surface—like a countertop—in front of your mirror. Having your elbow on an immovable surface will help keep your hand steady while you apply your liner.

Step 3: Get into position. Uncap your chosen liner and anchor your pinky on your cheek for stability. You’ll want to aim to hold your liner like a pencil, rather than a paintbrush.

Step 4: Angle your head. Look straight ahead with your eyes open or tilt your head back slightly to get a full, unobstructed view of your entire upper lash line.

Step 5: Draw a dotted line. Using the thin tip of your liner, start drawing small dots along your lash line (don’t worry about spacing them evenly—you’ll connect them all with one fluid line later). Aim to stay as close to your lash line as possible; you can always go back later and thicken the line for a more dramatic effect.

Step 6: Create your wing. Extend the dotted line slightly past your outer corner, angling it, so it points toward the outer tail of your eyebrow. If you’re not sure how much to angle your wing, imagine you’re extending your lower lash line up toward the brow—this will help give your wing a flattering shape.

Step 7: Connect the dots. Once you’re satisfied with the shape of your dotted line, slowly trace over it in one fluid motion to create a single, even line.

How Do Makeup Artists Apply Liquid Eyeliner?

As for how to do liquid eyeliner like a pro, the truth is that experts use a variety of techniques. With enough practice, makeup artists often get to the point where they can apply any liquid liner in a single, fluid swipe. You may find that after a while, you don’t need to trace out your liner first or that you find it easier to start with the wing rather than begin at your inner corners. That’s totally fine—ultimately, you should do whatever feels most natural to you.

Try experimenting with more graphic looks by drawing a curved line just beneath your brow bone and connecting it to your wing, or play around with different shapes and styles—once you get comfortable with using liquid liner, there is a world of different looks you can create. Lastly, remember that even experts make mistakes sometimes. If your liner isn’t quite as even or sharp as you’d like, you can clean up any mistakes with a cotton swab dipped in makeup remover (that way, you don’t have to start over if your line gets a little bit wonky).

Other Liquid Eyeliner Tips and Tricks

In addition to the steps we outlined above, there are a few tricks you can employ to get a more precise or long-lasting liquid eyeliner application. Find five of our favorite liquid eyeliner tips, below.

1. Start With a Pencil Liner

If you’re new to liquid liner, try sketching your line out with a pencil eyeliner (like our Slim Eye Pencil) first, then tracing over it with your liquid liner. Generally speaking, pencil liners are a bit more forgiving than liquid formulas because the lines aren’t quite as sharp—and in our experience, it’s easier to trace an existing line than to draw a new one from scratch.

2. Be Gentle

It can be tempting to pull at the edges of your eyes when creating a wing, but try to avoid the impulse—tugging or stretching your skin can distort the line, making it appear uneven once your face is at rest. Instead, apply your liner with your eyes in a neutral position for the most natural effect.

3. Smoke It Out

If your lines aren’t as smooth as you’d like, try using a smudging brush, like our Micro Smudging Brush, to diffuse your liner for a sultry smokey eye look.

4. Increase Wear Time With Eyeshadow

In addition to priming your eyes (and finishing your look with setting spray), you can trace over your liquid eyeliner with eyeshadow to help set the liquid liner and give it more staying power. Be sure to use a small, thin brush, such as our Pro Angled Eyeliner Brush, to apply the shadow for the most precise application.

5. Use Tape For a Sharp Wing

There’s nothing quite like a sharp, dramatic wing—it’s a classic eyeliner look for a reason. Help perfect the angle and sharpness of yours by laying down tape first. It acts as something of a stencil to ensure clean lines every time. You’ll want to line up the tape with your bottom lash line, extending it out toward your temple. Then, use an eyeliner pen to trace along the outer edge of the tape as if it were a ruler. When you remove the tape, you’ll be left with a precise line (no cleanup needed).

Next: Contouring 101: How To Contour Like an Absolute Pro


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