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Ask Belle: Eyeliner Tips and Tricks

Hi Belle,

Can you post about eyeliner? I wear mascara every day, but I’ve never ventured into eyeliner.  I don’t know what kind to buy or how to apply it.  Would love, love, love some help.

Hope you can answer my question! Liv

To the uninitiated, eyeliner can seem intimidating.  But let’s see if we can cover the basics.

Pencil vs. Liquid vs. Gel. For first timers, pencil is the easiest.  If you don’t apply it perfectly, you can smudge it a little and it will still look good.  However, one downside to pencil liner is that the pigment isn’t as intense.  My favorite pencil liner is CoverGirl Queen Vivid Eyeliner ($9)–smooth application, doesn’t wear off easily or flake.
Unlike pencil, liquid liner gives you a glossy finish that usually lasts all day.  Unlike pencil, liquid liner requires a bit more doing to get a clean line and covering mistakes is much more difficult.  But with a little practice, you can use liquid liner to master more complicated liner looks.  My favorite liner is from Tom Ford, but Stila Stay-All-Day Liquid Liner ($20) is a great option.
Lastly, if you want to use a brush to apply your liner, instead of a pencil, gel liner is a good option.  It gives you the most intense pigmentation, can be smudged to cover errors, but can also be used to create precise lines.  Basically, it can give you the best of both worlds.

I don’t use gel liner every day because I like the ease of the liquid-pen application.  But I have used the Bobbi Brown gel liners ($25), and with a narrow brush, I like the application.  Want a drugstore brand?  NYX makes a decent gel liner ($8).

Tutorials. Applying eyeliner, like a new styling a new updo, is something that requires practice.  I’d start on a weekend when you have a little more time to practice, and then work it into my daily routine.  As for tutorials, here are a few I found helpful.

This video goes over the basics of pencil liner.  I like that she applies the product in short strokes, as it’s the way I learned.  I think too many makeup pros try to apply pencil liner the same way they apply liquid, and that doesn’t work as well.

If you want to learn how to apply liquid liner, Elle.com has a photo tutorial you can use.  The video above does an excellent job of showing a basic eyeliner application and explains how to turn basic liner into winged and cat-eye looks.

Have any favorite eyeliner tips, looks, or product recommendations?  Leave them in the comments.

Leave a Reply to Jenn S. · cancel comment

    8 comments

  1. M says:

    something I didn’t know for years, don’t pull on the corner of your eyelid to make a straight line with a pencil easier! 1) the line doesn’t always come out as normal when your eyelid bounce back and 2) you’re going to get wrinkles doing it like that every day. Definitely use the short strokes approach in the tutorial.

    Also, if you sharpen the pencil a lot you can hold it parallel to your eyelid and drag in short strokes for an easier/smoother application.

    March 19, 2015/Reply
    • Belle says:

      Pro-tip: When you pull, you want to use your ring finger. It’s the weakest one on your hand and will do the job more gently than your pointer, so you don’t damage the delicate tissue.

      March 19, 2015/Reply
  2. Erin says:

    Liquid liner is my favourite too! Joe Fresh, L’Oreal and NYX make good ones, too.

    March 19, 2015/Reply
  3. strin012 says:

    I use Almay eyeliner. It glides on better than a pencil, has a darker color, and is smudge-able. I’ve tried other kinds and always go back to this one. I use the black-brown color: https://www.almay.com/products/eyes/eyeliner/eyeliner.aspx.

    March 19, 2015/Reply
  4. Claire says:

    An alternate option is applying a powder liner, or just a dark eye shadow, along the lash line with an angled liner brush. The angled brush makes application very easy and for me always looks better than a pencil. You can do a quick swipe for more subtle color and build from there. Apply it dry to blend it, or with a damp brush for a crisper line. If I want to dial up the intensity I go for a Stila smudge stick, and apply it from the center of the lash line outward, then use a blender to bring it toward the inner corner. It keeps it from being too heavy and makes my eyes look bigger. Last note – a white eyeliner pencil applied to the inner corner and blended is magic for looking wide awake when I’m not.

    March 19, 2015/Reply
  5. Dara says:

    If you are trying to do a cateye with liquid, put a small piece of scotch tape where you will draw the design. You use the tape to avoid bleeding and make precise line.

    Chanel makes the best eyeliners

    March 19, 2015/Reply
  6. Jenn S. says:

    I’m kind of weird in that I never actually found pencil to be easy like most people do. In fact, I still don’t – and I write a damn beauty blog. I’m alright with it and use it when I want a less precise look, but I can get the same effect with Claire’s suggestion of using a shadow to line…and I do this far more often than anything because, frankly, I’m lazy.

    Gel is my preferred mode when I want defined eyeliner, or even when I want to tightline. You get longevity (Maybelline’s gel liner actually does last 24+ hours, which I discovered by accident), pigmentation, and a controlled application. It might seem intimidating at first for those new to it, but getting a good brush to work with makes a world of difference. I personally like an angled-bristle brush here’s a good drugstore one from Sonia Kashuk/Target: https://www.target.com/p/sonia-kashuk-kashuk-tools-synthetic-angled-eye-liner-brush-no-27/ – there are tons of prestige and higher options. Some people like classic liner brushes or bent liner brushes, that’s a matter of preference.

    Happy Lining!

    March 19, 2015/Reply
  7. Rs says:

    Blinc makes a great extra-fine liquid eyeliner, if you want a thin/subtle line. I am not particularly proficient with eyeliner, so I appreciate the extra-fine line (it’s easier for my unsteady hand to handle and more forgiving of mistakes).

    March 21, 2015/Reply