How To Apply Liquid Eyeliner: Your Step By Step Guide

Press Association

There are few makeup looks more iconic and more glam than a cat’s eye flick of black liner. It’s a look that’s difficult to achieve with shadow or pencil, but liquid eyeliner can easily do the trick. Yet, for many women, applying liquid liner is an exercise in intimidation or at the very least, a smeary mess. Attempts to draw the perfect line can require the steady hand of a surgeon and even then a girl can end up with asymmetrical lines. With all these challenges, liquid eyeliner is right up there with red lipstick in the “I can’t wear it” cosmetic category. But applying liquid eyeliner is surprisingly easy when you have the right tips and tools of the trade.

1. Get Your Lids Ready

In order to minimize smears and avoid the liner transferring onto your upper lids, you need to prep your skin. Make sure your eyelids are clean from yesterday’s make-up and are moisturized. There are some wonderful makeup removers out there such as Garnier SkinActive Micellar Cleansing Water that gently cleanses lids.

2. Prime Your Lids

Next up use a concealer like the Neutrogena Healthy Skin 3-in-1 Concealer for eyes, or an eye makeup primer such as Elizabeth Mott’s Thank Me Later, to prime eyelids. This has two functions; firstly, it creates a smooth surface to draw on, secondly, the liner will adhere to the primer and have longer staying power.

3. Connect the Dots 

This is a classic technique used by many make-up artists during fashion week and on film and photography sets. And it’s easy to adapt at home! Place a dot in the middle of your upper lid the thickness you want the line to be. Then place a tiny dot at the inner corner where you want the line to begin. And lastly, a dot on the outer corner where you want the flick to end. Then you draw a line to connect all three dots.

Pro Tips:

  • If using a pen liner press the formula into the lashes so that you can avoid a gaping space between the liner line and your lashes.
  • As you’re connecting the dots as explained above, you should use your ring finger to gently pull eyelid skin so that the surface is as smooth as possible. Don’t over-do this or else you might end up with liner corners too high or low.
  • A flick that dips below the lash line will make eyes appear droopy so always angle up and above the lash line.
  • Experiment with thickness. While a very thick line of black can look amazing and edgy, it can also make your eyes look small. Start thin and build.
  • Keep that micellar water handy with cotton swabs to clean up any mess or even wipe it clean to start over if need be!
  • Finally, set the liner. Allow it to dry, and to avoid the wet formula transferring to lids, look down and gently pull your lids up at the eyebrow so that the skin can’t touch the lash area. Once dry use a translucent powder to set the liner. You’re done!

Our Top Picks for Liquid Liners:

Revlon ColorStay Exactify Liquid Liner

Designed for ease with a thick contoured handle and a unique “wheel tip”, this liner will give you a sharp, precise line every time. It comes in four colors all with a high-impact vinyl finish.

Christian Dior Diorshow On Stage Liquid Eyeliner 

A luxury liquid liner pen that gives you the precise line you want. It’s got a hybrid applicator that is part brush and part felt tip allowing greater flexibility for achieving different effects. And of course, it’s waterproof and available in 3 different finishes: vinyl, matte and satin.

NYX Professional Makeup Epic Ink Liner

Another liquid pen at the opposite end of the price spectrum, but this best-seller stands the test of time and will weather any storm – climate or emotional.

L’Oreal Paris Flash Cat Eye by Infallible Liquid Eyeliner 

The fun of this waterproof liquid liner is the tool it comes with – a detachable stencil to ensure you get Instagram perfect “wings” every time.

Yves Saint Laurent Couture Liquid Eyeliner

The brains behind YSL beauty have created a formula that not only glides onto lids with a perfect thin line every time, but it also has a “triple lash grown complex” to fortify and strengthen eyelashes. The tiny brush allows you to build out the liner, which dries to a pristine matte finish.

Lancome Grandiose Liner

If you want a high-tech eyeliner look no further than Lancome’s Grandiose, with its 35-degree bendable wand to allow you ultimate flexibility. The wand can get ultra-close to your lash line, and it also pivots, so you can easily move it across the lid. And did we mention the bottle is also gorgeous? It comes in eight shades and is smudge-proof.

Urban Decay Razor Sharp Liquid Eyeliner

They aren’t kidding with the name, the applicator brush tip is ultra-fine, giving you precision for a thin line, while a slight turn of the wrist gives you the ability to thicken, swerve or curve the formula to suit every mood and style.

L’Oreal Paris Matte Signature Precise Felt Tip Liquid Eyeliner

This is definitely the most affordable in this category but we loved it for its easy to use applicator. The tip is thin for precision, but the wand has a thick “controlled grip zone” for newbies that will steady even the most nervous hand. Press it lightly for a thin line or press a little harder for thicker lines. It’s also waterproof with a matte finish.


Kim Izzo