How to Apply Liquid Eyeliner for Every Eye Shape

A beginner’s guide to mastering the classic winged liner look

If you struggle to achieve a flawless liquid liner look, you’re not alone—no matter how experienced you are with a makeup brush, nailing winged eyeliner is a challenge. Whether you’re looking for application tips or need help finding the right product for you, we’re here to help. We asked Mary Dang, makeup artist and owner of Eye Love Beauty Bar in Toronto and Sarah Lucero, executive director of global creative artistry for Stila Cosmetics, for their need-to-know liquid eyeliner tips, from how to pick a liner to how to apply it to every eye shape.

What is the best liquid liner formula?

There’s a seemingly endless array of liquid liners options available on the market, but the two most popular formulas are liquid pens and gel pots. Picking the right one for you all boils down to personal preference. “Liquid liner pens have a watery texture and are great for creating a precise line,” Dang says. “They do require a steady hand, and aren’t as forgiving when you make a mistake.” With gel liners you have a lot more control and can build up your liner easily using different sized brushes to get your desired look. Dang’s favourite brush to use with gel liners is either an angled brush or a small stiff-pointed brush.

How do I apply liquid liner?

Don’t focus on perfection

While the goal is a completely symmetrical look, it takes a lot of skills to achieve. The key is to keep practicing, so embrace the process! “Most people have two slightly different eye shapes, so to create symmetrical eyeliner you must assess and tackle each eye differently,” says Lucero. If one of your eyes is smaller, for example, you should apply the liner on the smaller eye a touch thicker than the bigger eye, and vice versa, she says.

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Work slowly and in sections

While getting a winged eyeliner look in one swipe is the dream, not many (if any!) people can just swipe and go. To get a steady and even look, Lucero recommends applying liner to small sections of your lash line and building the line slowly using short strokes.

Try a pencil guideline

Both Lucero and Dang swear by this foolproof technique: “Start with an eyeliner pencil to lay down a guide by etching in small strokes along your top lash, then use a Q-tip or stiff angle brush to blend the etched pencil liner to create a soft diffused edge,” says Dang. Next, trace your liquid liner over top of your pencil liner. This will ensure that your liquid liner will look precise and the diffused pencil will hide any liquid liner imperfections. “Eventually you won’t need to lay down a pencil guide as you become more steady in your technique,” she says.

Apply mascara before liner

While it might seem backwards to do mascara first, Lucero says it will actually make applying liner a bit easier. When your lashes are stiff from mascara, they act as a barrier that guides application. “This will help guide you in lining your eyes and help you to understand your eye shape to create the most flattering line.”

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Take a step back

When putting on eyeliner, you’ll naturally want to get as close as the mirror as possible, which means you can easily become hyper-focused on the application. When you finally move away from the mirror, things to look a bit wonky. “Always take a step back and look at both eyes instead of just one eye up close, so you can balance out the liner if needed,” says Lucero.

How do I apply liquid eyeliner on different eye shapes?

Knowing your eye shape plays a huge role in mastering liquid liner. Dang share her tips on how to apply liquid eyeliner on different eye shape for the best possible results.

For hooded eyes

With hooded eyes, the lid is often not visible which can mean your eyeliner won’t be seen. “Create the cat eye flick where your lid’s hood starts,” Dang says. “Work your way inward, applying liner in thin strokes and widening as desired.”

For close-set eyes

Dang recommends not lining the inner corners of your eyes and applying liner from the middle of your eye outwards.

For downturned eyes

“Apply your eyeliner from the inner corner to the outer corner in a thin line,” says Dang. “Extend the wing up towards the crease of your eye, using the outer corner of your eyebrow as a guide, and don’t extend further.”

For “mono” eyelids

Mono eyelids don’t have a visible crease, which leaves lots of space to create a gorgeous cat eye. “Make sure the liner is crisp and straight,” says Dang. “For the thinnest line possible, place the tip of the eyeliner on the lash line at the pupil and draw to the outer corner, then start from the inner corner and draw it to meet the middle point.” For a more dramatic look, continue to layer the liner to your desired thickness.

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What tools do I need to create the perfect liquid eyeliner look?

Nailing the perfect liquid liner look on the first try is rare. There’s no shame in having a few extra tools on hand to help you get a professional-looking cat eye. Dang and Lucero agree that having cotton buds, makeup remover and a travel-sized mirror on hand is essential to clean up any mistakes. Lucero swears by the Beautyblender Liner.Designer ($22) mirror and guide set to make application a breeze. “It helps guide the application process and it’s great for not-so steady hands or for days if you’ve had that extra espresso!”

Shop a few of our favourite liquid and gel liners below.

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