Beauty School: Everything You Need To Know About Eyeliner

Eyeliner confuses me. Where do I put it — the top lid, the bottom, or both? Lash line or water line? Should I use a pencil, powder, or liquid? I’d like to experiment with some different liner looks (maybe even a cat eye??), but as you can see, I’m pretty hopeless. Help!

Eyeliner can be dramatic or subtle, sexy or innocent. Different textures can be applied in different ways to accessorize the eyes — from liquid and gel to pencil, in colored, glitter, or metallic finishes. Pencil is the easiest eyeliner to master and the most forgiving, producing a blunt line that can be smudged. Liquid liner creates a precise line for a super-glam look, but calls for a steady hand. Gel liner, which comes in many colors, gives a similar effect but is easier to apply.

Experiment with colors other than brown and black; eyeliner can complement or contrast with your eyeshadow. Gray can be very effective, while green, purple, and blue can freshen a look. Nude eyeliner pencil around the inner rim of the eyes makes eyes appear rounder, dark color on the inner rim elongates the eye, making them seem narrower. This gives a sultry look, but it will make eyes appear smaller. Don’t use any eyeliner other than pencil on the inner rim of your eyes. If you have close-set eyes, keeping eyeliner to the outer corners from the midpoint will be more flattering than if you draw the line all the way to the nose.

Here are some full-proof tips for you:

  • Chose a soft, creamy pencil that will glide on without dragging the skin.
  • Sharpen the pencil, but not to a dagger point.
  • The most common mistake is to draw eyeliner too high, leaving a noticeable strip of skin between the lashes and the liner. To avoid this, work the pencil tip right in at the root of the lash. Start just in from the outer corner, and draw along the lash line toward the midpoint. Use short, feathery strokes or draw a series of dots and smudge them together. As you gain confidence, draw a solid line for precise definition.
  • As you pass the midpoint of the eye and are approaching the inner corner, turn the pencil so that you are drawing underneath on the inner rim, so that the line tapers off at the right point.
  • For the lower lash line, draw right on the edge of the rim — not on it, since that makes eyes look smaller.
  • The golden rule for good makeup is to never have a hard line. Use a smudger or your little finger to soften the line.

Once you’ve mastered this, experiment with bolder looks, gel and liquid liners, and the cat eye!

Jemma Kidd is a world-renowned makeup artist who has painted the faces of Naomi Campbell and Jerry Hall, and now she’s here to solve all of your beauty dilemmas. Not only does she have two makeup lines of her own — Jemma Kidd Make Up School and JK Jemma Kidd — she’s also worked with Max Factor, Rimmel, and Stila. Yes, she’s a total beauty guru. Have a question for Jemma? Email it to!

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