A reader has asked us to do a post about eyeliner. Liquid, pencil, powder, how to apply it, what products to use, etc.
Eyeliner can be subtle or dramatic depending on the look you want. It can be in any colour, it can be contemporary or classic. It can come in the form of a pencil, a pot, a pen or a powder.
Eyeliner is at the centre of some classic makeup looks:
|Marlene Dietrich (1930s)|
white eyeliner on the waterline
|Marilyn Monroe (1950s)|
liquid eyeliner used to create the classic cat eye
dramatic eyeliner to create an exaggerated eye
black eyeliner on the waterline in the classic smokey eye
|Iggy Pop (1970s)|
the messy, smudgy rock & roll eye
This post will look at the three main types of eyeliner - pencil, liquid and powder.
Pencil eyeliner is probably the most commonly used type of eyeliner in North America. It's certainly the most readily available.
Pencil eyeliner comes in a wooden pencil form and is a hardish-powder formula. Pencil eyeliner has wax in it which makes it soften when it comes in contact with the warmth of skin. Pencil eyeshadow comes in an array of colours, but traditionally, it comes in neutral shades like brown, black and white.
Pencil eyeliner is used widely as soft definition on both the top and bottom lashline, as well as in the waterline. Because of its texture it can be smudged with a brush, a finger or a Q-top quite easily. It's meant to look soft, compared to a liquid liner which has a more precise definition effect.
Black pencil eyeliner is commonly used along the waterline in a smoky eye look although powders and gel/liquid liners can also be used for this purpose. Colours other than black are also used, such as browns, greys, purples, blues, etc.
Pencil eyeliner tends to be easy to use. Some have harder consistencies than others and it's a good idea to warm them up by applying to the back of the hand before applying to your delicate eye area.
|Warm pencils by rubbing them on the back of the hand.|
I've also heard that blasting the eyeliner with a hairdryer can also soften it (and won't reduce its sharpness like rubbing on the hand will) but I wonder if this might also melt the product too much if you hold it under too long or soften the product irreparably.
Tips for using pencil eyeliner:
- a sharper pencil will give you more precision and enable you to get into the lashline. If needed, resharpen your pencil during application.
- using a small stiff brush, you can soften any pencil application for a softly-defined lashline.
- if a pencil breaks while you sharpen it, try putting it in the freezer so it hardens.
- gently pulling on the outside of your eye will keep your lid tight so you can get a more precise line.
- applying liner in short strokes will give you more control over how much is applied.
You can find pencil liners at every price point. Here are some of Beauty Squared's favourites:
- Urban Decay 24/7 - wide variety of colours and textures, from edgy to classic. We're big fans of their metallic colours. Good wear time.
- Make Up Forever AquaEyes - great colour selection and waterproof. These last and last, even on oily skin.
- MAC - always high quality and excellent for basic shades as well as trendier shades.
- L'Oreal - comparable to the Urban Decay pencils but less expensive.
Here are some swatches of a variety of eye liners. There's far more than simply black or brown to play with!
Inner Eye or Waterline:
You may have heard or read this term. The lining of the inner eye (the part of the eyelid inside the lashes) is a trick that can make the eyes look smaller or larger, depending on the colour used, and for a complete smoky eye look, it's necessary.
Here are some examples from past Beauty Squared EOTDs and FOTDs of waterlining.
While waterlining can be difficult for those with sensitive eyes or contact lens wearers, and can make small eyes look smaller, the effect is addictive for those who can wear it. Using black on the waterline makes the eyes stand out dramatically and gives the eyes a sexy, sultry effect. Using white or a fleshtone on the waterline makes the eyes look bigger, such as in the photo below.
The technique of using kohl powder to line the waterline has been around since the ancient Egyptians and is still used traditionally in the Middle East and India as well as western civilizations today. While black eyeliner pencils mimic this effect fairly well, you can find the more traditional powder kohl in beauty supply stores and with some beauty brands, such as this one from Guerlain. The powder is applied by this pointed applicator, rather than by brush.
Liquid eyeliner is found in pens, typically with an applicator built into the lid, or in pots with which you need to use a separate brush. Liquid eyeliner is one of the more challenging beauty tricks to manage and one that artists get asked about a lot. So many iconic beauty looks utilize liquid eyeliner.
Liquid eyeliner in pens are common since the brush is built into the packaging, such as those pictured below. Sometimes the liner looks like a felt-tip pen and sometimes it's like a mascara with the brush built into the cap. Typically, if looking at buying one like this, you'll want to have a look at the pen tip, if possible. You want the skinniest tip you can get.
Liquid eyeliner can also be found in pots, such as those pictured below. Typically, liner found in pot form are gel liners, which has a thicker consistency than liquid which is what is typically used in pen liners. You need to use a brush with liner that comes in pot form. Bobbi Brown's Long-Wear Gel Eyeliner and MAC Fluidlines are two of the best of this style of liner.
Brushes to use with potted eyeliner should be very very finely tipped such as the photo below. The tilt to the end of the brush is ergonomic and makes it easier to apply product precisely.
Another option is to use an angle brush, which is broad but very finely tipped. It allows for applying product more quickly and is handy for thickening and flicking the ends of the liner.
If you try both types of brushes, you'll likely find that you prefer one over the other but if you're starting out, you'll want to try the very fine tipped one first and work up to the angle brush when you're feeling more confident.
Check out these creative liquid eyeliner looks:
But the most common use of eyeliner is in a very classic cat-eye look such as often seen on Marilyn Monroe and Angelina Jolie. Liquid eyeliner in this style perfectly suits the shape of Angelina's eyes and gives her them an extra seductive quality. This is seen a lot on celebrities and models.
For a Marilyn Monroe makeup tutorial, click here.
The classic 60s eye also utilized eyeliner but to make the eyes look bigger and more doll-like. As pictured below, 60s icon Twiggy defines her eyes by applying black liner (with a non-angled fine-tipped brush) to her crease, along her top lashline and using it to paint on her lower lashes.
For a Twiggy/1960s makeup tutorial, click here.
The seductive, enigmatic movie star Marlene Dietrich would use a thin line of liquid eyeliner (as was the trend in the 30s) to enhance the hooded quality of her naturally hooded and slightly downturned eyes. She'd draw the liner along her lashline, but rather than pulling it up at the outside, she'd extend it slightly downwards to pull the eye down slightly. Note as well, that she also used a white product on her lower waterline to make her eyes look larger.
For a Marlene Dietrich makeup tutorial, click here.
You can find liquid eyeliner from most brands, although typically drugstore brands will carry it as limited edition depending on the trends. Drugstore brands will typically carry only black liquid liner but you may be able to find a variety of colours that will match MAC or Make Up For Ever's selections. Revlon's ColorStay Liquid Liner is a popular choice, as are Physician's Formula 2-in-1 Lash Boosting Eyeliner + Serum and Maybelline Line Stiletto Ultimate Precision Liquid Eyeliner.
I thought I'd include powder eyeliner in this post because it gives an additional option for lining the eye, that's not technically an "eyeliner". Powder eyeliner is simply using a loose or pressed powder eyeshadow to line your eye. It gives a much softer, smokier effect than both pencil eyeliners and liquid eyeliners. It also comes in pretty much any colour and texture you can think of.
To line your eyes with an eyeshadow, simply use a fine tipped brush, such as an angle brush, as discussed above and work the shadow into your lashline. Layer it as needed to intensify the effect. Using eyeshadow along your lash line can be a very natural way to enhance your eyes. Choosing a shade that's close to the colour of your lashes and applying it softly will make your eyes look bigger, and your lashes thicker without looking like you're wearing much of anything on your eyes.
Using a metallic colour will of course, add sparkle to your eye look and using a matter shade will look more natural. Eyeshadow will not last as long as a pencil eyeliner or a liquid eyeliner, so it's best to keep it just along the lashline and not extend it out into a flick as you would with a liquid liner. You can also use water to moisten an eyeshadow and use it like a liquid liner that way.
We hope you've enjoyed this Lesson on eyeliner. Let us know if there's anything else you'd like us to tackle!