From pencils and liquids to cakes and gels, eyelineroptions are practically endless. Celebrity makeup artist Andrew Sotomayor explains the pros and cons of each, so you’ll know which to choose and how to apply it for every situation.
Wood Eyeliner Pencils: Use Them If…
You want something that’s easy to maneuver, with a super-sharp point and ablendable line. Most women have used eye pencils since a relatively early age, which makes them easier to work with than other liner options. When freshly sharpened, wood pencils can get really close to the roots of your lashes and even right between them. The formulas are also creamy to smudge out or layer eyeshadow on top, which gives greater control over how dark the final look is.
Warning: If your goal is to get a jet-black line or to create a crisp winged cat eye, you may prefer to use a liquid or gel liner.
How to Use Wood Eyeliner Pencils
Wood pencils usually have a wax formula, which makes them blendable enough to create everything from soft definition to a full-on smoky eye, but it also makes them prone to creasing and running. To combat this, prep eyes with an eyeshadow primer. Then, for a thinner line, start with a freshly sharpened pencil, and draw with the side of the point instead of the tip. Doing so means you’ll be holding the pencil more sideways and away from your face, making it easier to see your progress in the mirror. Next, use a thin brush to retrace the pencil with an eyeshadow in a similar shade.
For a thicker liner, line your eyes a second time with slightly more pressure, then use a pencil or smudger brush (usually about the size of the eraser on the top of a pencil), to gently smudge the liner from side to side.
Mechanical (Twist-Up) Eyeliners: Use Them If…
You don’t want to carry around a sharpener and want all-day staying power.These pencils are fast to apply because they don’t require sharpening, and because they expose only a little bit of colour at the tip at a time, there’s less chance of applying too much. The plastic packaging also allows for waterproof formulas that might otherwise dry out if they were encased in wood. Mechanical pencils are best for creating blended looks, rather than sharp lines because their self-sharpening mechanisms create tips that are more blunt than pointed.
How to Use Mechanical (Twist-Up) Eyeliners
Twist the pencil to raise the tip. Twist the pencil up only a bit at a time, though, because some pencils do not twist back down. Then press the tip of the pencil into the roots of your lashes and dab or sketch, side to side. If the pencil has a built-in smudger, use it to repeat the side-to-side motion to create a smoother line. If the formula is waterproof, work quickly before it dries in place. Finish by layering an eyeshadow in a similar tone over the liner to create more intensity, or use a contrasting colour to create your own shade.
Gel Eyeliners: Use Them If…
You love mixing up your makeup routine to create everything from smoky eyes to precise, graphic lines. Gel liners create solid colour instantly without having to layer, and they can be super crisp when applied with a thin brush. They can also be smudged out farther than other types of liner. The truly talented can even use gel liner as a creamy eyeshadow.
How to Use Gel Eyeliners
Gel liners work with a variety of brushes. For a cat eye, drag a thin brush across the gel liner to pick up some product. Now press and drag it from the outer corner of your eye toward the middle, just above your pupil. Line again in the opposite direction, this time pulling from the inner corner of the eye toward the middle. Leave it like that for a crisp line, or use a smudger brush in aside-to-side motion to make it smokier and softly blended. Either way, repeat the motions with the same brush and a dark eyeshadow to help set the liner and keep it in place.
Cake Eyeliners: Use Them If…
You’re confident about applying makeup with a brush and want an intense black line. These work just like watercolour paint and are activated with a wet brush. They can take a few tries to figure out exactly how much water you need and how much playtime you have before they set.
How to Use Cake Eyeliners
Wet an eyeliner brush under the faucet and shake off the excess. To pick up less moisture, dampen a brush by sweeping it across a wet cotton pad. Sweep the brush across the surface of the liner to activate the pigments. Test it by brushing it on the back of your hand to see the makeup you’ve picked up. If it’s too watery, swirl the brush on the surface of the cake to pick up more colour. Too dry? Wet the brush again. Apply the cake liner as you would a gel liner with a brush, and give it a few seconds to dry to prevent creasing.
Ultra-Thin Mechanical (Twist-Up) Eyeliners: Use Them If…
You want a natural look on both your top and bottom lash lines. These liners are similar to regular mechanical pencils because they never need sharpening, but the slim applicators allow you to draw much thinner lines. They’re especially great for defining your lower lash line without getting too heavy.
How to Use Ultra-Thin Mechanical (Twist-Up) Pencils
Twist up a small amount of the pencil at a time to make sure the tip doesn’t break off. Tilt your chin down and gently press it into the roots of your lower lashes. Then raise your chin up and draw into your upper lashes. Doing it in this order helps prevent liner from smudging on your upper lids. If you choose to keep it subtle, it will look like you’ve suddenly got more lashes and like each of them is thicker.
Felt-Tip Liquid Liners: Use Them If…
You want a matte, liquid look without hassle. Much like the Crayola markers of your childhood, felt-tip liquid liners have a spongy applicator and a smooth, ink-like, formula. The product comes out more consistently than with most brush-tip liquid liners and allows you to create however thick a line you want in just a single pass. Be sure to cap the lid tightly, though, because just like the markers you used as a kid, these will dry out if you don’t take care of them.
How to Use Felt-Tip Liquid Liners
Use these liners to create the exact level of intensity you want. Pressing firmly creates a thick line, while pressing gently creates a thin one. If you want the line even thinner, dip a precision point cotton swab in eye cream or cleansing water and sweep it just below the line to create a cleaner edge.
Brush-Tip Liquid Eyeliners: Use Them If…
You want to create cool day-to-night eye looks. Because these products come with a brush that dips into them like a jar of honey, the formulas can vary widely and finishes like matte, glitter, and even patent leather shine are out there. The makeup in these products, however, is the most fluid form of liquid eyeliner, and it is usually wetter than mascara, meaning they require more drying time.
How to Use Brush-Tip Liquid Eyeliners
Because these liner brushes are usually not tapered, it can be difficult to create broader lines that thin down to a point. To do so, repeat “rows” of liner on top of each other to get the thickness you want.If you’re working with a sparkly liner, like the one seen here, you can even use a smudger brush to blend out the product for a glittered lid in one step.
Precision Brush-Tip Liquid Liners: Use Them If…
You want delicate, crisp lines and the world’s best cat eye. If a felt-tip liner is like a Crayola marker, then these are like a calligraphy pen. The ultra-fine nylon bristles need to be placed perfectly in order to get the super-fine tip, and they also require formulas that will flow smoothly through the pen without being runny. The perfect combination will create a winged eyeliner that tapers off so subtly, you almost can’t see where it disappears.
How to Use Precision Brush-Tip Liquid Liners
Before using, most of these products require you to tighten (or press) the cap until you hear a click, which activates the liner. Then, to get a perfectly angled, winged line, hold your head level as you look into the mirror. Imagine a line from the outer corner of your eye toward the end of your eyebrow, and trace the lower part of that line with the eyeliner. Next, tilt your head back slightly when you look into the mirror to help you see your lid. Complete the look by lining from the inner corner of the eyes, pulling outward and toward the wing.
Kohl and Kajal Liners: Use Them If…
You want a thick line that’s easy to smoke way out. Kohl and Kajal eyeliners are some of the oldest known cosmetics in history. They can be traced back thousands of years to places like Egypt, Pakistan, India, and West Africa.Some heritage kohls and kajals were made using dry soot, while others were mixed with oils or resins, like frankincense. Nowadays, the formulas have changed but the idea and name remains.
How to use Kohl and Kajal Liners
Kohl is traditionally used by dipping a stick applicator into a powder that is then dabbed along the waterline of the eyes. But other formulas these days come in waxy applicators that look like chubby crayons. Because of their broad size, they don’t easily create precision lines, but they do work well for a smudged-out effect. Simply press and drag where you want them, and set with eyeshadow for longer wear.