Do you remember the first time you attempted eyeliner? Was it in middle school, when you traced your mom’s blue pencil in a shaky line several inches above your actual lash line? (Hear, hear) Was it last week, when you took a deep breath, heeded your favorite beauty website’s advice (hi), and finally took the plunge? Whenever your first foray into eyeliner was, there’s one thing for certain: It’s a fickle beast that can throw even the most skilled, stable-handed individuals for a loop—but it will improve your life. There, we said it. Knowing full well we sound like crazy, hyperbolic beauty editors, we firmly believe that knowing how to define your eyes with a pencil, gel, or liquid pen is an important—nay, crucial—life skill. Can we get an amen?
There’s just one small caveat. Eyeliner takes patience and time to truly master—two things we’re not exactly possessing in excess. Which is why we thought it was perfect timing for us to share some of our favorite eyeliner tips, lazy-girl style. Shaky hand? There’s a ridiculously easy fix. Uneven wings? We’ve got you. From now on, consider eyeliner the makeup weapon you can always depend on—even when, especially when you’re too lazy to even roll out of bed. Keep scrolling for all our best advice.
If your hands get shaky any time you attempt to trace a line, try this makeup artist secret: clench your toes. Yes, really. Makeup artist Erik Soto told us it’s an industry secret among artists with shaky hands. We tried it and can attest to its effectiveness. The more you know.
Instead of spending precious time tracing the perfect, even line, go ahead and get lazy with it. As in, don’t be afraid of smudges or smears along the way, because everything can be easily cleaned up with a cotton swab and swipe of concealer. To fix a bump or smudge, dip a Q-tip in makeup remover and rub it over the offending area; then dip an angled brush in concealer and trace over your liner to perfect the line. Here’s a visual.
To define your eyes with little to no effort at all, we recommend skipping the painstaking patience required of eyeliner on your top lid and going straight for your waterline. Curl your lashes, and then lift your eyelid up with one finger. Take a blendable, budge-proof pencil eyeliner and trace along your waterline. The key here is to try to get the line right into the base of your lashes, which will define your eyes in the subtlest way. Then, to avoid any harsh lines (especially if you have lighter lashes), take a soft angled brow or eyeliner brush and blend the line you traced in. Swipe on some mascara, and you’re good to go.
Another pro tip: To make any pencil eyeliner glide on as smoothly as gel, simply hold the tip over a lighter for just a few seconds. Even drugstore liners will go on as smooth as a dream. Trust.
Smoky eyes are great in theory, but, like, who’s got the time? On nights (and days) we’re feeling extra sultry but don’t want to make an effort, we reach for a soft kohl liner; apply it in a thick, fat line along our lash line; and then smudge it out with our fingers or an eye shadow brush. If you want a more precise technique (we realize this look may not work for everyone), draw a sideways "#" sign on the outer third of your lid, then blend it out. Make sure to blend immediately afterward, or else the liner will set and you’ll be walking around with a pound sign on your eye. #Nothanks.
The easiest way to master a cat eye? Start with the flick first. Hold your eyeliner in the outer corner of your eye, then gently trace a small line at a 45-degree angle. Next, trace your liner along your lid and just connect to the wing. We have a visual guide for you.
Black eyeliner gets all of the attention, but we'd like to make a strong case for its lesser-known sister: nude. A swipe of nude eyeliner along your bottom waterline is not only the easiest technique ever, but it will open up your eyes in an instant. Plus, nude eyeliner can be used to trace above your black liner and along the wing for a super-sleek, smooth finish. While you’re at it, trace some below your brow bone and blend away to lift your arches. You’re welcome.
"I have downturned eyes," says Victoria Hoff, Byrdie's wellness editor, "so winged liner can exaggerate my resting bitch face if I don't apply it in the right way. Instead of following the natural curve of my eye, I flick up right before I hit the outer corner, so it looks visually lifted. Also, I either do a very subtle flick or a very exaggerated line that extends up to my brow bone. There really can't be any in between, because otherwise the line look weirdly disjointed when my eyes are open."
"I use a skinny-tipped Q-tip to clean up my wing," notes Faith Xue, Byrdie's editorial director. "Also, on lazy days when I don't want to be precise with my liquid eyeliner, I'll use a gel liner and line my waterline instead, then pile on the mascara."