How to Apply Eyeliner for Your Specific Eye Shape

woman wearing cat eye eyeliner


You tailor your haircut to your face shape and your jeans style to your figure, but has your eye shape been influencing your eyeliner choices? If it hasn't, you're in for an eye-opener. With the right technique, you can make hooded eyes look bigger, downturned eyes look more awake, and so much more. Perfecting your eyeliner is like a rite of passage in the makeup world—it takes patience and practice.

We've all been beginners at the eyeliner game before, so don't be discouraged if your hand is still a little shaky. It's all about getting your wrist to cooperate and complement your eye shape with the right eyeliner—and of course, we have opinions about the best liners on the market. It's all about embracing those eyes of yours and using your liner to enhance their shape. To help us out, we called on Celia Burton who offered up her tips for lining any eye, whatever the shape.

Meet the Expert

Celia Burton is a London-based makeup artist.

Keep scrolling to find out our favorite eyeliner for different eye shapes.


almond-shaped eyes illustration

Original Illustration by Stephanie DeAngelis / Byrdie

Good news for eyeliner for almond-shaped eyes: You can try pretty much any eyeliner look and it will flatter your eyes. Its versatile shape means you can get away with all sorts of different makeup looks," says Burton. "I think my favorite for almond eyes, though, would be a classic cat-eye. Use Eyeko's Black Magic Liquid Liner Pen ($22) to apply a thin line on the inner corner, and make it thicker as your work your way out. Extend it outwards, and lift to create a flick."

Eyeko Black Magic Liquid Eyeliner
Eyeko Black Magic Liquid Liner Pen $22.00


Eyeliner for Hooded Eyes

When doing eyeliner for hooded eyes, be sure to get the liner right into the base of your lash line. Since your eyelid is hooded, you can make the liner as thick as you want—thin lines are difficult to see when your eyes are open. If you're going for a cat-eye, a thick, elongated wing will give your eyes the most shape and definition. Or you can make your eyes look rounder by making the liner thicker in the center of your eye, and thinner at the corners. This creates the illusion of an eye that's more curved. Just skip bottom eyeliner, which can close off your eyes, making them look smaller. 

Makeup Forever Aqua Resist Graphic Pen
Makeup Forever Aqua Resist Graphic Pen 24HR Waterproof Intense Eyeliner $24.00


illustrated face with monolid eyes

Original Illustration by Stephanie DeAngelis / Byrdie

"With a monolid, you should extend the liner right out, almost as far as the eyebrow. Be sure to exaggerate the wing too—give it a good flick! This will give your eyes the most shape and definition," suggests Burton. "Since you can't see much of the eyelid, you can make this as thick as you like or even apply it in a color other than black."

L'Oreal Le Liner Signature in Violet
L’Oréal Paris Easy-Glide Mechanical Eyeliner, Waterproof $12.00


face with large eyes illustration

Original Illustration by Stephanie DeAngelis / Byrdie

"If you have large round eyes, eyeliner can be used to gently manipulate the shape and intensify the eye. Line the upper lid, keeping the thickness the same throughout. Don’t extend too far; cut the liner off at the end of your lash line," warns Burton. "Using a soft pencil [ed. note: Try Nyx Tres Jolie Gel Pencil Liner, $2], line the upper and lower waterline to intensify the eye, close in on some of the space, and brighten the color of your eye at the same time."

Nyx Tres Jolie
Nyx Tres Jolie $2.00


Karlie Kloss small eyes with eyeliner and shimmery liner

Taylor Hill / WireImage / Getty Images

For those with small eyes who want that doe-eyed look, start by applying a thin line right above your lash line, winging it at the outer corners. To your lower lid, avoid heavily lining your waterline as this will truncate your eye, making it appear smaller. Instead, line just the outer third of your lash line using a beige or shimmery, metallic eyeliner to brighten your eyes. Finish off with an eyelash curler and mascara to open up your eyes.

Sephora Collection metallic gold gel eyeliner pencil
Sephora Collection Ultimate Gel Waterproof Eyeliner Pencil $13.00


Illustrated face with downturned eyes

Original Illustration by Stephanie DeAngelis / Byrdie

With eyeliner for downturned eyes, it's all about keeping them lifted. "A downturned eye needs to be drawn up and out instead of out and down," says Burton. "You'll need to exaggerate the flick, giving it a dramatic angle at the end. Try dragging the liner across the eye, outward and upward; then look straight ahead into a mirror. Uses a moist cotton bud, and wipe upward underneath the outer corner of the line to clean the edge and create the angle. This way you work out the right shape for you with your eyes open, thus saving time and having to reapply it a few times to get it right."

Stila liquid eyeliner
Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eye Liner - Micro Tip $23.00


Deep-set eyes illustration

Original Illustration by Stephanie DeAngelis / Byrdie

"With a deep-set eye, you don't want to apply anything too dark or heavy on the center of the lid and lash line," advises Burton. "The best type of eyeliner for this shape is one that starts on the outer section. Start applying the liquid liner at the highest point of your eye's curve, and drag outwards. Stop the liner just after your lashes do. If you make the liner too long, it will weigh the eye down when what we want is to open and lift it."

Tarte Double Take eyeliner
Tarte Double Take Liquid & Gel Vegan Eyeliner $25.00


Eyeliner for Round Eyes

When it comes to eyeliner for round eyes, your application should be about elongating the eyes into a more exotic shape. Line the upper lash line and play up the outer corners with either a long, extended wing or by smudging dark liner into both the upper and lower lash lines. 

R.E.M. Beauty eyeliner pencil
R.E.M. Beauty At The Borderline Kohl Eyeliner Pencil $17.00


Padma Lakshmi straight hair and shimmery eyeshadow

Michael Loccisano / Getty Images

News flash: All eyes are asymmetrical, however, for some of us, it's more pronounced than for others. If you're interested in trying to make your eyes more similar in shape and size, eyeliner is a great tool. For instance, simply apply a thicker amount of liner to the outer portion of your smaller eye to create the illusion of width.

Lancome Drama Liquid Pencil
Lancôme Drama Liqui-Pencil Longwear Eyeliner $22.00


Illustrated face with close-set eyes

Original Illustration by Stephanie DeAngelis / Byrdie

"With a close-set eye, you need to keep the inner half of your eyelid clean to create more space between the eyes. Apply a thin line, starting from the middle and moving outwards, keeping it very close to the lashes," advises Burton. "Give it a little flick, but nothing too dramatic. Make this more interesting with loads of mascara on the outer lashes; try Eyeko's Black Magic Mascara ($24) to add length and drama."

E.l.f. liquid eyeliner
E.l.f. Cosmetics Intense Ink Eyeliner $5.00


Illustrated face with wide-set eyes

Original Illustration by Stephanie DeAngelis / Byrdie

"A wide-set eye requires a similar approach to that of a large eye shape. You can close in on some of the space by using a dark color along the lash line and in the waterline," suggests Burton. "Start right at the tear duct, and pull the eyeliner across and out, lifting it with a good flick at the edge. Do the same underneath the eye; line it close to the lash line, and smudge it with a cotton bud before it dries. Not many eyes can get away with what you can, so apply enthusiastically and enjoy it!"

Covergirl Perfect Blend eyeliner
CoverGirl Perfect Blend $3.00

All Eye Shapes

Eyeliner for All Eye Shapes

The options are endless for eyeliner for all eye shapes. If your basic skills with an eye pencil or eyeliner brush could use a little improvement (aka your ability to get the line straight is lacking), try the connect-the-dots method or smudging the liner out for a smokey shadow look. Just dot the liner as close to your lash line as possible, and then blend the dots together to create one smooth stroke. You'll get a straight line with this technique, regardless of your eye shape.

Maybelline Master Precise Skinny eyeliner
Maybelline Eyestudio Master Precise Skinny $8.00
  • How do you apply winged eyeliner for deep-set eyes?

    If you have deep-set eyes, your eyes sit back into your brow bone when you look at your profile from the side. Winged eyeliner looks great on deep-set eyes —as long as you follow a few rules. Use a liquid eyeliner to apply a thin line just above your lash line. As you come to the corner, make it a bit thicker and add a thin winged line going up. In general, keep the eyeliner thin, as thick eyeliner will make your eyes look more deep-set. To further open up your eyes, don’t put eyeliner on your bottom lid. 

  • Should you put eyeliner on your bottom lid?

    Yes, but sparingly. Use a light hand to apply liner to the outer portion of your eyelid. Don’t apply thick liner all the way across as it can make your eyes appear heavy and smaller. Use a beige eyeliner on your waterline to further brighten and open up your eyes. An eye pencil is easier to use than a gel or liquid liner, as the line doesn’t need to be perfect.

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