How to Apply Liquid Eyeliner: 3 Techniques From MUAs

person with eyeliner and jewels

Applying certain makeup products can get quite stressful, especially if you're in a rush (which applies to me eight times out of 10 because, life). Take liquid eyeliner, for example—a notorious right of passage most beauty lovers go through when practicing the art of makeup application. You could be one of the lucky ducks who picked up the skill rather quickly, but learning how to apply liquid eyeliner is far from easy. My naturally shaky hands have failed my liner many times. After successfully blending eye shadow and concealing my brows, I've had to start the entire process all over again due to the crooked liner. Le sigh. But there's hope. We decided to take the pros up on a lesson on how to apply liquid liner. Ahead, find secrets from celeb makeup artists Patrick Ta, Mylah Morales, Troy Jensen, and Stoj for a play-by-play on achieving the most precise liner and that cool-girl flick. Watch makeup artist Carissa Ferreri's liquid eyeliner tutorial, plus pro application tips from our experts.

Types of Liquid Eyeliner

Let's talk about the different types of liquid liners. Liquid liners tend to come in two tip types: felt tip and brush tip. Felt tip liners glide on smoothly and usually have a darker/stronger color deposit on the skin. Felt tip liquid liners are great for beginners because they go on naturally and kind of feel like using a pen on your eyes. If you can sign your name, you can use a felt tip liner.

On the other hand, brush tip liners are more precise and let you draw on a thinner line, giving you multiple options for application. They're a bit tricky to use for beginners, as the brush requires a very steady hand to get a straight line.

How to Apply Liquid Eyeliner

Technique 1: Apply From Outer Corner Inwards 

According to Stoj, "Most people will start from the inner corner and work outward, and when they open their eyes, it's not the correct shape for their eye." Instead, use these steps to get a great shape:

  • Look straight on into a mirror.
  • Mark a dot where you want the endpoint of your cat eye to be.
  • Apply the liquid eyeliner from the outer corner of the eye up to the point you would like the cat eye to stop.
  • Then, start from the inner corner of the eye and work your way to that end dot or point, using small strokes or one long application.
  • Finally, make sure to look down for a few moments, so your liner has time to dry.

Technique 2: Create a Cheat Line

Jensen's technique is to use a cheat line. "A foolproof technique is to create a cheat line using a narrow, thin brush, a medium brown eye shadow, and water," he says.

  • Dip the brush in the water and run it across your matte medium brown eye shadow.
  • Drag the brush along the upper lash line, slightly winging out.
  • Then, go over it with a liquid liner pen, gel liner, or liquid liner.
  • Finish by curling and coating your lashes with black mascara and a faux lash for "extra flair." 

Technique 3: Use an Angled Brush 

Both Ta and Morales love using an angled brush. "The best way to apply a liquid liner for beginners is to use an angled brush—I love ones from Make Up For Ever—and to use a cream formula instead," says Morales. Cream formulas have a texture that's a little easier to control than liquid.

  • "Take an angled brush and a brown eye shadow and map out your shape," explains Ta. "That way, if I make a mistake, it's easy to fix."
  • Next, take your preferred liner and the same angled brush and draw over the brown shadow.
  • Take a small Q-tip with some makeup remover to clean up your edges, followed by a bit of concealer.

More Liquid Liner Tips

Stoj suggests giving your liner a quick clean before applying it to rid it of any excess. "Liquid liner is great because it normally comes with a fantastic pointed applicator," says Stoj. "The tricky bit is not to smudge the liner. I suggest wiping the applicator with a tissue, then applying the liner. This will get rid of excess product, and it will let the product dry quicker." 

Looking for longevity when it comes to liner? Jensen explains you might want to switch up formulas. "For a wing tip to last all day and through the night, use a cake or gel liner with a small, flat angled brush," explains Jensen. "I'll use this on my clients who have sensitive eyes and tend to tear, as normal liquid liners will tend to run. It's also perfect for brides." 

As previously mentioned, Morales relies on the good ol' Q-tip trick: "Use a pointed Q-tip to clean lines if you can't get that perfect line, or you can use a concealer to clean up lines," she says. 

Shop These Expert-Approved Liquid Liners

Grandiose Liner - Matte Noir
Lancôme Grandiose Liner $32

"Lancôme Grandiôse Bendable Liquid Eyeliner ($32) is so easy to use," says Stoj. "The wand bends at a 35-degree angle for easy application. I love the ultra-thin felt tip because I can get super close to the lash line. There's no smudging, as it dries quickly." 

Skinny Liquid Eyeliner
Eyeko Skinny Liquid Eyeliner $18

Loved by Jensen, this skinny miracle worker is a cult favorite because its precise tip delivers a seamless, long-lasting line in one stroke.

Diorshow On Stage Liner
Dior Diorshow On Stage Liner $31

Another favorite of Jensen, this flexible felt tip essentially does the work for you. And if you like having fun with color, this collection has every color of the rainbow.

AMC Eyeliner Gel
Inglot AMC Eyeliner Gel $17

Ta tells us that his favorite liner is Inglot's AMC liner gel ($17). "It lasts all night without cracking or color transferring, and the black is so opaque it can be seen in any photo." 

Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner - Snow
Stila Cosmetics Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner $22

Morales credits this classic as her favorite, and I'm confidently co-signing. I credit this liner with being the first liner my 20-year-old self purchased, and I've come a long way since, thanks to its super-skinny tip. 

There you have it: your ultimate liquid liner guidebook you can consult when you need a little refresher. Rest assured that you're not alone in the liner struggle—we've all been there, and remember that the saying "practice makes perfect" applies here.

Related Stories