Nowadays, eyeliners are sold in just about every color (and finish) under the sun. Still, not every option is able to offer precise application, rich pigmentation, and/or long-lasting staying-power—and it's also understandable if you love a statement liner look but can't decide whether to commit to owning certain colors. Thankfully, it’s possible to transform your favorite eyeshadow into head-turning eyeliner looks—you just have to choose your desired end look in order to determine which application method is best for you. Whether you’re hoping to create tight, stark lines or a more blurred lid look, makeup artists who have mastered the techniques are sharing all their tips. Keep reading to learn all about how to do eyeliner with eyeshadow, from DIY creation to precise application.
If your goal is to mimic the appearance of ultra-precise gel or liquid liner, MAC Cosmetics senior national artist Keri Blair says that it’s all about your tool of choice. “For a tight, well-defined line, I recommend a small, tight angled brush for precision and control in placement and application,” she says.
Step 1: Choose your color and finish. For best results, Blair recommends choosing a matte or intensely pigmented eyeshadow.
Step 2: Press the shadow into the lash line. “Use the longer side of the hairs of the brush to lead your line—almost akin to using a knife to cut through bread,” she instructs. “Use a stamping motion to get the most intensity—the great thing is that eye shadow sets like any powder would on the skin, so it really has some long-wearing staying power.”
Step 3: Flick it out for more impact. Celebrity makeup artist Nydia Figueroa recommends the same technique for tight shadow-based lines, however, she suggests flicking it out into a wing, too. “Then you can take an eye cream or makeup remover with a Q-tip to create a sharp wing with your eyeshadow,” she adds.
Blurred or Smoky Liner
Hoping for a more lived-in eyeliner look? Eyeshadow works wonders to bring blurred, smoky liner looks to life. “If you want something a bit more smudged or smoky, you can use a dense brush that has a larger surface area,” Blair says, noting to follow the same steps as you would for a tight-lined shadow liner look.
“A flat paddle brush with a rounded tip can also be used—the soft rounded edge gives a smoldering, smudgy look that can rev up your eyes in seconds flat,’ she adds.
Step 1: Choose your shadow. When aiming for a more blurred look, it’s important to use eyeshadows that are creamy and blendable in nature, like just about any of Urban Decay’s offerings.
Step 2: Load your brush and apply. Once you’ve selected your eyeshadow, Blair says to coat the tip of your brush with it and gently run it along your lash line. By gently dragging instead of dabbing, she says you’ll be able to create a smokier look. “This [technique] is especially effective along the lower lash line for a super sexy smoldering look,” she adds.
Pro Tip: If you are using an eyeshadow that has a shimmer, frost, metallic, or matte finish, Blair says that they have more fallout. “[To avoid that], press the shadow into place first and then use a clean version of the brush (you can wipe your brush along a clean towel or tissue to dry clean it) to smudge and blend. In other words, apply with one brush and blend with another.
Not a fan of the fallout or blurred appearance of dry eyeshadow as an eyeliner? Blair says that mixing your shadow of choice with a hydrating spray or mixing medium can help create a very intense liner alternative.
Hoping for the longest-lasting application? Blair says to opt for a specific mixing medium. “MAC Eyeliner Mixing Medium is a very long-wearing clear gel that has been created for exactly this purpose—allowing for artists or makeup enthusiasts to be able to create custom shades of eyeliner,” she says. “Just remember that the more moisture or mixing medium that you use, the more diluted the result will be—this may take a bit of practice, but the results will yield so many fun and colorful options.”
Step 1: Choose your brush. When working with dampened eyeshadow, you’ll get the best result with a fine-angled brush, Figueroa says.
Step 2: Dampen your brush. Once you’ve selected your brush, simply spritz it with your hydrating spray or dip it into water if you prefer to take that route.
Step 3: Pick up eyeshadow. After wetting your brush, Blair says to gently dip it into your shadow. “Be mindful that some shadows will harden in their pot if they become wet—so another great option is to use a disposable mascara wand, spatula, or brush to scrape some of the eyeshadow onto a palette or tissue,” she says. “Then dampen the brush and dip into the (now) loose eyeshadow and apply it to your lash line.”
Step 4: Trace your lash lines. When eyeshadow is damp, it’s less likely to lead to fallout, so Blair and Figueroa agree that swiping it across your lash line is a quick and easy way to apply it.
“Depending on the formula of the shadow, you can create many different graphic shapes and intensities,” Blair adds, noting that wet shadow offers a lot of room to get creative with your eyeliner looks.
You don’t have to buy a rainbow of eyeliners to experiment with colorful lined lid looks. Instead, you can get creative with how you apply your eyeshadow—whether you opt to diffuse it out while dry or etch it on while damp. “Remember to have fun with this and experiment to see what kind of looks, shapes, intensities, and custom colors you can create,” Blair says. “There is no right or wrong—looking at your makeup arsenal as colors and textures as opposed to eyeshadow, lipstick, and blush can really open a world of endless makeup looks.” Another important thing to remember? Touch-ups are totally normal—even professional makeup artists have to perform them. With that in mind, Blair says to always keep a few cotton buds on hand for easy clean-up.
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