How to Use Lip Liner Like a Professional Makeup Artist

A woman with glossy, peach-y colored lips

Dee Mills / Byrdie

Every so often we find ourselves reaching for makeup products that are staples in our routine, yet we may need a refresher course on the best way to use them. The perfect example of this? Lip liner.

Surely you've seen several lip liner trends over the years (let's be honest, they've had their ups and downs), yet you might find yourself stumped on the best ways to use lip liner now. Whether you desire more fullness, definition, or structure to your lips, lip liner is really the way to go when you want control over creating your ideal lip shape.

Ahead, we've compiled some key tips on the right way to use lip liner, along with some fun tricks to make the application process more enjoyable.

How to Use Lip Liner Like a Professional Makeup Artist

Byrdie | Design by Zackary Angeline

How to Prep

First things first: Don't neglect your lips. It's common to have chapped lips from time to time and to experience dry, flaky skin. Yet focusing on keeping your lips smooth and hydrated will go a long way. There are some simple ways to ensure your lips look and feel hydrated. Start by exfoliating to rid yourself of any excess dead skin, and follow up with a hydrating lip balm (we love Sun Bum's Lip Balm SPF 30, $10). If you're in need of a gentle lip exfoliant that still gets the job done, check out Fresh Beauty's Sugar Lip Polish Exfoliator ($18).

Prepping your lips at night is also an incredibly easy way to ensure your lips are on point 24/7. Slather on a lip mask before bed so you wake in the morning to a super-soft pout. (Check out some of our favorites here.) And a great thing about lip masks is that you can wear them at any time of day to give yourself a nice hydrating treatment. If you apply too much, just blot away the excess with a tissue or your finger.

Lastly, you'll need lip liner, lipstick, and possibly a lip brush, lip gloss, and concealer on hand.

How to Apply Lip Liner

01 of 06

Assess Your Lip Shape

Woman traces her cupid's bow with lip liner

Dee Mills / Byrdie

Everyone has their own unique lip shape, so the best thing you can do is to assess your own and really understand the shape before applying lip liner. Look in the mirror and ask yourself a few questions. "What do I love about my lips?" and "What would I like to change about them?" are two great places to start. You might have a fuller bottom lip and want to enhance the top lip shape, or you might want to create more fullness all around. Identifying what you already like, and what you'd like to tweak, is key when understanding how to get the most out of your liner.

02 of 06

Trace Your Shape

Woman fills in her bottom lip with lip liner

Dee Mills / Byrdie

Once you've figured out what lip liner formula fits you best, it's time to subtly trace the areas around the lips that you want to focus on. For instance, if a fuller top lip is what you want, lightly trace around the top lip, exaggerating the lips ever so slightly to create a fullness that looks realistic.

A great general rule of thumb is that nude lip liner goes with any lipstick color you're going to wear and can be a great base to kick off enhancing your lip shape. If a nude liner isn't your thing, you can go for a liner that matches your chosen lipstick shade to ensure there are no obvious lines.

03 of 06

Create a Small Shadow

Close up of a woman with partially lined lips

Dee Mills / Byrdie

To complete filling your lips out with liner, create a small shadow in the center of the bottom lip with your pencil. This creates the illusion of a much fuller bottom lip. It is a trick I often use to enhance the shape of lips for photoshoots. Exaggerate the color here ever so slightly to mimic the effect of a shadow, which helps lips look much fuller.

Want to know another great trick? Celebrity makeup artist Tim Quinn loves to use a barely-there toned lip pencil to outline the lip slightly, and then fill in the inner corners of the lips with a deeper colored pencil. "This is great to do before lipstick application, as it adds contour and shape to lips and is a creative way to use your lipliners," says Quinn. Something else he loves to do is to use nude lip liner along the lash line on top of a dark liner to soften it up a bit. Genius.

04 of 06

Apply Lipstick

Close up of a woman applying lipstick

Dee Mills / Byrdie

It's important that your lip shape is balanced, so take note of where you need to tweak the shape and balance everything out once you've identified how you want your lips to look.

Now it's time to apply your lipstick. Though we went with the lipstick that matches our lip liner, you can choose any shade you want—don't be afraid to make it fun.

05 of 06

Clean Up the Edges and Add Some Gloss

Close up of a woman topping off her lipstick with lip gloss

Dee Mills / Byrdie

If you overdraw your line or find that you need to clean up the edges a bit, that's perfectly okay. There are a few ways you can clean up your lip's shape. You can use your finger to lightly smooth everything so that it looks cohesive, or apply concealer lightly around the lips and blend it with a brush to highlight the shape. You can also take a thin, precise cotton swab and lightly shave off any excess liner for a pristine shape.

After you've tidied up your liner and lipstick, you can go in with a gloss to add a little shine and even more dimension to your lip look.

06 of 06

The Final Look

A woman with glossy lipstick and lip gloss

Dee Mills / Byrdie

Congratulations, you're now a lip liner pro. You've mastered the technique of shaping your lips, and things will only get better as you become more comfortable with using lip liners of all kinds. Whether you're wearing a neutral tone or a bright power lip, we have faith that you'll slay your lip liner application each and every time from here on out.

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