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.
There’s just one small caveat. Eyeliner takes patience and time to truly master—two things we don’t exactly possess in excess. Which is why we thought it was perfect timing for us to share some of our favorite eyeliner tips, lazy-person style. Shaky hand? There’s a ridiculously easy fix. Uneven wings? We’ve got you. We reached out to two top makeup artists to teach us all of their eyeliner tricks: Fatima Thomas, senior national artist at MAC, and Melissa Mangrum, pro makeup artist.
Meet the Expert
Scroll down for some genius eyeliner hacks made for those who are struggling.
Clench Your Toes For Precise Application
If your hands get shaky any time you attempt to apply eyeliner, try this makeup artist secret: clench your toes. Yes, really. It’s an industry secret among artists with shaky hands. We tried it and can attest to its effectiveness. The more you know.
Keep Pointed Cotton Swabs on Hand
Thomas says that correcting eyeliner mistakes is easy when you use micellar water and pointed cotton swabs, as this allows for precision clean up. We love the Cleansing 3-in-1 Micellar Water by L'Occitane ($24)—it instantly erases without leaving behind a greasy residue.
Consider Eyeliner Formula for Longevity
When it comes to makeup disasters, coming face to face with raccoon eyes come noon is at the top of the list. Mangrum recommends using an eye pencil made for specifically for the waterline (think: a Kajal or Kohl liner), as these tend to last in the waterline longer than other formulas.
To ensure your eyeliner stays put, Mangrum recommends sealing in the eyeliner by applying an eyeshadow on top.
Draw Your Flick First
The easiest way to master a cat eye? Start with the flick first. Hold your eyeliner on the outer corner of your eye and then gently trace a small line at a 45-degree angle. Next, trace your liner along your lid, connect to the wing, and voilà! You've got yourself a wing.
Apply in Dashes if You Have Shaky Hands
"Most people think that to apply liner you need one swift continuous line, but if you have shaky hands this may cause issue with getting a 'straight' line," says Mangrum. "My suggestion is to create dashes [with a drawing and lifting motion] until you get from end to end. Then, fill in any spaces as needed." It's kind of like connecting the dots, but with dashes.
Go Thin For Hooded Eyes
Thomas says that hooded and deep-set eyes look great when the eyeliner is drawn on very thin and positioned on the lash roots or the waterline. "Wider bands of liner can overwhelm these shapes, making them appear smaller and more recessed," she says.
Draw a Hashtag or Hook for a Smoky Outer Corner
If you want a more precise technique, draw a sideways “#” sign on the outer third of your lid, and then blend it out. Or, make like Mangrum and hook it. "First, draw the line along the lash line as normal. Once you get to the outer corner create an arch just above the socket like a rainbow shape and then blend, blend, blend," she says. Best part? You can get creative with different shades to create the smoky eye of your dreams.
Consider Your Eyeshadow
"If you have an oily eyelid and are worried about smudging, applying the eyeliner after powder eyeshadows may help keep liner in place," says Mangrum. "If you want to keep the liner blendable and buildable, applying it before eyeshadow may be the way to go."
Open Up Your Eyes With Nude Eyeliner
Black eyeliner gets all 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.
Avoid Tightlighting With a Wooden Eyeliner
Lining your tightline can be a scary thought, but Mangrum says that using a retractable pencil (versus a wooden one) can make all the difference. "I prefer retractable pencils to ensure no wood residuals from sharpening are left that could damage the eye," she notes.
Use a Creamy Pencil for Softer Looks
"Some eyeliner pencils are creamy and makeup artists love them because they allow for easy diffusion and blending to create soft-edged looks," says Thomas. "They also make fantastic bases for layering powder shadows." Try this one from No7, which boasts a creamy, easy-to-glide-on formula that stays put once dried.