Tightlining: How to Help Eyeliner on the Inner Rim Stay Put

bob scott


Tightlining is the art of lining the inner rims of the eyes to create a sexy, sultry look. One problem women have with eyeliner on the inner rims is it staying put. Here, we show you the best waterproof eyeliners and a simple trick to keep eyeliner in place.

But first, let's talk lining the inner rims. In talking with makeup artists and watching a ton of video tutorials, we've learned that there are tricks to lining the waterline that won't make your eyes appear as if they've been professionally shrunken. Lining the eyes in white can actually make them appear larger. You have to take into consideration your eye shape and you have to pick the right eyeliner that won't wash away in an hour, causing your eyeballs to be awash in black floaties. Ahead, watch MUA Bob Scott share their tutorial for tight-lining eyes with zero smudging, plus our guide to choosing the right eyeliner formula and shade.

From This Video: How to Apply Liner to Your Waterline

Applying liner to the inside rims of the eye can be scary at first. There's the fear that you'll stab yourself in the eye, but we find that practice makes perfect. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.

Here's how to apply liner that won't smudge or wash away:

  1. Always sharpen your pencil so you have a precise, perfect line and less smudging. This also gets rid of any bacteria that might have been leftover on the pencil.
  2. Try this trick we learned years ago from a makeup artist at Fashion Week: "dry" your waterline with a Q-tip to prep it for lining. Simply roll it over your waterline before applying the pencil line.
  3. Hold down your bottom lid and using short, swift strokes (or one long stroke, it's up to you), draw a line along your bottom rim. For the top rim, hold up your lid with your fingers and draw in the line.
  4. If your liner smudges, clean it up with a Q-tip dipped in eye makeup remover.
  5. Since the secret is layering, take your flat-tipped eyeliner brush and dab it into a powder, then tap it to remove excess.​
  6. "Stamp" the eyeliner brush dipped in color along your penciled or gel liner. You want to really work it into the line that’s in between the waterline and the lash line. You don't want any of your skin peeking through.

More Tightlining Tips

The Secret to Lining Eyes: Layering

The secret to lining the inner rims of the eyes is to layer the color. You want to start with a pencil or gel liner and then apply a powder over it, effectively "stamping it" to keep it in place. This gives you a depth that you can't get with liner or powder alone.

Why Color is Important

When it comes to lining the waterline, you have a few options:

  • You can go dark and sultry with blacks, browns, burgundies, dark navies or forest greens.
  • You can go bright with jeweled tones like emerald green, turquoise or golds. This is a fun look.
  • You can go light with whites or nudes. These can make the eyes pop and appear larger and more awake.

In choosing your color, consider your complexion. Dark blacks can be harsh on blondes with fair skin. Stick to browns and taupes instead if you want to avoid a harsh look. For a bit of fun, you can use a color but choose one that flatters your skin color and eye color. To test a color, draw a thick line just under the lash line and step back. Does it make your eyes pop? Then you're good.

The Best Eyeliners for the Inner Rim

We like a waterproof pencil for lining the inner rims, but regular pencils work, too, and are easier to apply (waterproof can be waxy and hard). Gels are also a very popular choice for lining eyes. We recommend avoiding liquid liners because they can sting the eye.

Here are some good bets:

Too Faced Perfect Eyes Waterproof Eyeliner
Too Faced Perfect Eyes Waterproof Eyeliner $32.00
Eye Pencil Primatif
Kevyn Aucoin Eye Pencil Primatif $26.00 $18.00
BADgal liner
Benefit Cosmetics BADgal Waterproof Eyeliner $20.00

Finding The Right Eyeliner Brush

You want a flat or angled eyeliner brush for applying the powder to the waterline. There are many options on Amazon, but the Pro Flat Definer ($10) gets the most positive reviews. It is flat and lines precisely and sharply. And you can use it with powders, gels or creams.

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