Eyeliner has potential to be your best friend, or your arch nemesis.

When used properly, eyeliner makes eyes look as large and mesmerizing as possible – think sultry seductress or bright eyed ingenue Disney princess. Big, glittering, fluttery, fabulous.

On the flip side when eyeliner falls to the opposing teams side and things go sideways, your eyes look smaller or harsher and your overall makeup effect looks messy. Ouch, definitely not what we’re going for when happily slicking on eyeliner during the morning makeup routine.

Here’s what you’re aiming for with well applied, chic eyeliner:

  • It’s as close to the root of the eyelashes as humanly possible, think nestled in between the actual hairs if that helps to visualize the desired product placement. What you definitely do not want is eyeliner that is floating even one micro-millimeter above your lashes. That eyelid real estate of yours is precious so no wasting it!
  • Eyeliner that’s as smooth and even as a body of water on a windless day – not a jagged bump or skip to be seen.
  • It defines the eye without stealing the show. When someone looks at you you want them to be seduced, drawn in by your glorious beautiful eyes, not dazzled by your thunder stealing eyeliner. When eyeliner is either too heavy, or poorly applied, it’s the opposite of glorious.

How to achieve this magnificent eyeliner effect?

In pecking order of increasing ease and desired effectiveness, the eyeliner options:

#1 – Liquid eyeliner. Ummmm, just say no. Put down that liquid eyeliner pen and walk away. Unless you possess the rock steady hand of a makeup goddess, or you like an intentionally bold, dramatic heavy winged eyeliner, liquid eyeliner is simply not your friend. It’s extremely unforgiving when it comes to mistakes and it tends to be so opaque and dark that it draws all the attention. Attention that ought to be going to you, not your heavy eyeliner.


#2 – Waterproof / Gel style eye pencils – These style of eye pencils can be beasts to manage.

Waterproof eye pencils can be so dry that they’re often next to impossible to apply without them skipping and tugging on your delicate eyelids.

And gel style pencils have the opposite challenge. While they are lovely, creamy and highly pigmented if you’re not particularly skilled with makeup they can be so soft and glide on so heavily that you can quickly end up with way more eyeliner than you signed up for.

Plus the packaging of these pencils can be tricky. They’re typically either a wind up pencil that you can’t sharpen to a good point (or you use them up too fast), or it’s a plastic pencil casing that you need special sharpeners for.


#3 – Kohl style wood eye pencils – Now we’re starting to get somewhere. These style of pencils are the most traditional, likely when you think of an eye pencil this style is what comes to mind.

A good pencil is soft enough that they don’t provide too much resistance to laying product down on your skin (benefit!). And they are still firm enough however that you can sharpen them to a good point for more precise application.

Kohl style wood eye pencils however are designed to be smudgy. This makes them a great option if you want a more dramatic effect such as a smoky blended out look, or perhaps a bold wing. But this inherent smudginess can also be trickier to wrangle and keep things thin and even.

With eye pencils it comes down to what effect you’re going for and how confident you are applying makeup. If you’ve got the hand-eye coordination to confidently handle a pencil and you are happy with the natural smudginess of a kohl style pencil, than go for it! But if your eye liner skills are more novice than expert, or you prefer something that stays crisp looking, read along.  (Here’s an example of Kohl style wood eye pencils)


#4 – Cream Eyeliner – Cream eyeliners, also known as gel eyeliners, are a great compromise between kohl eye pencils and the easiest of all liner options, eye shadow as liner.

Cream eyeliner comes in an airtight pot (here’s an example) and must be applied with a small, as thin as possible eyeliner brush (this tiny Angled Liner Brush is a game changer, it’s so perfectly small and precise).

You can achieve very thin, smooth lines with cream eyeliner and it is highly pigmented giving the option of a more dramatic, polished effect. Cream eyeliner also tends to be a longer lasting product, so if you have challenges getting your eyeliner to last you’ll likely love it as an option. On the flip side however they will dry out over time and become harder to use, so make sure you use them up reasonably quickly!


#5 – Eye shadow – Ahhh beloved eye shadow as eyeliner. When it comes to simplicity and ease of use there is none that surpasses using eye shadow as eye liner.

This option is by far the most forgiving of all the different options you have. It’s quick and easy to work with. And if you make a mistake you can easily blend out the rough part of the eyeliner and just keep going. It’s easy to control to how light or dark you want the effect to be. And it’s definitely the most natural looking, ie the eye shadow works to define the eye without stealing the show. When someone is newer to makeup I always suggest starting with eye shadow as liner.

Dark, highly pigmented matte eyeshadows work best for this (such as shade Savanna) and a thin as possible eyeliner brush (same style as demonstrated with the cream eyeliner).