If makeup is a science, then eyeliner is like chemistry. It's impossible to understand until you learn the appropriate laws of nature and physics. Then, it's smooth sailing (HA, get it?). Same goes for winged liner. Out of all of liner looks, how to do a cateye is the easiest to botch and end up more Rock Raccoon than sexy feline. If that's you, no judgment at all, but just follow these seven easy GIFs to correct your course.
It would be dope to be inherently born with the knowledge of how to contour our faces and over-line our lips. But, luckily, all makeup techniques can be learned. It may take patience, and it may take practice, but I promise you don't have to be Leonardo da Vinci to successfully line your lids. Really, a cateye flick involves more math than art, anyways.
As I always say while teaching others how to do makeup, there are 50 ways to get to Florida. You can walk, you can drive, you can take a plane, you can ride a unicycle, etc. It's not that any way is wrong, it's just that some ways are quicker and easier than others. So if you have an eyeliner routine that works for you that you can achieve in half a second, then keep doing it! But if your GPS to Florida is simply broken, or you're looking for some new short cuts, then stick with me and we'll get you to Disney World in no time.
So before you even pick up any product, let's talk about how the heck we're going to get that liner into our lashline.
There are two major liner faux pas that will literally sabotage your cat eye before you have a chance to even get to the wing. The first is closing your eye completely and shoving the liner in there, hoping that you'll get to your lashline. At the best, you'll miss the waterline completely and see a nude gap under your black liner. At the very worst, you'll see a super bumpy line, like you swiftly decided to do your liner while riding a Six Flags roller coaster. When you close your eye, the skin bunches up a bit, which means the liner will not glide evenly over skin.
However, the second major liner mistake is pulling the skin into oblivion. A lot of people tug their skin to the side to make it taught to successfully and totally fill in the lashline. It makes sense, in theory. But when the skin snaps back, the wings will appear to be at a totally different length and angle than they were when you first applied it. It can totally sabotage your look. Plus, the skin around the eye is very thin, so overtime this trick can literally stretch it out. Not fun.
Instead, hold your mirror directly in front of you. While looking into the mirror, just tilt your head back a bit. All of a sudden, the whole lashline is exposed and the skin is pulled a bit tighter so you won't see any gaps in your line.
If you're sensitive, like me, and you're using a freestanding mirror, then you might want to place your pointer finger directly behind the lashline and lightly press upward. This action will reveal your waterline so you can fill it in a bit more easily.
But for today, I'm holding my mirror, so we shall make due.
Now, we tightline. This means we want to get as close in to the waterline as possible. The waterline is the fleshy bit right underneath your lashes. Tightlining makes our lashes automatically look fuller and it prevents any weird nude gaps from showing once we apply the cat eye.
Because your waterline gets, well, watery, you might want to use a waterproof pencil. I'm using my handy dandy Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil in Zero. Definitely use a pencil or a gel pot over a liquid. If you are even able to get the liquid close enough to your waterline, the second it gets near your eye, you run the risk of it bleeding into your eye. It's not a cute feeling, trust me.
Using little dashes between the lashes, starting at the outer corner, work toward the inner corner. Dashes will prevent your line from suddenly trying to travel up to outer space. Even pro makeup artists can't do it in one fell swoop.
2. Create The Angle
I created the first wing using my best bae, Kat von D Tattoo Liner in Trooper. Pro tip: start small, y'all! It's easy to add more product, but it's much harder to take it away once it's there. Point the thinnest part of the applicator tip toward where you want the thinnest part of the line and lightly press the applicator against your eye in small, swiping motions. This is just to create the angle you want to follow as you build your liner.
Imagine an invisible line that continues upward following the angle of your bottom lashline. That's the perfect angle for your cat eye.
Don't try to just flick the liner upwards. You have no control over the line that way and the wings may end up very wonky like a sad, sad baby bird. Instead, start outward and drag the line in toward the outer corner of your eye. That way, you have total control over the length and the angle.
3. Connect To The Center
Connect the point of the wing to the center of the lashline. Again, work in slow, dash-like motions. It's easy to add more, but it's much harder to take it away once it's there.
You want the line to get smaller as it gets closer to the inner corner of the eye. If you taper off the thickness of the wing at the center of the eye, you'll still be able to see the eyeshadow on your lid while the eye is open.
4. Extend To The Inner Corner
To finish off the line, connect it to the inner corner of the eye. I point the thinnest part of the brush toward where I want the thinnest part of the line, which right now is the inner corner. Then, using small strokes, I connect it toward the center of the lashline.
5. Repeat On The Other Eye
I quickly applied the liner to my other eye using the same steps. Pretty self-explanatory.
6. Even 'Em Out
So most humans have asymmetrical eyes. I, for example, have an extreme case of this. My left eye has much more lid space while my right eye has barely any lid space. So that means even if my liner is perfect with my eyes closed, when I open them, there's a good chance it will look totally different on both eyes. Generally, I have to make the liner on my left eye bigger so it optically looks the same as my right.
When I'm done with the liner on both eyes, I'll stare straight ahead and look for any imperfections in the liner. Then, I'll adjust so both wings look the same with my eyes open. This is why it's good to start small with your wings because you may have to add more length or height to the wing. Because we don't walk around like zombies with out lids closed, it's much more important that the wings look the same with the eyes open.
If you make a mistake, it's honestly NBD. Just use a Q-tip or a small liner brush with a tiny amount of eyeshadow primer to clean up any mistakes. Primer will remove the bit you want without emulsifying everything around it, like makeup remover would.
Word to the wise: don't sweat the small stuff. We will always see little mistakes and errors that no one else would ever. If you hold your mirror a good foot away from your face and it looks perfect, then it is perfect. Most humans won't get any closer to your face and, if they do, I promise you your liner is not the first thing on their mind.
7. Bonus Step: Tilt Your Eye Upwards
So you don't have to do this step, but, if you have a naturally downturned eye like me, then this might be helpful.
If your eyes are downturned, that means outer corner or crease of your eye extends downward, which can sometimes make us downturned folk look a little tired or sad.
To combat my downturn-ed-ness, I line the outer third of my bottom lashline with my pencil liner. This enhances the cat eye shape and helps to optically tilt my eye upward. It takes two seconds but makes a big, big difference.
If the first time isn't a charm, then the second or third certainly will be. It's just like riding a bike. You might skin some knees at first, but once you learn, you'll never forget.