Eyeliner Basics



I’m coming at you with this post from a non-makeup artist perspective. Iย enjoy makeup, and enjoy applying it, but I would never call myself a makeup artist.

Eyeliner seems to be a tough makeup technique for some, and since it can either make or break your eye makeup, I thought I’d share a bit of what I’ve learned about it.

Issues covered in the video: how to apply basic black eyeliner on the top lid, how to prevent liner from smearing, filling in the gap between the liner and lashes, how to balance eyeliner on the top lid with eyeliner on the bottom lid, suggestions for bottom lid eyeliner

Products mentioned in the video:

Benefit Creaseless Cream Eyeshadow in No Pressure

Mac Paint Pot in Painterly

Tarte 360 Creaseless 12-Hour Smoothing Eye Primer

Mac Pro Longwear eyeliner in black

Cynthia Rowley black eyeliner

Noir Forever Noir eyeliner

Too Faced 3-Way Lash Lining toolย 

Sephora waterproof liquid eyeliner

Stila Smudge Stick Waterproof Eye Liner in Metallic Umber and Sepia


1. How can I make eyeliner stay on my waterline?

The best way is to use a waterproof eyeliner. Second best would be a long-wear, but you can’t beat the staying powder of waterproof especially for your waterline. It’s hard to keep it from transferring onto your lower water line, so other than bringing your liner with you during the day to touch-up, it’s going to be challenging to avoid the transfer. Mac makes a specific eyeliner for waterlines that might be worth looking into!

2. How do you use liquid liner without look too over done?

Practice makes perfect when it comes to liquid liner, and if you are new to it make sure you keep it minimal. Liquid liner is automatically going to be a bit bolder than kohl or pencil liner, so keep that in mind.

3. How thick should the line be?

There isn’t a cut and dry answer to this! It depends on your eye shape, the look you are going for, and what works for you. You can never go wrong with a thin line, but don’t be afraid to get creative and add a little bit of thickness towards the outer edge.

4. What color should I use?

It doesn’t matter! The rule *used* to be that blondes should only use browns or black-brown, but I’d argue that blondes can use black too! So, color is as flexible as it is for eyeshadow.

5. What is the difference between liquid, kohl & gel eyeliner?

I wrote a blog post about it here!


Leave a Comment

Comments (77)

  1. Megan says
    Posted October 14, 2014

    Lovely, Kate!

    • marsha says
      Posted January 18, 2016

      I purchased Revlon Colorstay Creme Gel eyeliner and it is too dry to use. Suggestions?

  2. Renae says
    Posted October 14, 2014

    So so helpful, thanks Kate ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Rebecca Spellmeyer says
    Posted October 14, 2014

    I seriously do not see the difference in the picture without the liner on/in the waterline and with the liner? I have a huge issue with either mascara or liner drifting into the tiny creases under my eye. I come home and look in the mirror and it is not pretty.

    • Kate says
      Posted October 14, 2014

      It’s subtle but the lower photo has a darker line on top.

    • Michelle says
      Posted October 14, 2014

      You can see a teeny bit of Kate’s rim on her upper lashes in the left photo. I’m not sure the tendency of upper waterlining to migrate to my lower lashline is worth the effort to line my upper water line ๐Ÿ™‚ I do however, run a white pencil on my lower waterline to make my eyes appear more awake.

      Great post yet again Kate!

  4. Posted October 14, 2014

    This is a great post! I always get questions from friends on how to properly apply eyeliner. It drives me nuts when people over use bottom liner.

  5. Caitlin says
    Posted October 14, 2014

    I feel like this is a dumb question, but what kind of sharpener do you use and is there a special method that you use to sharpen your eyeliners? I have been using the Cynthia Rowley liner from Birchbox as well, but can’t get it sharp enough!

    • Kate says
      Posted October 14, 2014

      I just use one I got in an old Julep box! There isn’t anything special to it!

      • Kim says
        Posted October 14, 2014

        Same for the Noir pencil? I got that in a Birchbox too and adore it, but unsure of how to sharpen it.

  6. Lee says
    Posted October 14, 2014

    Love the video! I go back and forth between using eyeliner and every time I go back to it I feel like I need guidance because I’m so out of practice. I have one more question for you – I generally use powder shadow and kohl liner and sometimes the eyeshadow gets on the tip of the liner and makes it more difficult to keep using w/o having to wipe it off every few strokes, do you have any suggestions to avoid this?

    • Kate says
      Posted October 14, 2014

      Do you use a primer before eyeshadow? That should help the shadow from rubbing off!

  7. Sarah says
    Posted October 14, 2014

    I am horrible with eyeliner. I can only use the thin “marker” ones.. I’m hopeless with the pencil-type ones and the liquid eyeliners. I always end up making things uneven and then it just takes over my face!

    Midwest Darling

    • Kate says
      Posted October 14, 2014

      Make sure you are resting your arm or hand on something. That will help you be more steady!

  8. Kaitlyn says
    Posted October 14, 2014

    My dad is an optometrist and he is always telling me to not put liner in my waterline! So funny that you mention that.

    • Kate says
      Posted October 14, 2014

      I told ya!

  9. Sarah says
    Posted October 14, 2014

    A really great tip I read, and use, is to use a pencil liner first then the liquid marker liner on top of that to fill it in. I love the way that looks on my top eyelids.

  10. Carmen says
    Posted October 14, 2014

    Have you tried the Benefit Push Up Liner!! I love it!

    • Kate says
      Posted October 14, 2014

      I haven’t yet!

  11. Krista says
    Posted October 14, 2014

    Helpful tips, thanks!


  12. Posted October 14, 2014

    Loved this, I am just starting to try upper liner so this was perfect! What was that last liner you used on the bottom? Is it linked?

    • Kate says
      Posted October 14, 2014

      Sorry! I forgot that, just added it! It’s Stila’s smudge stick liner

  13. Posted October 14, 2014

    I also have the cinthia rowley and noir black eyeliners. I received both from Birchbox. I also used to wear black eyeliner in my waterline every single day but after i learned that a nude pencil for your waterline makes your eyes bigger and I have small eyes, I stopped wearing black pencil for my waterline and I only trace a thin line below my waterline with dark eyeshadow and it really makes a difference.

  14. Nivika says
    Posted October 14, 2014

    Great post! I am so rubbish with eyeliner, and that gap between the lashes and liner is such a big problem. I am going to try using one of those 3 way eyeliners, thank you!

  15. Kate says
    Posted October 14, 2014

    Hey Kate! I think this may have been mentioned in the comments on earlier posts, but your blog still isn’t showing up in my Feedly (not since August 21st). Any idea on why this is? Is there something I can do to fix it? I enjoy reading your blog, but I’m so reliant on Feedly for all of my blogs, that I forget to go to your website to read up.

    • Kate says
      Posted October 14, 2014

      I’ve heard that unsubscribing and then resubscribing fixes it. Sorry for the issues! Feedly says nothing is wrong, but you are not the only one I’ve heard from!

      • Kate says
        Posted October 14, 2014

        It worked! Can’t believe I didn’t think of that, haha

  16. Posted October 14, 2014

    Lovely post! And very useful for those who are new to eyeliner! x

  17. Camille says
    Posted October 14, 2014

    I know this post is about eyeliner, but I can’t help but comment on how gorgeous your lipstick color is. Loving the new look!

  18. Emma B. says
    Posted October 14, 2014

    Thanks for getting back to basics again, Kate! I would love to see a blush application. I’m sure that sounds silly, but I feel like my blush looks muddled some days. Maybe I’m not applying it quite right?

  19. Posted October 14, 2014

    Kate I LOVE this tutorial. Super useful for people who aren’t experts, thank you!

  20. Patti says
    Posted October 14, 2014

    I LOVE all the tutorials and your beauty favs for the month. But all of these products have left me wondering, how do you store it all? Does your bathroom look like mine? (a complete and utter mess) or do you have super organization suggestions?

    • Kate says
      Posted October 14, 2014

      It’s not too much of a system, I have a couple boxes in my closet where the non-daily stuff gets stored but that’s about it!

  21. Kristine D says
    Posted October 14, 2014

    You’ve got to try this eyeliner from Smashbox!!! It’s a waterproof kohl that goes on super smooth. The best part is the magic that happens when you twist the cap closed… Perfectly sharp liner appears when you open it next!!


    • Kate says
      Posted October 14, 2014

      Thanks I’ll look into that!

  22. Posted October 14, 2014

    Lovely! Yes, I just learned that the upper waterline is called the “tight line” and the bottom is just called the waterline. Is this familiar I have the most difficulty doing my upper waterline. Yours looks flawless.


  23. Lisa says
    Posted October 14, 2014

    Hi Kate,
    I have a question that I’m hoping you can answer (and perhaps do a tutorial…? ๐Ÿ˜€ ). My eyelashes are so crazy that I need to curl them and then really work the mascara brush onto them to make them curve upwards. This causes mascara to smudge on my upper eyelid. So I have to do my eyeliner and mascara first before my eyeshadow! For day-to-day wear I will leave it after eye shadow, but if I’m going out I will apply another coat of mascara to cover up the shadow dust that fell onto my lashes. But my liner still looks chalky. Any tips for applying eye shadow after liner and mascara?

  24. Posted October 14, 2014

    Hi Kate. This is such a great post, I always love to try new things for eyeliner but I’m not too great at it. I definitely agree though – blondes can pull off black liner for sure! Thanks for a great post! x

  25. Posted October 14, 2014

    So stinkin’ thorough. Love it.

    And really glad you mentioned “no black on the bottom”. You were kind with it but it just doesn’t seem to look good on anyone. Too dark and drastic for every day wear. There’s a super famous blogger who is stunning but she wears a ridiculous amount of black eye liner all around her eyes and I want to reach in to her pictures with makeup remover on her bottom line. It ages her and she’s not old!

    I always curl my lashes before lining to avoid “losing” liner. I then apply mascara after all lining is finished. But I have itty bitty deep set eyes so liner is always an issue – mine travels so I do all I can to not encourage it. I’ve finally found a pencil liner that doesn’t travel and it’s cheap ol Sephora! Woohoo! I love Mally but couldn’t find my favorite liner with her anymore.

    • Kate says
      Posted October 14, 2014

      Nice! I love the sephora liquid liner, I should try the pencil!

  26. Alexandria says
    Posted October 14, 2014

    Hi Kate!
    What lipstick are you wearing? It is simply gorgeous!

  27. Alexandria says
    Posted October 14, 2014

    Hi Kate!
    What lipstick are you wearing? It is simply gorgeous!!

  28. Andrea says
    Posted October 14, 2014

    I love the look of eyeliner but am not very good with getting it to look natural with a pencil or liquid. I use MAC eyeshadow in Carbon and the MAC small angle brush #266 and it gives the perfect line!

  29. susan says
    Posted October 14, 2014

    Hi Kate! Do you wear contacts? I do and whenever I put anything on my waterline it transfers to my contacts. Any suggestions? Thanks

  30. Leann says
    Posted October 14, 2014

    You mentioned you sharpen your pencils daily, I avoid it like the plague. Every time I sharpen the tips and end break. What am I doing wrong? Is there a sharpener you recommend?

  31. Emily says
    Posted October 14, 2014

    What color should I use for brown eyes? I feel like black looks odd right next to the brown.

  32. Angela says
    Posted October 14, 2014

    Any suggestions on hypo-allergenic eye liners? I seldom wear any eye make-up because almost every time I do, I get an eye infection! Could be the make-up, an allergy or faulty application (by me!)

  33. Abby says
    Posted October 14, 2014

    I agree that eyeliner is important and personally think I look better with it than without. However, I struggle to make it look right. Thanks for the helpful video; I never thought about the benefits of kohl liner and I will have to give it a try!

  34. Emily says
    Posted October 14, 2014
  35. Dee says
    Posted October 15, 2014

    I am likely one of your “older” crowd of faithful readers, but continue to read because I can glean tips for we 50 somethings out here. I have my aging lids, and HATE my droopy/sagging lids. Any help with liner for we 55 ish crowd that are faithful readers?

  36. Justine says
    Posted October 15, 2014

    I’ve been following your blog for a couple years and have never commented until now. I just had to say that this is a huge help to me! I’ve been using eyeliner for years and have read so much online about how to do it right, but this has by far been the most helpful! Your eye makeup looks gorgeous on you, and I’ve always wondered why I couldn’t get mine to look like yours. So many helpful tips here! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  37. Lana says
    Posted October 15, 2014

    Such a helpful post! I always find liner the hardest part of my make-up.

    I was using a Maybeline liner pen that just would not stay on when I tried to wing my liner… Does anyone know what might cause this? It was supposed to be waterproof and long wear but it would just smudge like a kohl and my wings would end up such a mess… I thought that maybe it could’ve been my eye cream being too greasy but i’m not sure… If anyone has had a similar problem I would love to hear about it ๐Ÿ™‚

    Lovely post Kate! x

    – Lana

    • Kate (not that Kate) says
      Posted October 15, 2014

      Lana, I always had this problem! There’s a great waterproof self sharpening liner by Revlon that I swear by – it’s like $15 but SO worth it. Perfect sharp lines when you want them, so much so that I’m often asked how I do my ‘liquid liner’ so nicely. If you have a little stiff brush to blur it, it looks great too. Even though it’s waterproof, it’s super easy to wash off at the end of the day, but it won’t budge until you want it to. Give it a try!

  38. Courtney says
    Posted October 15, 2014

    This post is so helpful Thanks for sharing!

  39. Kathy A says
    Posted October 15, 2014

    Thank you, thank you! I have struggled with eyeliner but your tutorial was so helpful. My eyeliner looked great today!

  40. Jacqui Chan says
    Posted October 15, 2014

    Thank you so much for this post. I have recently changed from using an eye liner pencil to a coal twist up pencil. I was finding it really tricky not to put too much on. Thanks so much for the tip about doing little strokes, it’s made a huge difference xx

  41. Rebekah says
    Posted October 16, 2014

    Thank you for the awesome tutorial! I love the makeup tutorials! Keep them coming! I have a question though… Every time i use eyeliner and or mascara they tend to come off and smudge up in my under eye… I do use primer… Someone at ulta told me to smudge in a powder over the liner to set it. Nothing seems to help… Any suggestions? Thanks!

  42. Marie says
    Posted October 16, 2014

    Oh I love this , I just can not do eyeliner at all it is so frustrating , even my 16year old sister can do them better than me haha . Thank you


  43. Chendra says
    Posted October 16, 2014

    I can’t wait to watch this later! I am at work now! But, when I put eyeliner on my waterline it always would sit under my eyelashes shortly after. I started putting MAC painterly primer on my waterline and it stays all day! I do end up with it in the corner of my eyes which is not pretty…

  44. Angela says
    Posted October 16, 2014

    Good tips! What kind of eyeliner did you use on the bottom again? Is that also kohl? What color would you recommend?! Thanks!

  45. Posted October 19, 2014

    So, I am up entirely too late because of you! ๐Ÿ™‚ I found your hair styles on Pinterest while looking for an easy work style, then watched multiple videos of yours finally landing on this one! I guess it’s safe to say I’m a new fan! ๐Ÿ™‚

    I have a question – I use powdered vegan mineral liner with a brush.(http://justpureminerals.com/pages/details.html#cid=98704) What tips can you give me on how to apply this? Have you already done a video on powdered liner?

    Thanks so much for any tips…I’ve been doing dark upper and lower…would love any tips you could give me. Thank so much! Best, Jenn

  46. Janet says
    Posted October 20, 2014

    Thanks for letting us know the different between powder texture and spray texture a great help.

  47. Lauren says
    Posted October 21, 2014

    Hi Kate! Thank you so much for this ultra-thorough tutorial. Maybe this will be the one that finally helps me master eyeliner. ๐Ÿ˜‰
    I’d like to second (or third) the request for your lip color. It’s completely stunning on you.

    Thanks again!

  48. grace says
    Posted October 30, 2014

    I bought Stila smudgestick in stingray after you recommended it in an earlier post. But I can not find out how to apply it neatly. I’d love to see you apply this in a video!

  49. Leah says
    Posted October 30, 2014

    Hi Kate! Super blog post, per usual!

    I have a question… I am Korean and struggle from time to time with my eye make-up. Your suggestions for eye make-up in general have been very helpful for me and you have introduced me to several products that have worked well for me. Since I have a larger crease in my eyelid, my lids tend to get a little oily throughout the day, but has gotten WAY better with using a Mac’s Paint Pot and higher quality eye shadows. The biggest things I struggle with now are the application of shadows and eyeliner. For daytime shadows, I typically do a lighter shade across the whole lid and a darker shade for a subtle smokey eye… and I never really know what looks good for how far up my lid/above my crease I should apply the darker shadow. If I go too far, I feel like the subtlety is completely out the door and it’s way too obvious. If I don’t go high enough, I look like all I have on my lid is a light shadow. Ugh! I also tend to have difficulties with eyeliner on my upper lash line due to the oiliness of my eyes, even with using primer. I have tried several kohl liners, all of which ALWAYS smudge, even if they’re high-quality liners. If I do any liner on my top lid, I almost always have to use liquid, which I think may look too heavy even when the line is very thin. Do you have any suggestions?? I know it’s probably difficult to say given that you don’t know exactly what my eyes look like, but any suggestions would be great! If it helps (and if you have the time in your busy schedule!) I would definitely be open to sending you a photo for you to get a better idea.

    Thank you so much for all of your help!


  50. Posted November 15, 2014

    Thanks for this & all your videos Kate. I’ve been going back & watching the ones I missed, even though I am way older than you & I’m sure our makeup styles are different, they help with the basics. What’s funny is, when I was in my 20’s I was the makeup QUEEN. I have to say I looked GOOD (lol). Then after I had kids & quit my job, I quit wearing makeup unless I went somewhere (which wasn’t often). Now my kids are older, I’m working again & have to look decent every. single. day. But I never got back the “skill” of applying makeup. I feel like I’m having to start all over -which I am, since I can’t wear makeup now like I did in my 20’s – but I just feel like I know NOTHING anymore & I don’t know where or how to learn, other than online tutorials. Too embarrassed to go to a makeup place for help, as a 47 year old woman SHOULD know how to put on makeup LOL

  51. Robin says
    Posted January 2, 2015


    I’ve recently gotten hooked on your blog, especially watching the hair tutorials. They are really great. I’m not so adventurous with my eye makeup so I loved this tutorial on applying eyeliner. I have maybe a strange question. You talking about applying eyeliner, then curling your lashes, then going back and filling in any gaps with more eyeliner. Why not curl your lashes before applying any eyeliner? Then there wouldn’t be gaps, right? Just curious. Thanks so much for your blog. I love it and I’ve already purchased several face and hair products with your recommendations.

  52. Sofia says
    Posted December 11, 2016

    it,s interesting to see your tips. hope these tips will work for me http://browthreading.org/

  53. J says
    Posted June 5, 2017

    Hi! Just wanted to say that I love your blog and this post, it’s all so well explained and the step by step photos are so helpful. I started experimenting with gel/liquid liner fairly late and am still very much in the trial and error process, especially with my asymmetrical eyes, so your tips were verrrry handy!

  54. Stephanie says
    Posted December 10, 2017

    How do I prevent my eyeliner from transferring to my upper lid?

  55. Posted December 18, 2017

    Great job, very passionate and helpful post, every woman love eyeliner makeup for gorgeous looks and these tips are very useful to get desired looks.

  56. Ava says
    Posted December 30, 2017

    Your have done a wonderful eye makeup.
    Whenever I try to apply an eyeliner on my lids, it always create a messy look for me.
    Would you please suggest me some more tips to create a winged eyeliner ?

  57. Tyson says
    Posted February 26, 2018

    Before you apply Eyeliner first things to know how many types of Eyeliners and which is perfect for your eyes. there is three type of eyeliners, First is Pencil Eyeliner, Liquid Eyeliner, Gel Eyeliners. To wear eyeliner your hands must be stable.

  58. Katrina L Dillard says
    Posted February 3, 2021

    Any advice on how to apply eyeliner to a hooded eye?

  59. Posted March 23, 2021

    Beautifully explained!! Keep content with basic makeup knowledge coming. <3