How to Apply Liquid Liner Like a Makeup Artist (Yes, It's Simpler Than You Think)

Fact: I have always been (and always will be) passionate about liquid eyeliners. To me, no makeup look is truly complete without it. For as long as I can remember, I've received countless compliments on my steady hand and sharp wings from friends, co-workers, and a stranger or two every once in a while. For me, achieving the perfect liquid-eyeliner look has always been a combination of practice, skill, and the best eyeliner formulas money can buy.

So where did I start? I'll admit it's taken me years of trial and error accompanied by too many makeup-remover wipes than I can count. Sure, the YouTube and TikTok tutorials helped me see how it was done, but it took practice in my spare time to perfect it. Now that I've been at this for a while, I think it's about time that I share some secrets of the trade along with the liquid eyeliners I swear by. Trust me—you'll want to reserve a spot in your makeup bag for these before everyone catches on.

Model Jasmine Tookes Wearing Black Winged Eyeliner

(Image credit: @jastookes)

What to Look for in the Best Liquid Eyeliner

As a beauty editor, one of the determining factors that go into a hunt for liquid eyeliner is comfort. Can I move the product around in my hand to achieve the angles and defined lines I desire? Is there any pulling or tugging of the skin as the brush moves against it? When shopping in-store, I'll quickly swipe the product on the back of my hand and allow it to dry, taking note of:

1. How it feels

2. How it appears

3. Color payoff

4. Formulation

5. Applicator

Paying special attention to a liquid eyeliner's formulation and applicator can make a difference in what you end up paying for. Because I love a snatched wing that's sharp yet natural-looking, I tend to choose liquid eyeliners using a slim marker applicator. It allows for maximum manipulation, lending to defined lines that can be as minimal or bold as my heart desires on any given day.

How to Apply Liquid Eyeliner

One of the best things makeup beginners can do to level up their makeup skills is to simplify their method of application. A flawless freehanded wing comes with time and experience. If you ask any makeup artist or editor, one of the biggest tips you'll here is to forget the wrist. Use your pinky for stabilization and let your applicator glide smoothly and steadily across the skin to avoid shaky application or rogue pen marks. If you've ever had the experience of attempting literally anything in a time crunch, then you know how complicated simple tasks can feel.

Approach applying liquid eyeliner the same way and make it as easy as possible for yourself. If you make a mistake, no worries! Have some makeup remover on hand and try again. Making mistakes will always be part of the process of learning something new, so why should using liquid eyeliner be any different? If you can't get that perfect flick on the end of your wing, simply dip a flat makeup brush into some oil-based makeup remover and gently remove your little oops.

Alternately, if you have on a full face and are worried about completely decimating your base makeup, try camouflaging your mistake with concealer for a quick and painless clean-up. It will save you from having to remove all your makeup and start from scratch. If you're struggling to get the brush saturated with ink, consider storing your eyeliner with the brush facing downward.

Actress Vanessa Hudgens Wearing Smoky Eye Makeup

(Image credit: @hungvanngo)

The Best Liquid Eyeliners

Best Overall Liquid Eyeliner: Clinique High Impact Easy Liquid Eyeliner

Best Liquid Eyeliner for Beginners

Best Brown Liquid Eyeliner

Best Black Liquid Eyeliner

Best White Liquid Eyeliner

Best Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner

Best Eyeliner Pen

Best Drugstore Liquid Eyeliner

This article was published at an earlier date and has since been updated.

Maya Thomas
Assistant Beauty Editor
Maya Thomas is Who What Wear's assistant beauty editor based just outside of Seattle, Washington. Her strong love for all things beauty and fashion stems from a strong childhood interest in the fine arts. During a gap year spent in Paris studying the history of French fashion, she shifted her focus to English literature and journalism as a student at Loyola Marymount University with the goal of one day pursuing a career in fashion. After graduating in May 2021, Maya began freelancing for as a contributing commerce writer while also building a following on her lifestyle blog, When she's not writing, Maya spends her free time catching up on reading, perusing art galleries, and enjoying a night out at the ballet every now and then.