Cat eyes are a classic beauty look, and we couldn’t be happier that it’s making a comeback. Winged liner has been huge on the red carpet recently, and it’s shaping up to be a big look for Fall—but if you’re like a lot of us, the feline flick can seem incredibly intimidating. The good news is that cat eye liner isn’t as complicated or scary as it seems; it just requires a little practice and some know-how.
And nobody knows more about liquid eyeliner than we do, so we’ve put together our essential guide for how to do winged eyeliner. Read on and learn how to totally master the cat eye look.
1. Choose your liner.
Gel! Liquid! Angled brushes! Straight brushes! There are just SO many different types of eyeliner—how do you know which is right for you? While personal preference plays a big part in this, we have some general tips that will make finding your perfect liner much easier.
Gel eyeliner is probably the easiest to use if you’re a cat eye newbie because the formula is a little softer and more forgiving of mistakes. You’ll generally need a separate angled brush to apply it, though, which can involve a bit of a learning curve.
Liquid eyeliner often comes in a small pot with a thin brush attached to the lid. These brushes can be super flexible, which allows for very delicate—but they can also be TOO flexible, which can lead to mistakes.
Our favorite type of liquid liner comes in a pen with a marker-tip applicator instead of a brush. This makes it easy to use and control—you use it the same way you’d use a pen, and odds are that you’re pretty familiar with that. Our favorite liquid liner ever is LORAC Front of the Line PRO ($23, ulta.com) which has a long, flexible marker-type tip that dispenses a gorgeously dark black, truly waterproof liner. It’s perfect for beginners and advancedcat eye practitioners alike.
2. Line 101.
Not all cat eyes are created equal, but there are some general shape rules that you should keep in mind.
Cat eyes are not the same width all the way across. They begin thin at the inner corner near the tear duct, getting thicker towards the outer corner, like so:
The way you play with the line’s thickness can create some cool illusions. If you want to make your eyes look wider, make the line above your lashes thicker at the center. If you’re looking to make your eyes seem longer, make that line thin all the way across.
3. Wing shape matters.
People often think of a cat eye wing as a one-size-fits-all prospect, but that’s not true. The angular wings of cat eyes are as unique as the eyes that wear them, and while the shape you fall in love with depends mostly on what you like the best, there are some guidelines to adhere to.
There are two general wing shapes: long and curvy (like a capital J laying on its back) and triangular-shaped. Curvy wings extend out, then curve gently up, missing the crease of the eye; triangular wings end at the outer corner of the eye and then flick straight up, going overtop the crease.
This is an example of a triangular wing:
And this is an example of a curvy wing:
In general, curvy wings are best for making eyes look longer (because they extend the lash line) and triangular wings are best if you want to make your eyes look bigger—but of course, your mileage will vary. Choose the shape that makes you the happiest!
4. DON’T PULL!
It’s a natural instinct to want to pull your skin taut while you draw your cat eye—don’t do this, because if you do, your cat eye will look crooked when you let go! Instead, tilt your head back while you draw your lines and avoid wonky surprises at the end.
5. Get guidance.
Making your cat eyes even is a crucial—and intimidating—step in nailing this look. But it doesn’t have to be scary, because there’s a super-easy trick to ensuring you have the perfect angle on both eyes. Take a thin makeup brush and hold it against the side of your nose so that it lines up with the outer corner of your eye and the end of your eyebrow. Voila: this shows you the angle you should be aiming for with your cat eye.
If you’re just starting out, use a sharp pencil liner and mark a guideline against your brush. Trace over it with liquid liner, and voila! Perfectly symmetrical cat eyes are all yours!
6. Fixing mistakes.
If you mess up, don’t worry! Dip a cotton swab in alcohol-based makeup remover, gently hold it on top of the mistake, and twist—don’t rub or wipe. The eyeliner will come away easily, and then you only have a small area to fix up afterwards. And don’t worry; practice truly does make perfect when it comes to cat eyes—you’ll find that you mess up less frequently as time goes by!
7. Wear it with…
Winged eyeliner is like a black dress—it goes with everything. Wear it with baby pink lips for a work-appropriate look, or add glossy red lipstick for a sexy date night look. You can even pair it with one of Fall’s high-octane dark lipsticks to channel your inner vamp—or add flushed cheeks and clear, shiny lipgloss for a gamine 60s-inspired look. Whichever you choose, one thing’s for sure: your wings will be sharp and your look will be totally perfect.