If you’re a constant-scroller on TikTok (guilty as charged!) or a peruser of Fashion Week coverage, you may have noticed no one is wearing “normal” eyeliner anymore. In the last year or so, it seems influencers, editors, and models have turned to artistic, abstract shapes for their eye makeup looks and we are here for it. Graphic eyeliner isn’t a new trend per se (winged eyeliner has been around for hundreds of years!), but we’ve definitely noticed how makeup artists have been pushing the boundaries with their shapes as of late. Just turn to the bold linear makeup at Rodarte’s Fall/Winter 2023 show or Taylor Swift’s crystal liner at the VMAs for recent examples.
The popular liner look is all about complementing your natural eye shape and, of course, letting your creativity shine. Pro makeup artist Andrea Samuels says as much, too. “Graphic liner is all about the endless possibilities of not only enhancing but re-shaping and decorating your eyes,” she tells Marie Claire. “There are limitless possibilities of the color, shape, simplicity, drama, and style you can choose for your graphic liner which is what makes it so fun.”
If the “limitless possibilities” of graphic liner sounds daunting, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve turned to Samuels and fellow makeup artist Lennie Billy (both of whom have Instagram feeds chock-full of colorful inspo) for the lowdown on nailing the look. From must-have products to a step-by-step guide, consider this your crash course on how to master graphic eyeliner.
Best Eyeliners for Graphic Eyeliner
First things first: You’ve got to have the right products in order to nail a graphic liner look. But between pencil liners, liquid formulas, and gels, how do you decide which one is right for you? Billy says it all boils down to the product you know how to work with. “Whether it’s a pen or a brush with a liquid product, it must be the one you feel comfortable,” she explains. For Billy, that means liquid eyeliners, pomades, or water-activated formulas since they are easy to use and easy to correct any mistakes.
That being said, you may find greater success if you opt for gel or liquid formulas as these are best at making sharp, precise lines. Plenty of liquid eyeliners come with precision felt tips, which Samuels explains are “similar to markers so you can sketch and draw the exact line you want and it’s also very easy to clean up.” Ahead, we’ve rounded up Billy and Samuels’ favorite eyeliners as well as a few editor-approved picks for you to get started on your own graphic eyeliner journey.
The colorful eye paints from about-face come highly recommended by both Samuels and Billy. Billy says they are "very pigmented, easy to use, lasts long, and have a great shade range." Meanwhile, Samuels also praises their staying power, adding "Not only does it have amazing staying power, but it gives you lots of control to apply as little or as much as you want. You can use your fingers, the product itself, or use a small liner brush for more precision." If that's not enough to convince you to try this pick, then I don't know what is.
Pros: Pro-approved; Long-wearing; Highly pigmented; Multi-use; Available in 26 shades; Smudge-proof; Vegan formula.
Cons: Requires a brush for precise lines.
If you're searching for the exact shade of blue to match your summer dress, there's a good chance Danessa Myricks has a ColorFix pigment for you. The brand carries just about every color you can think of in its cream pigments, which can be used all across the face from your eyes to your lips. Billy recommends all 50 (!!!) of the Colorfix pigments, adding, "The mattes and shimmery formulas are great, long-lasting, easy to use, and extremely pigmented." They come in a range of finishes, too, from glossy, matte, shimmery, and more.
Pros: Pro-approved; Highly pigmented; Long-wearing; Non-creasing; Smudge-proof; Waterproof; Multi-use; Buildable; Available in over 50 shades in five finishes.
Cons: Packaging is prone to mess; Requires a brush for precise lines.
A felt-tip liner like Maybelline's is Samuels' favorite because they help make precise, graphic lines so much easier. Think of this liner as a super skinny marker for your eyes. Its ultra-precise, thin tip makes drawing lines a breeze even if your hand is a bit shaky. This $6 pick is also one of our favorite drugstore eyeliners not just because of its precision, but also because it stays put for up to 12 hours. With over 20,000 5-star reviews on Amazon, this is a great pick for those on a budget.
Pros: Pro-approved; Under $10; Long-wearing; Waterproof; Precise felt tip.
Cons: Reviewers say it may run with oily eyelids.
Famed makeup artist Patrick Starrr knew what he was doing when he made his ONE/SIZE Point Made Eyeliner Pen. It's a huge hit among the pros thanks to its ultra-inky pigment and precise tip. Billy counts herself a fan and says it "only has three shades but all of them are super pigmented and the felt tip is perfect to create any type of lines." It's also a great choice for beginners or those with shaky hands—with a comfort grip handle, you can hold it just like a pen to get the sharpest of lines.
Pros: Pro-approved; Precise felt tip; Highly pigmented; Long-wearing; Smudge-proof; Waterproof; Vegan formula; Features a comfort grip.
Cons: Takes longer to dry.
"Gel liners take a little more of a steady hand, but the results are beautiful if you want a more artsy, fluid line," explains Samuels. "One of my favorite artistry brands is Inglot because the color payoff and longevity on skin lasts over 12 hours!" The pro also says that these liners are waterproof, so if you want to elevate your graphic eyeliner look, these can withstand liquid toppers to create that "wet," glossy look. Take your pick from over 25 different shades in matte and shimmery finishes.
Pros: Pro-approved; Smudge-proof; Waterproof; Highly pigmented; Long-wearing; Multi-use; Non-creasing; Available in 26 colors in two finishes.
Cons: Requires a brush for precise lines.
As Samuels mentioned, water-activated liners are a great option for a graphic eyeliner look as they are easy to use and correct. Pro makeup artist Antoinette Mahr previously told us how much she loves these colored eyeliners, saying, "These are the best for having fun and playing with details for a wild graphic look." Because these require brushes, you can really get creative with different shapes—it all depends on the brush you choose. The brand carries just about every shade under the sun, too, from neon brights to dark neutrals and pastels. Some even glow under UV light!
Pros: Under $10; Pro-approved; Offered in over 30 shades and finishes; Highly pigmented; Vegan formula.
Cons: Requires a brush for precise lines; May take practice to find the right water-to-pigment ratio.
I'm going to go out on a whim and say you've heard about Stila's Stay All Day Liquid Eyeliner. Well, I'm happy to report that that same incredible staying power is the same in the brand's recently launched ArtiStix Graphic Liner. Each one of the 12 shimmery shades has high-impact color and goes on silky smooth. What really impressed me about this pick, however, is that it does not budge in the slightest. Once you give it about 20 seconds to set, this liner isn't going to smudge, flake, or transfer. Plus, it has a retractable design, meaning you can always get a precise line.
Pros: Editor-approved; Long-wearing; Highly pigmented; Blendable; Waterproof; Available in 12 shimmery shades.
Cons: Only comes in one finish.
Urban Decay recently came out with a liquid version of their cult-favorite 24/7 Glide-On Eyeliner Pencil and color us impressed. It holds up just as well as the original formula, meaning it doesn't budge for hours and hours until you go to remove it. Inspired by actual artist paintbrushes, this liner features an ergonomically designed handle with a precision grip and an ultra-sharp tip for smooth, straight lines. Choose from neutrals like black and brown or go fun with punchy blue, lime green, or neon yellow.
Pros: Long-wearing; Highly pigmented; Vegan formula; Water resistant; Available in nine colors and two finishes.
Cons: Some reviewers note there is little product for the price.
How to Apply Graphic Eyeliner
Now that you’ve got the right eyeliner in hand, it’s time to get to work. Follow these pro steps from Billy and Samuels to achieve the graphic eyeliner look of your dreams. We promise it’s not as hard as you may think.
- Before you start drawing, choose the color(s) you want to create with. Maybe you want to make your brown eyes pop with a purple shade, or you can take after Samuels who chooses colors that complement her jewelry, skin tone, or outfit. Whatever shades you choose, just know that there’s no wrong option when it comes to graphic eyeliner.
- Start by cleaning your eyes so you can work with a blank canvas. Use a baby wipe, makeup wipe, or soap with water, then towel dry. Apply your favorite eyeshadow primer, if you prefer, and let set.
- Here’s when the fun begins! Whether you’re attempting floating lines or a fishtail look, you’ll want to look straight in the mirror without pulling your eyebrows up or down and start drawing your shape little by little, working your way from the outer corner towards the inner corner. Use short strokes to complete your shape, and if your hand is shaky, rest your elbow on a table or other stable surface.
- When your shape is complete, use a setting powder with a light brush and a setting spray to keep your graphic liner all in place.
More Tips and Tricks for Graphic Eyeliner
- Start simple: If you're an eyeliner novice, Billy recommends mastering a very thin, short line first, before slowly moving on to thicker and longer lines once you feel comfortable.
- Clean up mistakes: Makeup is supposed to be fun, so don’t be afraid to make mistakes! Fixing a mishap is as easy as using a cotton swab and a little bit of micellar water to wipe it away.
- Have fun: Lastly, but most importantly, have fun and get creative with your graphic look. “Makeup has no rules so you can bend and shape it however you like,” assures Samuels. “Graphic liner is one of the fun ways you can go as simple or as bold as you want.”
Curved Winged Eyeliner
Neon-Bright Winged Eyeliner
Halo Winged Eyeliner
Meet the Experts
Art is the paramount influence in Andrea C. Samuels’ life and work. She began her creative career drawing and sketching people at the age of two, eventually enrolling in art college courses in The School of The Art Institute at age nine. At the age of eighteen in 2002, a pivotal moment occurred: Andrea’s passion for art merged into makeup when experimenting with senior prom beauty looks. In 2009, Andrea Samuels graduated from Make Up First LLC and obtained her IL State Certification for Makeup Artistry. Between 2013 through today, Andrea has assisted some of the industry's top makeup artists such as Ashunta Sheriff, DeShawn Hatcher, AJ Crimson, Gucci Westman, Saisha Beecham and Sir John. Andrea is the first makeup finalist for the Fall 2015 "VFiles Made Fashion" Show at New York Fashion Week and was the Key Artist for four runway designers sponsored by V Magazine. In 2020, Andrea ventured into hairstyling to add to her arsenal of skills and completed her Cosmetology License at Paul Mitchell The School in Sherman Oaks, CA. Andrea's work can be found with clients such as Nike, Versace, Nickelodeon, Target and the King of the Westcoast: Snoop Dogg. Andrea is currently represented by Cloutier Remix and based in Los Angeles, CA.
As a professional Make-up Artist, Lennie, has discovered a true passion for her career. Her work has been featured in magazines such as Vogue US, L’Officiel Lituania, ESPN Magazine, TIME Magazine, just to name a few.
As the versatile artist that she is, her work experience goes from Editorial, Commercial, as well as TV and Celebrities, some of these are Naomi Osaka, Ashlyn Harris and Ali Krieger, Puma, Old Navy, and Perry Ellis.
Lennie believes in the Art of Makeup; being creative and open to new challenges have been her qualities to become a successful Makeup Artist.
Brooke Knappenberger is the Editorial Fellow at Marie Claire, where she writes across the board from fashion and beauty to books and celebrities. As a pop culture junkie, Brooke obsessively consumes and writes about the latest movie releases, streaming TV shows, and celebrity scandals. She has over three years of experience writing on fashion, beauty, and entertainment and her work has appeared on Looper, NickiSwift, The Sun US, and Vox Magazine of Columbia, Missouri. Brooke obtained her Bachelor's Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism with an emphasis on Magazine Editing and has a minor in Textile and Apparel Management.
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