How to Style Your Liquid Liner Like a Beauty Editor

Spread your wings... literally.

milan, italy   april 07 a model, make up detail, is seen backstage ahead of the julia kontogruni show during sposaitalia collezioni on april 07, 2019 in milan, italy photo by rosdiana ciaravologetty images
Rosdiana Ciaravolo

Despite trying out thousands—literally, thousands—of makeup products over the course of my career as a beauty editor, I tend to gravitate towards a few key products. I'm a total lipstick devotee, and I can never pass up that signature thwip of opening a brand new tube of inky-fresh mascara. But if there's one product I would trade for all the others, it's a slick, pigmented liquid liner. While some of my favorite ladies in the industry tend to throw on a red lip for instant confidence, I swoop on an onyx cat eye when I need to feel confident enough to overthrow my enemies Outlander-style...you know, if I had to.

I've had a ton of practice when it comes to making liner look creative and crisp, though, much like most editors at their respective outlets. Makeup artists are constantly giving us in-person tutorials and tips, so we're privy to some cool tricks that everyone can master: how to get the shape right the first time, how to personalize a wing for your face, and even what to pair your liner with to take the look up a notch. So to anyone who's uttered the phrase "I could never rock that," I'm here to tell you that you fucking can. And celebrity makeup artist Katie Jane Hughes, who's glammed up stars like Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Ashley Graham, can vouch.

"Anyone can wear any kind of eyeliner. It just depends on where it goes on each person’s eye," says Hughes, even when it comes to a more editorial look. Read on for some eye-opening inspo, and a few tips from Hughes herself.

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Whimsical Whisps

Mirroring is key to keeping the eyes looking symmetrical with this look, but don't overthink it. "If you’re trying to do some creative little flicks all over the eye, start with one line, and do the exact same on the other side," says Hughes. "Add each bit as you go, without too much thought on what the end goal will be, because that way your creative freedom will be much wider. Use a light little flick of pressure, almost like you're plucking a hair—one swift, quick motion."

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The Femme Fatale

To achieve a classic, bold wing, consider your eye shape before starting. "If you’ve got very open lids to draw eyeliner on, you should start drawing on your liner in the inner corner and wing your way out, then thicken it as much as you want," suggests Hughes. "But if you’ve got a hooded eye, you should do the wing part first, and then work yourself into the inner corner. If you start the other way around with hooded lids or folded lids, you can end up with a bigger wing than what you're shooting for."

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Heavy Metal

Shimmery silver adds instant flair to even the simplest look. Follow the crease from your inside corner, and end with a tiny, fun flourish.

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The Zebra

Alternate swipes of black and white liquid liner starting at the inner corners, then polish off your animal kingdom-inspired creations with tiny black tips at the ends.

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Red Hot

For maximum impact, pair a wide, scarlet wing with a matching pout.

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Glam and Graphic

Layer bold, ink black liner over '80s-style blush to take your makeup game up an editorial notch.

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Floating

A pop of pastel strategically placed can up even the simplest makeup look. Try starting from the center of the eye and working your way outwards in both directions just above the crease.

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The Quick Flick

Sometimes, less is more, and this easy swipe of tangerine takes approximately two minutes to pull off.

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Negative Space

This one is simpler than it looks: draw on the outline of your wings as you typically would, and then...leave it be!

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Easy and Elegant

Sometimes, a sharp, subdued wing is just the ticket. Pair it with lengthening mascara and a nude lip for a natural yet elevated look.

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The Black Swan

Bring your inner corners to a point to elongate the eyes and create a seductive gaze.

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The Frame

Hey, it's maximalist for sure, but entirely worth the payoff. Keep Q-tips nearby to even out your thick lines as you go.

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Big and Bold

Pair a brightly-hued wing up top with some smokey black liner on the bottom. Work it into your lash line, and then use a Q-tip or liner brush to smudge it out for a diffused look.

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