Winged Eyeliner: The Ultimate Guide to Mastering It

Everything you need to know about the classic liner look, straight from the pros.

Sorina Stanciu wears winged eyeliner and a black lown-neck v-neck dress, during the Ramelle show, during "Feeric" Fashion Week 2021 In Sibiu, on July 23, 2021 in Sibiu, Romania.
(Image credit: Edward Berthelot/Getty Images)

Adele. Audrey Hepburn. Amy Winehouse. Cleopatra. What do all of these names have in common? Each is known for rocking a killer winged eyeliner look. Ever since the ancient Egyptians used kohl around the eyes, celebrities, makeup artists, and everyday people from across the globe have turned to this classic eyeliner look. “Winged eyeliner has stood the test of time as it simply enhances our eyes,” explains pro makeup artist Alexandria Gilleo. “It can have the appearance of widening, elongating, and lifting our eye shape, creating definition and a ‘snatched’ look.” 

Sure, winged eyeliner may be straightforward in concept—it’s simply eyeliner on the upper lashline ending in an upwards flick. If you really want to go crazy, you can line the bottom line to connect to the winged top for a cat-eye look. But in practice, winged eyeliner is one tough feat to master. For years now, I myself have been using my favorite brown eyeliners to create my daily subtle flick, but I still find plenty of imperfections in my liner look. And that’s OK! When it comes to eyeliner, practice (and lots of it!) truly makes perfect, but we promise that nailing winged eyeliner can be done.

If you’re ready to venture into the world of winged liner, you’ve come to the right place. Ahead is everything you need to know from experts Gilleo and celebrity makeup artist Adam Oaknine to recreate a winged look on yourself. And when we say “everything,” we really mean everything. From tips for different eye shapes (including winged liner’s number one enemy, hooded eyes) to expert pro pointers for crisp, clean lines, we’ve got you covered. But before you get to drawing, you’re going to need a damn good eyeliner, aka one of the editor- and pro-approved picks below. 

Best Eyeliners for Winged Eyeliner

If you’re wondering which eyeliner formula to grab for your winged liner look, it really depends on what style of wing you’re looking to achieve, explains Oaknine. For example, if you’re going for a smoked-out wing, he suggests using a kohl pencil liner, or if a graphic colorful liner wing is your goal, you’ll want to opt for a water-activated liner like Suva Beauty’s, below. Gel and liquid formulas, which are Gilleo’s favorite for winged eyeliner, are also an option. “I personally love a liquid liner in a pen because I find it to be extremely precise and holds the most longevity in a makeup application,” Gilleo says. “A liquid pen allows you to create a sharp and thin line.” For whatever winged look you’re going for, we have options for you, below. 

How to Apply Winged Eyeliner

Now that you have a great eyeliner on hand, it’s time to put your pencil to paper, or liner to eye, if you will. Follow these simple steps from Gilleo and Oaknine to achieve the perfect winged eyeliner, every time. 

  1. After applying any primers or eyeshadows, begin by lining the upper lash line starting at the center of the eye using small, short strokes. Make sure to keep your eyes open and look straight ahead to avoid any weird angles. 
  2. Glide the liner from the center of the eye toward the outer tip in an upward and outward motion following the natural angle of your lower lash line.
  3. After drawing your line out to your desired wing length, connect the line back to your upper lash line in your desired thickness.  
  4. From there, connect the center to the inner corner. 
  5. Afterwards, grab a cotton swab and dab it in makeup remover to sharpen up any edges and clean up wherever needed.   
  6. Finally, finish off your winged liner look with your favorite mascara or false lashes, if you desire. 

Winged Eyeliner for Different Eye Shapes

Depending on your eye shape, winged eyeliner is going to look slightly different on everyone. But rest easy–Oaknine says, “There is a style of winged eyeliner to flatter everyone!” Keep reading for pro tips on how to achieve a flattering winged look for your eye shape.  

Hooded Eyes

Actress Blake Lively arrives at Premiere of Universal Pictures' "Savages" at Westwood Village on June 25, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.

(Image credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Hooded eyes are undoubtedly the most difficult shape for winged eyeliner. If you’ve ever thought you nailed a sharp wing only to look up and get that dreaded “swoop,” then you know what I mean. But don’t stress—Gileo has a few recommendations to nail your winged eyeliner. First, she says to stare straight into the mirror when applying eyeliner and to hold the mirror straight on, not upwards or downwards. Then, she says, “Start at the outer corner of the wing first to ensure the wings are evenly applied and visible and not lost in the application.” Finally, make sure to use a waterproof or long-wearing formula as hooded eyes may leave a crease or transfer mark on the lid. 

Upturned Eyes 

Bella Hadid attends the 75th Anniversary celebration screening of "The Innocent (L'Innocent)" during the 75th annual Cannes film festival at Palais des Festivals on May 24, 2022 in Cannes, France.

(Image credit: Stephane Cardinale-Corbis/Getty Images)

If the outer corners of your eyes are higher than your inner corners, then you have upturned eyes. For this shape, Oaknine says, “Lifted cat eye winged liner is your best friend.” With your winged eyeliner, add a line from the edge of the lower lash line up toward the temples at an angle perpendicular to the front of the brow. This will give an even more uplifting effect to upturned eyes. 

Downturned Eyes

Actress Sydney Sweeney attends the pink carpet during the 5th Canneseries Festival - Day One on April 01, 2022 in Cannes, France.

(Image credit: Stephane Cardinale-Corbis/Getty Images)

Downturned eyes are essentially the opposite of upturned eyes, meaning the outer corners sit lower than the inner corners. With this eye shape, Gilleo explains, “A winged liner can lift downturned eyes upwards,” so don’t be afraid to reach new heights with a long wing. Additionally, you can apply liner along your natural downward shape for a different effect. “Your eyes will droop in a style originated in Japan that gives your lids a cartoon puppy roundness,” says Oaknine. 

Almond-Shaped Eyes

Actress Mila Kunis arrives at the Los Angeles Premiere of "A Bad Moms Christmas" at Regency Village Theatre on October 30, 2017 in Westwood, California.

(Image credit: Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic)

If you have almond-shaped eyes, your eyes are longer in width than they are round, plus they taper by the tear duct and outer corners. For this eye shape, Oaknine recommends using more of a straight angle with your winged liner. He explains, “If you apply it straight out from your lash line, it will accentuate the length and shape of your eyes, giving an extended almond effect.” 

More Tips and Tricks for Winged Eyeliner

For beginners: “No matter what eye shape,” Gilleo explains, “you can always start your wing soft by using a pencil or eyeshadow with an angled brush. This is good for everyday and soft makeup.”

For added drama: If you’re going for a big and bold look, Gilleo says, “You can add a liquid, kohl, or gel liner right on top to go over the pencil outline.”

For a universally flattering shape: “For the most universally flattering winged eyeliner shape, follow the angles of the front of your brow and lower lash line,” Oaknine says. 

Don’t be afraid to experiment: “Feel free to use any color you want; winged liner doesn’t always have to be in black,” says Gilleo. “Sometimes I love to add a bold or vibrant color for fun. If I want a softer appearance, a brown, plum, or grey will look nice as well.”

Meet the Experts

portrait of Alexandria Gilleo
Alexandria Gilleo

Alexandria has always been captivated and inspired by the beauty that each individual possesses. Her goal is to make her clients look good and feel beautiful, and it is instantly identifiable in her signature makeup style: gorgeous, radiant faces that seem to glow from within. Whether the task is a commercial, advertising, video, interview, press, or print, she will adjust her technique to answer the demands of different lighting set ups, scenarios, and pressure-packed situations. Alexandria has appeared on the Tyra Banks show, has won several awards for her freelance work, and has raised over $35,000 for charities including St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. Her work can be seen in Ulta, Sephora, Kohl’s, and Philosophy stores globally, and has been seen on faces including Ali Krieger, Ashlyn Harris, Adriana Lima, Alexander Wang, Charlie Sheen, Camila Coelho, and Paul Rudd, to name a few. 

Portrait of Adam Oaknine, pro makeup artist
Adam Oaknine

Adam Oaknine (@facesbyadam) is a self-taught celebrity makeup artist from Toronto, Canada. He has worked with Vogue, Ryan Destiny, Prada, Kiesza, LNQ, Ssense, H&M, Dew of the Gods, Spotify, Rick Owens, Burberry, Ali Gatie, Penny Oleksiak, Adidas, Belif, 437, Rolling Stone, and more. He is known for his celebrity glams and editorial campaign looks. His work can also be found on TikTok under the same handle, where he posts more tutorials and special effects work. He takes inspiration from high fashion references, queer culture, and vintage classic artistry.

Brooke Knappenberger
Associate Commerce Editor

Brooke Knappenberger is the Associate Commerce Editor at Marie Claire, where she specializes in crafting shopping stories—from sales content to buying guides that span every vertical on the site. She also oversees holiday coverage with an emphasis on gifting guides as well as Power Pick, our monthly column on the items that power the lives of MC’s editors. She also tackled shopping content as Marie Claire's Editorial Fellow prior to her role as Associate Commerce Editor.

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.