The eyes have always had it, but in the age of face mask-wearing, extra attention is being paid to the gaze. In lieu of red lips, it’s perennially classic and universally flattering cat eyeliner that’s receiving renewed focus. “Now more than ever, eyeliner is the most effective tool to instantly enhance the shape of the eyes, express our mood, and accentuate our unique individuality,” says Gina Brooke, who paints winged eyes on clients including Cate Blanchett and Sofia Boutella. From creating a flattering base to drawing on the perfect eye-elongating wing, here pro makeup artists reveal their tricks for nailing cat eyeliner.
Start By Tightlining
To begin, makeup artist Emily Cheng, who works with Yara Shahidi and Laura Harrier, recommends tightlining, also known as the invisible eyeliner technique, which consists of “applying eyeliner in between the lashes” to make them appear thicker and fuller at the roots. It will create a base for a richer, longer-lasting cat-eye look.
Swipe on a Natural Eyeshadow
After pro Tasha Reiko Brown (who works with Alicia Keys and Tracee Ellis Ross) tightlines, she adds a sheer swipe of a light, natural eyeshadow on the lids for a clean backdrop to add contrast. “Use a domed eyeshadow brush to apply a warm natural brown in the crease,” instructs Brown. To double down on brightening the eye area, Brooke recommends adding a neutral, flesh-toned liner at the inner corners of the eye, as well as to the lower inner perimeter to instantly open the eyes and ultimately create the illusion of larger eyes. “Using a gradation for color and smudging the liner away from the upper and lower lash lash line will widen the eyes and provide a fresh, wide-eyed appearance,” she says.
Choose Your Shade
“The most flattering shades are the ones you feel most confident in,” insists Brown. That being said, universally you can’t go wrong with warm, rich, deep browns to bring warmth around the eye. “It defines the eye without pulling focus and has more of a subtlety than black,” she says. For a similarly soft effect, Cheng recommends deep maroon as an alternative for a striking pop. But for the most part, she tends to stick to the ultimate classic, a highly-pigmented black liner, for a “sharp and clean” effect.
Add a Flick or Wing
The intention of winged liner is to elongate the eye. To do so with optimal results: “Start with liner at the inner most corner and drag out slightly past the end of eye,” says Brown. “The line should be ultra-thin at the inner eye and gradually become slightly thicker as you move outwards.” Then comes the flick or wing, of course. To keep steady and trace on the ideal shape, Cheng recommends keeping your eye open and looking into the mirror with a relaxed face before attempting to sculpt the shape. “Following the curve of your bottom waterline and sweeping upward is a good place to start in finding the angle of your eyeliner,” explains Cheng. “This way you’ll avoid going too straight or too angled upward, unless that is the look you are going for. I find following the waterline to be the most natural and flattering.”
Clean It Up and Refine
No matter what your desired effect is, a tapered point Q-Tip will be your best friend for cleaning up errors, as well as sharpening your lines and shapes. “When I have a liner that has gotten too thick or to correct any mistakes, I’ll take a pointed makeup Q-tip dampened with micellar water and refine the line,” says Brown, cautioning that you should be wary of using traditional Q-tips as the fibers can get caught in mascara on lashes and travel into the eye. Additionally, eschew makeup remover, which can disturb the surrounding makeup around the line too much and can leave an oily residue (stick to micellar water instead). Another tried-and-true technique is harnessing the correcting and contrast-creating power of concealer. “Finishing with concealer underneath will also accentuate the liner,” says Cheng.
Finish With Mascara
The final touch is, (what else but?), mascara. After liner has dried, curl the lashes if desired, then wiggle it on. To help elongate, Cheng recommends concentrating mascara on the outer corners for an eye-widening, wing-accenting curve.