Eye Liner Techniques

Great Style Tips Ranging From Fine Precision
To 'Smoked Out'

You really only need to know a handful of eye liner techniques to create MANY great eye makeup styles. Most of the techniques you see are modifications of the following techniques;

  • fine precision clean line
  • heavier definition
  • smoked out
  • playful and graphic lines

The role of eye liners in general, is to thicken the look of lashes and define the eye area. Changing the thickness of those lines, and placement will generate different degrees of drama and style. There are a number of types of eye makeup used to define the eye ranging from pencils and shadows to liquids or more recently, gels. All come in a great variety of colors.

When it comes to makeup, eye lining is among the more precise applications and using the right application tools WILL MAKE ALL THE DIFFERENCE IN THE WORLD to your success at it (not to mention, allow you to tap into a wide range of styles).

The Essential Tools For Great Eye Liner Techniques

photo of eye liner products

These makeup brushes, tools and products will have you armed and ready to be dangerously stylish.

Consider for your most basic eye liner arsenal;

  • one black pencil eye liner (soft enough to smudge or be precise enough for fine lining)
  • a flat head eye liner brush
  • a smudge brush
  • fine liner brush

Eye Liner Styles

From the most high precision thin to the thick, dramatic and graphic.

diagram of thin eyelinerThin and Precise


Clean Thin Precision

Creating a nice clean thin line, tight to your lash line can be done using a pencil, a shadow, or liquid/ gel liner.

i) PENCIL - easiest tool

diagram of eye liner techniqueShort angled strokes.

Take a sharpened dark neutral pencil, and use short angled strokes tightly place at the lash line and in between the lashes.

Take an angled brush and sweep along the liner, as close to lash line as possible, and work the strokes together until they appear to be a single precise softened line at lash line (there should be no patches of bare skin between line and lashes).

Set liner with dark shadow, using the angled liner brush by pressing it and shifting along lash line.

Favorites to try: MAC Kohl Liner, NARS Eye Liner Pencil,and Lancome Le Crayon Khol

ii) GEL - some skill

Take fine liner brush (it is the key to your success), and dip it carefully into product ( a little goes a very long way). You can place it as you would a pencil liner, then blend it together with the same brush (see above diagram)...BONUS wet rich look and longer wearing, PLUS you can also use it like an eyeshadow (great for smoky eye style).

Favorites to try (all top products):MAC Fluidline, Bobbi Brown Gel Eye Liner, and Stila Smudgepots

iii) LIQUID - skill requiring practice

Ultra fine dramatic effect, but not as forgiving as gel and pencil to use. Usually the format is tube with wand (like mascara format except the wand has a tiny fine point brush).

1. With the wand and a steady hand, working from the *inner corner out, using a smooth steady horizontal strokes as tight to the lash line as possible. It may help to gently pull up on lid at outer brow to access the space at your upper lash line (depending on how your eyes are set).

2. If you end up with a bare patch between line and lashes, 'dab'- patch it.

Favorites to try: Lancome ARTLINER and Too Faced Liquif-Eye Smudge & Water Resistant Liquid Liner

iv) EYE SHADOW- some skill

Using an angled liner brush sweep across your shadow of choice, tap of excess shadow powder, and with smooth horizontal movement, press/stroke tightly to lash line.

Some shadows can work wet as well so you can wet your brush with water and dab in shadow for a more liquid effect (their are even special liquids designed to facilitate this use...try Paul Dorf Transformer)

Favorites to try:MAC Eyeshadow, Dior, and NARS

(Eye Liner Techniques continued...)


Heavier Definition

Your eye makeup style preferences will determine how thick the line will be and there is great range in this category. The thicker the greater the definition ( and drama). Another element contributing to definition and drama is color.


illustration of eye liner soft definition style1. Soft Smudge Definition


For thicker lining of the eyes, the best makeup medium is the combination of eye liner pencil and powder eye shadow (very versatile makeup for very thin and thick).

An exception to this would be in creating highly stylized, very specific and precise eye designs.


illustration of edgie eye makeup2. Dramatic Lower Smudge

SMUDGING isn't just for 'smoky' style...

Regardless of your style, you should always soften the lines you make by gently smudging them (very rarely does the clearly identifiable line of a pencil, encircling the eye, look great).

The tool for smudging should be in relation to the size of the line desired; an angled liner or smudge brush covers the range of thickness in most cases (the head of a Q-tip also can work in a pinch).


illustration of dramatic eye makeup3. Color Drama


Different lines, different colors and different combination strategies can create a lot of different looks. Compare the imagesabove and to the right .

'Fresh & soft' has slightly thicker line than 'Classic clean' but color and smudging has created a softer definition. 'Chic edge' under the has placed a lot of drama under the lower lash line with a thick smudged smoky black line (plus inner rim) and balanced drama on the upper lid with dramatic color and subtle lining.

apple graphicThere is lots of creative license when it comes to eye lining. Just remember these two points; BLENDING & BALANCE.


Smoked Out

smoky eye liner diagramThe Smoky Eye

There are a lot of eye liner techniques used to create this look and definitely a lot of range in the level of drama created, BUT there are THREE KEY ELEMENTS that categorize it as 'SMOKY':

  • dark thick smudged upper lash line
  • slightly thick to very thick smudged line under lower lashes ( a variety of colors can be used)
  • dark lined inner rim of lower lash line


  • black eye pencil
  • 2-3 eye shadow shades in grays, plums, browns etc.
  • smudge brush
  • eye lash curler
  • black mascara

Playful, Graphic, Stylized Lines

eye liner styles diagramRecent Trends

Fine point pencil or brush will give the high precision needed for these eye liner techniques and design creations. 

Full artistic license is in play here since the idea is far from subtle or low key definition with eye liner. In fact, its just the opposite. 

Here are a few liner ideas seen out there recently. The ideal makeup is gel liner applied with a fine liner brush.

Last word on eye liner techniques...

Outside of strategical considerations for ones own unique set of features,  there are literally hundreds of options that can be created when it comes to styling eye makeup and use of eye liner techniques.  The best way, to find flattering styles you like is by experimenting and taking a little artistic license of your own.

If you are looking for eye liner product recommendations, try my Best Makeup Products page.

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Spring 2018

Happy Spring 2018!

I would like to let all of you know how much I appreciate your support:) Please enjoy this west coast beach sunset as you soak up the beauty info. Grab some quick makeup tips or give your look a complete overhaul.

Something beautiful is on your horizon.



Yasmin, Editor

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P.S. The mystery girl strolling the beach? My sister Sarah, who has been my "go to" model over the years. Thanks Sis!



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