Not to brag or anything, but I know a thing or two about doing my makeup. My brows are always on point, and I get actual compliments on my just-so blush application technique. However, I’m not going to claim that I’m an out and out pro when it comes to applying liquid eyeliner. In fact, I’d probably consider myself a novice at best, as much as I really hate to admit it.
For one reason or another, I can never quite make a straight line across my eye with liquid liner. I blame an unsteady hand, overactive eyelid, or both. When I do manage to draw a decent (read: not weirdly diagonal) line, nine times out of 10 I end up smearing it so that my attempt at winged liner looks more like a Rorschach inkblot.
What am I doing wrong? I posed the question to beauty blogger Felicia Walker-Benson, creator of ThisThatBeauty.com, and Kat Von D artistry collective artist Steffanie Strazzere. Here’s their list of the top five mistakes that will turn your cat eye into raccoon eyes—and how to fix them.
1. You’re using the wrong type of liquid liner.
“One thing that I think is very important is to choose a product that feels comfortable for you,” says Walker-Benson. There are different types of liquid liners, and if one feels more natural to use, then you’re going to find it easier to control. “Does a liquid felt tip pen feel comfortable to you? Does a gel liner pencil work? I would recommend playing around in a Sephora or Ulta and try all of those different tools—I think a lot of times people try to get a look with the wrong tool, or a tool that doesn’t feel comfortable for them.”
Walker-Benson swears by the E.L.F Cosmetics Intense Ink Eyeliner explaining that it’s, “so good. It’s really the only one I wear. It’s super rich, which is great for darker skin tones, plus, the felt tip gives me great precision and control.”
2. You’re trying to draw one even line across your lid.
“A common mistake that I see so many people make it that they think their liquid liner is meant to be one line,” says Strazzere. “I can never do one line for a cat eye! What I do are lots of little lines—it’s almost like sketching it out—then I’ll connect them. Once I have a pretty straight line, I’ll go back with a little more of a heavy hand and really perfect it.”
Walker-Benson advises testing a variety of application techniques in order to lock in which ones work best for you. “I think in addition to trying out different liquid eyeliner tools, it’s also important to try out different techniques,” she tells SELF. “Maybe it is drawing dashes and then connecting them, maybe it’s a free-handed stroke coming from the outside in. The fun part of makeup is that it wipes off so you can just experiment with different ideas.”
3. You’re trying to line your lashes and create a cat eye flick in one stroke.
In my experience, it’s almost impossible to draw a seamless line and classic cat eye flick at the exact same time. Strazzere agrees, saying it’s best to do it in two steps. You should actually draw the outline of the wing you want before lining your lid. Start by drawing a line up and out from the outer edge of your eyelid, where your lashes end. That’s the outer edge of the wing. Then, move the tip of the liner slightly inward along your lash line (toward your nose) and make a second line connecting to the first, meeting it to form a point. You’ll be left with an open triangle shape. Repeat on the other eye. “Next,” she explains, “draw a line across your lid directly on top of your actual lash line. Finally, go back and fill in your flick outline, and you’ll have the perfect cat eye that’s symmetrical to your eye shape.”
4. You’re holding your liner brush too close to your eyelid.
The amount of pressure used during liner application can dramatically change the type of eye look you end up with. “Say I’m doing a liquid liner and I want like a really perfect end,” says Strazzere, “the further away you hold it the less product will come out, and the more tapered of a line you’ll get.”
The closer you hold your liner tip, the more pressure you’ll have when drawing a line, which equals more product on your lids—which is not always ideal. Strazzere advises holding your brush closer to its end rather than at its base for a more precise and intentional line. “It’s almost like holding a baseball bat—the further down you hold it, the further the ball goes,” she says.
5. You’re closing your eye and tugging at the corner of your eyelid.
Another common eyeliner mistake is pulling on the corner of your eye to hold your lid taut. Strazzere explains that tugging on your eyelid will actually cause your makeup to look worse. “What you don’t realize is when you close your eyes, your eyelid contracts so your skin sort of goes together more,” Strazzere tells SELF. “When you’re doing that, a lot times when you open your eyes there’s that skipping, almost heart monitor [look]—that’s because your eyelid is closed.”
According to Strazzere, if you look down while you’re putting your eyeliner on, it helps to expand the eye skin which in turn allows your liner to go on more evenly. “If you look down, your eye naturally has this smoothness to it, so you don’t have to pull or tug at all,” she says.
Walker-Benson says, “What I like to do is throw my head way back to the point where my nostrils are super high, then I can see my eye area better. It’s best to find ways to apply without pulling on your eye—if you try straight on in the mirror, it’s more difficult to see your eye, which is why so many people tug their lids.”