Beginner Basics: Eyeliner


Image from here

Ah, eyeliner. The staple of all makeup stashes.

If you’re just venturing into makeup, you’re probably confused about the huge range of eyeliners there are out there. Pencil, kohl, gel, liquid, and all the different finishes and colours there are out there! (Yes, there is more to eyeliner than black or brown.) Coloured eyeliner is wonderful for adding a subtle pop of colour on the eyes, especially if you’re still afraid of eyeshadow. I love gold or teal for this.

Read on for a breakdown on these eyeliner types and the different techniques that there are in application.



Some pencils also come with a smudger for easy well… smudging. Great for an easy smoky eye. Image from here.

This is your most basic eyeliner type, and are probably the easiest to work with. There are lots of different formulas out there, some more creamy and some more waxy than others.You can smudge them out to get an easy smoky eye.

A trick I’ve read somewhere is to heat up your pencil by rolling it between your palms so it’ll apply a lot more smoothly on the lid. Or you can even try heating it up with a lighter to get a more pigmented, almost gel-like effect. (Disclaimer: I’ve not tried the latter, and I’m sure this works better on some formulas than others.)

Make sure you keep your pencils sharpened for a firm crisp line! I love Urban Decay’s Grindhouse, which while expensive, works great and wastes very little product in the sharpening process.

Kohl (or known as kajal in South Asia)
These are a little more powdery than pencils. They tend to be more pigmented and are not waterproof (pencils tend to be a bit waxier and have more waterproof formulas). I used to think there wasn’t that much difference between the standard pencil and kohl, but there’s a kind of smokiness that kohl achieves all on its own, that you have to work to get for pencil. Like pencil liners, these are easily applied.



Image from here.

These usually come in a pot (though Benefit’s they’re real push up liner is a twist up pencil). They’re usually applied with a fine brush or an angled eye liner brush. I prefer the latter because it’s easier to get a cat eye flick, but fine brushes are great for getting at the corner of the eyes. They are creamy and glide easily, and don’t budge when set. This is highly reccomended; they come in a variety of colours and finishes (mattes, metallics, shimmers) and can achieve the same intensity of liquid liners, but are so much easier to work with. The only problem with them is that they aren’t as portable as a pencil liner is.


Image from here

This is the most difficult to use, and probably the most unforgiving. Because of how intense the colour is, any mistake shows up instantly, and unlike pencil, you can’t just smudge it out to make it look more forgiving. You need a steady hand, and lots of practice to get this right. Getting the right kind of liquid liner helps immensely too. I prefer a firmer thicker brush to the thinner more flexible ones because the latter tends to splay all over the place for me and this mucks up the neat crisp line you want to get with liquid. Personally, I don’t face this problem but liquid liners can ‘crack’ on the lids.

Yes you can use your eyeshadows as pencils too, which is great because this means there’s a large variety of finishes and colours within your makeup kit already. Mineral makeup, which can be applied wet with an angled liner brush and can therefore get a more intense colour is reccomended. The problem with eyeshadows though, is because they are powdery, can’t be applied to the waterline. Because they’re a powder, they also won’t cling to your skin the way liquid liners do.

Set your eyeliner with an eyeshadow of the same colour! This makes it last longer. It’s especially useful when you have oily lids, and your eyeliner has a tendency to crease (this happens to me all the time). Sometimes I gently pat on translucent powder over my entire lid (yes, including the eyeshadow) to set all the makeup, like you would for the rest of your face. It works well for me.

Note: There are so many formulas out there these days, take everything I say with a pinch of salt. I’m describing general trends, there are pencils (like Urban Decay Perversion 24/7 liner) that are more pigmented than your average kohl pencil for instance.



Image from here.

This isn’t so much a separate category of eyeliner formula, but it is something I feel people severely underestimate. Sometimes, doing a full blue eyeshadow look is a little too intimidating, but lining your eyes with either a dark purple or blue is a nice alternative to black or brown, and tends to not be overwhelming.

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I had lined my eyes in dark purple eyeshadow for this look. Tutorial here.

Or you can line your eyes with gold eyeliner, or something similarly bright for a very subtle, but still impactful pop of colour.


Cinna from Hunger Games pulled off gold eyeliner beautifully. Image from here.


I went for a line of bright blue eyeshadow for this look. 

Or if you’re feeling a little braver, lining your waterline or lower lashline with teal or some other bright colour (I love using gold for this) is another way to get a pop of colour.


Image from here.

But of course, when you’re starting out with makeup, you tend not to have a lot of money, and don’t want to

– A black eye pencil. Preferably a non-waterproof one so you can also rim your waterline (I love this for getting a glamorous smoky look, which can easily turn edgy or gothic depending on how you apply it.) Note, waterproof pencils cannot be applied to the waterline. They just don’t adhere to the surface. Set your pencil liner with translucent powder or eyeshadow if you’re worried about it smudging.

– A brown eye pencil. Some days, black is just too harsh a colour. Brown is another one of those versatile colours that you’ll use all the time.

– An inner eye white pencil. White eye pencils are wonderful. They can be used to highlight the inner corner of your eyes, get rid of the redness on your lower waterline, highlight your face, get rid of redness on your pimple, be used as a base on your lids to make the eyeshadow colours you pile on top a lot more saturated, and you can just line the upper lashline with it to get a really cool effect. I like MAC Feline for this, but there are plenty of drugstore options. Read more about it here.

A nude pencil, preferrably in a shimmery colour to highlight your eyes. While white eye pencils can be used for this, sometimes you can feel white is a little too stark. This would be an offwhite colour (think champange), just a little bit lighter than your skintone. If you have a paler skin tone, use ‘eggshell’ colours, that are like a pale soft gold colour. If you have a medium skin tone, use a soft gold or rose gold, not bronze tones. For dark skin tones, use deep gold and bronze. Read more about it here.

Eyeliner Application

The biggest problem people face with applying eyeliner is obviously the fact that you won’t be too good at it when you first start out. How do you close one eye and keep the other one open? How do you get at the corners?

The biggest thing you need to remember is to be gentle. Eyeliners don’t require a great deal of pressure to apply, if they’re pigmented they should go right on. And you don’t want to poke your own eyes out!

This Michelle Phan video helped me tremendously when I was first starting out. To deal with closing one eye and keeping the other open, she has an amazing tip I used up to today. Place a Q-tip or a makeup brush (some light small thing) and press this lightly on the eyelid you want to keep closed. The slight pressure is enough to keep that eye closed and you can keep your other eye open as you apply your eyeliner on the closed eye.

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Like this. It works. I swear.

But what will help you with your application most is just to practice, practice, practice. Eyeliner is one of those things that can take you from day to night, and you can experiment with all sorts of shapes and styles.


Image from here.

I’ll probably do a post on makeup brushes next. I hope this helped!

For more articles on eyeliners:

The Beginner Basics Series:
A Beginner’s Guide to Makeup
Beginner Basics: Foundation
Beginner Basics: Makeup Brushes
Beginner Basics: Primers
Beginner Basics: Eyeliner

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4 Responses to Beginner Basics: Eyeliner

  1. Pingback: A Beginner’s Guide to Makeup | Natzi's Stash

  2. Pingback: Beginner Basics: Prepping and Priming | Natzi's Stash

  3. Pingback: Beginner Basics: Makeup Brushes | Natzi's Stash

  4. Pingback: Beginner Basics: An Introduction to Foundation | Natzi's Stash

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