Fool Proof Winged Eyeliner


Trendy things are a lot of fun, right?— But not not all trends are timeless. In fact, years down the road, our trends seem mostly tacky and cringeworthy. Especially when it comes to makeup. I still blush (no pun intended) when I think about my junior high school makeup routine— frosty pink lips and kohl black rimmed eyes (heeeeeeey, raccoon). Or the time I didn’t understand the art of applying bronzer, thought more was more, and went out looking like a actual human pumpkin. Or remember when a few months ago people went nuts and started making their eyebrows all wavy? Yeah. So let’s talk about timeless makeup.

Lessons in Brow Tinting

When I look at pictures of my beauty muses, they all have one thing in common. Yep, Audrey Hepburn, Sofia Lauren, Brigitte Bardot, Jean Shrimpton, Marilyn Monroe— all the good ones, they were/are timeless and they really knew how to rock a fierce winged cat eye. Because a cat eye is clean, crisp, edgy and yes, timeless.

But getting that perfect liquid line seems like a hopeless feat sometimes, right? Have you ever attempted a winged cat eye, and as you try to even out both sides, the lines just keep growing longer, getting wonkier and looking like something a seven-year-old would draw with a crayon. Then in a cry of frustration, you try wiping it all off, smearing black everywhere– meanwhile your Friday night date is downstairs waiting for you and you can’t stop freaking out…. Please tell me you’ve been there before? I sure have. But guess what? The perfect winged eyeliner IS 100% possible— and way easier than you thought it was. All it takes is 6 simple steps.

Supplies needed are: Eyelid primer, nude-toned eyeshadow, liquid liner, mascara, Q-Tips, and one playing card, Jack, Ace, Queen of Clubs, whatever (for training purposes). Here we go :

Step #1 

 I always start with a blank canvas, meaning, squeaky clean eyes. No mascara, old shadow or liner residue— clean eyes. Then I blank-out that canvas even more, by applying an eyelid primer. My favorite is either the MAC Paint Pot in “Soft Ochre” or Benefit’s Stay Don’t Stray Eye Shadow Primer. On top of the primer, I apply a sheer wash of a nude eyeshadow. A good one is MAC’s “Rice Paper” if I want a nude peachy color with a slight shimmer, or MAC’s “Brule” if I want a matte finish. The contrast of a nude colored lid, with the pristine, sharp winged liner is how this look is MONEY.

Step #2

I love using a felt tipped liquid eyeliner. It makes this whole process so dang easy (I’ll tell you why a little later)! And the best felt-tipped liner pens I’ve encountered are Stila’s Stay All Day Waterproof Eyeliner in “Jet Black” or Kat Von D’s Ink Liner in “Trooper.” They’re the best. They’re black as night, clean and sharp, and churn out killer liner every single time.

To make things easy, use your eyes as your guides. Starting at your pupil, make a small mark on your lash line. Like a half-centimeter line, right where your pupil is. One of my tricks is to NEVER bring the liquid line further in, than where your pupil is. The outer half is where all the winged magic happens.

*If you need some balance as you line your eyes, use your pinky finger to gently rest on your cheek. 

Step #3

After the pupil line is made, grab a playing card (any stiff card will do) and line it up to your lower lash line. Use your lower lash line as your guide in creating the actual “wing.” Angle the card from the lower lash line, toward where your eyebrow ends. Then using the card as a ruler, make a line. The further out from your eye, the more dramatic your cat eye will be. I usually aim for a centimeter and a half— but find out what works for you and your eye shape!

When you do a winged liner over and over again, you can lose the card trick. But it’s a really good tool in learning the angles you want to create and where you want to make the lines.

Step #4

Now we’re going to connect the pupil line to the winged line. You can either use the playing card to connect the lines, forming a V, then “coloring in” the space. Or just free-hand it. But here’s the good thing about using a felt-tipped eyeliner pen, it’s shaped in the way the liner should look. You can literally lay the pen down on it’s side, and it will create the winged look for you. My best winged cat eyes are created when I lay the pen, perpendicular to my eye, then lay it down, kind of stamping the color on.

I never bring the liner toward my inner eye, it stays on the outer half. It’s what I love and think looks best. If that looks weird to you, use the very tip, the sharpest point, and lay in along your lash line, toward the inner corner of tour eye.

*Another good trick is to never use the liner like you would an actual pen, pointing down. Always lay the liner on its side.

Step #5

Using dampened Q-tips (with either water or micellar water) go back in and cleanup any wobbly looking spots. A winged eyeliner should crisp, clean and sharp. After you have Q-tipped any unwanted edges, go back in with the liner, if you need, to sharpen things out.

But be warned, you’ve already committed to the shape, by using the pupil and the card trick. Stay committed to the shape, just clean things up. Most bad eyeliner jobs come from panicking and trying to “even things out.” But all you’re really doing is just extending the liner, longer and thicker, into a big black mess. Stay committed to the shape!

Step #6

Use your favorite mascara to dark the lash line, focusing on the outer half of the lashes, from pupil outward. If you keep most of the darkness on the outer half of the eyes, it reinforces the look you’re going for. It extends things out.

Six easy steps, ladies. That’s it! I promise it’s so simple.

Try them out! Tell me how these steps work for you. Being Marilyn, Audrey, Sofia is easy— it’s all about rocking that classic makeup!


Amy Hutchens

Article by Amy Hutchens. To view more content by Amy, visit her Instagram here or check out the Barefoot Blonde Hair blog where she writes all sorts of helpful tips to keep your hair looking beautiful and healthy. 

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  1. Thank you so much. I’ve always been too scared to try winged eyeliner in fear of ended up a black eyed mess. I can’t wait to try!

  2. This is the most helpful winged eyeliner tutorial I’ve ever read. And I’ve watched COUNTLESS YouTube videos. THANK YOU! Can’t wait to try this method.