5 Super Simple Steps to Finally Nail the Winged Liner Look
Main image – Emily Towers
We should’t be ashamed to admit it; many of us mere makeup mortals quake in fear when it comes to the dreaded but signature winged eyeliner.
Both universally flattering and at the same time often frustratingly tough to pull off (asymmetry is in, right?), the perfect winged liner is a look that can sometimes feel like one of those secret cool girl skills that everyone else seems to have but you.
Not so though – tonnes of us struggle with this deceptively tricky look.
If you’re finally hoping to master the enigma that is the flawless cat eye that even Taylor Swift sings about, then look no further. After years of trial and error, I’ve finally cracked getting a consistent look by sticking to a super simple set of steps which make winged liner possible – and I’ve laid down *every* trick I know below.
So if you’re a secret cat eye fan who’s consigned their hopes of ever perfecting the look to the bin, we’ve got you. Whether you have hooded eyes and think you can’t wear a winged liner (you can), you regularly nail your liner on one side before struggling to match the other eye (you’re not alone), or have never even attempted the look, you’ll find *every* way to nail this look below.
No woman (or man) is getting left behind here on our quest to make the winged liner universally accessible!
First things first, proper skin prep is essential – for any makeup look. Make sure your eye area is gently cleansed and hydrated, yet free of any excess product that can disturb your application.
Next, to keep your look in place consider an eyeshadow primer. For those on the drier side, you might like a hydrating-formula to prevent flaking. For anyone that struggles with excess oil on their eyelids, a mattifying formula can prevent creasing.
Picking your product
There are myriad products out there claiming to offer the sharpest wing ever seen. That’s why we’ve simplified the process by breaking down what each formula formula does to help you pick the perfect product for your desired look.
Gel liners – Gel liners (generally found in a small pot and applied with a separate brush) often boast waterproof or smudge-resistant formulas, so your eye-makeup can last all day and well into the night.
These tend to be slightly easier to apply for beginners since they don’t dry as quickly so you can touch up or change your shape as you go. The shade range here is typically limited to black and brown though, depending on the brand you go with, but the prices don’t have to be extortionate; NYX’s easy to use Epic Black Mousse Eyeliner is £9/$10 .
Water-activated liners– These powder products are designed to be used with a wet liner brush and are another beginner-friendly option because they’ll stay wet while you work with a wet brush so you can touch up as you create your liner.
Water-activated formulas typically offer a variety of colours and the most opaque pay-off for those looking to get creative.
Pencil liners – The ideal all-rounder has to be pencil eyeliner. As long as it’s sharpened, it can pull-off an extra-sharp wing. Pencils are perfect for anyone with some confidence applying liner but who doesn’t yet feel ready for a liner pen. Depending on the formula you go for you can expect anything from a creamy formula that glides onto lids to waterproof products that won’t budge.
Liquid liners – Liquid liner pens usually have tapered nibs, making application fuss-free and exact. They also usually offer a longer handle, improving control when applying the product.
They dry quickly though, meaning you you’ll need some makeup remover and cotton buds to hand if you’re not confident in your application. Their shaped nib does make them seriously quick to use once you’re used to them though.
Products like Too Faced’s Better That Sex Easy Glide Waterproof Liquid Liner (£21/$25) are cult favourites for a reason; once you’ve mastered them they create a super sharp look and won’t budge.
Eyeshadow – A winged liner can also be achieved with eyeshadow and an angled liner brush. Depending on the intensity of colour payoff and look you’re going for, these can be either fairly simple to apply (a soft brown shadow, for example, won’t show mistakes as much as darker black look).
Consider your eye shape
Once you’ve chosen the product best suited to you, considering your eye shape will *seriously* help you with step one of your application (below). Choosing a shape that will flatter your natural eye-shape is the key to a faultless wing.
For those who’s inner corners are higher than the outer corners of their eyes, emphasising this upturned shape will give an elongated effect. Focus on angling your wing to be lifted toward your temple.
For those with downturned eyes, your outer corner sits lower than your inner corner. Some may wish to counteract their downturned shape by drawing the line upwards toward their temple, but others may wish emphasise their natural eye shape by following their lower-lash line downwards.
Those with eyes that have tapered inner and outer corners and a longer length, rather than a thicker width, have almond eyes. Almond-eyes can be exaggerated by opting for a straighter wing that is extended straight across.
This is my own eye shape, and although many people you can’t do winged liner on a hooded eye, you definitely can.
Hooded eyes have a folding of the upper-eyelid that partially hides the crease of your lid. It’s important to choose a long-wearing formula when lining hooded-eyes, to avoid transfer. To achieve an even wing, look straight on into the mirror when applying the product and use the angle of your outer-corner as a guideline.
Step 1: Starting point
As a general rule of thumb, plotting out your desired shape is the ideal place to start. Look straight on into the mirror and place a dot where you want your wing to end. Place another at the outer corner of your lower lash line and another at the outer corner of your upper lash line – creating a triangle outline.
Step 2: Creating the basic shape
Take a deep breath. It’s time to draw your first line. For increased stability, rest the side of your palm and fingers on your upper-cheek bone.
Start by connecting the dot at your lower lash-line with the dot placed at the end of your proposed wing. Ensure you are applying at a slight sideways angle for improved control rather than holding the product parallel to your face. If you’re feeling hesitant, mark out your line with small strokes rather than gliding on one line.
Once you are happy with the initial angle, connect the outer corner dot with the dot closest to your lash line. Take time to perfect the line with short and controlled sketching.
Now, your wing is starting to form, take a look in the mirror from an above angle to ensure it is to your preferred shape.
Step 3: Filling in
It’s time to fill in that wing. Short, careful strokes are favoured until you get your desired opacity.
Step 4: The details
Some may choose to leave it there, others may choose to line the upper lash line. Take a similar approach with this and line from the inner corner from the tear duct to the outer corner, where your wing sits. Ensure the wing is connected carefully by tucking in the upper-lid liner as close to your lash-line as possible.
For higher-impact, you may even choose to tight-line your upper water-line or lower water-line or add a sharpened inner-corner.
Step 5: Cleaning up
If you’ve had a mishap, now is the time to clean up those mistakes – using either a q-tip with a dash of eye-safe liquid cleanser or a makeup removing wipe.
After tackling the other eye, you may wish to repeat that step again, to ensure ultimate evenness.
Fuss free alternatives
If you’re still unconvinced, don’t be discouraged. There are a *tonne* of hacks and tools to make your application error-free if you’re finding it tough to nail the look using the steps above.
Guidelines – There are a variety of stencils on the market, including reusable silicone stencils with handles that can be easily angled around the eye area, or stick-on stencils that precisely map out a shape to follow. Skin-friendly tape can also be utilised as a guideline, but make sure to avoid tugging during removal.
Stamps – Kaja’s Wink Stamp Original Waterproof Wing Eyeliner Stamp & Pen ($29) is a double ended eyeliner stamp (one end for your left and one for your right) that makes the perfect little flick in your outer corner (frankly, the most difficult bit to get right). It also comes with its own liquid liner too so after you’ve stamped you just use the liner to fill in any gaps.
Improved mobility – Guide beauty, Vive Foam Tubing and Kohl Kreatives offer a range of mobility-friendly products including grip-aids, elongated handles for stability and cleverly designed brushes that do not roll and are engraved with braille.
Stickers – If all of the above just feels to much hassle though and you just want to try out the winged liner look for the day, stickers can also be used to replicate the traditional winged-liner with hassle-free removal.
Available in a host of fun colours, simply stick on for a pro look and remove whenever you’ve had enough cat eye action.
Congrats! You’ve mastered the paradox that is the flawless winged liner. Now the fun can begin!
With literally hundreds of colours, texture and effects at your fingertips (did someone say ‘glitter liner’?) you can now play around with a shade and look that you love.
Who knows, your new signature look may just have been born!