What is the Best Way to Wear Eyeliner for Your Eye Shape and Size?: 15 Fresh Ideas


If I were on Survivor (it’s sad but true), the first item I would bring would be sunscreen, and the second would be eyeliner.  No matter how tired I am in the morning, I absolutely refuse to leave the house without sunscreen and eyeliner. I don’t even think my boyfriend recognizes me without it.

OK, that’s a slight exaggeration, but you get the idea.

Eyeliner is perhaps more artistic than scientific, but there is science that comes into play as well.  According to the Marquardt mask, a tool developed by UCLA researchers to determine facial attractiveness, the ideal width of your eye (at its widest) is 1.618 times wider than the tip of your nose.  Though research has shown these measurements apply with highest relevance to those with very thin, modelesque faces (Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, 2008), the ratio still comes into play in a statistically-significant manner for the rest of us, according to the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.  In other words, there is a “best” way to wear eyeliner for your eye size and shape.

Best for Small Eyes

1.)  Best Overall:  The Classic

According to makeup artist Carmindy, “If you completely cover both the top and bottom lash lines with liner, you’re going to close the eye, making it look smaller.” So a sleek line of black liner across your upper lash line without any on the lower lash line keeps your eye visually open. Totally beautiful.

A variation on the look is shown, with a slightly heavier application in the center of the eye. This look is particularly striking on round-shaped eyes. Very European sophisticate!

This look is best achieved with a liquid liner or mid-size long-last eyeliner pencil.  I love Chanel Stylo Yeux Waterproof Liner ($38.44, Amazon.com), with a thin-to-medium tip and long-lasting, non-smudging formula.

2.)  Best for Work:  To the Point

A thinner take on the classic, this subtle line is perfect for the workplace. Add two coats of black mascara, and you’re good to go!

This is a great look that is best achieved with a freshly-sharpened pencil. I love Cover Girl Perfect Blend in Basic Black ($8.24 for 2, Amazon.com).

3.)  Best for Date Night:  The Exotic Cat Eye

If you’re like me and have very short natural eyelashes, this look helps to create the illusion of longer lashes.

Using a very thin pencil, start at the innermost corner of your eye, gently tracing your eye shape, and turning the pencil at the furthermost corner into a slight upward “C” curve.  The key here is not to extend the line beyond the outward edge of your eyebrow.  If you are not sure, hold your eyeliner pencil vertically on your face, touching the tip to the end of your eyebrow, and measure.  The line must be within these limits, or it starts to look more fresh and funky than beautiful or sophisticated.  And if you add in a few false lashes, it’s really romantic!

4.)  Best for a Change-Up:  Ultraviolet

The idea here is contrast, contrast, contrast!  This works especially well if you have a particularly bold eye color.

This season, the idea is to stay two colors away on the color wheel.  For instance, green eyes really pop with a splash of violet color, whereas blue eyes sparkle with golden or yellow hues.  Brown and hazel eyes can get away with any color, but don’t play it too safe.  The idea is not to play it safe with this look!

If you want to play it safe with this look, Almay has Intense Color Hues palettes that are designed for your specific eye color.  Starting at just $4.48, these really pack a pop without hurting the wallet at all!

5-6.)  Best for a Girls’ Night Out:  Up and Over

Shown are two variations on the same look.  The top uses a thick liner against the lash line, and a thin liner over top, whereas the bottom look uses a thin liner all over.

This look is particularly striking to create the illusion of an eye crease on Asian or particularly small, heavily-creased eyes.  I’ve been known to do this a time or two before a big night out.  While the look appears dramatic above, filling in with brown, taupe, or grey eyeshadows completely transforms the look from bold and dramatic to subtle and classic.  Either way, don’t be afraid to go with liner where you’ve never gone before – the eyelid is definitely an extension of your eye, just like the oft-spoken about eyelashes and brows.

Best for Larger Eyes

7.)  Best Overall:  The Roundabout Classic

It’s hard not to look more beautiful and sophisticated with this eye. The key is to keep the line precise and thin. This look is particularly striking with almond-shaped eyes; think of Aishwarya Rai, who is rarely photographed without it.

If your eyes are medium-size, you may wish to only extend the bottom line halfway, to directly beneath the center of your pupil when you look straight ahead in the mirror.

8-9.)  Best for Date Night:  The Bold Cat’s Eye

Those with larger eyes have a lot more real estate to play with. Ironically, those with larger eyes often avoid cat eye looks, but these are surprisingly striking on larger eyes, giving the illusion of longer lashes and a bit of exoticism.

Keep in mind – eyes can vary in their positioning. The next time you look in the mirror, take your finger and align it from the inner corner of your eye to the outer corner. Does it make a diagonal line (top image) or a straight line (bottom image)? Either way, you’re better off working with your eye’s natural shape than working against it. If it’s a diagonal, the ideal angle of the swoop is about 25-30 degrees, but without getting out a protractor, stop at the edge of your eye, and turn the eyeliner into an upward “C” curve. If it’s horizontal, simply line the top of the eye, then the bottom, and connect at the outer corner.

The key here is, again, not to extend either cat’s eye swoop beyond the outer edge of the eyebrow. It takes a bit of practice, but it’s well worth it.  Trust me.

10.)  Best for Girls’ Night Out:  The Black Diamond

This look is super fun, but it’s also very bold.  It’s best reserved for those with eyes that are quite large.I mean, c’mon – if the eyes are the windows to the soul, you’re definitely drawing more attention to the curtains than the main attraction with this look! Even so, it’s definitely an eye-catching look, particularly dramatic when paired with dark-colored clothing from head-to-toe. Bold and smoldering, but also sophisticated. This look can also be achieved with a smokey eye kit; I love the Sephora Pro Lesson Palette ($20.00), with both brown and grey-shaded looks.

11.)  Best for “Buggy” Eyes-  Up and Over – Bold

While larger eyes typically have a prominent eye crease to begin with, they tend not to be as deep-set. So if you want to create that illusion, simply extend the eyeliner up and over your eyelid. Smudge or fill in with eyeshadow if desired. Trust me, it makes a difference.

Tricks for All Eye Sizes

12.)  Best for Those with Low-Hanging Eyebrows:  The Tea Pot

Believe it or not, a makeup artist once taught me it appears more feminine to have lifted eyebrows. Men naturally have lower-hanging brows.

But let’s not resort to the pain of a brow lift for lifted, feminine eyes. Instead, if you have low-hanging brows, simply create the illusion of higher brows by emphasizing the bottom, not the top, of your eyes.  The increased white space adds instant feminine allure.

The key here is, again, not to extend either cat eye swoop beyond the outer edge of the eyebrow. It takes a bit of practice, but it’s well worth it. Trust me.

13.)  Best for Disguising Wrinkles: White (or Light) Out

While all of the other looks on this page showcase black liner, it can unfortunately be a bit unforgiving to fine lines and wrinkles, crow’s feet, dark circles, etc. This is because the darkness around the eye does not reflect light well, and actually casts shadows around the eyes.

On the other hand, using a white liner on the top and inner corner of the eye brightens and softens the eye area. It is particularly beautiful when applied above a thin line of dark liner and used with two coats of mascara. For an especially beautiful look, pair with a bold pink or red lipstick, drawing attention to the lips rather than the eyes.

14-15.)  Best for Making a Statement:  Arrows Point the Way

Katniss from The Hunger Games isn’t the only one who makes a statement with arrows: Fresh and funky arrows-on-lids are fun and creative ways to express yourself. Yes, these might be a little too costumey for some, but for those looking for a punky vibe to go with this year’s bright neon ensembles, it’s hard to beat.

Bottom Line

Whether you’re trying to look more beautiful or simply make a fashion statement, don’t forget the power of eyeliner!  I hope you get to try some of the 15 fresh looks above.

What did you think about this post?  I’d love to make more of these with our new on-staff designer, Meredith Komarek.  If you like this post, please let me know, and we’ll be sure to make more!  And if not, please tell us what you’d like to change.

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