How to Do Winged Eyeliner Like a Pro

You don't have to be a professional makeup artist to apply winged eyeliner. Here, a makeup artist breaks down the steps.

Model applying winged eyeliner
Photo: Veronique Beranger/Getty Images

A smoky eye may be too over-the-top (and also takes forever) and, for some events like a wedding, your usual palette of neutral shadows just won't cut it. Enter winged eyeliner: More dramatic than a cat-eye but less complicated than other eye makeup techniques, it defines your eyes and gives them an alluring, sultry shape. While it looks like it a job for a professional, it's surprisingly easy to pull off yourself—even if you're a newbie.

The trick to applying flawless winged eyeliner is to reserve plenty of time for it—and to break the process down into a few simple, manageable steps. It's less overwhelming this way and makes it easier to fix mistakes as you go along. (If you're trying this for the first time, a slip-up is inevitable.) With our foolproof guide and a little practice, winged eyeliner will become a regular in your beauty repertoire.

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Map it out.

Model applying winged eyeliner
Veronique Beranger/Getty Images

Using a long-lasting liquid liner—a must for winged eyeliner—figure out your game plan before you draw. Get close to the mirror and check out your outer eye. "Look at the angle of your lower lash line and imagine that it continues up to the outer corner of the brow," says Jenny Patinkin, makeup artist and author of Lazy Perfection: The Art of Looking Great Without Really Trying.

"When applying winged liner, if your angle is higher than the one along your lower lash line, your eyes will look distorted, and if it's lower, they'll look like they're drooping." Next, find the outermost point of your crease. The intersection of the two—the extension of your lower lash line and the end of the crease—is where your wing should end. Patinkin recommends lightly marking that point with a taupe liner.

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Trace the wing.

Now is not the time for a chubby kohl liner, since any smudging will make this look messy. "It's tricky to do this if you're tugging on the outer corner of your lid or if your liner drags on the skin, so make sure whatever you're using glides easily," says Patinkin. A liquid liner with a satin finish is your best bet.

Lightly trace a line from the outer corner of your eye to that intersection point you previously established. Tilt your chin up as you do this. "You get the benefit of keeping your eyes open while also widening the surface of the lid so you have more visible space," explains Patinkin.

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Extend it.

This is the easy part. (Phew!) Use the same liquid liner to line your upper lash line, stretching it all the way across, eventually connecting it to the angled line you just drew. "This is the point at which you can decide how thick or thin you want your line to be," says Patinkin.

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Clean it up.

Even if you've done it a hundred times, winged eyeliner is a look that's easy to mess up. Rather than get frustrated or be tempted to start from scratch, consider just cleaning up your mistakes. "I use a pointed swab dipped in a little eye makeup remover," says Patinkin. "Place it at the very outer corner of the eye—beneath the wing—and drag it up along the same angle as your lower lash line to smooth out and correct any uneven edges." Repeat on your other eye, and you're ready to go.

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