Liquid eyeliner can seem so intimidating—one false swipe, and you've made a mess. But once you master it, liquid liner is the best way to get two classic looks: a subtle, natural-looking line, since it can get so close to the lashline, or a dramatic flicked-out cat's eye a la Brigitte Bardot. The benefit of using a liquid liner versus even a well-sharpened pencil is that liquid just makes the thinnest, crispest line.
Still unsure? Here's how to apply liquid liner like a pro:
Opt for a felt-tip marker, not a brush.
Lots of liquid liners come with a tiny brush for application. The downside is they require a more precise and experienced hand, since the bristles can move, making your line wobbly or unevenly thick, and don't really offer any benefits. Try a marker-style tip, like the goof-proof tip on Eyeko Eye Do Liquid Eyeliner, which is stiffer, making it easier to control.
Pick a quick-dry formula.
You want a liquid that dries quickly, so you don't risk smudges or a half-moon of black being transferred to the area above your eyelids if you blink. Kevyn Aucoin Precision Liquid Liner dries in seconds, so it stays put and never smears.
Make sure it's waterproof.
When typical liquid liners get wet, they smear into the worst raccoon eyes on earth—think a raccoon who's been crying all night because she got dumped at prom. Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eye Liner is seriously waterproof, so your line stays crisp even when you cry during a touching movie or get doused by rain, and it comes in more than a dozen fun shades if you want to go beyond classic black.
Hold steady, hold sideways.
Instead of coming straight-on, use the side of the felt-tip applicator. First, glide it along the eyelid, as close as you can to your lashline, from the inner corner of your eye to the middle. Stop and reposition, drawing a second line from the outside corner of you eye to meet your original line in the middle. Two strokes really make it more user-friendly than trying to go all the way across in one fell swoop. For extra stability, apply the liner with one hand and use your other hand's index finger to gently hold down your eyelid, which helps reduce the fluttering that can make for a wonky line. If you want a cat's eye, use the curve of your lash line as your guide, flicking out as far as you dare—then line the bottom outer one-quarter to connect it to the wing.
Clean up for crispness.
Even makeup artists admit it can be tough to get a perfectly even, smooth line on the first try. Luckily, there's an easy way to instantly erase your mistakes: simply dip a Q-Tip in a non-oily eye makeup remover like Dermablend Long Wear Makeup Remover and roll it across where you erred, which can thin out the line.