No-fail tips straight from makeup artists themselves.
Mastering a classic cat eye is one of those makeup tricks that’s undeniably worth it. It always looks impressive, not to mention is surprisingly versatile. “Cat eyeliner can be classic Catherine Denevue or edgy Amy Winehouse, subtle or super dramatic,” says makeup artist and beauty expert Jenny Patinkin, founder of Jenny Patinkin Eco-Luxe Beauty Tools. “It always makes a statement, but what that statement is is totally up to the wearer. There’s a ton of room for interpretation.” New York City celebrity makeup artist Neil Scibelli agrees, adding that there’s no shortage of different ways to customize the look to fit your personal style. From the width and length of the liner to the color to the other makeup you pair it with, there’s a way for everyone to wear a cat eye, he says.
That being said, it still is one of the more technical types of makeup application, Patinkin points out, and does require a certain level of skill and repetition. Her advice? “Practice when you’re not going out until you get the hang of it, so that you won’t feel rushed or stressed trying to perfect out when you’re trying to get out the door.” Also helpful: An easy step-by-step guide that you can follow as you work on your skills. Keep reading for exactly that.
1. Prep with shadow.
Before you grab an eyeliner, Patinkin suggests using an angled shadow brush and a soft black powder shadow to lightly sketch the shape of the cat eye—a tight line close to your lashline, flicked up at the outer corner of your eye, toward your brow. (More on the specifics of the shape in a moment.) Try Morphe M165 Brush ($6; ulta.com) and Essence Soft Touch Eyeshadow in Pitch Black ($2; ulta.com). Prepping with the shadow gives you an idea of the final look, but without the commitment, she explains—it’s much easier to wipe off if you don’t love your shape.
2. Choose your liner.
A black liquid liner is the classic choice here. Scibelli recommends Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Liner ($24; sephora.com), which comes in several other colors besides black. NYX Epic Ink Vegan Waterproof Liquid Liner ($10; ulta.com) is another of his faves. “It is truly smudgeproof and features an ultra slim point for precision,” he explains.
Use this to trace over the line you created with the shadow. “I like to start from the inner corner of the eye going outwards, as close to the lash line as possible, since you can always make it thicker if you want. An easy way to feel more stable is to apply the liner while leaning your elbow on a table top surface, looking into a standing mirror,” Scibelli says. Once you get the outer corner of your eye and have figured out how far out you want the ‘flick’ to be, mark the end of the tail with a dot. Work from that point, inward, connecting that line to the rest of the line, he suggests.
3. Consider your eye shape.
While yes, a cat eye is a cat eye, there are different ways you can tweak it—and considering the shape of your eyes when doing so will help ensure the most flattering end result. “If you have round eyes and you're looking to achieve more of an almond shape, try thickening your eyeliner towards the middle to outer corners of the eye,” Scibelli advises. If you have smaller or hooded eyes, keep the liner thin, and create your flick with your eyes open while looking downwards into the mirror for the most eye-opening effect.
4. Clean up the edges.
Don’t stress if your line isn’t totally crisp and perfect. Both makeup pros we spoke with say a quick clean-up is the easiest way to thin out the line, ensure both eyes match, or sharpen the overall effect. Scibelli likes using Neutrogena Makeup Remover Gel Eraser Stick ($11; walgreens.com) for this purpose; it’s a makeup remover in a thin stick form that you can easily use around the liner. Or, use a pointed cotton swab dipped in a tiny bit of eye cream. Not only will the cream glide onto the skin better than water, it also won’t wipe away too much product, says Patinkin.
5. Pair it with any other makeup of your choice.
Per our previous point of self-expression, pretty much anything goes. Patinkin says pairing cat eyeliner with a nude lid, lots of mascara, peach gloss and glossy lip makes for a combination that’s both sexy and wearable. Scibelli says he’s a fan of the black cat eye and red lip pairing, a timeless look that really can work for everyone. Or, opt for a bold colored liner for your cat eye and keep the rest of your makeup super nude and minimal. Point being, you really can’t go wrong.
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