Ladies, if you're like me, you've thrown away a thousand liquid eyeliners in disgust since the age of 13. It seems odd, in retrospect, that I couldn't master a pen for my face when so much of my youth was devoted to the practice of penmanship. (Do kids even learn cursive anymore, or do they go straight to iPads?)
I digress. Several months ago, I was in bed with a cold. I was lying in bed, bored, surfing the Web and flipping through old copies of Vogue and Vanity Fair when I began to notice a theme: Liquid liner cat eyes were everywhere; not only in the advertisements, but also in a dozen articles on the best liners for the job and Web tutorials on how to achieve the perfect cat eye.
I grabbed a makeup mirror, all the eyeliners/eyeliner tools in my possession and got to work.
It was this article at Into the Gloss that really sent me on my quest. It never really occurred to me that the cat eye was something that should be practiced (like handwriting!) over and over in one sitting. In the past I tried it, hated it, ditched it -- just like that. But being stuck in bed with a cold is a great excuse to just sit around and play with your makeup.
My cat-eye-friendly tools included a pot of Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Gel Liner and brush, and several liquid pens I had rolling around at the bottom of a make-up junk drawer, where my unused stuff sits until I get around to throwing it out.
There are dozens -- maybe hundreds -- of cat-eye tutorials on YouTube, so I watched a bunch of them. One of the most popular YouTube makeup artists, RAEview, has a really helpful, step-by-step video, which is where I started. Her free-hand technique will require a liquid liner pen and plenty of makeup remover and cotton pads as you get the hang of it.
Best Makeup Removers: Bioderma Crealine H2O is effective and extra-gentle, perfect for repeated passes over the delicate eyeball area.
I also found Lisa Eldridge's video for a Dramatic Black "Cat-Eye" Liner Look helpful -- she does an entire face, not just a cat-eye lesson. Lisa demos the look on a model, not herself, so it's not so much a lesson on how to do it yourself as a "total look" tutorial. What I love about this one is that she uses a mix of liquid and gel eyeliners so you can see how to use two different products to create the same look.
Even the clumsiest among us can manage a tight line along the upper lashes. The trickiest part of the cat eye is the extension -- the "wing" -- that flies off and up from the outer corner. Various cheats for mastering this section include holding a business card against the corner of your eye as a guide, or even using scotch tape on the lids and "filling in" using gel liner. Not sure I want to yank at my eye area with tape on a regular basis, but it certainly results in a perfect cat eye.
Aside from practice, the most important aspect of mastering the cat eye is determining which liner is best for you. In my opinion, pencils are too dry and offer too much "pull" for the learning process. Once you've gone pro, you can probably get the same effect with a soft pencil liner, though you won't get the same kind of longevity you would from a liquid or gel. Here are my picks for the best tools for sharpening your cat-eye skills.
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Among makeup bloggers, the Lancôme Artliner is a cult favorite. On a tip from Brittanie Shey, I purchased the L'Oreal Lineur Intense Felt Tip in Carbon Black and, for me, it's big love. Easy to control, good color payoff and precise, so I can build a thin line into something Liz Taylor-worthy.
Stock up at the drugstore on a variety of them to see which works best for you. Remember, a shorter brush gives you more control. My next purchase will be this NYX Curve that promises easy application due to the "ergonomic" shape.
Gel Liners Bobbi Brown, MAC, Smashbox, Lancôme -- every high-end makeup line makes a gel eyeliner, but if you are a newbie and aren't sure they are for you, give the Maybelline version a test drive. That way you only spent about ten bucks if you hate it, rather than $20-$30.