If you’re looking for a new way to up your eye makeup game, tightlining your eyes may be the easiest way to get started. In case you’re completely new to the trend, tightlining is applying eyeliner on the upper waterline, which is the skin between your lashes and your eyes.
Tightlining makes your eyelashes look thicker and makes your eyes look bolder. People who can’t make winged eyeliner work, such as people with hooded eyes, will find tightlining to be a convenient workaround to define the eyes.
Similarly, if you have mature eyes which makes it difficult to apply eyeliner on the eyelids, you can try tightlining to define the eye shape. For the rest, it’s just a practical way to take eyeliner to a whole new level.
Additionally, if you’re applying mascara but you have a visible upper waterline, it can result in a streaky look. By tightlining, you create a seamless, streak-free look with your mascara.
The good thing about tightlining is that it’s practically invisible. Because instead of the eyelids, you use eyeliner inside the eyes on the inner rims.
So you can actually look like you have naturally defined, bold eyes and lashes without even using eyeliner on the upper eyelid. And all you need is eyeliner and a cotton swab!
Keep reading for a step-by-step tutorial on how to tightline your eyes with eyeliner.
How To Tightline Your Eyes
Step #1: Choose The Right Eyeliner
The best type of eyeliner to tightline your eyes is pencil eyeliner. Pencil eyeliners are easier to apply to the upper and lower waterline, especially if you’re a beginner.
And because the waterlines get watery easily, it’s best to use a waterproof pencil eyeliner. This is to ensure the color stays put. Use a freshly sharpened pencil eyeliner to get started.
In case you’re wondering, while you can technically use liquid eyeliner, it usually smudges and gets into your eyes. That’s why liquid eyeliner is not preferable for tightlining.
If you want to tightline your eyes without smudging, go for waterproof gel eyeliners. They usually come in a jar and require a brush for application.
With that being said, gel eyeliners are not always beginner-friendly. If you’ve never used one, stick with waterproof pencil eyeliner.
Quick Tip: If you have sensitive eyes, make sure your eyeliner pencil is hypoallergenic and fragrance-free. A regular eye pencil can get in the eyes and make them watery.
Step #2: Prep Your Eyes
Because you’ll be working with the upper lashline, it’s best to prep your eyes first. Start by curling your lashes using an eyelash curler.
This is to lift up the lashes so you can apply the eyeliner more easily and reach tricky areas such as the inner corners of the eyes.
Step #3: Tightline Upper Waterline
First of all, you’re going to need something to help you keep the eyelids out of the way so you can apply the eyeliner. I use a cotton swab to lift my eyelids.
When I use my hands, it usually slips and gets in the way, especially when I try to lift the skin closer to the inner corners of the eyes.
So use a cotton swab to raise or flip the eyelid a little and draw the eyeliner along the upper waterline close to the roots of the lashes. Start from the outer corners and use the swab again as you go along to lift the eyelid.
Tightlining can cause watery eyes, which makes the eyeliner fade very quickly. For that reason, layer your pencil eyeliner and do multiple coats to darken the color and set it in place.
Take breaks in between the layering to avoid smudging and watery eyes and just slowly build the color layer by layer.
Quick Tip: If you have hooded eyes or droopy eyelids and won’t be using a separate eyeliner on the eyelids, here’s a quick tip. Sweep the eyeliner on the upper waterline and then sweep it closer to the lashes when tightlining. This is a great hack that creates the illusion of subtly smoked-out eyes as the pencil goes over the eyelids a little bit too.
Step #4: Tightline Lower Waterline
Most people go for both the upper and bottom waterline when tightlining. So while the lower waterline is optional, you can do it if you want a more wholesome look.
Use the same pencil eyeliner to draw a line along the lower waterline. You can tilt your head slightly downward which makes it easier to apply.
You can also use your hand to pull down the lower eyelid to apply it more easily. Again, draw several lines and layer your eyeliner.
Remember that tightlining both the upper and lower waterline can make your eyes look smaller. If this isn’t something you want, or if you already have small eyes, don’t tight line the lower waterline.
Step#5: Set Your Eyeliner
This is optional, but if you really want to set your eyeliner in place, consider going in with a powder or a black powder eyeshadow. Use an angled brush and dampen it with water.
Dip the brush into a powder or a powder eyeshadow and then go over the lines you just draw. This will set your tightliner in place and give you maximum color payoff and longer wear.
However, if you have hooded eyes, it can get tricky to do this. Or if you have sensitive eyes or ocular rosacea like me, the powder particles can easily get into the eyes and irritate causing watery eyes and messing up the tightlining.
If you’re a beginner or you generally have watery eyes, avoid using a brush or powder. Instead, make sure your tight liner is waterproof and you apply several coats.
Step #6: Erase Any Mistakes
Because of frequent blinking, the eye area gets watery and colors build up on the inner corners of the eyes. Use a cotton swab and collect those to erase any mistakes.
If you want to complete your look, you can go ahead and apply your eyeliner as you’d normally do on the upper eyelids closer to the lash line.
You’ll see that now your eyeliner looks bolder and more sleek and seamless. Finish your eye makeup with mascara and you’re done!
So this is how you tightline your eyes. Again, it’s an easy and practical way to define the eyes and make the lashes look thicker. Remember that the trick is to apply several layers of eyeliner to deepen the color.
As you can see from my before/after image below, I only tightlined my right eye, which looks more defined compared to my left eye. Even though I’m wearing mascara on both eyes, tightlining makes my lashes look thicker, especially from the roots.
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