The Glasshouse Guide to Eyeliner

They say the eyes are the windows to the soul, so does that mean eyeliner is the window frame? Cliché’s aside, we think eyeliner is one of the easiest and most effective ways of expressing yourself through makeup. Although eyeliner is nothing new, in recent times it seems to be deemed more acceptable by the mainstream to be playful and make a statement, to walk out the door with a swipe of electric blue above just one eye, or inky black dots in each corner. The classics are still very much en vogue, like a sweeping cat eye or intensified waterline, so the trickiest part, really, is choosing where to draw the line.

Image: Elena Bofill for Vogue Spain
Image: Elena Bofill for Vogue Spain

Cat Eye

Once a sixties staple, the cat-eye, or flick, is still very much a mainstay in 2017. A well-drawn cat-eye liner will elongate the eye and draw it upward, creating a feline, feminine look. It’s flattering on most eye shapes, isn’t overwhelming when paired with a bold lip colour and is great for everyday wear.

If you’re a beginner, the cat-eye might seem like the most challenging liner to master at first, but we promise once you’ve got your technique down-pat it can be of the quickest and easiest things to blearily swipe on in the morning. Depending on your preference, you can either go for a liquid liner with a dip-in brush attached, like Jane Iredale’s Liquid Liner, or a pot-and-brush combo, like the Jelly Jar Gel Eyeliner. Built-in brush liquid liners tend to have a runnier consistency so might be easier for novices, whereas gel eyeliner pots have real staying power. Either way, don’t feel like you have to draw one continuous fluid line – it’s much easier to work in short strokes and this way you have much more control. Start from the outer corner of your eye and create the slightly triangular shape of your flick, then fill it in and connect it to the inner corner of your eye, making sure the line tapers thinner as you get further in.

Use tape if you feel that gives you a cleaner line, and lean your elbow on something solid like a table or desk for support. Looking straight ahead in a mirror helps get the right shape, and we recommend using an angled liner/brow brush – the shape of the brush will help guide the direction of your liner.

Image: Pinterest
Image: Pinterest


Another era-defined liner look is the grungy black waterline – this is very much the territory of the nineties when Kate Moss reigned the catwalks and The Craft was still in theatres. While this look never disappears, we have seen a particular resurgence in the Spring/Summer ’18 collections – at the Coach 1941 show the models wore layer of black in their waterlines that would make Margot Tenenbaum proud, paired with statement brows and clean skin. This liner technique is great for hooded eye-shapes and adds definition to the eye. It can also be used to intensify an otherwise soft eye shadow look, and doesn’t always have to be black – colours like navy, espresso and aubergine work well and make irises pop.

The only risk with lining the waterline is that it can make the eye appear smaller, so if you want to avoid closing the eye too much, perhaps leave the very inner corner of the eye clear. If you find your liner tends to wear off too quickly, try a technique called ‘tight lining’ which involves applying liner to the top waterline under the top eyelashes. Apply one layer, then squeeze your eyes shut tightly, then apply another and finish by doing your bottom waterline. This helps prolong wear and avoids transferring, and also has the added bonus of making your top lashes look fuller and denser.

Image: Marc Jacobs Spring/Summer '18
Image: Marc Jacobs Spring/Summer ‘18


Not for the faint of heart, this seasons graphic eyeliner looks are bigger, bolder and blacker than before. At both the S/S 18’ Marc Jacobs and Versus Versace shows, the liner was a dramatic pigmented wing that enclosed the whole eye in opaque car-tyre black – if you’re keen to try this in real life, pairing suggestions include a devil-may-care attitude and nothing else.

Don’t be afraid to keep the lines on the thicker side, but make sure your edges are clean – no smudges here. Again, the Jelly Jar Gel Eyeliner is a good one to use for this, as it won’t budge and has a matte opaque consistency. Taking notes from Marc Jacobs and Versus Versace, go for a super elongated look rather than anything too round.

Image: Ssaw Magazine
Image: Ssaw Magazine


When it comes to abstract liner, there are infinite possibilities. It can be delicate and minimal, or statement making – try your hand at floating eyeliner or if you’re feeling artistic, maybe a dot in the inner and outer corners or some seismic waves. Whatever you choose to do, our advice is to draw your lines as cleanly as possible, which will make it look purposeful rather than like a mistake. Makeup is about having fun, and abstract liner is a good way to have a play around and take things a bit less seriously.

Image: 3INA Makeup
Image: 3INA Makeup


Speaking of fun, let’s talk about coloured eyeliner. Technically any of the looks above could be done using a colour other than black, so why not try electric blue or forest green? Metallics are also great to experiment with – our Business and Communications manager Lucy swears by a line of copper Lucky Eye Polish from RMS Beauty on her upper lash line to compliment her baby blues. Coloured liners are obviously less harsh than black, and for this reason are great on mature skin as well. Makeup artist Katie Jane Hughes is an endless source of inspiration when it comes to coloured liner looks – her Instagram has a plethora of ideas from purple wings with a rust bottom lash-line to rose gold combined with blue dots.

So there you have it! Whatever mood you’re in or outfit you’re wearing, the eyeliner you wear can compliment and elevate your look. And, at the end of the day, you can take it off and start afresh tomorrow.

Words: Rosie Herdman

Cover Image: Harpers Bazaar Spain

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