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How to Tightline Your Eyes Like a Pro (AKA Mastering the Art of Invisible Eyeliner)

Photo by Ariel Skelley/Getty Images

Have you ever wanted your eyes to look a little bit bigger, brighter, and more defined? Join the club. Eyeliner is our go-to move whenever we want to make our eyes pop (especially when it's combined with a lengthening mascara or volumizing mascara), and there are so many different ways to apply eyeliner depending on your skill level, eye shape, and desired eye makeup look. There’s the bold winged tip for those sultry cat-eye moments, the smudged gel eyeliner method for grunge makeup looks, and last but not least, there's the classic tightline for the days when just a touch of subtle “invisible eyeliner” is in order.

If you don't yet know what tightlining is, allow us to get you up to speed. "The term 'tightline' refers to the placement of a gel or pencil eyeliner just beneath the upper lash line," explains makeup artist Camille Thompson. "The placement of this liner on the inside of the upper lash line gives a subtle, naturally defined effect."

Thompson says that unlike traditional liner looks where the liner is intended to be noticeable, this technique is more about creating the illusion of fuller lashes and a more defined eye shape. It's a great go-to whenever you're creating a natural look for no-makeup makeup, but it can also be used to emphasize the eyes in more dramatic looks. Thompson says a classic makeup artist trick is to tightline the eyes whenever you're using false eyelashes to help blend them into the natural lash line.

Ready to try this classic makeup technique at home? Continue reading below for a step-by-step tutorial on how to tightline the eyes like a pro.

About the Expert:

Camille Thompson is a celebrity makeup artist who specializes in television, film, editorial, and red carpet makeup. Explore her work on her Instagram @killahcamz.

What You'll Need

Before you get started, you'll want to make sure you're working with the right type of eyeliner. "A gel waterproof eyeliner applied with a synthetic brush is best for executing this technique," says Thompson. "It's guaranteed to last and it’s very gentle on the eyes, avoiding tension to the eye area. Using a waterproof liner also ensures that it won’t smudge or bleed."

BOBBI BROWN Long-Wear Gel Eyeliner is a pigment-packed, waterproof gel formula that will work flawlessly for this technique. Apply it using a precise eyeliner brush like the BOBBI BROWN Ultra Fine Eyeliner Brush

Double Duty Beauty™ Easy On The Eyes Clay Liner in Black

Gel pencils (like the TARTE Double Duty Beauty™ Easy on the Eyes Clay Liner) are another great option if you’re looking for more control. Just be sure to apply it super gently along the waterline so you can avoid any aggressive tugging.

How to Tightline Your Eyes

Step 1: Lift Your Lashes

The first step is to locate your upper waterline (standing in front of a mirror in a well-lit space helps for this part) with freshly washed hands. Gently lift up your eyelashes on one eye until the gaps between each eyelash on your top lash line are visible from underneath–this is where you’ll place your eyeliner.

Step 2: Sweep the Eyeliner Close to the Root

Take your eyeliner in one hand and carefully sweep it across the lash line, from the outer corner to the inner corner, until the lash line is fully filled in.

Very little pressure or tugging is required here. In fact, for the lightest touch, try dabbing or gently dotting the liner along the lash line instead of drawing one fluid line. We recommend having a Q-tip and some makeup remover handy in case you need to clean up any potential smudges.

Step 3: Line Your Lower Waterline

Many people stop after the upper lash line, but for a more intense tightline look, you can line your lower lash line as well. All you have to do is pull your lower lashes gently downward to reveal the spaces between each of your bottom lashes. Take your eyeliner and fill in the space from the outer corner of your eye to the inner corner, with one gentle sweep or several little dabs.

Beauty Tips to Make Your Tightline Last

Once you’ve achieved your ideal tightlined look, you'll want to make sure all your hard work lasts all day without smearing or smudging. Here are some pro tips for how to keep your tightline looking flawless for hours.

Tip #1: Set the Eyeliner with Eyeshadow

"If your eyes tend to water, try applying an eyeshadow on top of the gel eyeliner in the same shade as the last step," says Thompson. "This will set the liner for extra-long wear protection."

Meet Matt(e) Trimony Matte Eyeshadow Palette®

THEBALM COSMETICS Meet Matt(e) Trimony Matte Eyeshadow Palette offers the perfect matte black shade (and any other shade you’d ever want to match with) for setting your eyeliner in place.

Tip #2: Curl Your Lashes for Easy Application

Another way to keep your lashes perky and upright (so you can better tightline the area beneath them) is to use an eyelash curler right before starting step one in this tutorial. This will help separate each lash and add even more definition to the final result. Some people even like to use mascara on their lashes before applying their tightline so they can see exactly what blank spaces should be filled in with eyeliner for a perfect tightline.

Want to experiment with more classic eyeliner techniques? Take our Beauty Quiz now to get in on the IPSY Glam Bag fun. Already an Ipster? Refer your friends to earn points, which you can use toward products. Either way, don’t forget to check us out on Instagram and Twitter @IPSY.

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Article Last Updated February 17, 2021 12:00 AM