Ditch this look, and learn the tips you need to do black eyeliner right.
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A little black liner along the lash line creates the illusion of larger eyes and fuller lashes. But do it wrong, or simply overdo it, and you’ll risk looking like Courtney Love circa the nineties.

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Yikes—not exactly the wide-eyed look you’re going for.

“Eyeliner is meant to frame the eyes, giving them shape and making the whites appear bigger and brighter,” says Troy Surratt, celebrity makeup artist and founder of Surratt Beauty. But it can easily backfire, he warns: “When heavily ringed in black, eyes tend to recede and can appear tired.” For natural-looking definition, steer clear of hard edges and dramatic smudges.

Sharpen your skills with these smart techniques, courtesy of Surratt.

Pick the right product

A creamy pencil that isn’t waterproof glides on smoothly and is easiest to blend. One that also has a built-in smudger, like the Surratt’s Smoky Eye Bataan ($35, sephora.com), will come in handy when blending.

Take a seat

Sit, place a mirror on a flat surface and look down when applying liner. This gives you a better angle to see the grove between your lashes and lash line, Surratt says, so you can draw on color with precision.

Connect the dots up top

The upper lash line doesn’t draw as much attention as it’s lower counterpart, but it's equally important. To apply, create three short strokes as close to the lash line as possible—one on either corner and one in the middle—then connect them. Don’t worry about creating a super straight line, assures Surratt. His trick: Trace over it with black shadow until the line is smooth.

Go easy on the bottom

“One of my biggest pet peeves is when the lower lash line is too dark or too hard,” confides Surratt. For soft definition, he says, apply a short stroke of color along the outer corner under your lower lashes. (Steer clear of the waterline; liner there can easily migrate, causing dreaded raccoon eyes.) Then use a smudging brush or Q-tip to blend liner in toward the center of the eye. “Color should diffuse into almost nothingness as you approach the tear duct,” Surratt explains.

Always finish with mascara

Liner looks best when paired with lush lashes. Clamp and squeeze a lash curler three times—at the lash line, in the middle and again at the ends—then seal the curl with a few coats of lengthening mascara.

The result: perfectly defined, every time.