You Need To Try These Eyeliner Looks

Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
Applying eyeliner is an art. One little line can transform your face by making eyes appear bigger, more awake, or even changing their whole shape. In South Korea, this eye-defining artistry goes next-level with a bevy of techniques and tricks that clever makeup-lovers combine to play up and flatter their eye shapes.

Wandering the streets of Seoul has revealed to me all the ways eyeliner can be so much more than makeup. Some of the more dramatic techniques have had me thinking, Wow, I didn’t even know you were allowed to draw on that part of your face, while others were much subtler but made all the difference.

For this piece, I interviewed Korea’s top sources for insight: Taeyun Park, celebrity makeup artist and cofounder of K-beauty cult brand Son & Park, as well as Yeonbi Song, chief makeup artist at Clio, the brand behind the best-selling eyeliners in Korea. Here, you'll find detailed illustrations of each liner style, plus links to see what they all look like IRL.
Click through to enter the wonderful world of eye-defining, and get schooled in enhancing your gaze.
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Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
Layered Liner
One of the easiest looks to do is layered eyeliner. It's as fun as it sounds. To achieve a cohesive look, you can build any number of gel liners almost as though you're applying eyeshadow. It can be as subtle as a peep of gold behind a simple black liner, or as elaborate as mixing bolder hues to make the eyes pop.

Song says she went as far as combining seven different shades into one makeup look. Which is why the right eyeliner texture is crucial. These liners from Clio are some of the best-selling eyeliners in Korea because their gel-like texture makes them super-forgiving to use. And while they won’t get you a precise cat-eye (what pencil can?), you can tightline like a boss with them and blend them out like an eyeshadow. They come in a myriad of beautifully pigmented colors that make it fun to experiment with eyeliner beyond the basic black and brown.

Clio Gelpresso Waterproof Pencil Gel Liner, $18, available at Club Clio USA.

IRL layered liner.
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Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
Doll Eyes
The trend used to be round, doll-like eyes. These days, it's all about elongating them. According to Park, this makes the face appear younger. He says to visualize a triangle created from a dot at the outer corner of each eye and one at the top of your lips. The more acute the top two angles, the more youthful the look is perceived in Korea. To make an obtuse triangle look sharper, you've got to — yes — elongate the eyes. There are two techniques to accomplish this. Keep clicking...

IRL doll eyes.
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Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
The first technique is the antithesis of a cat-eye. While the cat-eye's perfect upward flick is achieved by following the natural angle of the lower eye with a straight edge, like tape, the dog-eye follows the natural downward angle of the top lid. For many Asians, this is a more natural line to follow, but it works well for many eye types — it's popular among celebrities like Alexa Chung.

Like with a cat-eye, application will get thicker toward the end. A tip to remember when extending the line down from the top lid is to keep in mind that this is about elongating and not about creating a downward line. So while you will be moving in a downward direction, focus more on taking the line down and out instead of just straight down — which would just be a disaster.

Using a pencil can create a blendable, natural line while using a liquid or gel liner can result in a crisp downward flick or a blunt, modern line. You can also experiment with thickness and tapering to achieve a look that’s right for you.

IRL dog-eye.
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Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
When it comes to flicking out your eyeliner, a liquid or gel liner is best to create a clean, confident line. One of the most popular liquid-liner pens in Korea is actually Japanese. Kanebo's Kate Super Sharp Liquid Liner can draw the thinnest or the thickest line because it’s so buildable. This makes it easier to use in small strokes to sketch out the look you’re going for — which is a good thing since it will not budge once it’s on. It’s waterproof, sweat-proof, and doesn’t transfer to the lower lashline or crease.

Kanebo Kate Super Sharp Liquid Eyeliner, $10.49, available at Amazon.
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Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
The second eye-elongating technique involves taking the angles of both the top and bottom lids and dragging them out, effectively creating more “eye” where it didn’t previously exist. “This is called the fishtail in Korea,” says Park, and it’s created by choosing a point anywhere on the outer half of the eye and another point where you would like the “eye” to end. Starting farther from the end and drawing out will create a more dramatic effect, while staying close to the eye will make sure it appears more natural. Fill in the area between the two intersecting lines to create the fishtail eye.

IRL fishtail.
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Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
Though gel applied with a brush has the benefit of greater maneuverability and control than a liquid liner, gel-pot liners have fallen out of favor recently due to their tendency to dry up and the inconvenience of having to tote around a brush and pot as opposed to a simple pen or pencil.

But I really love this unique cushion gel liner from Banila Co., which has a stretchy net over the reservoir so that when you dip the brush into it, you can wipe off the excess on the net. It could be the net or it could be the formula, but this gel pot doesn’t dry out and the product applies like a dream and stays put.

Banila Co. Eye Love Cushion Gel Eyeliner, $19.83, available at W2 Beauty.
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Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
Never Connect
While the top-lid liner usually gets all the attention, in Korea the bottom lashline is where all the fun is. The cardinal rule here is "never connect." Lining the entire eye makes it appear smaller. And when lining both the top and bottom lids, don't connect the lines at the corners. The only reason to break this rule would be to do a full-out smoky eye, which isn’t a very popular look in Korea.

Generally when it comes to lining the bottom lashline, pencils are the way to go. Son & Park developed a classic eyeliner pen that works well to this aim, but also anchors liquid and gel liners beautifully — since sketching out where I want liner to go before committing to a liquid liner is a training-wheels step I’ve never been able to abandon.

Son & Park Eyeliner Pencil, $11, available at Soko Glam.

IRL never connect.
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Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
If you section the bottom line of your eye into three distinct parts, the trend is to fill in some combination of these parts — though rarely all three. The most popular bottom lid-lining technique is to fill in the outer third with a downward-sloping top line, leaving a wee triangle of space between the end of the top line and the actual eye.

Using a gel pencil, which is easier to smudge, draw a line extending out from the bottom lashline to almost meet the end of that top line. Then, blend in this pencil with a finger or brush to fill in your bare triangle of space. This creates a “shadow” to optically allude to the larger eye you are trying to create.

An alternate technique, especially if blending a straight line inwards is too much of a struggle, is to draw a line along the lower lashline to almost meet where you’ve drawn out the top eyeliner. Then, smudge this out to create that same triangular “shadow."

IRL three-part.
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Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
Bottom Line
Lining just the inner corner of the bottom lashline creates an even more elongating illusion when paired with a tail-heavy top liner. Because the two lines bring attention to the outer top lid and inner bottom lid, they are almost parallel in their downward slants, creating a doubly lengthening effect.

IRL bottom line.
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Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
Inside Job
Another popular bottom lid-lining technique is to line the inner and outer corners of the eye but leave the center clean. This elongates the eyes in both directions. This technique adds a bit more definition and drama, and works particularly well on wide-set or round eyes.

IRL inside job.
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Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
Finally, an important building block of any eyeliner technique is tightlining the top waterline. According to Park, as people age, the eye area sags resulting in more of the flesh-colored lashline becoming visible. Song says: “In its most basic function, eyeliner is about defining the eyes, and tightlining does just that in the most natural, barely-there way possible.”

Tightlining, which is filling in the spaces between the lashes on the lashline, is done by pressing down close to the lashline so that the ridge of skin holding the lashes is visible and then using eyeliner to fill in the little spaces between the lashes. This is so fundamental to an everyday Korean beauty look that many Korean women have had their lashlines semi-permanently tattooed on.

For tightlining the top lashline, it is essential to have a liner that doesn’t transfer to the bottom lashline. For tightlining without the danger of poking out your eye, I like Son & Park’s liquid-pen liner, which has a felt tip that’s easy to work between lashes for the tightest line possible. It also dries quickly, like liquid liners do, so it doesn't bleed. Although, if you’re an overzealous blinker, I would force my eyes to stay open for a few seconds and fan them gently to make sure the line is completely set.

Son & Park True Black Eye Pen Liner, $22, available at Soko Glam.
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