How to Use Black Liquid Eyeliner and Red Liquid Lipstick

Black eyeliner and red liquid lipstick are notoriously difficult makeup products; not for the faint of heart. Or individuals with no prior experience, pushing forty with hooded eyes.

It’s me. I’m individuals.

Nevertheless, I bravely set out to wear black liquid eyeliner and bright red liquid lipstick for thirty-one days.

This black liquid eyeliner and red liquid lipstick crash course taught me more in a month than I would have learned in years (that’s how sparingly I typically use these products).

Taylor Swift from the "I Bet You Think About Me" music video

‘Tis The Damn Season

What spurred me to embark on this makeup journey? Just a slightly unhealthy obsession with Taylor Swift.

I got into the release of Red (Taylor’s Version). After watching all her interviews, Insta reels, and that amazing IBYTAM music video, I became obsessed with Swift’s makeup, too.

Taylor’s look involves subtle techniques and bold products: a defined flick of matte black eyeliner and bright red liquid lipstick.

No fancy blown out creases, no lip plumping gloss. Just crisp lines and impactful pigment.

Wanting nothing more than to perfectly replicate it, my makeup experiment began. These are the hard-won tips and tricks for wearing liquid black eyeliner and red liquid lipstick that resulted from my quest.

the first day of wearing black liquid eyeliner for a month straight
The beginning and shaky: not using the right formula, technique, or resources

How Do You Put on Liquid Eyeliner?

The best takeaway from this project is the affirmation that practice makes perfect.

When I started, black eyeliner was everywhere. Applying it was a frustrating and defeating process. Now, I feel confident, ready to rock a liquid eyeliner cat-eye anywhere.

Start at the outer corner

My first instinct was to try to create a solid line starting at the inner corner. Ha. Hahahahaha.

That’s the hard way, especially for beginners. Instead, start at the outer corner. And stay there for a while!

Work on creating and thickening the wing first. When the wing reaches the level of opaqueness, length, and width you prefer, then trace a thin line connecting the bottom of the wing to the inner corner of the eye.

Steady your hand

With a pointed instrument so close to one’s eyes, it’s important to have steady hands.

Which I don’t, anyway, and this ish is stressful. I “cheat” by firmly planting my elbow on a bathroom sink, armrest, my knee, or whatever else is around (remember that your camera doubles as a mirror if you’re in a pinch).

Ish Mom wearing red liquid lip stick
Looks a bit better when it’s blurry

Slow down

Now that we’ve got the steady down, we gotta remember to go slow. Slow and steady wins the black liquid eyeliner race.

It’s fine to draw less than a centimeter, let it dry. Step back, make sure the line is going in the direction you want. Repeat.

When in doubt, dot

Getting a cat-eye liner in one graceful swipe of product is the fantasy that beauty tutorials are made of. It’s not available for most of us. At least, not for a long, long time.

Place one dot on the uppermost part of wing and another near the bottom lash line. Connect those dots (remember, slowly!).

The fine lines on my aging eyelids mean that I can’t get a smooth line in one flourish on my upper lid, either. Wiggling the tip into the lash line and dotting the eyeliner across, I create the look of an unbroken line.

Don’t blink

After applying liquid eyeliner, look down without blinking. It takes a moment for the formula to set.

Ish Mom trying to apply black liquid eyeliner
Several days in and still not right: better formula but not technique, that dip is a dead giveaway

Black Liquid Eyeliner Tips for Beginners

My thirty or so days of playing with liquid eyeliner taught me how important it is to find a product that’s tailored to you.

Your eye shape, your particular eye shape, and condition, not what’s trendy or what your favorite beauty guru swears by (unless y’all have similar eyes!).

three black liquid eyeliners
I used three different black liquid eyeliners over the month

Eye shape matters

There is no “one size fits all” where eyeliner is concerned, as everyone’s eye shape and position is different.

Look up “different eye shapes” and figure out what kind of eye shape and position you have. Then look up eyeliner techniques and tips for your specific eye traits.

Lid skin matters

I wish I could go back in time and master this technique when I had a smoother canvas. Turns out, the fine lines and crepier skin of my 30’s makes it harder to apply liquid eyeliner.

It’s harder to trace a line over folded skin. So I hold the skin taut when I apply eyeliner, right? Sure, except the line changes when I let go.

There is a trick to imagining what the line is supposed to look like and working backward from there.

Formula Matters

I used three different black liquid eyeliners during this makeup experiment. Product formula matters just as much as eye shape and lid skin.

When an eyeliner didn’t work for me, it was because the formula was too creamy, moved around too easily, and would smear upon blinking.

I used wet n’ wild Break-up Proof waterproof liquid liner (amazing, perfect), essence Super Last 18 hr eyeliner (would last, but took forever to dry, so smeared everywhere), and Maybelline New York Curvitude liner (underwhelming and I didn’t understand the curve).

wet n wild breakup proof liner best for hooded eyes
wet n wild breakup proof eyeliner was the clear winner, especially for hooded eyes

What Are Hooded Eyes?

Every eyelid has a crease. But, if you have hooded eyes, that crease isn’t visible when eyes are open. Having hooded eyes completely changes the way liquid eyeliner is applied.

Basically, hooded eyes have less space to work with. And space is a big deal, when working with liquid eyeliner.

Ish Mom at home wearing fancy black liquid eyeliner
Just hanging out at home with a fancy eyeliner look, complete with fuzzy pink robe and baby.

My Best Tips for Applying Black Liquid Eyeliner to Hooded Eyes

Keep eyes open

With hooded eyes, you have to keep your eyes open to see where the line is going. If you put on eyeliner with eyes closed, you’ll never get the lines to connect right. Eye skin just gets in the way.

Use the Batwing technique

You know what, with hooded eyes, just forget about connecting the eyeliner. Use the miraculous “Batwing” technique instead.

With the Batwing technique, draw an on-its-side triangle at the outer corner of the eyes. Do this slowly, with careful strokes, gradually filling in the triangle more and more.

Focus more on filling in the triangle than connecting a perfect line. With hooded eyes, no one will see that line when eyes are open, anyway (again: the eye skin gets in the way).

When eyes are closed, that triangle may look a little strange. But, when hooded eyes are open, that “batwing” will look perfect.

Do the eyes first

Before learning to apply black eyeliner, I always applied my face makeup (foundation, concealer, blush, bronzer, etc) first.

Now that I’ve become a cat eye aficionado, I do my eyes first. That way I can get messy with eyeliner application without disturbing concealer or other face makeup products.

Have clean-up tools ready

Keep clean-up tools (Q-tips, eye makeup remover, and makeup removing wipes) right on the counter as you apply black liquid eyeliner.

First, because mistakes will be made, especially in the beginning. Second, because the presence of cleaning tools will embolden mistakes (and making mistakes is how we learn!).

Use all the resources

Hey, there’s no shame in getting a little help from tape.

I used an e.l.f. brand of eye tape, made specifically to trace a liquid eyeliner cat eye. But scotch tape will work just as well.

Ish Mom wearing eyeliner tape to help apply black liquid eyeliner
Pro tip: cut one piece of e.l.f. tape in half to use on both eyes. Took me way too long to figure that out.

Red Liquid Lipstick For Beginners

Red lipstick is…messy. It’s not us, it’s them. Red is just a difficult pigment, no matter the product.

Start small, with more opaque, but still forgiving, gloss-like liquid lipsticks. I loved the color, wear, and ease of application of wet n wild Megalast Liquid Catsuit lipstick.

My month of red liquid lipstick looks taught me the importance of lip liner. When working with such a persnickety shade, boundaries are important (otherwise it’s gonna bleed everywhere). And that boundary is a nude lip liner.

Revlon Colorstay lip liners are great drugstore options.

Ish Mom wearing winged liquid eyeliner and a bright red liquid lipstick
I tried different tones of red over the month.

My Best Bright Red Liquid Lipstick Tips


Use a lip exfoliating product (I love the wet n wild version) to remove dead lip skin. Otherwise, bright red pigment will stick to flakes, drawing more attention to dry skin.

Apply lip liner

Just do it.

Take a break

Using bright red lipstick every day, for several days in a row, will probably stain your lips. Take breaks if this sounds unpleasant to you.

Ish Mom wearing black liquid eyeliner and a bright lip
I got bangs during this experiment (yet another desperate ploy to look like T. Swift)

While I loved this makeup challenge, and my subsequent makeup looks, my second biggest takeaway is: not all trends and techniques are for everyone.

Applying winged liquid black eyeliner to aging, hooded eyes every day is a lot of work. Work I don’t think I’m willing to do more than once a week. But I am glad to know how.

And the bright red lipstick look? I think I’ll keep that up.

Taylor Swift meme going around the table saying what we're thankful for
I just can’t help myself.

What’s your favorite liquid eyeliner? Liquid lipstick? Are there any tips or tricks I missed? Let me know in the comments.

Happy glamming!


megan imhoff
Picture of Megan


Megan writes everything on Ish Mom. She possesses a bachelor's degree in psychology, a flair for theatrics, and a whole lotta nerve. She lives in the Midwest (and loves it) with her wonderful husband and three young boys.

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