How to Use Lip Liner, According to a Makeup Artist

BIPOC Woman Looking at Reflection and Applying Berry Colored Lip Liner Around Her Lips
Stocksy | Design by Julie Bang.

Every so often we find ourselves reaching for makeup products that are staples in our routine, yet we may need a refresher course on the best way to use them. The perfect example of this? Lip liner.

Surely you've seen several lip liner trends over the years (let's be honest, they've had their ups and downs), yet you might find yourself stumped on the best ways to use lip liner now. Whether you desire more fullness, definition, or structure to your lips, lip liner is really the way to go when you want control over creating your ideal lip shape.

Ahead, we've compiled some key tips on the right way to use lip liner, along with some fun tricks to make the application process more enjoyable.

01 of 07

Prep Your Lips

lip liner


First things first, don't neglect your lips. It's common to have chapped lips from time to time and experience dry, flaky skin. Yet focusing on keeping your lips smooth and hydrated will go a long way. There are some simple ways to ensure your lips look and feel hydrated. Start by exfoliating lips to rid yourself of any excess dead skin, and follow up with a hydrating lip balm (we love Sun Bum's Lip Balm SPF 30 ($9)). If you're in need of a gentle lip exfoliant that still gets the job done, check out this one from Fresh Beauty.

Prepping your lips at nighttime is also an incredibly easy way to ensure your lips are on point 24/7. Slather on a lip mask before bed so you wake in the morning to a super-soft pout. I'm applying this lip mask from Milk Makeup, which is great for instant hydration. And the great thing about lip masks is you can wear them at any time of day to give yourself a nice hydrating treatment. If you apply too much, just blot away the excess with a tissue or your finger.

Lastly, you'll need lip liner, lipstick, and possibly a lip brush, lip gloss, and concealer on hand.

02 of 07

Assess Your Lip Shape

lip liner


Everyone has different lip shapes, and the best thing you can do is to assess your own and really understand the shape before applying lip liner. Look in the mirror and ask yourself a few questions. "What do I love about my lips?" and "What would I like to change about them?" are two great places to start. You might have a fuller bottom lip and want to enhance the top lip shape, or you might want to create more fullness all around. Identifying what you already like, and what you'd like to tweak, is key when understanding how to get the most out of your liner.

In my case, I'd like to add some fullness to the top and bottom of my lips, so I am marking where I can line them to help them appear fuller with my pencil.

03 of 07

Trace Your Shape

lip liner


Once you've figured out what lip liner formula fits you best, it's time to subtly trace the areas around the lips that you want to focus on. For instance, if a fuller top lip is what you want, lightly trace around the top lip, exaggerating the lips ever so slightly to create a fullness that looks realistic.

A great general rule of thumb is that nude lip liner goes with any lipstick color you're going to wear and can be a great base to kick off enhancing your lip shape. If a nude liner isn't your thing, be sure to match the liner as close as you can to the lipstick you'll be wearing to ensure there are no obvious lines. I am using Victoria Beckham Beauty's Lip Definer in shade 2 ($24) to get my shape just right.

04 of 07

Create a Small Shadow

lip liner


To complete filling your lips out with liner, create a small shadow in the center of the bottom lip with your pencil. This creates the illusion that the bottom lip is much fuller than it is. It is a trick I use often to enhance the shape of lips for photoshoots. Exaggerate the color here ever so slightly to mimic the effect of a shadow, which helps lips look much fuller.

Want to know another great trick? Celebrity makeup artist Tim Quinn loves to use a barely-there toned lip pencil to outline the lip slightly, and then fills in the inner corners of the lips with a deeper colored pencil, "This is great to do before lipstick application, as it adds contour and shape to lips and is a creative way to use your lipliners," touts Quinn. Something else he loves to do is to use nude lip liner along the lash line on top of dark liner to soften it up a bit. Genius.

05 of 07

Apply Lipstick

lip liner


It's important that your lip shape is balanced, so take note of where you need to tweak the shape and balance everything out once you've identified how you want your lips to look. Now it's time to apply your lipstick. I am using this lipstick here from Victoria Beckham Beauty because it nicely complements the lip pencil I chose. You can choose any lipstick color you want, which is all the more reason to make it fun.

06 of 07

Clean Up the Edges

lip liner


If you overdraw your line or find that you need to clean up the edges a bit, that's perfectly okay. There are a few ways you can clean up your lip's shape. I am using my finger to lightly smooth so that everything looks cohesive. Another thing you can do is apply concealer lightly around the lips and blend it with a brush to highlight the shape. You can also take a thin, precise cotton swab and lightly shave off any excess liner for a pristine shape.

07 of 07

Et Voilà, You're a Pro



Congratulations to you, you're now a lip liner aficionado! You've mastered the technique of shaping your lips, and things will only get better as you become more comfortable with using lip liners of all kinds. Whether you're wearing a neutral tone or a bright power lip, we have faith that you'll slay your lip liner application each and every time from here on out.

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