Out of all the beauty products in my lineup, eyeliner is by far the most intimidating to me. Unlike shadow, which can be buffed away or covered up, one slip of the hand while applying liner can derail my entire process. If I do manage to pull off a straight, even line, the task of repeating the process on my other eye is somehow even harder. It’s a saga that has frequently made me late for plans, and once even left me on the verge of tears (I was really, really late).
Fortunately, for both me and my dinner companions, I have found the solution to my eyeliner woes while scrolling through my For You page on TikTok. The app has introduced me to several tips and tricks that have improved my cat eye application skills tenfold. However, despite my progress, I recently came across two liner techniques that might convince me to put down the liquid liner for good. Keep reading for all of the details on TikTok’s favorite liner hacks, and see what a celebrity makeup artist thinks about each.
The Shadow Liner Technique
One of the most popular liner methods on TikTok is the eyeshadow technique—a trick that's been used by makeup artists for decades, but started receiving even more attention thanks to some of the viral makeup tutorials on the app. Since Gen Z is all about a natural-looking (but still sculpted) makeup aesthetic, it’s no surprise that TikTok’s go-to liner look is similarly subtle. Like the traditional cat eye, the shadow liner technique is all about defining the eye while emphasizing, lifting, and elongating for an effortless effect.
“People are finally starting to embrace ‘less is more’ when it comes to their makeup routine,” says makeup artist Jen Tioseco, who works with celebs like Shay Mitchell and Madelaine Petsch. “Because of this, opting for a more subtle liner to enhance your eye shape will complement a lighter base as well.” Plus, as Tioseco notes, it’s much easier to clean up and reshape mistakes with eyeshadow than it is with traditional liner.
To achieve a lifted liner look, like the one Tioseco created on actress Ariana Greenblatt, grab a dark shadow shade and an angled brush. Apply the shadow to the outer corner of your eyes, then defuse it with a clean pencil brush. “Adding a few individual lashes where you placed the shadow liner helps enhance that subtle lift,” she says.
After saving about a dozen shadow liner tutorials on TikTok, I was convinced that the method was the answer to my liquid liner dilemma. Not only did it look much easier to apply, but I was also drawn to the natural-looking lift and definition the technique provided. I love the drama of a cat-eye, but I also sometimes feel like it can be overwhelming on my face, especially if the rest of my makeup look is more minimal.
While the end result is probably one of my favorite eye looks yet, I will admit that the application isn’t quite as seamless as it appears on the app. I’ve yet to pull off the method without needing a combination of some micellar water, concealer, and patience to create the effortless-looking lines. Despite the trial and error, I was ready to declare shadow as my new secret weapon when it came to lining my eyes—until I saw a genius TikTok hack from makeup artist Kevin Kodra.
The Brow Pencil Hack
When I first watched Kodra’s TikTok outlining his go-to liner trick, I felt like he was speaking directly to me. “You want a little bit of a lift in your eye but you don’t want to do full liner every single day?” he asks in the video, perfectly surmising my daily struggle. “I’m going to show you how to do this subtle liner in literally one minute.”
Kodra explains that you can use liquid liner, pencil liner, or eyeshadow to achieve his look, but he suggests a product I had never considered taking below my brow bone. “Brow pencils are usually very thin and very precise, so it lets you really control how much product you’re applying on this skin,” he says, pointing out how one of his eyes is noticeably more lifted and almond-shaped than the other.
Tioseco agrees that brow pencil makes for a great subtle liner look thanks to its fine tip that allows for the tiniest of strokes. “Opt for a waxy formula that glides on the eye,” she says. “Anything too dry will tug, making it difficult to achieve a precise line.”
To try Kodra’s technique, take your brow pencil of choice to your outer eye corners. “The easiest way I can describe it is to imagine you’re drawing a tiny eyelash on the corner of your eye,” he explains. Once you’ve drawn your faux-lash wing, Kodra says to extend it to your lash line but to avoid bringing it fully across your eyelid like you would with a traditional liner. Applying the liner from the outer corner only will keep it looking effortless like your eyes are naturally lifted. You can, however, take the pencil to the inner corner of your eye and lightly wiggle it on your waterline. “It’ll kind of do the job for you,” he explains. Top it off with some mascara on your corner lashes for even more lift.
After watching Kodra’s TikTok, I was eager to see if brow pencil really could provide the subtle definition I wanted when I wasn’t willing to commit to a shadow liner application. Using a dark brown pencil, I drew a small lash on each outer corner, extending the wing slightly up towards my brow for even more of a lift.
Is it as eye-catching as the shadow liner look? Not quite. But true to Kodra’s word, it took me less than a minute and practically zero effort to do both eyes—a feat that would be unthinkable with liquid liner. Plus, it’s almost impossible to mess up. Since brow pencil is so buildable, you can start off with light flicks and deepen the color once your line is set.
The Bottom Line
Out of all the beauty hacks I’ve tried over the years (from TikTok or otherwise), few have become staples in my routine as quickly as the shadow liner method and the brow pencil hack. They might serve different purposes—I’ve been reserving shadow liner for days when I’ll actually see people and utilizing my brow pencil more frequently—but they’ve both become mainstay alternatives to liquid eyeliner.
I can’t say I’m forgoing the traditional cat eye for good (especially with all the different variations that have been trending). Still, I will admit this: arriving on time for plans with subtle, crisp liner is far more enjoyable.