Fear No: Cat Eye Design Thursday 19 April, 2012

There’s nothing simple about creating a perfect cat eye, but that doesn’t mean mastering this makeup skill isn’t within your reach.

Isn’t it amazing how a simple flick of eyeliner can completely transform the eye shape, granting us those “bedroom eyes” that make us feel instantly sexier? But there’s nothing “simple” about creating the perfect cat eye. I should know: It’s one of my makeup staples, and I constantly struggle with it—sometimes to the point of near tears. Or at least some serious swearing.

But there it was, that gorgeous wing, running rampant on the spring/summer 2012 runways, appearing in multiple guises, from flicks that practically licked the edges of the brows to subtle upticks that converted eyes into that perfect, exotic almond shape. Breathtaking, yes. Easy to replicate? No.

 Spring 2012 Dolce & Gabbana eyeliner

The pratfalls I encounter with the cat eye aren’t singular to me; I’m sure you’ve probably shook your fist at your reflection too, your lopsided wings flapping back at you. First, no two eyes are alike—and that includes the two peepers staring back at you from your very own head. Nobody—not even Kate Moss—is perfectly symmetrical. In my case, one eye (my right) houses an eyelid that is puffier, saggier and less awesome than the other. Because of this, I must adapt my design to each eye’s “personal needs.” I rejigger the “weight” (meaning, the thickness or thinness of your line) on one eye; this helps to ensure that after I line my eyes, one doesn’t look drastically larger than the other.

Second, though we’d all love to be ambidextrous, only about 1% of the world’s population is. So while our dominant hand paints on our eyeliner artfully, our other hand chicken-scratches it across our lid to sometimes comic effect. As with most things in life, the less dominant hand can be put through its paces; patience and practice are key. But it’s the getting there that can trip you up. Believe me: Repetition will steady your hand. Don’t give up.

 Badgley Mischka Spring 2012 eyeliner

Lastly, exacting that perfect wing on both eyes—where both are even in length, tilt, intensity, sharpness of the point—takes much squinting, eyeballing, retracing, minute fidgeting, etc. It’s basically a labor of love.

Recently, I interviewed makeup artists for their tips on how to master the art of the cat eye, and I had a few “a-ha!” moments where the light bulb in my cobweb-ridden brain lit up, and I raced to my vanity to start applying my new-found knowledge. Makeup artist Rachel Wood suggests using “gentle, small stokes along the lash line, and then connect them, rather than trying to draw on one big swoop, which usually comes out uneven.” To ensure your flick is even from eye to eye, “use your eyebrows as a guide and draw the cat eye flick in an upward direction toward the bottom tip of the eyebrow,” Rachel says.

 Spring 2012 Jonathan Saunders eyeliner

My biggest eureka! moment came when makeup artist Lindsey Williams tells me, “Keep your eye open when drawing the flick as this will give you better perspective on where you want the flick to go.” When I draw on my cat eye, I tilt my head back and stare down my nose. And, let me tell you: My eyeliner looks divine from this perspective. But, how often do we walk through life, our heads titled back, our eyes half-open, staring down our noses? Never, in my case. (Though I’m sure there are some snobs out there that do just that. To them, I say: Create your cat eye with your eyes half-closed! To the rest of us: Simply put—don’t.)

 Spring 2012 Matthew Williamson eyeliner

Part of the problem with crafting your eyeliner wing with eyes half-closed is that it creates what Lindsey calls a “cupie curl.” Rather than having the liner extend straight out and “lift” your eye, the liner curls—not the shape you’re going for. Retraining myself to sketch my design with eyes wide open has been a feat in itself, but I have to admit: The technique works.

For Lindsey, the crucial element to a successful cat eye is making both eyes symmetrical. “Use makeup remover and Q-tips (the smaller the Q-tip, the better) to clean-up any accidental bumps or simply to start the flick over again,” she says, admitting, “Sometimes it’s easier to clean-up a good flick than to draw one perfect the first time around!”

Clinique global colour artist, Jenna Menard, agrees. “The best way to perfect and sharpen your line is to use a pointed or extra-fine cotton bud tip,” she says. You can find these specialty cotton swabs at most beauty supply stores.

 Eyeliners Clinque Bobbi Brown Sephora Stila

Now you know the tips to hone your technique, but what type of liner should you be using? Your medium for doodling the perfect cat eye comes down to preference and confidence. Pencils tend to be more forgiving, making them a stellar choice for newbies, but they also don’t always grant the sharpest line. (Again, you can refine your line with a pointed cotton swab, so don’t count out pencils! New to the scene: Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Pencil, which promises not to budge for 12 hours. Or try these great retractable pencils: Sephora Retractable Waterproof Eyeliner and Clinique Quickliner For Eyes Intense.) Liquid liners take some mastery, and you can either choose a brush applicator, which allows you to swoop more easily, but is best for the skilled flicker, or a felt-tip applicator (like a marker—Stila Cosmetics Sparkle Waterproof Liquid Eye Liner is a choice pick), which is easier to wield and is genius at giving you pin-point precision (read: thinner, sharper lines). Lindsey prefers gel liners, which come in a pot and require that you apply them with a fine-point eyeliner brush. I say: Test them all out, and find your best fit.

Why You Too Should Have No Fear: Yes, the cat eye takes skill, but that skill is best acquired through practice, practice, practice! Once you have your method down pat, you’ll be rocking a makeup look that is sultry, sexy and eye-opening—all wrapped into one! What I find to be most thrilling about winged liner: You can constantly re-invent the shape, length and size of your design, which allows for various looks and styles. And don’t forget color: Black is the go-to, but introducing color into your design completely transforms your look. To ease into color, test out dove grey, cinnamon and dark navy. To ramp it up, try bright purple, turquoise or emerald. One handy trick I’ve acquired: Draw on your bright color liner, then go back in with fine-tip black liquid liner and trace the slimmest line just along the lash line to add definition to your look. Now go flick yourself!

Karie L. Frost Signature


(Images: via Beauty Launchpad)



  • scarlett says:

    Hey dear i am so crazy about cat eye makeup but was no perfect idea about it but after reading this i am feeling relax and will apply for the next. thanks

  • admin says:

    Honestly, all of the tips I received from makeup artists regarding perfecting your cat eye really do work! Especially not looking down your nose – very good tip! 🙂 karie

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