Raise your hand if you’ve ever accidentally poked yourself in the eye with your eyeliner. (So, that’s pretty much everyone.) While eyeliner tends to be pretty straightforward—the basic idea being that you just trace your lash line—there are some surprisingly tricky aspects that can mess you up. The ultimate goal is perfecting liquid liner, which is like the cool clique of the eye makeup world (a.k.a. intimidating and perfect in an Instagram-worthy kind of way). But with the right tips, you can get gel, liquid, and pencil liners down to an art form. Read on for the biggest mistakes you’re probably making.Mistake #1: Pulling or tugging your eye when you draw on eyeliner
Pulling your eye back so your skin is taut and smooth seems more like common sense than a mistake, but apparently, we’ve all been wrong about this one. “When you pull and then release your eye, it bounces back—and your eyeliner does, too. This can create bumpiness, texture, and that dreaded check-mark shape hanging off the eye,” says Lijha Stewart, makeup artist and director of artistry at Make Up for Ever. It’s tough (since pulling your skin taut probably feels like second nature at this point), but try to use your fingers to anchor your skin instead. (See our handy GIF for the right way to do it here.)Mistake #2: Using the wrong eyeliner formula
Liquid or gel liners look super-dramatic, but they set so quickly that you have basically zero time for blending. Since blending is your best friend—softening and blurring the lines can make mistakes seem less noticeable—you’re better off using a pencil like Fiona Stiles Beauty Ultra-Smooth Waterproof Eye Defining Pencil ($16,ulta.com), especially if you’re a novice or have shaky hands. “A waterproof or long-wear pencil will give you a little play time for blending, and then stay put without smudging or smearing throughout the day,” says Fiona Stiles, celebrity makeup artist and founder of the eponymous makeup line. Still shaky on the differences among all the formulas? Check out our in-depth guide to every type, plus the pros and cons of each.Mistake #3: Attempting to paint on liquid liner with a brush applicator (and failing)
Kind of how the wands choose the wizard in the world of Harry Potter, everyone has a liquid liner applicator that works for them. “Some people do better with a brush, others like a felt-tipped applicator,” says Stewart. “Everyone’s hand is slightly different.” She suggests experimenting with a few different kinds of applicators to figure out which you’re most comfortable with—and while that sounds time-consuming (and expensive), it’s worth it if you’re serious about getting a perfect cat eye. Felt-tipped pens like Make Up for Ever Ink Liner ($23,sephora.com) are best for beginners, since they offer the most control.Mistake #4: You only line your lower lash line
“Using a dark liner on the bottom without a liner on the top makes the eye feel unbalanced and bottom-heavy, dragging the eyes down,” explains Stiles. Plus, if you sweat or rub your eyes throughout the day, you could end up looking like one of Marc Jacobs’ goth girls. “Keep the liner to the top lid for a more lifted, youthful effect.” If you really, really want to go after your bottom lash line, Stiles recommends using a lighter color there than you’re using on the top. “This will still give you definition, but feels softer and more flattering,” she adds.Mistake #5: Closing your eye when you’re drawing on a cat eye
Here’s the annoying thing about cat eyes: You can draw them perfectly on both eyes and then realize that they’re totally uneven. Much of this comes down to placement. The solution? Keep your eyes open. “When the eye is closed, you can’t see where the crease at the corner of the eye falls,” says Stewart. Assuming your eyes aren’t lopsided, this will help keep your liner even on both sides. (But when in doubt, we’re fans of this brilliant cat-eye hack.)Mistake #6: Wearing black liner in your waterline
Lining the waterline is probably the most under-appreciated makeup trick ever. It’s an easy way to brighten up the eyes or get a super-precise look—but that’s only if you’re strategic with the colors. “I love a dramatic eye, but very often black liner in the waterline can make your eyes look smaller,” says Stiles. Instead, Stiles suggests using a softer color, like bronze, gray, or bronze, and swears by taupe. “It still gives you a sultry look without closing up your eyes and making them look smaller,” she explains. Another color that works? Pale gold, like how Gigi Hadid wore it here.Mistake #7: Winging it when you’re trying to wing your eyeliner
We know, we know: nobody’s got the time for a 10-step eyeliner application. But if you planning on being photographed or have a big event, it could be worth taking a more methodical approach to creating a dramatic look. Stewart suggests tilting your head back and looking into a mirror (with your eyes open!) to give you full visibility of your eyelid and keep your lashes out of the way. Then, line up a brush with the outer edge of your lower lashes at a 45-degree angle. Draw a dot as far as you want your wing to go. Then, connect the dot to your outer corner. You can then continue to draw the line towards the center of your lower lash line.