The perfect winged liner does exist, and regardless of your eye shape, if you believe it, you can achieve it. In fact, we’ve been perfecting this style for more than 2,000 years, dating back to B.C. in ancient Egypt where Cleopatra ruled in a fierce cat-eye.
The winged liner trend found its way to America in the 1920s, and in what some would call a plot twist, skyrocketed to popularity in 1922 when King Tutankhamun aka King Tut’s tomb was discovered.1 A century later, winged eyeliner still remains in style, with celebrities like Ariana Grande and Adele adopting it as their signature look.
We spoke to celebrity makeup artists Mario Dedivanovic, Sofia Tilbury, and Jacqueline Fraioli to learn the ins and outs of winged liner and get the scoop on how to perfectly style it regardless of eye shape, product preference, or skill. Ahead, the ultimate expert guide to winged eyeliner.
Classic Winged Liner
The “classic” winged liner, shown here on influencer Hennessy Carolina, is exactly what its name states—a classic. Fraioli notes that this style typically works best on almond-shaped eyes that have a natural lift at the outer corners. “Classic liner starts out thin in the inner corner of the eye, and gradually gets thicker toward the wing,” Fraioli says. “Inglot’s AMC Eyeliner Gel 77 is my choice liner for this [style].”
While gel may be the MUA choice for a classic application, it’s not the only choice.
“Liquid eyeliners like Charlotte’s Feline Flick Pen are perfect for creating a classic wing,” says Tilbury. “The brush-like tip allows you to create a super-thin, sharp line, but some people can be intimidated by the fluid, ink-like consistency. For almond eyes, I always like to think of defining the eye shape, outlining the inner corners and lash line before winging out from the outer third of the eye.”
For a more detailed how-to on the classic wing, Dedivanovic notes that you’ll want to imagine the wing as an extension of your lower lash line. “Draw the line slightly in that direction, then go back and line the top lash line and connect the line to the wing,” he says.
“It’s all about personal preference,” says Dedivanovic, who created the above classic wing on Bebe Rexha. “I like to tight-line the top outer lash line for even more definition. You can glide a cotton swab along the bottom edge of the wing to perfect or clean up the line if necessary.”
Made popular by artists like Dedivanovic and Katie Jane Hughes, the “Batwing” resembles the classic wing but is specially tailored for those who have hooded eyes. “The Batwing liner dips into the outer corner crease of the eye, so it doesn’t look unbalanced when looking down,” Fraioli says. “This also helps the wing show a bit more, rather than being covered by the ‘hood.’ It helps hooded eyes look more uplifted. Inglot’s AMC Eyeliner Gel 77 is also ideal for this type of wing.”
Hooded eyes often call for creativity to achieve a lifted wing look. “If you have hooded lids, the shape of the wing can change depending on whether your eye is open or closed,” Dedivanovic says. “I recommend applying liner while looking straight into the mirror, eyes open. Focus the application on the outer corners of the eyes where the liner is more visible and will create a greater effect.”
“I always use long-wear eyeliner, especially if you have hooded or monolid eyes since they tend to transfer liner more easily,” Dedivanovic continues. “The style of the wing changes depending on the eye shape, but the result should always be the same—eyes that look defined, elongated, and lifted.”
In the look above, Dedivanovic used his Master Mattes Liquid Eyeliner, which includes an easy-to-use flexible tip and waterproof formula.
Smoky Winged Liner
A smoky eye screams glam, and a smoky liner matches that same energy.
Dedivanovic notes that the creation of this look is one of his favorite eyeliner combinations. “I love layering liquid over pencil. I start by applying my Master Pigment Pro Pencil ($22)—it has a custom brush that helps create an effortless wing. The pencil stays emollient which gives me time to perfect the line. Once I do, I lock it in with my Master Mattes Liquid Liner on top for an even bolder look.”
The smoky eye is a great option for a night out, but also a forgiving option for those who are nervous about liquid liners, as blurred lines are literally the goal here. “The smudge shadow liner look was another huge hit this year,” notes Fraioli. “This is perfect for someone who wants a softer wing. It’s also easier for those who aren’t so steady-handed with a gel or liquid liner. You could do this with any color shadow as well, doesn’t have to be just black. I use the Makeup by Mario Master Mattes eyeshadow palette for the shadow wings.”
Tilbury is also a fan of the soft pencil method and has all the products to help you perfect a smoky wing. “My favorite formula for eyeliners is always a classic pencil,” Tilbury says. “Charlotte’s pencils are super easy to use because they’re enriched with emollients that allow for a gliding application. I wear a feline flick using the berry-brown Pillow Talk eyeliner almost every day.”
“You can make the line sharp or smoke it out using a brush, and you can use pencils on your outer corners to create lift, or along the waterline for definition,” Tilbury continues. “If you like a softer, smokier eye look, Charlotte’s Rock ‘N’ Kohl Eyeliners ($29) have a sultry finish and high-impact pigment, whilst The Classic Powder Pencils ($24) add more subtle definition that’s perfect for everyday makeup. The most important thing is to always have a sharpener to hand.”
Inner Corner Wing
For all of the drama (in a good way, obviously) the pros love an inner corner liner that connects for an inner and outer winged look, like Sofia Tilbury’s seen above. They note that working with a pencil can sometimes be more difficult in the precision category, but share their tips to get the cleanest application.
“Start by drawing a very thin line along the upper lash line, as close as possible to your lash hairs to ensure no skin is showing through,” says Tilbury. “When you reach the final third of the eye, stop and create a dot in the outer corner where you’d like your wing to end. Then wing up and out to join the dots—and remember to keep cotton swabs on hand to perfect the finished line.”
“Using a pencil or shadow with a dampened brush can be easier and more comfortable to use for beginners,” adds Dedivonovic. “I always recommend sitting with your elbow anchored on a flat surface to keep your hand steady while you apply. I also keep pointed cotton swabs dipped in micellar water handy to sharpen and perfect the wing at the end.”
As for achieving the perfect inner corner wing, Fraioli shares, “you want to accentuate the inner corner of the eyes. This looks best on eyes that are set further apart. You can do both top and bottom liner with this if you’d like. A pencil liner or liquid liner is best for this look.”
The experts agree: Regardless of your lid, eye shape, eye distance, or preference, there is a wing for everyone. Tilbury shares that her ultimate tip, regardless of the wing style you’re looking to achieve, is to look straight ahead into the mirror while creating the wing to help ensure the wing is tailored to your natural eye shape.
Dedivanovic leaves us with a simple yet important last piece of advice: practice makes perfect, even when you’re a pro.