10 Ways Eyeliner Can Make Your Eyes Look Bigger and Brighter

Today, I’m going to use eyeliner for a look that makes my eyes look smaller and squintier… said no one ever. And there’s very good reason for that (beyond the obvious). There’s a boatload of research that tells us why subconsciously (and not so subconsciously) we strive to make our eyes look bigger and brighter. Seeing a set of large peepers that seem to take up most of our face immediately registers a vulnerable, youthful, Bambi-like innocence that has scientifically been proven to be one of the features that endears and bonds parents to their babies. Think about every Disney princess you’ve ever seen: An entire empire built on fluttery lashes and huge saucer-like eyes.

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While we can’t promise you your own kingdom, we can give you some easy, fool-proof ways to make your own eyes bigger and brighter using only eyeliner and mascara (no shadow necessary).  Here, makeup artist Pamela Jordan gives us 10 quick, easy looks that use eyeliner to get enviable eyes.


All the eyeliner advice in the world won’t make a bit of difference if you’re starting out on a canvas of dark circles and uneven skin tone.  Make sure to follow these 4 steps to get your eyes ready to look their best.

1. Dab on lightweight eye cream to hydrate. Focus only on the area under the eyes, not lids (as this will cause makeup to smear). The cream should absorb quickly and leave your skin feeling smooth but not greasy. Try Lancôme Rénergie Lift Multi-Action Lifting And Firming Eye Cream.

2. Apply a color corrector to neutralize dark circles. Pick an orange-based corrector and apply with a small brush. Make sure to go up to the lashline, as well as the inner corner of the eye to lighten the dark area by the nose. Let the color sit on your skin instead of blending in. Try L’Oréal® Paris Infallible Total Cover Color Correcting Kit.

3. Pat concealer directly on top of the corrector. This will virtually erase any darkness and create a smooth, clean palette for your eye makeup.  Use your ring finger to blend the concealer carefully. Try Maybelline New York FaceStudio Master Camo Color Correcting Kit.

4. Keep concealer from sliding away throughout the day with powder.  Choose a translucent powder and dust lightly with a fluffy brush. Try L’Oréal Paris Hydra Perfecte Loose Powder.


1. Shimmery Bright

  • Use a bright metallic liner like Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil in Deep End (a shimmery teal) to outline the outer ⅓ of top and bottom lash lines.
  • Concentrate at the outer corners to help flick lashes upward, creating the illusion of an upturned eye.

2. Peachy Keen

  • Line the inner rim of the lower lid with a flesh-toned pencil. This creates the illusion that the whites of your eyes extend farther. Try NYX Faux Whites Eye Brightener in Linen.
  • Apply black mascara to upper and lower lashes. Try Maybelline New York Great Lash Mascara.

3. Less Liner

  • Line bottom lash line from the outer corner halfway inward with a dark neutral color. Stay as close as possible to the lashline. Try NYX Faux Blacks Eyeliner in Obsidian.
  • Ignore the upper lash line entirely and just apply mascara to bottom and top lashes. Try Giorgio Armani Eccentrico Mascara.

Tip: Skip this if you have round eyes, which look best when the top lash line is darker and thicker.

4. Upturned Ends

  • Draw a super-skinny strip of black liquid liner along the base of your upper lashes. Stay as close to the lash line as possible. Try L’Oréal Lineur Intense Brush Tip Liquid Eyeliner.
  • When you get to the end, flick up and out to make the eyes appear larger.

5. Halfway Haute

  • Using black liner, start at the center of the top lash line and draw out, making it thicker at the outer corners.  The thickness makes it look like your eye shape extends to where the liner is. Try Giorgio Armani Eyes to Kill Proliner in Obsidian Black.
  • Use a soft shadow brush to smudge and soften the line slightly.

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6. Bright Lights

  • Use a navy or aqua liner across the entire upper lash line (both colors make the whites of eyes looks whiter). Try Giorgio Armani Eyes to Kill Proliner in Navy Lights.
  • Curl lashes and apply three coats of black mascara to top lashes only. Try L’Oréal Voluminous Lash Paradise Mascara.

7. Lighten Up

  • Color your waterline with white eye pencil to instantly open them up. Try L’Oréal Infallible Never Fail Eyeliner in White.
  • Dab a bit of pearly highlighter on the inner corners of eyes and underneath brow bones. Try YSLTouche Éclat Glow Shot Highlighter.
  • Curl lashes and apply two coats of volumizing mascara to top and bottom lashes. Try L’Oréal Paris Feline Noir Washable Mascara.

Tip: This look works on smaller eyes only if you add dark liner to the upper lashline. Otherwise, it doesn’t create enough depth to make eyes appear larger.

8. New Neutrals

  • Swap dark-brown liner for a brownish gold like Lancôme Le Stylo Waterproof Eyeliner in Bruns Frivole, and black for a grey like L’Oréal Paris Infallible Super Slim in Gray since lighter colors open up the eyes. Line outer third of top lash line. This wakes up eyes.
  • Curl lashes and apply mascara to top lashes only, concentrating on outer third to create lift.

9. Not-so-Cat’s-Eye

  • Line the upper lashline from the center of the eye outward, extending the line just slightly past the corner of your eye (but without drawing upwards at the end, like a traditional cat’s eye). This gives the illusion of wider, almond-shaped eyes.
  • If drawing one long line is difficult, draw from the outside in with short connected strokes. Gel liner makes it easier to create a clean, smooth line. Try Maybelline Eye Studio Lasting Drama Gel Eyeliner in Blackest Black.

Tip: If your eyes are downturned, add in the upward flick at the end to make them look lifted.

10. Two-Toned Liner

  • Layer two different colors of eyeliner on the upper lashline to wake eyes up. Start by lining your upper lashline with a dark brown liner.
  • Draw another line exactly over the brown one using a purple or blue liner. Try Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Pencil in Delinquent (metallic purple).

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Avoid These Makeup Moves That Make Eyes Look Smaller

1. Waterlining  the lower lashline with black liner. This visually shrinks the eye.

2. Wearing dark, matte shadow. Flat, dark colors on the lids make eyes recede.

3. Wearing smoky eyes incorrectly. It’s not for everyone—and definitely not for those with hooded, heavy eyes. Going to dark and too heavy will make any eye shape look smaller.

4. Going overboard with falsies. Too much of a good thing can be…too much. Heavy lashes on the upper lash line weigh down the eye make it look like it’s closing.

5. Skipping undereye concealer. Dark circles obviously make you look more tired, but they also make eyes look smaller.