I was in a long-term relationship with black eyeliner from age 15 to about 29.
First, I flirted with a cute baby flick on the outermost corner of my eye. And as my confidence grew, so did those wings. It was the early 2000s and I was in good company - Amy Winehouse, Lauren Conrad, Rihanna, the list goes on.
I even went through a stage of wearing a sharp cat eye winged eyeliner EVERYWHERE. To work. To brunch. Even to the beach - which I'm ashamed to admit left me with a winged eyeliner tan line... on more than one occasion. Trust me, I know.
Black winged eyeliner has and always will be iconic, but I haven't really picked up a black eyeliner for a few years now. Of course, each to their own. You do you!
But personally, whenever I attempt black liner now, it just feels too heavy for me. Too done.
So, I switched to brown eyeliner and haven’t looked back since. I'm not the only one - there's a good chance you've seen the shift from harsh black liquid liner to softer, more natural-looking brown eyeliner on Instagram, too.
If you've wanted to try brown eyeliner but didn't know where to start, keep scrolling!
How To: Brown Eyeliner Tutorial.
First, here's a very short list of the tools and products you'll need to execute a beginner brown eyeliner look:
Your favourite brown eyeliner - Gel, pencil, eyeshadow, pick your poison. You can also use a brown eyeshadow shade in a palette you already own (or suss my favourite palette, I'll tell you more about it in a bit.)
A thin eyeliner brush or an angled eyeliner/eyebrow brush - You can find them in a brush set like the Spectrum Pink 10 Piece Set or buy separately.
Micellar water and some cotton tips to tidy up any mistakes.
Some water or a multi-purpose mist like MAC Fix+ if you want to turn your eyeshadow into liquid eyeliner.
Now, onto your brown eyeliner tutorial. You can watch this video below for a quick recap, or scroll down for a step-by-step guide to nailing this makeup look.
Step 1: Sit with your mirror at eye level, it's the easiest way to see how the liner will look once you’re done. Especially for those with hooded eyes, it's important to have your eyes open and look straight ahead when you draw your wing so it doesn’t end up crooked.
Tip: If you’re worried about your wing not being sharp, apply a small piece of tape from the end of your lash line outwards on the angle you want your wing to go on. Then, remove once your eyeliner is applied.
Step 2: With your eyes open, start by drawing the wing. Always better to start with your wing/flick and work inward, rather than trusting you can stop when you need to. We’ve all been there, with an eyeliner that seems to go on forever.
Tip: If you’re using a gel liner or an eyeshadow, you can place the product on in small lines using a ‘push and wiggle’ motion, which can feel more achievable than drawing a line.
Step 3: Where to stop your liner on your eyelid depends on your eye shape. For a more almond-shaped eye, stop lining at the centre of your pupil. For a more feline look, draw from the inner corner to the centre.
Tip: Use a cotton tip soaked in micellar water to clean up any mistakes. You can also use a dry cotton tip or a small eyeliner brush to gently smudge your line for a forgiving smoky look that hides shaky handiwork.
Step 4: You can always add a little brown eyeshadow or gel to your lower lash line and this will give the illusion of larger eyes.
Here's a comparison of how using different products can give you a different liner look.
On the left, I used an eyeliner pencil for a very subtle line. On the right, I used a brown eyeshadow and an angled brush to get that sharper but still subtle wing.
Best Brown Eyeliners and Eyeshadows.
Now you’ve got the technique down pat, let’s take a look at some of my go-to brown eyeliners and eyeshadows.
I've got a few different options for you depending on your budget and the kind of brown liner look you want to create:
Starting with the humble eyeshadow, I’m a big fan of the Anastasia Beverly Hills Modern Renaissance Eyeshadow Palette - specifically the shade Cyprus Umber.
It's the perfect shade of brown, not too cool, not too warm. Anastasia Beverly Hills eyeshadows are rich in pigment, so you only need a touch of this to get a cute liner look.
Use a thin angled brush to smudge the shadow along your lash line for an easy worn-in look, or spritz the brush with a setting spray to turn it into a liquid liner.
Next up is the Designer Brands Pigment Plus Retractable Eye Pencil - Chocolate Shard is a warm chocolate brown shade with a speck of golden shimmer running through it and it is GORG.
The texture of this liner is soft, so it won’t tug on the skin. But the waterproof formula ensures once the product sets, it stays. This kind of liner is great for beginners or anyone wanting a more subtle look.
Last in my trio of liners is one of my all-time favourites: Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Gel Eyeliner in the shade Espresso Ink is the OG.
You really can’t go past this Bobbi Brown eyeliner. The gel formula is the most pigmented of the three I've mentioned in this article. It also sets in seconds, so it's probably best for more practiced hands.
Make a mistake? No drama, it removes easily with micellar water. I love using this with a fine brush to create the thinnest line to just enhance the lashes. It dries down matte so can look very natural, but this formula will also allow you to create a more dramatic look.
And those are my tips for creating a brown winged eyeliner look! You can learn more eyeliner tips and tricks in our YouTube video below.