Tightlining, or “tight-lining,” despite its action-packed name, is not a new extreme sport. It doesn’t have anything to do with bungee cords, ratchet straps or zip-lining, but along with filling in my brows and curling my lashes, it’s an essential part of my everyday makeup routine.
In tightlining, you line the base of your upper lash line from below, getting down in there between the roots, and I do it EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.
Even when I’m under a severe time crunch and have to start making “tough” decisions on which and what parts of my routine I have to skip, I’ll skip bronzer, highlighter, and if I have to, I’ll even skip blush…as long as I still have time to tightline.
So how does tightlining differ from the typical ways of applying eyeliner? Well, I usually apply eyeliner from above, where I get the tip of the liner down between the roots of my lashes and along the lash line, and in tightlining, it’s the same basic process, but I come at the base of the line from beneath it, where I can really get the liner down in there between each and every lash, and it makes the lash line look nice and thick, and that makes the eyes look bigger.
For tightlining, of all the different eyeliner formulas — gels, powders, kohls, liquid liners, etc. — I like black waterproof twist-up pencil liners the best, and I choose the twist-ups because the tips are usually super thin, which makes it easier to get down in between each of the lashes at the roots. I also like waterproof formulas because they last (and I LOVE Chanel’s Waterproof Eye Liner in 88 Noir Intense for this reason).
Of course, if you feel like black liners are too stark for you, you can always use another shade. Deep blackish gray, brownish black, medium-toned gray, navy or brown all work, too. Whatever darkens your lash lines and floats your boat.
Step 1: Sharpen your pencil
To start, the first thing I do is sharpen my pencil.
I know that sounds kind of “Duh, Karen!” but using a sharp tip really helps. It makes it much easier to get between those lashes at the roots.
Step 2: Placing the pencil at the base
Next, I place the tip of the pencil just beneath my lash line, pointing at an upward angle, and close the eye I’m working on so that the tip of the liner presses up against the base of the lashes.
Step 3: Start your tightline
Then, I slowly run the pencil along the lash line in short spurts, back and forth, back and forth, all the way along the line moving from outward to inward (toward my nose).
Step 4: Check your work
Next, I’ll open my eye to make sure the line looks dark enough, and if it doesn’t, then I’ll repeat the same process until it does.
At this point, there are usually still a few gaps that need to be filled — places where the pencil didn’t quite get between the lashes — so I’ll take the pencil, and gently fill in those gaps until I have a solid black line.
And that’s all there is to it! Done. 🙂
Sometimes when I tightline, I accidentally end up with liner on my lid, and when that happens, I don’t worry about it too much. I just grab a Q-tip and blend out the line. It creates a bit of a gradient right along the lash line, and I’m all about those gradients, man!
And if I only plan to line my upper lash line, and not also my lower lash and/or water line, and some of my eyeliner transfers to where it doesn’t belong, I just dip a Q-tip into some makeup remover, and use that to clean up.
Lastly, if your liner doesn’t always stick to your water line, dry your water line first by gently rubbing a Q-tip along it before you start, because some liners seem to work much better on a dry surface.
Your friendly neighborhood beauty addict,