Eye Makeup Tutorial: Tightlining for thicker lashes and bigger eyes


Before my makeup obsession escalated to where it is now, my eye makeup was limited to well-curled lashes with what I refer to as the best eyelash curler for Asian eyes, and any random mascara.

I didn’t know why my mascara smudged even when I used waterproof mascara. Now I do. (Read: Difference between smudgeproof and waterproof mascara )

Eyeliner was reserved for special occasions when I had to amp up the look or when I was feeling exceptionally vain that day.

When I did have eyeliner on, there was always this inconspicuous line of nude skin between the eyeliner and eyeball.

Like this.

That ‘flaw’ always made my eye makeup look half-finished. But I didn’t know what caused it, and never thought something SO EASY would make A WHOLE LOT of difference. That something, my friends, is what we call TIGHTLINING.

Read on to find out more about tightlining!

What is Tightlining?

Tightlining is a simple trick used to create the illusion of thicker eyelashes and bigger eyes. The underside of the upper lashes is drawn with an eye liner, usually in black or dark brown. The emphasis is subtle, the effect intense.

What do I use to Tightline?

A good, soft and creamy pencil eyeliner.

The best eyeliner I’ve used for tightlining is Urban Decay 24/7 pencil in Zero because it’s a super buttery matte black. It smudges if I wear it on my upper lashline, lower lashline and lower waterline but it works well on my upper waterline.

A worthy alternative is L’Oreal HIP Chrome Eyeliner in Black Shock, an ultra-dark black that works just as well but at a fraction of the price. The L’Oreal HIP Chrome Eyeliners are known to be dupes of the Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencils. I have the L’Oreal HIP Chrome Eyeliners in Silver Lightning and Violet Volt. Alas, as beautiful and creamy as they are, some chemical in these pencils leave me with irritated eyes so I use them only on the upper lashline.

Some people like to use gel eyeliners like MAC Fluidline in Blacktrack, Stila Smudgepot or Bobbi Brown Longwear Gel Liner, but my waterline is sensitive to gel eyeliner so it’s a no-no for me.

Now… How to Tightline?

During eyeliner application – I mostly use gel liners coz they last a long time – I apply the eyeliner as close to the eyelashes as possible. The Sonia Kashuk bent eyeliner brush comes in extremely handy here because your view is not obstructed by your own hand or the brush handle.

Just as you would during eyeliner application, look into the mirror and tilt your head back. But this time, tilt more to reveal the base of the lashes.

Then use a pencil eyeliner and start drawing on the roots of the lashes to cover the gaps between lashes and carefully, on the underside of the lashes (the white space that would be visible without tightlining).

And… end of tutorial for tightlining! That’s all there is to know about how to tightline your waterline.

Why you should tightline your waterline

Contrary to the effect dark eyeshadow colors create, tightlining actually opens up the eyes and makes them look bigger and eyelashes thicker.

On days when you want to hide dark eye circles or are just too lazy to work on complex eye makeup, pair tightlining with a pair of geek-chic glasses and you’re ready to face the world! I love tightlining on days when I wear my specs because I cannot wear mascara with specs. I have a non-existant nose bridge, which results in having the lenses very near to my eyelashes. The mascara will only dirty the lenses and irritate me with EVERY blink.

Tightlining is my favourite elegant ‘no makeup’ makeup look.  For people who prefer nude makeup or light makeup, but still want to appear awake with deep eyes, tightlining is the way to go!

Also check out 5 useful tips for tightlining!

Ever since I discovered Tightlining, I haven’t gone on a day without it! I love the effect  T H A T  M U C H ! ! ! =D

Get Urban Decay 24/7 pencil in Zero here

Get L’Oreal HIP Chrome Eyeliner in Black Shock here


Have you tried tightlining before?

What do you think is the best pencil or gel eyeliner for tightlining?

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About Bun Bun

Hello! My name is Juli and Bun Bun is my alter-ego. I blog to share my love for makeup, how to apply it, and what works or what doesn’t work, all from an Asian perspective.

My first makeup product was a shimmery light blue lipstick which I proudly wore all over my eyelids and lips. It cost $2.50, felt like $250, and made me feel like a million bucks.

  • shusheshe

    As much as I love the colours and intensity of Urban Decay’s eyeliner, I find that they smudge on me. Even if I’m not tightlining with them, at the end of the day I’d find myself looking like a raccoon. Gel is what I use for tightlining.

    • Bun Bun

      Hey shusheshe, I know!!! How I wish I could love the beautiful UD 24/7 eyeliner colors on my lids! >.< Gel eyeliner really stays put, too bad my waterline reacts really badly to it. Glad it works for you though~

  • molly

    For me it’s key not to go too close to the eyeball! There’s not much space to work with, but staying super close to the lash line while leaving a teeny bit of bare to protect the eye, while still achieving the dark edge. Very sixties!!

  • molly

    I also meant to add that if you carefully edge your mascara wand close to the inner lash line you can achieve a similar look.

    • Bun Bun

      HI Molly,
      Yup, you certainly can achieve similar results with placing the mascara wand close to the roots of your lashes. That takes slightly more time in the morning for me though, and I don’t have the luxury of a lot of time! Haha. I tend to be more careless with mascara being very close to the lash line. So tightlining with pencil eyeline definitely works better and faster for me. =)

  • Strawberry Cube

    Waaah I’ve always wanted to tightline but I could never get it right. At first, it was because I have sensitive eyes and blink a lot, and I was nervous about applying it that close to the eyeball. I’ve tried a couple of times but it never looks as smooth as yours :C

    • Bun Bun

      Hi Strawberry Cube,
      It sure takes practice! When I tried it initially I was very afraid of poking myself in the eye too! But once you get the hang of tightlining, there really is no other or faster way, IMO, in creating the illusion of thicker lashes. OMG I HAVE to tightline every time.
      Like you, I also have sensitive eyes. I don’t know what you’re sensitive to, but I’m sensitive to glitter eyeliner and gel eyeliner on the waterline so I only do those on the lashline. I also can’t do anything on my lower waterline, will tear like crazy.
      Thanks for reading and commenting, hope to see you again soon! =)

      • Strawberry Cube

        Haha I actually don’t know what I’m sensitive to either >.< I guess just sensitive eyes in general? They tear a lot and while I love the eyeliner look where it covers the entire outer "V" of the eye, I can't do it because it always runs/smudges on me.

        I've gotten slightly better (I hope) in tightlining, but I feel like my eyelashes keep getting caught in the way and that it's never as dark/complete as I want it to be. Ajkdflsd I fail. D:

    • Bun Bun

      Hmmmm, have you tried other types of eyeliners? Like in liquid or gel forms? You could be allergic to certain chemicals in pencil eyeliners.

      If your eyes feel irritated every time you have eyeliner on, it is natural that you keep blinking because your eyes are trying to get rid of the irritation. With the constant blinking and additional moisture (tears), eyeliner will smudge more. It’s like a slower effect of crying.

      I know, because I’m allergic to pencil eyeliners with shimmer on the lower lashline and waterlines. Initially when I didn’t know, I teared a lot and the liner kept smudging too. =(

      As for tightlining, it is really important to get a really creamy, matte black pencil eyeliner so that you don’t have to tug at the lids and can do it quickly.

      Feel free to ask if you have any more questions! =)

  • Lina

    Hi Bunbun!

    Love your blog! I was just wondering if you have any tips on removing the eyeliner? I love the effect tightlining has but I’m really put off because I have so much trouble removing it! I use Biore makeup remover which usually removes everything easily. Is Urban Decay easy to remove? It might be the Rimmel eyeliner I use that’s the problem..

    Lina xx

    • Bun Bun

      Thanks for the love Lina! =D This is a really good question because with tightlined eyes, you can’t just remove it the same way as you do with eyeliner on the lash line.

      I’m not sure which Biore makeup remover you’re using because they actually have 2 types of makeup remover – Biore Makeup Remover Perfect Oil (OLD) and Biore Makeup Remover For Eye & Lip (NEW). If you’re using the Biore Makeup Remover For Eye & Lip which I am too, it should be really easy to remove any kind of eye makeup. I can have the heaviest eye makeup with thick eyeliner, false lashes, glitter and all and the Biore Makeup Remover For Eye & Lip does an excellent job of removing all that gunk.

      The trick to removing tightlined eyes is to very gently lift the eyelid to reveal the base of the lashes, then using the cotton pad with the Biore Makeup Remover For Eye & Lip, work from the base of the lashes upwards. You don’t want to do the zig-zag motion as it may cause damage to the roots of the lashes. Every strand is previous, yo!

      Hope this helps and let me know when you’ve tried it! =)

      • Lina

        Thank you so much for the advise! I tried it today and the eyeliner came off in a breeze. It was a coincidence that my friend had just come back with a bottle of the Biore Makeup Remover for Eye & Lip! I had been using the Biore wipes – from now on I’ll use both to effectively remove my makeup :)

        Thanks again!! Keep posting, I love visiting your blog :)

        • Bun Bun

          YAY!! I’m happy for you, Lina!

          And thank you for taking time to tell me that you love reading my blog. It means so much to me. =)

  • s2rawRberry

    I love tightlining too! Some days I’ll just tightline but not draw eyeliner on my upper eyelid when I’m in a rush – it’s a lot quicker cos you don’t have to worry about precision, lol!

    • Bun Bun

      Yeah! And tightlining is good for those days when you have to hide dark eye circles and eye bags behind glasses, but still want to emphasize the other (good) part of the eyes. And I can’t wear mascara when I have glasses on, they keep poking the glasses. It’s not that I have very long eyelashes; I just have a very low nose bridge. Boohoo.

  • Jacqueline

    I’m enjoying going through your archives, love reading your posts. I have a question though, I love to tightline too but at the end of the day, even Zero smudges on me quite badly. Do you have issues like that?

    • Bun Bun

      You did? WOW! Thanks for appreciating them! *hugs*

      Zero smudges on me too! Whenever I make a trip to the toilet, I’ll just make a point to check in the mirror and erase smudge marks. Some people claim that it lasts 12 hours, doesn’t smudge, but it’s quite impossible for people with oilier faces. LIKE ME. And you. Haha…

      I’m trying out my new Prestige eyeliner in Deepest Black, which is said to be Zero’s dupe or even better. Look out for the review! =D

      • dr.kaye

        hello there, I have been using the Sephora Jumbo black liner and the Milani Liquifeye. They both works wonders. You might wanna give it a try. btw, I have oily lids too :)

        • Bun Bun

          Oh I’ve heard good things about the Milani one! And it works for your oily lids? That sounds impressive enough to me!

  • BooBooNinja

    I tried doing this last night with my new Milani Liquif’eye metallic eyeliner but the colour transferred from my upper waterline onto my bottom waterline. It was my first time doing this, and unfortunately, I was at a party! Thank goodness I caught it in time because I was burgeoning on raccoon-eyes territory! Does this happen to you with UD Zero? Or with Prestige?

    I’d like to find a non-transferring liner for my upper waterline because I’d like to use the nude MAC Chromographic pencil on my lower waterline, and not have my lower waterline look like a mess after a few minutes.

    Do you have any tips? Or, is the transfer from upper to lower waterline unavoidable? :(

    • Bun Bun

      I hate when it happens too! Thank goodness you managed to do something about it before people started wondering if you lack of sleep. Lol. 😀

      Even though UD’s Zero and Prestige’s Deepest Black smudge like mad when I have them on my upper and lower lashline, they work quite fine when I use them for tightlining. A little smudging is still inevitable if you have oily lids like mine.

      Okie, one trick I always use is to apply some powder eyeshadow on the lower lashline. That will help ‘catch’ the eyeliner and reduce smudging. Besides, some color on the LLL makes the look more complete!

      • BooBooNinja

        You’re lucky that you don’t get smudging when you tightline. I think I’d rather have that than less smudging on the lashline because you can use gel liners on the lash line (as you do) but you can’t use gel liners on the waterline. :(

        I’m going to have to think about how I can use powder on my lower lashline. The problem is, I don’t want my bottom waterline to be black because my eyes are smaller than yours. I want to open them up by using a nude pencil on my bottom waterline and then using shadow to line my bottom lash line.


        • Bun Bun

          I don’t line my bottom waterline coz I’m allergic to anything there. My eyes will get very irritated. So I only color the lower lashline. You can try doing away with the bottom waterline and focus on the lower lashline instead. =)

  • jamiema

    Hey, Bunbun! I was just wondering how you keep the eyeliner on your upper inner waterline from smudging onto your lower inner waterline. Do you have any tricks and tips, or is it just that this brand of eyeliner works that well? Thanks! 😀

    • jamiema

      Opp, nevermind! I see that BooBooNinja had the same question as me. Thanks!

  • hearingxcolors

    Hey, BunBun, I was wondering.. In your “with/without Tightlining” comparison, you said Tightlining causes the illusion of thicker lashes.. But you’re wearing mascara in the photo with Tightlining. Can you post comparison photos without the mascara please? 
    I’ve been reading your blog entries all night, I’m learning so much so quickly xD


  • BunBunMakeupTips

    hearingxcolorsI’m glad to hear that you’ve benefited from my posts! YAY! Always makes me happy to know I have new friends. =)

    I’m not wearing any mascara in the photo under the section: Why you should tightline your waterline.