What Is a Cat Eyeliner Look?

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

A cat eyeliner look uses eyeshadow and eyeliner to extend the line of the eye outward, making eyes appear larger and more pronounced. Cat eyeliner is often associated with retro style, particularly the mod styles of the 1960s, but may gain its original influence from a far more ancient cosmetic trend. There are many different variations on a cat eyeliner look, from natural styles that lightly accentuate the eyes, to dramatic, smoky looks that feature dark shadows and extended wings.

Ancient Egyptians are frequently depicted with the cat eyeliner look of heavy black eye-makeup.
Ancient Egyptians are frequently depicted with the cat eyeliner look of heavy black eye-makeup.

The hieroglyphs and paintings of ancient Egypt may the first anthropological evidence of the cat-eye look. In ancient artwork, both men and women of ancient Egypt are frequently depicted with a heavy black eye-makeup that extends away from the corners of the eyes, sometimes with a slight upward curve. In the trend setting era of the mid-20th century, cat eyeliner was revived by several influential celebrities, including Audrey Hepburn. Since then, the style has waxed and waned in the fashionable world, but is often employed to co-ordinate with vintage or retro reproduction 1960s clothing.

Actress Audrey Hepburn helped revive the cat eyeliner look.
Actress Audrey Hepburn helped revive the cat eyeliner look.

Eyeliner is the primary tool necessary for making a cat eyeliner look. Liquid eyeliner creates a pronounced, controlled line, but makes mistakes more noticeable and may be difficult to remove. Pencil eyeliner allows for a softer line, excellent for smudging, but can wear off more easily. Dark, pigmented powder shadows can be used for especially smoky looks and may create a dramatic finished design.

To get a basic cat eyeliner look, eyeliner is applied along the lash line of both the upper and lower eyelids. At the corner, the lines meet, and can be extended slightly from the corner of the eye in an upward curve, or angled out in a triangular shape for a stronger look. The eyeliner may be started at the inside corner of the eye or halfway along the lash, and may be drawn thicker on either the top or bottom eyelid if desired. Keeping the makeup identical on both sides of the face is important, or one eye may end up looking larger than than the other.

Although the eyeliner is the most recognizable part of a cat eyeliner style, strategic application of eyeshadow is also important to a finished look. One excellent way to make eyes look larger is by first brushing a gold, silver, or ivory shadow on the inside corner of the eye, then starting the eyeliner application midway along the lash line on both lids. A smoky look can be achieved by using gray, plum, or dark purple shadow along the eyelid, and using a powder liner to create a bold, sweeping line.

The cat eyeliner look makes eyes appear more pronounced and bigger than they really are.
The cat eyeliner look makes eyes appear more pronounced and bigger than they really are.
Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica is passionate about drama and film. She has many other interests, and enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics in her role as a wiseGEEK writer.

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