32 timeless black eyeliner looks to recreate - from subtle to statement

We've selected 32 black eyeliner looks, from subtle wings to dramatic smoky makeup - to suit any and every occasion...

Angelina Jolie, Tracee Ellis Ross and Sandra Oh pictured wearing black eyeliner looks/ in a purple template
(Image credit: Getty Images (L to R) Vittorio Zunino Celotto | Steve Granitz/FilmMagic |Gregg DeGuire/FilmMagic)

Eyeliner is one of those staple products that lives in everyone's makeup bag but if you find that your trusty kohl pencil or liquid liner has been collecting dust lately, here are 32 timeless black eyeliner looks to recreate...

When it comes to beauty, there is a handful of core looks that never tire - they might get a modern twist or a fancy new trend name but ultimately, they remain unchanged and timeless. Black eyeliner is one of those very looks and whether you're a lover of dramatic wings or "lived in" smudgy styles, a lick of black liner can always be relied upon to elevate your look. 

That being said though, the struggle of how to apply eyeliner is one we can all relate to, especially if you're caught weighing up the merits of mascara vs eyeliner or are unsure of what will suit your eye shape. Thus, we've rounded up 32 statement and subtle black eyeliner looks to help you put your collection of best eyeliners to good use...

32 subtle and statement black eyeliner looks to replicate

Eyeliner in its many iterations - from liquid to pencil - has been around for eons (literally), which means there's an endless amount of styles and shapes to choose from, so no matter your makeup preferences, there will be an eyeliner look for you.

The sheer amount of choice though can make searching for the perfect eyeliner reference picture a tad overwhelming. So, whether you're hunting for a sultry evening liner or a chic but minimal everyday look, here are 32 different ways to wear black eyeliner...

1. A classic cat-eye

Kate Middleton pictured with a black cat-eye eyeliner

(Image credit: Getty Images/Max Mumby/Indigo)

Naturally, we had to start with a classic. A cat-eye is perhaps the most iconic eyeliner look and can be adapted to suit all eye shapes and aesthetics. If you prefer natural makeup, for instance, you can opt for a thin flick to accentuate the curl of your lashes or apply a heavier wing, for a more dramatic effect. A simple cat-eye - created using a kohl pencil - is a staple in the Princess of Wales' makeup repertoire, so if you're looking for a tried and tested look, you can't go wrong with one that has the royal seal of approval. 

Shop the look...

2. A soft smudge

Kate Moss pictured with smudgy eyeliner

(Image credit: Getty Images/Marc Piasecki)

For a very effortless, French-inspired look, a soft and smudgy liner is a great option - especially if you're an eyeliner beginner or are intimidated by the precision needed for liquid eyeliners. Kate Moss' eye makeup was created with a soft pencil, which has been smudged around her upper and lower lash lines and flicked out slightly, to create a smoky wing. It's very '90s and will compliment most makeup looks, especially a bold lipstick look.

3. A half wing

Beyonce pictured with a half wing eyeliner

(Image credit: Getty Images/ Mason Poole/Parkwood Media)

If you're a lover of liquid liners, a half wing as modelled by singer, Beyoncé is the perfect look. This style of wing is very clean and really accentuates your lashes, creating a very sexy, feline effect. We'd recommend following Beyoncé's lead and pairing your black liner with a copper or gold shimmery eyeshadow.

4. Inner corner eyeliner

Keira Knightly pictured with black eyeliner

(Image credit: Getty Images/ Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)

The inner corners of your eyes might seem like a strange placement for your liner but as demonstrated by actress, Keira Knightly, it can create a very dramatic and chic look. Here we can see that the inner corner line points down, whereas the wing points up, creating a very flattering wave shape that immediately draws your gaze to her eyes. This style can really carry a makeup look, meaning you can keep the rest of your face natural - though it also pairs perfectly with a red lip or pop of blush.

5. Siren eyes

Angelina Jolie with a smoky eyeliner look

(Image credit: Getty Images/Steve Granitz/WireImage)

Eyeliner is a key element to the siren eye look, which is must-try if you're already a fan of smoky eyeshadow or have an evening event to attend. A soft wing, paired with black and brown shadow - as we can see on Angelina Jolie -  just creates this very sultry and angular look that never fails to flatter. 

6. '90s grunge

Victoria Beckham pictured with black eyeliner

(Image credit: Getty Images/Jamie McCarthy/WireImage)

If you're looking for makeup inspired by the '90s, you can't go wrong with this grungy eyeliner. Pictured on '90s icon Victoria Beckham, aka Posh Spice, this style is easy to recreate with the help of an angled eyeshadow brush and offers a surprisingly wearable statement look.

7. A full wing

Tracee Ellis Ross pictured with eyeliner

(Image credit: Getty Images/Todd Williamson/E! Entertainment/NBCUniversal/NBCU Photo Bank)

Another eyeliner classic is of course the full wing, a perfect example of which we can see modelled by Tracee Ellis Ross. The look sees you line the entirety of your upper lash line before flicking out at the edge of your eye to create that signature wing. The thickness can be adapted to your preferred style but we'd definitely suggest taking your liner underneath your eye also, as shown above.

8. Smoky Underliner

Angela Bassett pictured with black eyeliner

(Image credit: Getty Images/ JB Lacroix/WireImage)

A smoky underline puts a modern twist on a classic look and as Angela Bassett proves, it's very wearable. This trend sees a kohl liner applied to the lower lash line and smudged out to create a contrast to the upper lid. This is a great option if you're tired of traditional wings but still want your look to remain fairly subtle.

9. Graphic winged eyeliner

Olivia Wilde pictured with dramatic winged eyeliner

(Image credit: Getty Images/Frazer Harrison)

A large, graphic wing is an easy way to make a statement and is perfect for taking your everyday makeup look from day to night. A liquid liner will work best for replicating this style of wing and keep in mind that it may take a few attempts to get both eyes even. Our top tip for achieving clean lines is a cue-tip soaked in makeup remover, or if you don't have one to hand,  wet and fold a cotton round in half - to recreate a point - and use to neaten up the edges of your wing.

10. Eyeshadow eyeliner

Michelle Yeoh with an eyeshadow eyeliner look

(Image credit: Getty Images/Michael Buckner/Variety)

If you find that black eyeliner looks too harsh on your features, an eyeshadow could be the solution. Using a black eyeshadow (or dark grey/brown) and an angled eyeshadow brush can create a very similar effect to a pencil, but will offer a softer and slightly diffused look. This method is also far more forgiving if you're a beginner or don't have the steadiest hands. 

11. Black eyeliner and a red lip

Sandra Oh pictured with red lipstick and black eyeliner

(Image credit: Getty Images/Mike Marsland/WireImage)

It doesn't get more iconic than a red lip and a hint of black eyeliner- in fact, we'd challenge you to name a combination that pairs quite as harmoniously. Clearly, Sandra Oh agrees as the actress wore a classic blue-toned red lip with a hint of black liner for the ultimate red carpet look and the effect is undeniable. If you're ever stuck for eyeliner ideas, this is always a chic and foolproof option.

12. Waterline eyeliner

Zoe Saldana pictured with eyeliner and sparkly eyeshadow

(Image credit: Getty Images/Lia Toby)

For our minimalist makeup lovers, a light touch of black pencil liner on your water line, when paired with a shimmery eyeshadow and a lick of mascara, offers a very chic but subtle look. Applying eyeliner to your waterline can create instant definition and easily elevate an eye look.  It's simple but effective and ideal for beginners!

13. Negative space liner

Heidi Klum pictured wearing eyeliner

(Image credit: Getty Images/ Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)

For a more intermediate look, you can play around with negative space. Here model Heidi Klum has created something very interesting by leaving a gap between her wing and lower lash line, rather than connecting them. It's made all the more impactful by the eyeshadow wing framing her black liner, which can be replicated with a strip of eyeshadow tape and a fluffy brush!

14. Dramatic smoky liner

Lady Gaga pictured with smoky eyeliner

(Image credit: Getty Images/ ANGELA WEISS / AFP)

The easiest way to take an eyeliner look from classic to bold is simply to smoke it out and extend the wing out past your eyebrow. Here, Lady Gaga's entire eye is framed with heavy eyeliner with the edge smudged out to her temple.

15. No wing liner

Sandra Oh pictured wearing eyeliner

(Image credit: Getty Images/ Emma McIntyre/WireImage)

For a more subtle option, or if you're not a fan of winged liners, you can forgo a wing altogether and just line your upper lashes instead. This just adds an extra oomph and lift to your eyelashes.

16. A mini flick

Tracee Ellis Ross pictured with subtle eyeliner

(Image credit: Getty Images/ Steven Ferdman)

Speaking of subtle options, eyeliner doesn't always have to equal bold and eye-catching. In fact, it can just be used as a tool to elevate your natural features. A small flick at the outer corner of your eye for instance, can help to elongate your lashes.

17. Pencil liner

Meghan Markle pictured wearing eyeliner

(Image credit: Getty Images/ Karwai Tang/WireImage)

Liquid eyeliners are a tad stressful to use, so if you're looking to avoid a makeup meltdown a kohl pencil is a great alternative. Meghan Markle is known to love a smoky eyeliner look, often opting for a '90s-esque smudgy line on her upper and lower lash line -  and with the help of a soft pencil liner, her go-to makeup routine is very attainable. 

18. Reverse liner

Helen Mirren with black eyeliner

(Image credit: Getty Images/ Marc Piasecki/FilmMagic)

As the name suggests, a "reverse" liner is the opposite of a classic winged liner where, instead of lining your upper lid and fanning it out, you do it under your eyes instead. We're obsessed with Helen Mirren's take on this look but you can, of course, opt for a slightly less dramatic wing - unless you're also planning to strut the red carpet. 

19. Metallic black liner

An eye pictured with metallic eyeliner

(Image credit: Getty Images/ Karwai Tang/WireImage)

If you're already something of an eyeliner veteran and are just looking for inspiration on your next eyeliner purchase, a metallic liner is perfect for special occasions. Whether you're a fan of statement wings or a soft smudgy line, a shimmery liner will add a hint of glamour to your makeup. 

20. Barely-three eyeliner

Meryl Streep with eyeliner

(Image credit: Getty Images/Taylor Hill/FilmMagic)

As mentioned, eyeliner doesn't have to be in your face. There are ways to wear it subtly, as proven by Meryl Streep who sports just a thin line along her upper lash line. This is also a great option if you wear glasses and are looking for a simple and minimal way to dress up your eyes behind the lenses. 

21. Black and white liner

Jennifer Lopez wearing white and black eyeliner

(Image credit: Getty Images/Evan Agostini)

Using white eyeliner on your waterline is an age-old trick in making your eyes appear more open and awake and when paired with a bold, black liner it creates a very flattering contrast. You can also create a similar effect with a pastel pink liner, as we can see at play in JLo's makeup look. 

22. Dark brown liner

Keira Knightly with brown eyeliner

(Image credit: Getty Images/ Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)

We know, we know, we're talking about black eyeliner here, but if you find that the shade looks too harsh on you, a dark brown can be a real game-changer. You can create all of the above looks using a brown liner and it just offers a slightly softer effect and is perfect for an elevated, every day look.

23. Full smoky wing

Lily Allen with smoky eyeliner

(Image credit: Getty Images/Gareth Cattermole)

We've alluded to the smoky wing throughout this piece and for good reason, it's a true staple. It's effortless, versatile and universally flattering - what's not to love? Here Lily Allen paired hers with very glowy, natural makeup and a soft, nude lip, allowing her eyeliner to take centre stage.

24. Geometric liner

Olivia Wilde pictured with eyeliner

(Image credit: Getty Images/Steve Granitz/FilmMagic))

If you're feeling brave, a geometric of graphic eyeliner look like Olivia Wilde's is definitely worth a try. You can use either a pencil, liquid or eyeshadow liner to create this kind of design, but bare in mind that a liner will afford you the cleanest and more precise lines. 

25. Underliner

Jennifer Aniston pictured with eyeliner

(Image credit: Getty Images/Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)

It doesn't get much more timeless than a simple underline. Adding a hint of black liner to your lower lash line can instantly add definition and can be adapted to any makeup look. Personally, we'd recommend trying this look with a brown liner of eyeshadow for a soft and diffused look.

26. A pop of colour

Princess Diana pictured with blue eyeliner

(Image credit: Getty Images/ Tim Graham Photo Library)

If a black liner is already your signature but you're looking for a way to change things up, adding a pop of colour on your waterline is a good option. Princess Diana's iconic blue eyeliner is the perfect example, as the shade really brings out the blue in her eyes.

27. Smoky halo eyeliner

Cher with black eyeliner

(Image credit: Getty Images/Swan Gallet/WWD)

Apply eyeliner of black eyeshadow in your eyelid crease is another easy way to instantly create a statement and is one Cher's signatures. The singer can often be spotted with a "halo" style makeup look and if that's not reason enough to try this look, we don't know what else is!

28. Double cat-eye

An eye with a blue and black double eyeliner

(Image credit: Getty Images/kobrin_photo)

For a variation on a classic winged liner, you can add a line of colour above the first to create a double eyeliner. This is great for a party or just as a tool to add a pop of colour to your everyday attire. 

29. Abstract liner

Rita Ora pictured with black eyeliner

(Image credit: Getty Images/Gareth Cattermole)

This style of liner is one that creeps back into the makeup trend time and time again and for good reason, it's so eye-catching. That being said though, we concede that it might take a few attempts to get both wings even but practice makes perfect.

30. A block wing

Irina Shayk pictured with black eyeliner

(Image credit: Getty Images/Dominique Charriau/WireImage)

When it comes to winged eyeliner, there's really no limit to how thick you make the line, you can even make it so it covers your entire eyelid, for a full and dramatic look. To create this sort of precision, a liquid or gel eyeliner will work best, we'd also recommend a primer and setting spray to avoid any smudging.

31. Fish tail liner

An eye with black eyeliner

(Image credit: Getty Images/Zastavkin)

A fun variation on a winged liner is a fishtail wing. As the name suggests, it just requires adding a section line to your wing, creating the shape of a fishtail. Again, you can make this as subtle or as statement as you like.

32. A classic smoky eye and wing

Salma Hayek pictured wearing black eyeliner

(Image credit: Getty Images/Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)

Incorporating two timeless elements, you just can't go wrong with a smoky eyeshadow topped with a winged eyeliner. It's chic, universally flattering and can be adapted to your chosen colour palette easily.

Naomi Jamieson
Digital Beauty Writer

Naomi is a Digital Beauty Writer from woman&home, where she covers everything from skincare to fragrance but specialises, particularly, in makeup and nail trends. Through her work, Naomi gets to share her trend expertise and share her own shopping recommendations and product reviews. Previously, she worked as a Lifestyle News Writer for My Imperfect Life magazine, where she used her savvy for TikTok to bring readers the latest beauty buzzwords, fashion movements and must-have products. 

Before that, Naomi split her time between both GoodTo and My Imperfect Life, whilst training for her Gold Standard diploma in Journalism with the NCTJ, for which she earned a Distinction. Interestingly though, Naomi actually has a background in design, having studied illustration at Plymouth University but leapt into the media world in 2020, after always having a passion for writing. Now, when she isn’t reporting on the best perfumes and latest beauty releases, you can find her drinking copious cups of coffee, drawing and probably online shopping...