If you’re watching as much Drag Race as I’ve been, you’re probably also obsessing over lip liners, and how great they are for making the lips seem bigger, bolder, and poutier. It seems like everyone wants bigger lips these days, and since we’ve already written about how to achieve them with lip plumpers, I’d like to talk about how you can achieve them with the power of lip pencils through overlining and contouring.
Whether you take your inspiration from the likes of Kylie Jenner, Madelaine Petsch from Riverdale, or RuPaul, be assured that a touch of lip liner is all it takes to get your lips looking like theirs.
We’ve collected 21 of the best lip liners and lip pencils for overlining the lips, along with some advice about exactly how to choose the right lip pencils for your lipstick. I explain what the different benefits of lip liners are, and I give you the low-down on how to fill in the lips, as well as how to overline and contour them for the most alluring pout possible. I finish off with some dos and don’ts to get you excited about using lip liners!
To prep your lips for your lip makeup and create the most perfect lip contour, here you have 21 of the best lip liners and lip pencils to choose from.
1. Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Lip Pencil
These are some of the best lip pencils out there when it comes to variety, pigmentation, and wear-time. They go on very smoothly yet neatly, and they stay in place for a long while without smudging or feathering. They correspond directly with UD Vice lipsticks, but you could rock them with lippies from other brands as well. You can buy them at Sephora.
2. Make Up For Ever Aqua Lip Waterproof Lipliner Pencil
These lip liners come in pencil form, so they are super creamy and smooth to apply. They go on cleanly, and come in a variety of colors so you can find a match to any lipstick you own. This waterproof formula is sold online through Sephora.
3. Kat Von D Everlasting Lip Liner
These are the best lip liners for anyone who likes unusual colors. In addition to some gorgeous traditional lip shades, these roll-up lip liners also come in unique shades like green, black, and blue. The formula itself is creamy yet long-lasting, and the thinness of the product is perfect for precise application. You can find them at Sephora.
4. MAC Lip Pencil
This classic formula has been around for years because it simply works. These are some of the best lip pencils for getting that perfect and precise line, since they sharpen to a tiny point. The formula doesn’t drag or irritate the lips – it is actually quite creamy and nourishing. It is available for sale at Nordstrom.
5. Buxom Plumpline Lip Liner
This lip liner is on the thicker side of things, with a very soft and moisturizing formula, so it’s perfect if you want a product that will double as a lip liner and all-over lip color. It comes with a brush on one end for blending it it or applying lipstick on top. Pick your favorite color up from Sephora!
6. Bite Beauty The Lip Pencil
Bite have one of the largest selection of lip pencils available, so this is where to look if you’re hoping for a very precise shade. These are some of the best lip liners for a clean and sharp application that lasts a long time. It is available at Sephora.
7. Huda Beauty Lip Contour Matte Pencil
While most lip liners on this list are quite creamy, these are the best lip liners for those who like a very matte finish. Since these lip liners dry down quickly, they tend to last a long time, although you might want to wear some lip balm underneath them.They can be used alone, or under a lipstick or gloss. If you like these lip liners, get them from Sephora.
8. NYX Professional Makeup Slim Lip Pencil
These are some of the best lip liners for a very thin and precise application. They come in an endless supply of shades, so you are sure to find the color you would like. Despite their creamy texture they tend to be very long-lasting. Treat yourself to one of these lip pencils by visiting Ulta.
9. Marc Jacobs Beauty Poutliner Longwear Lip Liner Pencil
The color selection with these lip liners isn’t the widest, because the focus was on finding those universal “my lips but better” shades. These lip liners have an extremely creamy formula that glides on seamlessly, but it also means that you need to be careful with the stick itself lest it break. There is also one invisible option, for those of you who just want the effect without the color. Find these liners at Sephora!
10. Laura Mercier Lip Pencil
While the color selection is definitely on the safe side of shades, these are some of the best lip liners if you like a drier formula with less wax. It is a firm pencil that gives precise line, to increase the longevity of any lipstick. This lip liner can be purchased from Sephora.
11. Chalotte Tilbury Lip Cheat Re-Size & Re-Shape Lip Liner
This is a silicone-based lip pencil that goes on creamy and smooth. If you’re new to lip liners, you might feel more comfortable with this easy-to-apply formula that can be built up before it gets too pigmented. Pop into Nordstrom to pick it up.
12. Pat McGrath Labs Permagel Ultra Lip Pencil
These are some of the best lip liners when it comes to longevity. They simply do not wear off! They take quite a while to set, so they’re a great choice if you like to take your time carving out your lip and blending. The color range is small yet versatile. These lip pencils can be bought at Sephora.
13. Chanel Le Crayon Lèvres Precision Lip Definer
You cannot go wrong with these sleek black lip liners from Chanel. These are some of the best lip liners on all fronts, including wearability, texture, and longevity. The shades available will work with most lipsticks, and they even included a lip brush on the end. This liner is sold at Nordstrom.
14. Lancôme Le Lipstique Lip Colouring Stick with Brush
These soft lip pencils have a gorgeous velvet finish, which means they can easily double as an all-over lip color. They are soft and smooth, and available in a curated selection of wearable shades. There is a little lip brush on one end of the pencil, for easy smudging and blending. Pick them up from Sephora!
15. Estée Lauder Double Wear Stay-in-Place Lip Pencil
This range of products is known for being long-lasting, and the lip pencils are no different. They last all day, despite going on soft and creamy. A lip brush on one end can help you blend your favorite shade all over the lip. The nourishing formula is especially recommended for those worried about the product feathering into any fine lines they might have. Buy them online through Nordstrom!
16. NARS Precision Lip Liner
These sleek black wooden lip pencils will not look out of place in your makeup case. NARS offers a selection of wearable colors that have a matte, long-lasting finish. To nourish the lips, these lip liners are fortified with mango oil and vitamin E, so they are also somewhat soft and moisturizing. Choose your favorite shade or two at Sephora.
17. Stila Stay All Day Lip Liner
If you prefer roll-ups, these are some of the best lip liners. Their tip is small and perfect for a very precise lip line, while the semi-matte finish will keep your lips looking kissably soft. Despite the creamy finish they tend to stay put for a very long time. Buy these lip liners at Sephora!
18. Tarte Tarteist Lip Crayon
This is another gorgeous take on roll-up lip liners that nourish the lips while giving them expert definition. The formula is on the more matte side of things, which is great for those who need something truly waterproof and long-lasting. The color range is small but versatile. These lip liners are sold at Sephora.
19. It Cosmetics Your Lips But Better Waterproof Lip Liner Stain
These lip liners are super versatile, thanks to a very unique tip. You can use them for all over lip color when the tip is dull, but you can sharpen the tip to a point if you need the precise lining effect. It is a matte formula that wears for a long while without smudging or feathering. Order these lip liners through Ulta!
20. Hourglass Panoramic Long Wear Lip Liner
A buttery and well pigmented lip liner with a matte finish is a beautiful thing, so you really cannot go wrong with these lovely lip pencils from Hourglass. You can find all kinds of traditional shades here, to go with most lipsticks. They come with a little lip brush on the end, as a convenient touch. These are available for sale at Sephora.
21. Clinique Quickliner For Lips
These are some of the best lip liners for those who prefer classic colors, and are over all the black pencils. A silver roll-up can be just as classy. This is a long-wearing and waterproof formula that won’t dry out the lips. Pick these up at Nordstrom!
A lip liner is not a mandatory makeup step, but it can make a big difference and certainly has a ton of benefits. If you find that lipstick alone doesn’t seem to work for you, one of the best lip liners might be exactly what you need to solve the issue. This is how lip liners can help:
• With their thin tips and high pigmentation, lip liners are ideal for defining the lip line with a precision that cannot be achieved with your average lipstick. They give a more defined edge, which looks much more elegant and purposeful than a haphazard swipe of lipstick.
• Lip liners also prevent lipstick from feathering or smudging. You might be familiar with the way lipstick can settle into the fine lines around your mouth after it’s been worn for a few hours. Well, since lip liners are made with wax, they are able to act as a barrier and prevent that smudging from taking place.
• Lip liners can work in two ways to increase the longevity of your lipstick. Just using them on the perimeter of the lip is enough, since lipstick doesn’t tend to fade evenly and will normally disappear from the center and very ends first. The second way is by using it all over the lips like a primer, which will truly help prevent the fading from all over the lip.
• You can use lip liners, especially with a slightly darker color than your lipstick, to contour your lips. By contouring the edges you can make your lips look larger, poutier, and juicier. I’ll go into detail later on in this article about exactly how to achieve this effect.
• Another way to achieve bigger looking lips is by using lip liners to overline your lips. Since they don’t smudge as easily as lipstick, lip pencils are perfect for applying to the skin that is just outside the perimeter of the lip, to create the effect that the lips are larger.
There are a couple schools of thought regarding how you should match your lip liner to your lipstick.
The first, and the one I recommend if you like a more natural makeup look, is opting for a lip liner that matches your lipstick almost perfectly. Usually this is easier to do if you choose a lipstick and lip pencil from the same brand, as the shades will likely correspond perfectly, and the lip liners might even have the same names as the lipsticks.
If that’s not the case, or if you’re looking to a brand mismatch, you can find color similarities by swatching. Swatch your lipstick on the back of your hand, and then swatch the few lip liners that you think will match. The one that is the most similar to your lipstick will obviously be the one you should go for.
The second school of thought says that lip liners should be a few shades darker than lipsticks. This is especially true if you want your lip liners to also contour your lips to make them look larger. This can also help overlined lips look slightly more natural.
The key when choosing a darker lip liner is to make sure it has a matching undertone to your lipstick. If you’re wearing a blue-based red lipstick, your lip liner should also have a blue undertone, while a warm lipstick should be paired with a lip liner with a warm undertone.
Some people search for a one-size-fits-all lip liner that will work with most of their lipsticks. If that’s what you would like, look for a lipstick that is a shade or two darker than your lip color, and that is a slightly brownish nude that is mostly neutral – it doesn’t lean towards too pink or too peach, but is exactly in the middle.
This kind of shade can work with both warm and cool lipsticks, and it’ll work with any shade that isn’t too out there.
• Get your lips smooth and ready for makeup by exfoliating them. You can use any lip scrub, or you can make your own with a bit of honey and brown sugar. Rub it into your lips for a few seconds, and remove with a damp cloth.
• To keep your lips looking soft and feeling moisturized, apply a thin layer of lip balm to your lips. Give it a few minutes to become absorbed, and wipe off the excess if necessary.
• You’re now ready to start lining! I like to start at the center of the Cupid’s bow, by drawing a little V or an X shape. I then work my way outwards, by drawing tiny little strokes. To keep things symmetrical, I draw a couple of strokes going outwards on one side, then move on to the other, constantly comparing the two sides to ensure symmetry.
• Once I’ve reached the outer corner of my mouth, I move down to my lower lip. Once again, I begin at the center of the lip, and I work my way outwards in small, connected strokes until I reach the outer corner of the bottom lip on each side.
• After I’ve finished lining my lips, I like to apply lip liner all over the lips, so it can act as a base below the lipstick and keep it in place all day long or to even replace the lipstick all together.
• You can now swipe on your lipstick, concentrating on the center of the lip and using a lip brush to smudge it out towards the lip line and to blend it with the lip liner.
• To ensure your lip liner is as perfect as possible, make sure to correct any mistakes. You can do this with the help of concealer and a tiny concealer brush. Use the concealer like an eraser to clean up lines and remove any smudges or imperfections.
I love overlining my lips. I got into it in Armenia, where women have naturally gorgeous and pouty lips, and what can I say? I got jealous! After a bit of trial and error I think I’ve mastered the way to get the lips overlined without looking like a clown.
I must stress that you must first get used to lining your lips by following your natural lip line before you can start trying to overline. Gain an understanding for what your lips look like naturally, and only then start overlining.
Once you’re a pro at lining your lips, start figuring out exactly how you will overline them. The key is to understand what your vermillion border is. The vermillion border is the pale line of skin that surrounds the lip line, and emphasizes the demarcation between the lips and the rest of face.
The vermillion border tends to protrude a little bit, and it is the perfect line for overlining. Applying lip liner along the vermillion border will look much more natural than if one were to go past it.
Another trick to overlining the lips without overdoing it is to play around with different shapes. Usually, only overdrawing one part of your lip will have an effect of rounding out and emphasizing your whole pout without looking overdone.
In most cases only overdrawing the Cupid’s bow is the best way to go, because it will have an effect on the whole lip and still look natural. You can even mimic Ariana Grande’s lip by slightly straightening out that “V” of the Cupid’s bow.
Other people prefer to achieve a more retro-looking pout by overdrawing the line going from the end of the Cupid’s bow to the outer corner of the upper lip.
Also take note whether you need to correct anything in your lip line – the bottom lip might be thinner than the top one or vice versa, or you might find that one side of your lip is slightly differently shaped than the other.
Contouring and highlighting the lips is the easiest way to make them appear fuller without using any fillers. All you need is a lip liner in a darker shade, and another lip liner or a lipstick in a lighter shade with a matching undertone.
• Following my directions from earlier by prepping the lips and using short strokes, apply the darker lip liner all over the perimeter of your lips.
• Then use the lip liner to fill in the outer corner of your top and bottom lips, going all the way in to about half way before reaching the Cupid’s bow.
• You may also use it to draw one line down the center of the bottom lip, which some people swear by, although personally I find it a little odd.
• Next, fill in the center of your lips with the lighter shade of lip liner or a lighter lipstick.
• Using a lip brush, blend your lighter and darker shades together to avoid having an obvious separation.
• For a natural look, you can leave things here. For extra highlight, apply a bright lip gloss, an even lighter shade of lipstick, or some white concealer only to the very center of the lips, and blend it lightly.
• Do experiment with different lip liner and lipstick combinations. For example, a wine-toned lip pencil will make your red lip appear richer, and it will make your magenta or purple lipsticks appear a bit more neutral and sophisticated. Try to stick to similar undertones, but beyond that you can really get creative.
• Don’t try and get your lips lined all in one stroke. Using small strokes will give you a lot more control over the line of your lips, and it will actually give a smoother, more natural-looking lip line.
• Do try a clear lip liner if all you’re looking for is to increase the longevity and prevent the feathering of your lipstick. This is an especially great choice, if you’re a little nervous about drawing a clean lip line, or if you prefer more natural lip colors.
• Don’t overshoot your skills. Overlining your lips can look amazing, but not if you haven’t mastered how to line your natural lip line. Wait until you’re completely confident wielding a lip liner before you try overlining your lips. Instead, make them look bigger by contouring them.
• Do set your lip liner and lipstick with some powder for maximum longevity. You can apply the loose powder straight on your lips, or you can apply it through a single ply of tissue for a more natural, diffused effect. This will set your lips and keep them look perfect all day long.
• Do use a bit of highlighter to emphasize all the work you’ve put into perfecting your Cupid’s bow. Apply it right above your lip liner for an added pouty effect.
Photos via @greta_ag, @kristinabazan