A Rogue’s Ode to Brown Eyeliner: Classic Tips and Looks for the Everyday Adventurer!

Greetings from the depths of a rogue’s beauty adventuring kit, fellow adventurers!

As you may have noticed from previous posts on this site, I tend to get distracted by bright colours and glitter. I’ve never been the *most* enthusiastic purchaser of neutrals (unless they have fabulous packaging and count as purple neutrals). Sure, I have and love the Urban Decay Naked 2 palette, but I tend to feel like that more or less does it for me. Barring the occasional sexy looking taupe or incidental champagne shimmer shadow, I don’t tend to lust after ‘neutrals’, and get slightly frustrated when brands fill half an otherwise exciting palette with yet more neutrals. Is this a rational view? Probably not. Do Rae and Liz keep posting beguiling reviews and swatches of Clarins neutrals? Well, yes. But a rogue’s predilection for things that are jewel toned and sparkly runs deep, you know… 😉
Everyday eye look_saturation

Remember this? I can even make my eyes look jewel toned and sparkly if you give me MS Powerpoint and 10 minutes!


Anyway, there’s one ‘neutral’ sort of thing that I will always have a deep love for, and that is brown eyeliner. Brown eyeliner is a marvellous thing, and doesn’t get nearly enough credit, or time in the spotlight as far as I’m concerned. And so, in a post inspired by the aforementioned Rae‘s recent mention of mud coloured liner, I’m going to wax lirogueical (TOTALLY A WORD) on that humblest of liner colours, and offer up a couple of reasons why I think you should bust out a chocolaty liner tomorrow (unless you were going to anyway, in which case, we need a secret handshake or something).
Urban Decay Super Saturated Cream Eyeliner in Perversion review and swatches

Does anyone else have a super sensitive inner-second-quarter to their eyelid? As soon as I touch it with anything, I blink and smear whatever it was up my lid 😛


Let’s step slightly to the side first, and start with the undeniably fabulous crowd-favourite eyeliner: black. There are many reasons why black eyeliner is so popular, not least of which are its accessibility (if they make no other colour of liner, a brand will probably have a black one) and its classic, kittenish, lashline-bolstering nature. However, when you’re as fluorescently, vampirically pale as I am, black liner can start to prove troublesome. Even if you’re not putting on a thick line, black can look undeniably harsh and ‘unnatural’ on very fair skin. Usually, this is not a problem, as if I’m putting on black liner, I don’t want ‘natural rogue’, I want ‘sex kitten rogue‘. However, for everyday purposes, it can be a lot more HELLO MAKEUP YES than I’m looking for.



Chatting at the office water cooler, Ogg and Grogg suddenly realised that they had fundamentally different views on eyeliner. Their friendship was being tested to the utmost.


This is where brown liner comes to the rescue! Brown liner is the rogue in the party. It comes in a million different varieties and shades, it’s a multitasker, it can be stealthy, or can fly at you with both daggers rasied of need be. It disarms the traps of unnatural looking liner and opens the treasure chests of easy everyday looks for the phosphorescent among us. It forgives small errors in application and doesn’t stand out so much against un-liner’d lash roots. It tints the lower waterline to make the eye stand out without leaning toward ‘smokey’ or closing the eye, but you can still totally do a smokey brown look with it if you want. In thick lines, it doesn’t make the lid look as heavy. If it has a second tone of shimmer or glitter in it, this often stands out better. It’s appropriate for every occasion. I could go on. 😉

My favourite brown liner, as most of you are probably aware, is Urban Decay’s Demolition: a matte deep-but-distinctly brown. I have several other brown liners from the same brand, however, and love all of them for various reasons. A current favourite is Twice Baked from the Ocho Loco 2 set, which was LE, but can be effectively duped by a couple of other shades from the permanent range, and probably others from different brands. In fact, the look in the very first image is Demolition, although I’ve obviously messed with the colour and saturation for artistic effect there. 😉


How about a few (well, 5) examples of the fun, versatility and loveability of brown eyeliner? 😀


Golden ANZAC biscuit eye makeup look

Brown liner is great for keeping ‘in tone’ with more colours of eyeshadow, especially most of our beloved neutrals, but also brighter shades such as blue, purple and green. This look can be found here.

Eye Makeup Looks with Sleek Storm and Sleek Arabian NIghts

Brown liner still looks great just grazed onto the skin for a really simple, light look that still defines the lash line. Alternatively, it displays colours that are smoodged on top of it more clearly than black, so you can easily add a bit more interest if you want to.

brown liner look

Even a thick line of brown liner doesn’t look too obvious or overwhelming on pasty lids! It can also be easily blended into other neutral colours if you want a bit less or an ombre effect, or if you made a mistake and don’t have time to bust out the makeup remover and cotton buds.

Brown eyeliner essentials

Three essential tools for a classic everyday rogueish eye – you’ll note, the liner is that matte brown wonder, Demolition 😉

Although I realise that brown liner is by no means ‘ignored’, I hope this post has given it some fresh attention! It’s true, you’ll never prise my fingers away from my purple and turquoise liners either, but there’s something so satisfyingly easy and ‘rogueifying’ about brown liner, that I hope you”ll join me in paying homage to that unsung hero! If you actually hate brown liner, though that’s totally OK. We can still be friends and raid dungeons and stuff ^_^.

Which colour of liner do you prefer for everyday? Do you think there are any colours of liner that are particularly underrated? What’s your favourite brown liner, if you have one?

Until next time, fellow adventurers, don’t forget to check for traps!


I am an adventuring rogue, not a mercenary for hire, and as such, all opinions expressed here are my own, based on a genuine fondness for/interest in this product. If you have any queries or suggestions, please do not hesitate to pin your parchment to the board (contact me) at thepaintedrogue [at] gmail [dot] com., or use the contact form provided! All images and text on this blog are the property of The Painted Rogue unless otherwise stated. If you nick off with any of it, be prepared to find that your morning hot beverage tastes a little…different than usual. Didn’t the rogue say something the other day about that new poison that makes your inner ear itch maddeningly for the rest of your life? I think she did…


44 thoughts on “A Rogue’s Ode to Brown Eyeliner: Classic Tips and Looks for the Everyday Adventurer!

  1. Funny side note: Brown liner is the star in miniature paintaing at the moment. One uses it for preshading before actually painting the miniature. Naturally it is acrylics nased, so no use for eyes here ;). Excellent post as always. I hope the Orc friendship is strong enough.


    • I demand a guest post on the art of miniature face painting! 😀 I think it would be an awesome post!

      Thanks 🙂 Ogg and Grogg are working things out, each trying the other’s preferred liner colour to see if they can reach some sort of understanding. Orcs are more sensitive than most people realise…


  2. Syl? Are you sitting down?


    In my defense, I almost never wear eyeliner–I prefer a wash of neutral shadow for an everyday look. But I really do need to get my hands on a brown eyeliner, since black looks jarring against my pale skin. (I learned this the hard way. Just after I got my Nude ‘tude palette, I took to lining my upper lashlines with the matte black shadow. It was…not a good idea, partly because of my lack of skill, but mostly because it looked so harsh.) Now I wish I’d ordered a matte brown liner during the Ulta sale, instead of an orangey-bronzey liner that will almost certainly clash with my undertones…


    • It’s OK! Take deep breaths. We’re going to fix this. It’ll be fine. 😀 The orangey bronzy liner should do beautiful things with your eye colour though! If it does clash a little with your skin, maybe put it as the feature on your lashline, and add a cooler brown/green/taupe/ as the lid colour? Just so that the focus is on liner + iris rather than liner + eyelid? Hopefully it won’t be a problem anyway 🙂

      Honestly, when there are so many more interesting shades out there, it’s hard to get really excited about brown liner. When you’re pale though, it’s honestly your best friend, and does such wonderful things for blue and green eyes (as a bonus!).


  3. Oh wow! I can see why you love Demolition so much! 😀 GORGEOUS! AMAZING! Now I have to find a way to get it! You know how much I adore browns! 😛 BTW the lighter shade in Nars Cordura has your name written all over it! I am currently looking for excuses to wear it everyday! Its Gorgeous!! Put it on the wishlist right away! 😀


  4. Hey Syl, great post! I’ve heard many labeling black as too harsh, so I think there is a huge demand for brown liners! I have UD Bourbon and Whiskey when it comes to brown liners, and I do enjoy both on my lower lash line. For my upper lash line, I feel that pretty much only black is intense enough to define my eyes! I can use another shade, but only if I line between my lashes first with a black 😉


    • Hehe, black is a deservedly popular shade! This might sound silly, but I think it looks particularly good on people with black hair! I think part of the harshness on me (aside from the vampire thing) is my not-quite-blonde-not-quite-brown hair colour, LOL! It jars, somehow. On anyone not as washed out as me, I think it’s great for defining the eyes, as you find! On me, it kind of defines my whole face… 😀


  5. I share your philosophy RE: bright colors being superior! But I do like my Urban Decay West a lot (think I got it in that LE Black Market set). My favorite neutral eyeliners, though, are soft, warm-to-neutral grays like UD Desperation. But yeah, in general, turquoise all the way!


    • It’s funny that you should mention Desperation, as a current and growing favourite (alternative to brown) is UD Crave! Admittedly, Temptalia lists this as a slightly darker dupe for Demolition, so maybe my affection isn’t such a surprise, but on me I find it pulls distinctly grey and smoky, which I rather like! Desperation is on my list…

      Turquoise ftw! 😀


      • i really like desperation for my waterline. i have tiny asian eyes and colors too dark tends to close it off. desperation has enough pigment to round off the look without closing off my eyes too much


      • That’s actually how I feel about black eyeliner in the lower waterline…if I put it there, it’s only a ghosting of UD Zero just to tint things at the outer third (unless I’m doing something like my Thief look, LOL!). Otherwise I feel like it just closes everything up, and I’d say my eyes were pretty (Caucasian) average. I have an absolute horror of that one thing that I see a lot of people doing, which is lining hard around their whole eye opening with black eyeliner. No eyeshadow, no blending, no flick or variation, just a hard black line all the way around. D-:


  6. I think brown liners are better in terms of range. Black is fine if you want black, but I can’t get used to myself in black liner. I just look weird! So as you might expect, I have quite a few browns of different types…
    UD Underground, Twice Baked, Roach
    Chanel Espresso, Santal, and the brown Ecriture one
    I don’t have Demolition but when Espresso runs out I might look into it. I like the lighter tones because, like you said, they’re more forgiving on the twitchy eyelids…


    • High fives! 😀 I have to admit, since I am currently without mascara, UD Zero in my upper waterline + curled lashes = my best equivalent of mascara at the moment, but I still like brown on the upper lash line.

      How do you find the Chanel ones compared to the UD ones? I hear a lot of mixed reviews about the Chanel ones, but you seem to get along well with them! Are the formulae very different?


      • It totally turned. I pulled the wand out, and just as I was raising it up past my nose to get it to my eye, I caught a whiff… and put it down again in a hurry! This doesn’t happen to me often, but as it was nearly finished and I’d had it for four months or so, I wasn’t too cut up about it. It is annoying when you don’t have any mascara on you, though!


      • Hmm. I’m really starting to think I should get an eyelash curler. It’s like the one major thing I don’t have…
        Having tried a few different formulae in mascara, if you need a new one, I can honestly say that Chanel’s Inimitable (which has a square-ish container) is the. best. mascara I have ever had. The brush is exceptional and it doesn’t clump at all, ever. It’s even better than other Chanel mascaras. I use #30 (brown), not black – it’s softer and more natural. Much like the eyeliner!
        Chanel eyeliner formula. Hmm. The “Crayon Yeux” (twist pencils) are pretty well uniformly excellent from my POV. Compared to UD, there’s less wastage for a finer line, because the diameter of the pencil is smaller and you don’t have to sharpen (though there is a little “sharpener” in the back end). For my purposes this is fine, but anyone wanting a sharp line will like a fully pointy one at all times. Also the colour range is MUCH smaller and more classic. For those wanting the liquid look, the Ecriture (twist base & liquid comes out on the fine brush)… I don’t know. I find it hard to get enough on the brush without a big blop of liquid coming out, that you then have to dab off, and then there’s not enough colour anymore. I use it rarely. It does, however, do a dynamite flick because it’s very fine.


      • It took me some time to get to the whole curler thing, especially since the ones I’d heard people rave about were the Kevyn Aucoin (maybe a zillion $ at Mecca if at all?), the Shu Uemura (??where??) and the Chanel (typically, an item that Chanel doesn’t bring here). So I siezed my chance in Singapore, where the Chanel one was like $30 in the official Chanel makeup boutique. I love it! I think you would get a lot of use out of a curler – it’s great for days when you want to ‘wake up’ your eyes, but don’t want to be bothered cleaning mascara etc out at the end of the day.

        I do rather like the look of a couple of the Chanel ones I’ve seen (they were probably LE, knowing me), but I’d heard they were hard/tuggy. Mostly, I hadn’t explored them because, well, UD does value sets, but that may change…

        As for the mascara, I hear many, many good things about that one! I wonder if it would finally crack my ‘this mascara is nice but meh’ shell (Dior, YSL, Sephora, Clinique, Lancome have all hit the same wall. I’m honestly not sure what I’m even expecting them to do, because it certainly isn’t the ‘apply false lashes instead’ that the mascara advertisements go for…)


  7. I do love me some eyeliner, but my eyes are so deep set (almost hooded, but really just super close to my brow bone – if I wear false eyelashes they touch my eyebrows) that I have loads of trouble keeping it on. The inner and outer corners are fine, but the middle sort of vanishes into my crease. I’ve used primers, gel eyeliner, liquid eyeliner, powder on top of gel eyeliner…nothing seems to help this problem. Any tips to try? I usually just smudge the hell out of it so it’s less noticeable – a smokey eye is a happy eye.

    As for brown eyeliners, I’ve received a few browns in various Ulta kits that I rather like. Their kohl deep brown or regular brown are both nice, and their gel liner in Perfection is a nice bronze-y color with a subtle shimmer to it.


    • Hmm… if waterproof formulae, powders on top and primers haven’t quite done the trick, then I guess the only option might be a makeup setting spray? I think smudging is probably a good idea – alternatively, I’d try to make the most of the outer corner, with a thicker wing there that I could add colour/sparkle to, thinning it out quite steeply towards the centre and inner corner!

      I get hardcore transfer to the browbone sometimes, on one eye or the other, for apparently no reason. It’s super frustrating, especially as it usually happens with some bright colour like tuquoise. Right in the centre. SO ANNOYING. Usually primer helps, or carefully closing my eyes for a minute or two to let the liner dry after application, but who has the time for that always?

      I keep hearing things about Ulta and liners… do they have a particularly good range of them? Or do you mean other brands liners that came in their sets but *from* Ulta? 😀


      • I really like Ulta’s own brand of makeup. They have nice variety, it’s generally inexpensive, and the quality is pretty good. I love their lipstick and nail polish especially. I’m also fond of the super kits they sell for like $20 US or so – they usually come with an unreasonable amount of eyeshadows, various eyeliner pencils, blushes, lipsticks, lip glosses, gel liners – all sorts of things to try out for cheap!


      • Ugh, I *wish* we had more of that kind of thing here – more brand variety in general, actually. We pretty much only have the usual 5 drugstore and 5 HE suspects, and then Chi Chi, which is OK, for a ‘cheep&cheerful’ brand, but not really all *that* cheap at the end of the day, and then things in unnamed containers from the dollar store, which I will *never* put near my face.*sigh* #rogueproblems 😉

        Gods help me if I ever make it to the States with money to spare and an empty suitcase…the people at Customs will stop me for ‘importing’, LOL!


    • i had a similar problem and i think it’s a matter of finding a combination of products that work with your body chemistry. so far nars eye primer has worked the best for me in making things stay put


  8. sorry syl! matte brown liners are too boring and undramatic for my tiny eyes (and bf preference) in order for me to reach for a brown liner, they need to be shimmery or glittery! i love UD corrupt, west and roach. my favorite way to make a neutral look more interesting is to give it some pop with a turquoise/teal liner (UD deep end). other than my black liquid liner (can’t beat it for speed of application and drama), my next favorite pencil liners are green (UD mars, shu uemeura green 51). i also like a shimmery pencil for my inner corners instead of using a highlight eyeshadow. (etude house 101 pencil in 6, shu in gold)

    p.s. i really love your biscuit look. i’m gonna have to try it for myself one of these days


    • Haha, no worries! I love Twice Baked precisely for its shimmer and sparkle, LOL! YOu can’t totally separate a rogue from her sparkle, and although I love the matte Demolition, I usually wear it with shimmer eyeshadow, so… 😉 I’m glad you like the biscuit look! It’s a favourite of mine, and so easy to do, especially since it works with whatever sort of gold/brown/bronze/copper shadows you like.

      High fives for Mars and Deep end, too! 😀 I really want to find a great gold liner, but I haven’t gotten quite the right shade yet…


      • what shade of gold are you looking for exactly? not a liner, but i’ve gotten a lot of compliments every time i wear it but makeup forever’s aqua shadow in 11 is a very satisfying gold.


      • Ooh, thanks for the tip! I’d actually quite like to explore a few things from the MUFE collection – the two lipsticks I have I’m really happy with, so I think there’s scope!


  9. Yesssssh, I also love brown eyeliner, especially for the upper lash line. It just looks so much softer. Black can look quite harsh. That innermost part of my lash line is also super sensitive by the way. I can pretty much be as rough as I want with the outer and middle part, but that inner part always has me blinking and frowning and pulling the most ridiculous faces.


    • OMG total sympathy. It’s absolutely the worst for me just about where you would hit if you drew a vertical tangent from the inner side of my outer iris edge (did that even make sense?). I mean inner with respect to my nose. The innermost part for me isn’t quite so bad, but that inner third…. even the waterline!! Maddening, LOL!

      What’s your favourite brown eyeliner? Is it a Smashbox one? 😉


  10. This post definitely has inspired me to pull out my brown eyeliners… admittedly my largest collection of eyeliners. Demolition is my favorite too! I’m actually getting to the end of mine. You might like Bourbon as well. I went through a few of those before they brought out Demolition.


  11. Dude, brown looks GOOD on you. It never looks good on me! Even that mud-brown (hah!) liner that I just posted about — like, browns are pretty, but they just… don’t really do it for my face. Not enough contrast for my eyes, I guess. When you’re super-pale but your hair is really dark, soft liner just kind of disappears on you. 😦

    You gotta get in-between those lashes, though! Especially with black, I find — otherwise it looks like my liner is just floating above my eyes.


    • Heh, I think having dark hair really helps with black liner, actually, when you’re pale! It kind of works more ‘tone in tone’ for someone with your colouring, whereas on me my black eyeliner kind of precedes me, playing a trombone and wearing cymbals on its knees. 😀

      I try so hard to get in between the lashes, but the problem seems to be that my lashes are really dense but fine (like my head-hair, actually) which means that I have to really grind the stuff in there, which in turn means that I never get all of it out without actually scrubbing at my eyes. This is in the case of pencil/gel liner of course. Liquid is a bit easier (but I own, like, one liquid liner…and it’s black! 😛 The floating thing is totally true though, and so annoying. It’s kind of the eye equivalent of going awkwardly outside the lines on your lips or something…


  12. You made a good point there. Black liner actually looks more “made up” on light skin like yours. I feel lucky that I can wear either one, black or brown, without too much difference, lol. I personally like black liner better, though. Certain brown sometimes just blends right in too much with my skin. Your lashes look so long and lush, Syl. You can certainly live without a mascara. Haha.


    • Such a lucky Jaa 😉 Damn you and your ‘best of both worlds!!’ Black liner just looks so much more awesome if you have black hair too – it’s like your whole head is sophisticated at the same time…

      (Well, that sounded idiotic, LOL)

      *bat bat* I honesly have no idea where my lashes fit on the scale, LOL! Everyone else’s that I see look longer/more lush than mine. All I know is that they’re dense enough at the base that I literally cannot poke eyeliner between them. I don’t know how people do this – it is a mystery to me!! I would need an Hourglass liner with 0.3 mm leads, LOL!


  13. Hey Syl! I completely agree about brown liner. I feel like I can get away with a less perfect line when using brown liner than when using black, since black is so stark! I have a number of brown liners, but my favorites are Marc Jacobs Highliner in Brown(Out) and UD Hustle :).


    • Brown liner is so forgiving, OMG. Especially when you have twitchy eyelids like me, LOL! Ahh, I *really* want to try some of those MJ liners, but I see we have a vote for Hustle! 😉


    • I certainly agree you have to be careful – it’s one of the things I like about Demolition, is that at ‘worst’ it pulls neutral. There are a few out there that look almost copper on me, they’re so warm! I’ll take warmth, but it probably needs to have shimmer/glitter in it too…


  14. Ahhhhhhh, my swatches are beguiling and I didn’t know it! *giggles*

    Ahem. So, we need a secret handshake because I just picked up my ONE brown eyeliner and used it for the lower lash line after basically ignoring it since its purchase. I usually stick to black because I have black hair and it just keeps things easy and simple, but I got the brown because I’m just a huge hoarder and hoarders need variety, as you know. I went over the brown line with some soft brown shadows and I’m really liking it on this very low-key day!


    • You’ve got to watch those swatches, you know. Before you know it they’re winning people over left right and centre, and you open your door one day to a bunch of lovesick swatchaholics. *tsk*

      SECRET HANDSHAKE AHOY! How do you do one of those electronically? Low Key Brown Liner is all sorts of awesome. I feel, like the Inoffensive Pink Lipstick, that it is one of those makeup versions of ‘The Comfy Jeans’ or ‘Those Undies You Wear on Fat Days And Yes I Know It’s Just Temporary Water Retention And/Or Mild Insanity But It Feels ‘Fat’ OK? 😉


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