Building Your Kit Part 12: Everything You Need to Know About Lip Pencils


Don’t underestimate the lip pencil. It’s designed to do much more than just outline: lip liner can prevent lipstick from bleeding, help it last longer, and enhance and define the shape of your mouth. Ultimately, it keeps you looking polished and perfect all day.

Lip pencils work by building a barrier around the edge of the lips, which prevents lipstick or gloss from getting into fine lines around the mouth. They can also make lips look larger, and reshape and redefine uneven lips.

Selecting the Right Pencils

As a makeup artist, I tend to choose pencil colors that are close to the actual lip color I’m working with. This allows me to create the illusion of fuller lips and can help the lipstick last longer without the worry of a hard line when lipstick fades. For makeup artists, I recommend carrying the following lip pencil colors in your kit:

Nude or Blush

This color is important to draw natural-looking lips on most lighter-skinned people. I recommend carrying a couple different shades in this color family; think soft pale beige with a blue-toned base and a light pinkish taupe.

Soft Pink

Soft petal pinks are good to carry, as they’ll work for many clients.


This shade of medium pink or soft brown (depending on the brand) is perfect on those with medium skin tone. You can also use it with lighter lipsticks for shading and contouring.

Medium brown

Try a golden-toned, medium brown pencil for darker skin or for people who have two tones in their lips. The golden tone will even out pink tones of the lip, allowing for a more even-looking, overall neutral color .

Chocolate brown

This is an important shade for artists. For darker or deeper-skinned clients, it will create a natural lip line. But warm brown can be used to add depth and bring drama to any lipstick with a warm base.

Blue red

Lip pencils in crimson tones can be used on their own for a perfect red lip with durability and staying power. But if you use a blue-based red pencil with a coordinating lipstick, the teeth will look whiter and brighter. Or, try it under a warm red lipstick, using the power of color theory to get fuller-looking lips.

Orange red

Tomato or orangey reds are ideal for warming up cooler-toned lipsticks or simply helping to correct lips that look dull or grey.


Burgundy pencils are big for fall 2013, and are always a classic lip color for autumn. Use burgundy to add elegance, period style, or a sultry femme fatale presence to any look. The shade works especially well on lip colors that fall on the cooler side of the spectrum.


Brights are pure fun. They’re not the best for adding shape or definition, but they do make any makeup application modern and on-trend. Try pencils in magenta and fuchsia to add something special to an otherwise neutral look.

Clarifying Pencil

Keep a concealer-like pencil in your makeup kit to clean up smudges, mistakes—or to help make even the tiniest lips look pouty and full.

Basically, lip pencils should be a tool for bringing a look to a more perfect and polished place. Remember that for most applications, the goal is to avoid products that distract from the overall effect. Still, have fun: you’ll find an unlimited variety of looks by pairing a pencil with the lip products you already use.

Check out Parts 1–11 of James Vincent’s Building Your Kit series here, and stay tuned for Part 13, coming soon!

As Director of Artistry for The Makeup Show, The Powder Group and On Makeup Magazine, makeup artist James Vincent has touched every facet of the industry with his talent. With specialties in film and theatre, television and celebrity work, editorial and runway work, James is foremast a passionate educator, training for brands such as MAC, Stila, CNN and Lancome. He continues to inspire the next wave of artists with his beauty expertise. Follow James on Twitter @JVincentmakeup.