Review: Tarte emphasEYES Clay Eyeliner/Eyeshadow in Indigo

By Voxy  

Blue eyeliner can be tricky to play subtly. I love my MAC Petrol Blue Pearlglide pencil liner, and I also like the intensity of the Buxom Stay-There shadow in Bull Dog if used as a liner, but these are both bright and vivid shades. The problem for me has always been that if you want a subtler blue that is still blue and that doesn’t pull gray or black, you are mostly out of luck. There’s not much in that middle area, and I’ve tried many. However, the Tarte emphasEYES clay liner in Indigo seems like it might fit that category.

Whenever I see the phrase “clay liner,” for some unknown reason my brain always turns it into “cake liner,” and so I am invariably a tiny bit surprised when I open up the container and see a cream there, not a cake. It’s the same consistency as MAC Fluidlines or Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Gel Eyeliner, though it is more smudgeable than either of those.

Application of these is just like with any other cream/gel eyeliner in a pot — you will need a skinny brush and a steady hand. Some people use a liner brush with a bent ferrule for this, but I prefer a plain old unbent eyeliner/eyebrow brush with a slanted cut to the bristles. And for eyeliner, the shorter the brush handle, the better. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve narrowly avoided stabbing myself with the eye with a brush as I lean close to the mirror to see what I’m doing. My favorite brush for the purpose is one that came with a gel eyeliner from the drugstore brand Jane. It’s one of the only applicators that came with a product that I haven’t immediately tossed.

The nice thing about these liners is that they are more easily blended than some other gel/cream options. However, the flip side of that is that the intensity of the color sometimes doesn’t last as long as I wish it would. There’s little point having a blue liner that’s sophisticated but still blue if it has turned gray by lunchtime. Touch-ups are not difficult but shouldn’t be necessary.

The product comes with a dual-ended shadow/liner brush that is relatively nice; the wide end is good for blending.

Swatch and an eye look!

Like so many blue liners, it looks way different in the pot vs. on skin.

While thinking about the various blue eye looks I’ve done so far for the blog, I realized I hadn’t done a smoky blue eye. This kind of eye is what I call a “baby smoky eye” because it’s subtle enough for work. It’s basically a grey eye with a colored liner blended in at the lash line. You can use any color eyeliner you like; I did one the other day with a teal liner and it worked well — it gave me a way to incorporate the color in a subtle, darkened way, rather than having giant teal circles around my eyes.

First there’s just an otherwise undecorated eye with the Tarte Indigo liner:

Now with some other stuff:

So it’s just a tiny bit blue, and just a tiny bit smoky. To make this look:

1. Prep the eyelid with primer of choice (I used TFSI and my MAC Painterly paint pot). Line the upper and lower lashline with Tarte emphasEYES clay liner in Indigo. If you don’t like using a colored liner on the bottom lashline, substitute a gray or black liner instead. Gray blends better with the blue than black does, IMHO.

2. Using a shadow liner brush or other thin brush, apply a gray or blue-gray shadow in a stripe about 1/8″ thick starting at the lash line. I used UD Gunmetal from the Naked palette.

3. Using a blender brush or other clean eyeshadow brush, blend this out until you get a smooth transition from gray to skin-tone. For a “baby” smoky eye, you definitely do not want the dark color to get all up in the crease — this will make the look much heavier and more suited for clubbing than for work. When you’re happy with the blend, see if the liner needs reapplication (mine did) and blend it into the shadow at the lash line. The brightness of the color builds with layering and blending; the blue in the final shot looks more intense than it does in the shot where I’m just wearing one coat of the liner and nothing else. The nice thing about that is if you want it to be more intense, you can keep building; if you want a muted, subtle blue, stick with just one coat and a light hand in application.

4. Apply mascara (this is MAC Zoomlash) and brow color (this is Tarte emphasEYES brow mousse in Medium Brown).


Tarte emphasEYES Clay Eyeliner/Eyeshadow in Indigo: $22

Provenance: Purchased

Price/Value Ratio (high-end: poor/fair/good/excellent): Fair. It’s more expensive than MAC (though it does come with a brush) but doesn’t do as good a job.

Purchase again? Probably not.

(Have you used this product? Love it? Hate it? Want it? Give a holler in the comments!)

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  1. avatar prof_gnu
    Posted September 23, 2010 at 8:31 am | Permalink | Reply

    Thanks so much for the baby smoky eye idea. I just tried it today in plum (EmphasEYES in plum, with the darkest color out of Laura Mercier Plum Velvet Eye Evolution of Color (and the lightest to the browbone)) and it looks pretty snazzy if I do say so myseslf.

    Also: where’s my registration form for camp? Since it’s not that other kind of camp, can we make sure breakfast involves mimosas? and that there are spa treatments?


    • avatar Voxy
      Posted September 23, 2010 at 7:46 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Ooooh! That sounds lovely.

      Also:where’s my registration form for camp?Since it’s not that other kind of camp, can we make sure breakfast involves mimosas?and that there are spa treatments?  

      Mimosas are, I think, mandatory. And I sort of assumed we’d just be having it at a spa. Was that wrong?


  2. avatar Ranganathan
    Posted September 21, 2010 at 9:58 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I think I need Foxy Voxy’s Remedial Cosmetics Camp. I intellectually understand how the color shades go, but in practice I can never get the colors to blend as well as you do, and my eyeliner technique is just a mess. I’m not sure if it’s lack of tools, lack of skill, or (most likely) a combination thereof. Sigh.


    • avatar Voxy
      Posted September 21, 2010 at 11:40 pm | Permalink | Reply

      First of all, how much fun would that camp be?!?!

      For blending colors, practice on your hand. And remember that your skin has a color; it is not white like paper, and normally when we think about how colors work together we think of them on white paper. Skin is different, obviously, so it affects how the colors end up looking and whether or not they actually go together as well as you think they will. I have made many really crappy-looking eyeshadow combinations in my day, and still sometimes I have an idea that I think will work and it looks like a hot mess when I actually put it on. That’s why practicing on your hand is useful. (Sometimes I also practice on my forehead, if it is the end of the day and I’m getting ready to wash my face anyway.)

      What’s wrong with your eyeliner technique? Difficulty controlling the line? The line is too fat/too skinny? You have a space between the liner and your lash line? (I’m just trying to guess what possible problems might be.)


      • avatar Relationalista
        Posted September 22, 2010 at 10:49 pm | Permalink | Reply

        Cosmetics Camp?! Yay!
        Now, clearly I would not think of this as a good idea for the set who would usually be sent to camp. But for *us*? Sheer brilliance (or maybe full coverage, as each wishes).

        On the subject of eyeliner technique: I’ve been wearing cream/gel eyeliner much more regularly of late than I ever have before, and I was thinking this morning while wielding the brush that it really does get easier (and faster) over time. There’s a ways to go yet, but the improvement is marked. And I’ve been getting a lot of compliments lately about how nice I look (I keep assuring people that it’ll pass as the term progresses), and I think it has everything to do with a bit more eye definition.


        • avatar Voxy
          Posted September 23, 2010 at 12:21 am | Permalink | Reply

          Cosmetics Camp?! Yay!
          Now, clearly I would not think of this as a good idea for the set who would usually be sent to camp.

          I do not share the same universe with those people. I failed camp in Girl Scouts.


      • avatar Ranganathan
        Posted September 23, 2010 at 10:51 pm | Permalink | Reply

        Camp at a spa? Sign me up! The other FV fans come up with the best ideas. :)

        My biggest challenge with upperlid eyeliner is that I can never get it straight, even going a teeny-tiny bit at a time. When I open my eye after tracing near my lashes, I discover gaps and when I start coloring them in, I end up with huge amounts of eyeliner. I usually put some eyeshadow on top to tone it down.

        On the lower lid, I use a pencil liner (I find Neutrogena to be the smoothest), and I’ve never been able to get the line just beneath the lashes. Of course, I then have clumps of liner ON my lower lashes. Even more beautiful: as I age, the crow’s lines are appearing and during the day the eyeliner starts to melt into the lines.

        Hmm- I use TFI for my upper lids. Can I safely use it somehow on the lower?

        Finally for shadow: people will sometimes ask me if I have a bruise to the side of my left eye. It’s always my left eye. I’ve actually started using less dark shadow in the crease of my left eye to try and mitigate it. I have no idea what’s going on there, but I’m sure my inept blending is to blame.

        I love the forehead experimentation idea- thanks!


        • avatar Voxy
          Posted September 24, 2010 at 8:11 am | Permalink | Reply

          Re: upper lashes — Oh! I see. Perhaps this would be the time to share that I apply all eyeliners with my eye *open.* That way I see what I’m doing. If you’re going to tightline you have to do it with an open eye anyway, and it’s much easier to trace the curve of your lid properly when you can see the damn thing.

          On the bottom lids, are you applying from above or below — i.e., are you trying to sneak the pencil up underneath the lashes? If so, I think you are bound to get extra space. Coming down from above and running the liner through the lash line at the base of the lashes usually works better. If you end up with clumps of liner on the lashes, just brush them out with a clean spoolie or lash comb.

          I’ve had mixed results with TFSI on the bottom lid. Sometimes it works great, sometimes not at all. Do you put regular primer there, or set it with powder at all? I know that that is part of the Eye Wrinkle Danger Zone, so many of us don’t put much there. You might experiment. Neutrogena liners do tend to bleed in my experience.

          You could also try a clear pencil like UD 24/7 lip pencil in Ozone — it works to both stop lipstick bleeding into fine lines and to help eyeliner migration. I have this pencil but haven’t reviewed it; maybe it’ll go in the queue.

          Re: shadow looking like a bruise — yes, I think this is all in the technique, both blending and shaping. I’ve been meaning to do a post on this but it’ll be photo-heavy so it will take a while. Short answer: put the darker shadow more in the middle of your eye and when you blend it out, use a skinnier brush.


          • avatar Relationalista
            Posted September 24, 2010 at 5:18 pm | Permalink | Reply

            Huh … I had never thought of using a clear pencil for eyeliner migration problems, though I don’t know why not since that’s exactly what I bought it for on lips. If it works, that could be a game changer. I even have the UD 24/7 pencil in Ozone. I feel an experiment coming on!


  3. avatar a biologist
    Posted September 21, 2010 at 4:36 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Ooh, I love this look, and I have a navy crayon liner already. I’ll be trying this out right away.


    • avatar a biologist
      Posted September 22, 2010 at 8:09 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Success! I got a compliment, “Your eyes look really blue today.” I used Revlon ColorStay eyeliner in Navy and the Naked Palette Gunmetal shadow with Tarte LCL mascara.

      This was surprisingly easy. Thanks for the step-by-step instructions! I also hadn’t realized that you need a clean brush for blending/smudging. I used my new smudge brush and it looked just like your illustrations in under a minute on my first try.


      • avatar Voxy
        Posted September 23, 2010 at 12:18 am | Permalink | Reply


        ::claps hands together delightedly::

        I shall be making myself obsolete soon if I’m not careful. ;)


        • avatar a biologist
          Posted September 23, 2010 at 1:21 am | Permalink | Reply

          Obsolete? Now that I’m having fantasies about beauty camp? Never!


  4. avatar chaosbydesign
    Posted September 21, 2010 at 12:20 pm | Permalink | Reply

    That’s a great description of how to apply the eyeshadow, Voxy — I see exactly where I was going wrong with the blending now. I was using the same brush to apply the shadow and blend with. I guess this is why I was getting shadow everywhere and not much blending.

    How much Gunmetal did you use, by the way? Did you just lightly touch the shadow? Because it goes on a lot darker on me than it looks here, and I’d prefer it how you’ve done it. I think I am maybe using too much.


    • avatar Voxy
      Posted September 21, 2010 at 12:33 pm | Permalink | Reply

      I find that the Gunmetal is a pretty pigmented shadow, so when you first put it on, it does look quite solid. I applied it with a semi-pointy liner brush (i.e., not a super-fine one, but not a big fluffy one either) in a solid stripe right over the liner, and then blended with a clean brush. That little stripe was enough to blend over the whole lid. Then I went back and reapplied the blue on top.

      The quicker (i.e., closer to the lashline) you start to blend out the color, the more subtle the effect. If you leave a heavy stripe near the lashline and then start blending out around mid-eyelid, you will have a much heavier-looking smoky effect. I started blending it away right from the lash line since I wanted something very subtle and work-appropriate.

      If you have a brush that looks like this one:
      … you could use the pointy end for liner and the other end for blending. (I am not advocating that particular brush, just showing shapes.)

      In terms of loading the brush with shadow, I rolled it on top of the shadow just once or twice, then knocked the middle of the brush handle against my wrist a few times to shake out any loose shadow (this helps avoid fallout).


      • avatar chaosbydesign
        Posted September 21, 2010 at 6:43 pm | Permalink | Reply

        Thanks Voxy! I have a Bare Escentuals brush that looks very much like that one. I’ll give this a go tomorrow.


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