The 9 Best Eyeliner Pencils of 2023

For the simple, sexy smokey eye of your dreams.

collage of the best pencil eyeliners including hourglass and urban decay
(Image credit: Future)

Picture this: It’s Friday night, Taylor Swift is blasting, and you’re getting ready for an epic night out. For your beauty look, you want to go with that perfectly sultry smokey eye, so what do you reach for in your makeup bag? Chances are you’re going to grab your favorite eyeliner pencil. Some of the best eyeliners out there are pencil formulas, thanks to their beginner-friendly textures and versatility. Not only can you use them to line your waterline, and upper and lower lashlines, but you can blend them out for eyeshadow, draw graphic shapes, and, of course, smudge it out into a smokey eye. 

We’re so confident in the power of the best pencil eyeliners that we’d wager there’s no beauty pro out there that doesn’t have one in their kits, and it seems pro makeup artist Aya Tariq would be inclined to agree. “I think everyone should have eye pencils in their makeup bag,” she tells Marie Claire. “Eye pencils are one of those tools that can help you create a lot of different looks and, depending on the formula, they could be very forgiving.” 

With pencil eyeliners such a crucial product in the makeup world, it’s no surprise that just about every beauty brand offers one, but they aren’t all created equal. Luckily, we did all of the work for you in finding the best pencil eyeliners. Ahead, you’ll find our favorites that include picks from Urban Decay and Hourglass Cosmetics, as well as drugstore winners that hold up just as well. Whether you’re on the hunt for an everyday black eyeliner or a fun colorful option, this guide has got you covered.

What to Look For

When it comes to finding the best eyeliner pencil, texture is key, says Tariq. If you’re a beginner or are wanting to experiment with eyeliner, Tariq suggests looking for eyeliner with a creamy texture. “Creamy textures are more forgiving and you can smudge them with a Q-tip, your finger, or a brush,” she explains. You’re also bound to come across gel pencils, which Tariq says have a more opaque pigmentation, but are not as forgiving as other pencils and require speedy work if you want to blend it out. 

The Best Eyeliner Pencils

When to Use Eyeliner Pencils

Out of the eyeliner options out there (i.e. pencils, gels, and liquids), you’ll want to turn to pencil formulas when you are hoping to achieve a smokey, sultry look. With their creamy texture, pencil liners were practically made for smudging, with many products even including a smudge sponge on one end. Fun fact: A pencil eyeliner’s ability for smudging is actually what inspired Tariq to become a makeup artist. “The reason why I’m a makeup artist is because I remember my grandmother with her eye pencil every morning putting eyeliner in her water line and smudging it to get that beautiful, raw smoky eye,” she explains. 

As mentioned before, you can also use pencil liners to simply line your upper or lower lashlines, or waterline since they are the safest to use in that sensitive area. If dark, smokey eyes aren’t your thing, you can take a colored pencil and smudge it out to work as eyeshadow. Or, get creative with it and draw fun shapes. The options are (almost) limitless. 

As a last pro tip, Tariq reveals that she uses pencil eyeliner first to get her preferred shape, then tops it with a gel or liquid liner to get a super-lasting effect. “Even as a professional makeup artist doing a liner can be tricky, but it’s always good to allow myself to make mistakes and be able to correct them,” she says. “Using an eye pencil and topping it with a gel or liquid is always great for being able to correct and for longevity.”

Meet the Expert

portrait of aya tariq makeup artist
Aya Tariq

Born and raised in Saudi Arabia, Aya honed her skills by moving to New York City and assisting Daniel Martin, Pat McGrath, Nick Barose, Moises, Cyndle, Caitlin Wooter, and many others. Aya is passionate about working on projects where storytelling is the focus and the team works together to produce great works. She pushes herself to ideate, taking inspiration from film, philosophy, and paintings. Her work has appeared on the New York Fashion Week runways for Moschino, Thom Brown, Michael Kors, and more, plus she's worked on celebrity clients including Noor Tangouri, Sting, ASAP Ferg, Gallant and Krystyna Hutchinson, Vagabon, Anna Rose, and Wendi Starling. 

Brooke Knappenberger

Brooke Knappenberger is Contributing Writer at Marie Claire, where she writes across the board from fashion and beauty to books and celebrities. As a pop culture junkie, Brooke obsessively consumes and writes about the latest movie releases, streaming TV shows, and celebrity scandals. She has over three years of experience writing on fashion, beauty, and entertainment and her work has appeared on Looper, NickiSwift, The Sun US, and Vox Magazine of Columbia, Missouri. Brooke obtained her Bachelor's Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism with an emphasis on Magazine Editing and has a minor in Textile and Apparel Management.