Pro-Approved Liquid Eyeliners for Razor-Sharp Lines

Every time.

Collage of liquid eyeliners from NYX, One/Size, Revlon, and stila overlaid purple gradient background
(Image credit: Future)

When it comes to makeup, few products are more intimidating than liquid eyeliner. One small hand twitch can instantly mess up your look, forcing you to grab a makeup remover wipe and start all over again. Applying liquid eyeliner can be a frustrating task—we get it. But if you don’t dip your toes into liquid formulas, you’ll be missing out on some of the best eyeliners on the market.

I personally use black liquid eyeliner on most days to achieve the subtle cat-eye I’ve made my go-to makeup look. I first started my foray into liquid liner in high school and after a long learning curve, I can now do my signature winged eyeliner in a matter of seconds. However, trust me when I say I am in no way a master at applying liquid eyeliner, but with enough practice (and the best picks, below), you too will be confident enough in your application skills to attempt a variety of liner looks. 

What I love most about liquid eyeliner is the ability to create ultra-sharp lines, which is the same reason many of the pros love the formula. “Personally I work a lot with graphic eyeliner shapes so I like to use liquid eyeliner for added precision,” says pro makeup artist and content creator Jonet Williamson. “It also glides on much easier than most pencil liners, making it really comfortable to use on my clients. No tugging or dragging.” 

If you’re ready to take the plunge into liquid eyeliners, we’ve got you covered. Ahead, you’ll find everything you need to know about the tricky makeup product as well as the best of the best liners to get you started. Perfectly sharp cat eyes will soon be a staple in your beauty arsenal.

What to Look For in a Liquid Eyeliner

With the many liquid eyeliner options out there, how do you find the right one for you? Let us break it down: Williamson explains that there are three different types of liquid eyeliner: felt-tip marker or pen (Williamson’s personal favorite), brush-on pen, and bottled liquid liner with either a brush or felt-tip. When checking out eyeliner, take a look at the applicator and consider your personal skill level. “If you’re new to liquid liner you’ll find a felt tip easier to use than a brush-on liner,” explains Williamson. “A firm felt tip gives you more control and leaves less room for mistakes at the sleight of hand.”

You’ll also want to consider a liner’s pigmentation and finish. To find the best formulations of black liquid eyeliner, Williamson likes to check how true the pigment is by comparing it to a black permanent marker. “Also, keep in mind that some liquid liners will dry down matte while others may leave a vinyl shine,” she adds. 

The Best Liquid Eyeliners

How to Apply Liquid Eyeliner

First and foremost, applying liquid eyeliner can be intimidating, but don’t let that shy you away from the hero product! As with all makeup, mastering liquid eyeliner takes lots of practice and patience so know that sharp freehanded lines will come with time. As someone who wears liquid eyeliner every time I wear makeup, I still come across rogue marks and wonky streaks and that’s ok! To correct any hiccups, I recommend using a flat-edged brush with some makeup remover to gently swipe away any mistakes. 

As for how to apply, take it from the pros—Both Gene and Malek like to start at the outer corner and then work their way in. “For liquid eyeliner I like to start at the end where I want my eyeliner wing to end because that way I feel I have the most control,” Malek explains. While looking straight in the mirror, use your pinky for stability and glide the applicator smoothly across your lid as close to the lashline as possible. You can also play around with the pressure and angle of the brush to get your preferred thickness, too

Liquid vs. Gel and Pencil Eyeliner

Along with liquid eyeliner formulas, there are also pencils and gels, with each formula designed to create a different look. If you’re tightlining or trying to achieve cat eyes or siren eyes, Williamson says that’s when you want to reach for a liquid liner to get sharp precision in your look. But if you’re going for something more sultry and smokey, that’s when you’ll want to use a pencil liner. Williamson explains, “These will give you playtime to smudge and diffuse while a liquid eyeliner will peel off if you try to smudge it out.”  

Meet the Experts

Jonet Williamson
Jonet Williamson

Jonet Williamson is a New York-based Pro Makeup Artist and Content Creator specializing in relatable beauty from a pro perspective. Her work has been featured in commercial campaigns for Dolce & Gabanna, Levis, L'Oreal, Shea Moisture, and more. If you follow her online you can expect to see lots of fresh skin, a vibrant use of color, striking graphic liner shapes, and soft glam looks fit for a red carpet.

makeup artist
Billie Gene

Bringing his background in fashion to the foreground of beauty, Eugene “Billie-Gene” is an industry innovator with a style all his own. As he continues to make a name for himself in the makeup world, Billie-Gene’s approach to the art lends a fresh aesthetic that renews and revitalizes everything we think of beauty. Gene’s basis in beauty shines light on the importance of a proper skin care regimen, and adding shape and dimension to the face.

Using his inspiration, Billie Gene’s technique – initially curated at Aveda and Tom Ford – has evolved into a model for those around him. The idea of using fashion and art to capture and captivate one’s beauty is one that he can call his own, treating each face as a canvas on which to create the art. And his premise is simple: “Beauty is glamorous. Everyone should feel beautiful, as we all know we are.”

Portrait of Shadi Malek
Shadi Malek

With just under a decade of experience in the makeup industry, Shadi Malek's extensive list of clients goes far and wide. From brides and models to your favorite celebs and social media stars, Shadi tailors her glam to match every client's unique visage. She first started honing her craft in Vancouver, Canada, and is now based in Los Angeles, one of the world's largest makeup hubs. Shadi often lends her expertise to publications such as WhoWhatWear, Bustle, Byrdie, Popsugar, and more. 

Brooke Knappenberger
Associate Commerce Editor

Brooke Knappenberger is the Associate Commerce Editor at Marie Claire, where she specializes in crafting shopping stories—from sales content to buying guides that span every vertical on the site. She also oversees holiday coverage with an emphasis on gifting guides as well as Power Pick, our monthly column on the items that power the lives of MC’s editors. 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.