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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 flick 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
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
- Best Overall Liquid Eyeliner: ONE/SIZE by Patrick Starrr Point Made Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner Pen
- Best Drugstore Liquid Eyeliner: Revlon ColorStay Liquid Eyeliner
- Best Splurgeworthy Liquid Eyeliner: Tom Ford Eye Defining Pen Liquid Eyeliner Duo
- Best Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner: Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eye Liner
- Best Colored Liquid Eyeliner: Dior Diorshow On Stage Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner
Best Splurgeworthy Liquid Eyeliner
While we admit Tom Ford's Eye Defining Pen is on the pricier side, the results you can achieve from this pen are worth the steeper price. In a rich black shade, this liquid liner features two sides for different looks: a fine calligraphy tip on one end and a thicker brush on the other. With its fast drying time and precision, it's no wonder it's a favorite among the pros. “My favorite liquid eyeliner is no other than the Tom Ford Eye Defining Pen," says celebrity makeup artist Billie Gene. "This liner has the finest tip and a dual end that allows you to create a perfect line every time with the fastest drying time.”
Pros: Features two different brushes; Dries quickly; Goes on smooth
Cons: Over $30; Only one shade
Best Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner
If you're a makeup fan, this pick probably doesn't surprise you. There's a reason why Stila's Stay All Day Liquid Eyeliner tops every round-up of eyeliners. The staying power of this pick is unlike anything else you'll find. In fact, I can personally guarantee that this liner stays put for at least 12 hours. The ultra-thin tip means you can create fine or thick lines, depending on your pressure. It also is incredibly easy to apply thanks to its glideability, so this pick is especially great for beginners or those with a shaky hand.
Pros: Incredibly long-lasting, Smudge-proof; Waterproof; Glides on smooth; Precision tip
Cons: Not very pigmented; May be hard to remove
Best Drugstore Liquid Eyeliner
Words cannot express how much I personally love this drugstore eyeliner. Back in high school, this is one of the first eyeliners I've ever tried and I haven't looked back since. I use this every day to line my upper lashline and to get a subtle flick. Its felt tip can be used to create fine lines or more dramatic looks and the color goes on vibrantly. The best part about this pick is that the liner stays put for over 12 hours. The only drawback of this liner is that it does tend to get clumpy the longer you keep it. Seriously, at just $8, this eyeliner is a steal.
Pros: Under $10; Smudge-proof; Waterproof; Highly pigmented;
Cons: Formula gets clumpy over time
Best Makeup Artist-Approved Liquid Eyeliner
Created by celebrity makeup artist Mario Dedivanovic, aka Kim Kardashian's makeup artist, you can trust that this liquid eyeliner pen delivers. It features a super sharp, flexible felt tip so you get ultimate control over where the liner goes. The formula is ultra-pigmented and reviewers say it lasts all day without any smudging. Pro makeup artist Jonet Williamson calls this liner her "top pick," adding, "It glides on so easy and is the richest black ever."
Pros: Long-wearing; Waterproof; Highly pigmented; Glides on smoothly
Cons: Only one shade
Best Overall Liquid Eyeliner
Patrick Starrr's eyeliner pen is a huge hit among pro makeup artists and for good reason. It's everything you could want in a liquid eyeliner—pigmented, long-lasting, smudge-proof, and glides on like a dream. Makeup artist Shadi Malek says this pick is her favorite. adding, "I have yet to find a felt tip with as much precision as this eyeliner. I love how pigmented the black in their formula is and it can be on for 12-plus hours and not move.” Jonet Williamson is also a fan: She says this eyeliner is her "runner-up" and keeps it in both her personal stash and pro kit.
Pros: Precise felt tip; Highly pigmented; Long-lasting; Smudge-proof; Waterproof; Vegan; Features a comfort grip
Cons: Takes longer to dry
Best Award-Winning Liquid Eyeliner
This liner features a fine felt tip that makes it incredibly easy to create thin lines, even if you're a liquid liner newbie. You won't need to reapply or a second coat with this one either—this one has such an intense color, one flick is all you'll need. Plus, we love how this liner won't come off until you want it to. With all of this in mind, it's no wonder why this pick won Allure's Reader's Choice Award for the last two years in a row.
Pros: $10; Glides on smoothly; Long-lasting; High pigmented
Cons: May smudge after a while
Best Liquid Eyeliner for a Night Out
The queen of backstage makeup knows the merit of an unbudging formula, and her own formula delivers. This waterproof formula will stand up to any amount of sweat or humidity, so feel free to test this pick on a night out. It has an intense, inky pigment that is so black that you won't need a second layer. The soft, chiseled tip is just flexible enough to provide control yet still firm enough to where you can create extra sharp lines.
Pros: Smudge-proof; Waterproof; Precise tip; Highly pigmented; Vegan
Cons: Over $30; Takes longer to dry
Best Colored Liquid Eyeliner
Along with eyeshadow palettes, playing with liquid eyeliner is one of the easiest ways to achieve a fun makeup look. This pick from Dior comes in a whopping 15 different shades in a variety of cool finishes, meaning the makeup possibilities are endless. It features an ultra-flexible felt tip that draws a precise line with adjustable thickness depending on your pressure. Reviewers say this liner dries quickly, glides on smoothly, and lasts the entire day.
Pros: Comes in 15 different shades; Waterproof; Dries quickly; Goes on smooth
Cons: Over $30; Reviewers say the brush dries out quickly
Best Liquid Eyeliner on Amazon
If you still aren't convinced that drugstore eyeliners hold up just as well as high-end products, try this pick from Maybelline. The ultra-fine tip on this pen makes this onyx liquid a breeze to apply, and even easier to touch up. You likely won't need to, though, because this stuff is proven to be impervious for 12 long hours. The reviews don't lie on this pick—over 20,000 Amazon loved this liner so much, that they gave it a 5-star rating.
Pros: Under $10; Long-lasting; Waterproof; Precise felt tip;
Cons: Reviewers say this runs with oily eyelids
When to Use Liquid 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 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.
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.”
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.
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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.
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