Eyeshadow application can sometimes feel like an Olympic sport. There’s a race to buff and blend before your product dries down and it seems like fall-out is enemy number one. Practice makes perfect with cream and powder pigments, but if you’re looking for an easy, efficient, and stunning alternative, the best liquid eyeshadows should be your go-to.
“Generally the appeal of liquid eyeshadows is that they are very user-friendly,” says celebrity makeup artist Ehlie Luna. “This means you can go ahead and use it straight from the applicator onto the lid and use your finger to blend out any edges or seams.”
Professional makeup artist and entrepreneur Jenny Patinkin adds that liquid eyeshadows are typically formulated to be and marketed as longwear, which adds to their appeal.
There’s no shortage of options to choose from—you’ll find matte finishes, shimmers, and glitter eyeshadows on the market in just about every shade imaginable. Some offer more play time than others, and a handful will deliver a crazy intense pigment coupled with all-day wear. To determine which swipe-and-go shadows are the best of the best, we tapped a handful of professional makeup artists to share their favorites—and did some extensive testing of our own.
What to Look For
"There's a bunch of different types of liquid or creamy eyeshadows, and they're all formulated differently," says Patinkin. Glosses, for instance, are shinier with "more of a slick consistency and texture." She says that the upside of opting for this formulation is that "you're going to crease with a gloss on your eye"—but points out that this option is not as longwear.
On the other hand, she says that very opaque options work for bolder, more matte looks. However, she warns, "those very opaque cream eyeshadows can wind up looking dry and they can pucker on the eyelid and they can accentuate age-related changes to the lids. If your skin is starting to thin or get a little bit looser, they can accentuate some of those issues."
By nature, liquid eyeshadows start out with some flexibility. How fast it transforms from a wet liquid to a dry finish however varies greatly. “For liquid shadows with a faster drying time, it's best to do one eye at a time,” explains celebrity makeup artist and brand founder Danessa Myricks. “For more opaque coverage with your liquid shadows, choose to build up the color in layers letting one layer dry before applying the next or tap on color with your finger or a brush to build coverage.”
Liquid eyeshadows are versatile at their core. On the one hand, they can be used as a quick wash of pale color that primes your lid for additional powder shadows or more intense liquid pigments. However, they can also be a one-and-done product that provides a pop of color or shimmer lid. A pro tip from Myricks? Use a “flat, more dense brush for more color pay off.” Finger application will inherently give a more sheered out finish.
Perhaps the trickiest criteria to nail with a liquid eyeshadow is staying power. By nature of liquid formula, the product is more prone to creasing and fading. Every item on this list however is guaranteed to provide at least 12-hour wear.
Applying Liquid Eyeshadow
Of course, when using a liquid eyeshadow, you can decide to apply the product with the doe foot applicator it comes with. However, Patinkin says, recommends using a brush for optimal precision, blending, and product distribution.
"I think applying anything with a brush is going to be better than applying with a doe foot," she says. "With a doe foot, you've got one point of contact on your lid. When you're using a brush that's got lots of bristles, you've got lots of points of contact on your lid, and so you can get a much more even, smooth distribution of the product. The issue is that you have to work quickly because so many liquid eyeshadows tend to dry very quickly, but by working with a brush, you can also control the density of the application. You can sheer it out and get a softer look than you might be able to with a doe foot, because the product can cling to the doe foot and it might not spread as evenly on your lid."
But how does one going about transferring the product to the brush? She explains, "I like to either put a dot from the doe foot on the lid and then use a brush to blend, or I put it on the back of my hand and then put the brush into that and then apply."
Finally, the area of your eye where you're applying your shadow will determine which brush is best to use.
"I really love our small angled multi blender brush," she says of the versatile tool from her brand. "It's just the right shape so that you can tap your shadow into the outer corner and get some detail in your socket line." Meanwhile, she adds, "Our small eyeshadow brush is really great for tapping the product just onto your lid. And then either our line smudge brush or our pinpoint liner brush is a great way to get detail in the inner corner."
Because liquid eyeshadows tend to dry quickly, Patinkin says that users should work quickly when applying—no matter what style they're going for. Plus, she advises tapping the brush against one's skin instead of rubbing, explaining, "I think that tapping tends to work better so you're not tugging on the delicate skin of your eye."
For those with hooded or deep set eyes, she recommends starting with the socket line "because the lid is not quite as visible," and says to use a loose, flexible brush.
"Start with your socket line, get that shading in first, and then you can go back and tap shadow onto your lid," she says. " I'd save the inner corner for last. After you've applied your eyeliner, you can get a little pop in the inner corner of the eye, which gives a really pretty bounce of light and reflection. You want to use a smaller brush or your pinky for that, just so you're not disturbing everything else that you've applied."
The Best Liquid Eyeshadows
- The Best Liquid Eyeshadow Overall: Armani Beauty Eye Tint Long-Lasting Liquid Eyeshadow
- The Best Liquid Eyeshadow for Long-Wear: Violette_FR Yeux Paint
- The Best Liquid Eyeshadow for Pigment: About-Face Matte Fluid Eye Paint
- The Best Luxury Liquid Eyeshadow: Chanel OMBRE PREMIÈRE LAQUE
- The Best Drugstore Liquid Eyeshadow: e.l.f. Cosmetics Liquid Glitter Eyeshadow
The Best Liquid Eyeshadow Overall
I promise: You’ll find this liquid eyeshadow in every single makeup artist’s kit. It’s a classic, and for a very good reason. The formula is thin yet pigmented and comes along with 16 hour, crease-free staying power. (It even holds up on my oily eyelids.) There are matte, shimmer, and metallic finishes to choose from, but all the formulas play well together so feel free to mix and match.
Pros: Longwear; Crease-free; Good for oily eyelids
Cons: Can be a bit patchy
Customer Review: “Such a great overall product! Very versatile and beginner friendly! As someone who struggles with eyeshadow looks, this product has changed the game for me. It blends out easily and is buildable. I've bought five shades so far, I am absolutely obsessed!!! The shimmer can be used as a highlighter as well.” — Sephora
The Best Liquid Eyeshadow for Beginners
“This award winning formula boasts five different finishes in Mattes, Nudes, Creams, Foils, and Liquid Metals. Each formula is waterproof, crease proof, fallout free, and gives you 24hr+ wear. What I love most is that they are super easy to apply with a finger or a brush and all of the textures can be worn alone or layered together to create easy, eye-catching looks at any skill level.” — Danessa Myricks, Celebrity Makeup Artist
Pros: Makeup-artist recommended; Easy to use
Cons: Feels a little heavy
Customer Review: “It’s shiny and dimensional, especially in sunlight, and the edges can be blended out for a diffused look. I did notice that it feels thick and doesn’t lay evenly if you don’t work in thin layers. I wouldn’t do more than two but you need to wait until they dry completely, (at least a minute), before adding another.” – Sephora
The Best Liquid Eyeshadow for Long-Wear
“I’m a huge fan of the Violette_FR Yeux Paints. They offer beautiful tones that have a sophistication about them,” notes Luna. “There are everyday options and some fun ones for a night out.” Each shade is truly buildable, so you can create either a diffused, light wash of color or go all-out with a bold, bright lid. I’m personally partial to the twinkling shades, which have a little sparkle, but there’s also a handful of matte finishes to choose from.
Pros: Makeup artist-recommended; Buildable; Long-lasting
Cons: Fast drying
Customer Review: “I love the overall aesthetic and the product was exactly as advertised. Super smooth and easy to apply (even for those of us who don’t wear a lot of makeup). Would definitely recommend it.” — Violette_FR
The Best Liquid Eyeshadow for Intense Pigment
If you’re in the market for an intense pigment, are looking to create a dramatic cut crease, or want a graphic design, Halsey’s makeup brand, about-face, is for you. “These are beginner-friendly, have fun, colorful packaging, and bold payoff,” explains Luna. “They pack a punch.” If a full wash of color feels a bit too intimidating, try using the pigment as a bright liner. Just grab a precision brush.
Pros: Makeup artist-recommended; Intense color payoff
Cons: Certain shades aren’t as opaque as advertised (read: yellow and orange)
Customer Review: “This is the perfect liquid shadow. I couldn't make it go on patchy if I tried. You can use it as a base for shimmers, a quick wash of color, or graphic liner. It goes on so beautifully, you barely need to blend. Long lasting, great packaging, beautiful color selection, what's not to love?” — Ulta
The Best Neutral Liquid Eyeshadow
"Liquid eyeshadow is beginner-friendly to begin with, but this Kosas formula is extra fool-proof. Every color in the range falls into neutral territory and has ample play time, so you can blend and sheer until you’re content with the final look. On days when I’m hoping to have a more intense shimmer payoff, I’ll apply a heavier layer and let it sit for a full 10 seconds before diffusing the outer edges." -Sam Holender, Beauty Editor
"These have a lot of dimension because they've got shimmer that's metallic, but also opalescent, and there's a really beautiful multidimensionality to the way that they look on the skin. They're kind of complex colors and they look just very dimensional and beautiful." -Jenny Patinkin, Professional Makeup Artist
Pros: Easy to work with; Buildable
Cons: Not high pigment
Customer Review: “This product is fantastic for a quick and easy look. I prioritize sleeping over waking up early to do my makeup. This literally takes me less than a minute to apply, and it stays on all twelve hours without flaking or looking gross!” — Sephora
The Best Luxury Liquid Eyeshadow
A happy medium between a statement eye and barely-there look, these neutral-hued eyeshadows with a metallic finish deserve to be a staple in your makeup routine. I find a single swipe to be daytime-appropriate, but love to layer an extra bit of product on my lid for a night out, or a more dramatic look. The applicator is extremely user friendly—and when held at a 45 degree angle, is perfect for dragging color along the lower lash line.
Pros: Gorgeous texture; Buildable
Cons: Dries down very quickly
Customer Review: “This is a great creamy eyeshadow with lots of color and impact, but it does dry down really quickly so you have to blend it fast. Then it doesn't budge at all, which is great. Perfect one and done eyeshadow.” — Ulta
The Best Glitter Liquid Eyeshadow
Pat McGrath knows how to do glitter right. Case in point? Her latest launch: FetishEyes Longwear Liquid Eyeshadow. With five, neutral-toned, radiant metallic shades in the range, these longwearing pigments don’t skimp out on impact; a little goes a long way. One small dot is enough to have your lid looking reflective and opalescent. The star of this formula comes by way of a popular skincare ingredient: Squalane. Hydrating in nature, it’s able to keep your eyelid hydrated and prevent patchy sections from forming over the course of the day.
Pros: Gorgeous finish; All shades work across skin tones
Cons: Dries down quickly
Customer Review: “Honestly this is an amazing eyeshadow, probably the best liquid shadow that I have ever used. It stays on all day, doesn't move, and is the perfect shimmer and diffuses out seamlessly.” — Sephora
The Best Drugstore Liquid Eyeshadow
As an extremely affordable alternative to other options on this list, E.l.f.’s drugstore eyeshadow formula is actually one of the most high-performing formulas out there. It has a gel-based formula that locks in—and doesn’t budge—for hours on end. The glitter pigments aren’t for the more low-key eyeshadow user; they are intensely sparkly with large glitter chunks to boot. That said, you can tone things down by shearing out the formula with a fluffy brush.
Pros: Affordable; Can double as eyeliner
Cons: Might look a little patchy
Customer Review: “The secret to getting a great look with these is to put them on in thin layers, allowing them to dry in between, and realize that they're going to stay where you put them. I used the gold and green colors, and I did blend edges with a small brush in a dabbing motion, but they don't like to blend in the traditional sense. The look was stunningly gorgeous, and my eyes are so sensitive to pressed metallic powder shadows that this is my new alternative.” — Ulta