Best Liquid Eyeliners

Updated June 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

20 Models Considered
7 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
350 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Buying guide for best liquid eyeliners

Last Updated June 2019

If you’ve ever attempted wings or a cat eye with a pencil eyeliner, you’ve probably run into trouble. Liquid eyeliners not only provide a precise line for a flicked look but also a thin one for a straight look. Once dried, liquid eyeliners rarely smudge and last longer than pencils. Rather than having a pencil tip, liquid eyeliners typically have a felt-tip pen applicator. Plus, you don’t have to sharpen them.

Choosing the right liquid eyeliner, however, isn’t so simple. Applicator tips vary in diameter and even in shape, and you’ll want to choose one that’s easy to use and provides a steady stream of pigmentation for no-skip lines. While liquid eyeliner is commonly black, there are different shades of black as well as brown, blue, green, and purple. Longwear and waterproof liquid eyeliners are also an option.

Switching to a liquid eyeliner is worth sorting through all these considerations, and we’re here to help make the process easier. For more details on choosing the best liquid eyeliner for you, keep reading. If you’re ready to buy, consider one of our top picks.

Liquid eyeliners are popular for creating flicks, wings, and cat eyes.

Why choose a liquid eyeliner?

Lining your eyes with a liquid eyeliner gives your eyes bold definition. Liquid eyeliners allow for dramatic looks, like a cat eye, which can reshape your eye. Depending on whether you line both lids (top and bottom) or use a thin or thick line, liquid eyeliners can provide an everyday look or a bombshell look.

Choose a liquid eyeliner for the following reasons:

  • You want to wear a cat eye or winged look. These looks require the eyeliner on your top lid to extend out past the outer corner of the eye and swerve up on an angle. This “wing” finishes in a sharp point and is a flattering look for all eye shapes.
  • You want a defined and even line. Liquid eyeliner can make a very precise line, though this also depends on the steadiness of your hand as you draw it.
  • You want focus on your eyes. A rule in makeup application is that you can either wear a statement lip or dramatic eye (or break this rule). Liquid eyeliner will draw focus to the eyes.
  • You want to boost the volume of your lashes. The precision point of most liquid eyeliners allows you to draw between your lashes, which will make them look thicker.
  • You have oily or dry eyelids. Liquid eyeliner is well suited for both skin types. Choose a waterproof liquid eyeliner if you have oily lids, and it will stay put.

Smudge-free finish

A cult-favorite liquid eyeliner that comes in a dozen colors ranging from intense black to periwinkle. This waterproof liner will last all day, through your workday and workout. The felt-tip applicator is smooth and easy to use and creates thin or thick lines on a whim.

 

Liquid eyeliner considerations

Tip type

Felt tip: The most common liquid eyeliners have a felt tip that is tapered to a firm point. The body of the eyeliner is pen-shaped and contains the formula. These are the best types for beginners, because it’s just like drawing with a pen and easy to control. Felt-tip applicators are also great at making thick lines. 

Wand or brush: For more advanced makeup users, a wand or brush that is dipped into an inkwell is an excellent choice to make thin sharp lines. With some practice and patience, it can yield very precise looks that dry with a matte finish. 

Roller: Some manufacturers offer innovative tips like a roller wheel (think: pizza cutter) that’ll glide over lids without skipping a beat.

Sphere: Spherical felt tips have a ball-like point that provides consistent thickness no matter how you angle it. These are great for quickly lining your top and bottom lids in one straight swoop. However, they’re not so great for a winged or cat-eye look.

Foam: A foam tip is softer than felt tips or brushes and glides easily over the lid, reducing any tugging and skipping that firmer liners occasion. However, you may sacrifice precision and sharp edges with a softer tip. 

Dual-edge: Dual-edged felt tips offer a thin side and a thick side, often in the shape of a paddle. This will give you versatility to achieve a day and an evening look all in one pen.

Tip width

Fine: A fine- or slim-tipped liquid eyeliner (0.1 to 0.4 millimeters) will create more natural looks. These can be layered or built on for a thicker line. An advantage of skinny tips is that they’re small enough to get between lashes to line those spaces. However, a steady hand is required to wield thinner tips.

Thick: A thick-tipped liquid eyeliner provides more foolproof application and also more of a dramatic look as it draws on a thicker line. It can be faster because it doesn’t require as much layering or filling in when creating a cat eye.

Colors

Pigmentation is an important aspect of color. For an opaque liner, you’ll want a formula that has a high concentration of pigment. A “jet black” will appear gray if the formula isn’t rich in pigment. That being said, liquid eyeliners come in the boldest blacks to more natural browns.

There are also liquid eyeliners for every color of the rainbow, including metallic or glitter shades. These usually have a brush tip, so dip into that inkwell and get creative. Your face is your canvas.

EXPERT TIP

For eyes that pop, line both your top lid and bottom with a liquid eyeliner.


Staff  | BestReviews

Features

  • Waterproof liquid eyeliner is not only budge-proof when splashed with water but will also stay put during sweaty workouts and tearjerker movies.
  • Longwear liquid eyeliner boasts 12 to 15 hours of wear. Most liquid eyeliners, however, have impressive staying power and won’t smudge in comparison to pencil liners.  
  • Matte liquid eyeliners have a duller finish, which many users prefer to a shiny look. Wand or brush-tip eyeliners are generally more matte than felt tips.

A gap between your lashes and liner can look messy. Draw liquid eyeliner as close to the waterline as possible.

Liquid eyeliner prices

Inexpensive: Expect to pay between $5 and $9 for a drugstore-brand liquid eyeliner. Longwear and waterproof eyeliners are available in this price range.

Mid-range: For a mid-range liquid eyeliner, expect to pay between $10 and $21. These are more likely to have opaque pigments and not flake.

Expensive: For a premium liquid eyeliner from reputable cosmetic lines, expect to pay between $22 to $38. These have top-quality tips and formulas made to last.

EXPERT TIP

For eyeliner that stays put at the gym, select a waterproof liquid eyeliner.


Staff  | BestReviews

Tips and tricks of liquid eyeliners

  • The closer you draw the eyeliner to your lashes, the thicker they’ll look.
  • Drawing a thin line that hugs the lashes will produce the most natural effect.
  • To keep your liquid eyeliner from transferring to your eyelid, set with a translucent powder after it dries. 
  • If you have small eyes, a thick liner flick can make your eyes actually appear smaller. Try a thinner flick.
  • When you mess up your wings — hey, easy to do — you can use the folded edge of a makeup remover wipe to erase unseemly parts or to create a sharper edge.
  • There’s a learning curve, so to speak, to drawing a perfect wing or cat eye. Keep practicing and don’t give up. There are a gazillion helpful tutorials on the internet.

Ultra-thin and ultra-cheap

This fantastic wand is super-skinny for users who prefer a natural line hugging close to their lashes. At a drugstore price, it provides long-lasting wear and a matte finish. It’s difficult to smudge, but easy to remove at the end of the day.

Other products we considered

Beauty editors and beauty amateurs alike rave about the Sephora Collection Long-Lasting 12-Hour Wear Eyeliner. This low-to-mid-priced liner is ultra-pigmented for a matte super-opaque finish. This formula is long-lasting if you’re seriously searching for all-day wear. The black is a true black, but it also comes in brown, a fun glitter brown, blue, and violet. The brush is precise for seamless application.

For a luxury liner — as in a cruise to use on your lids — we love Lancôme Artliner Precision Point Eyeliner. This foam tip glides so easily across your lids that application is skipless and a total breeze. The color from this inkpot is strong and rich with pigments. It works equally as well for tightly lining eyes and for creating a bold cat eye.

To create a flick, start lining at the innermost corner of your upper eyelid with a thin line and gradually increase its thickness as you make your way outward. Extend it out and up beyond the lid without dipping below the lower lashline to avoid a droopy flick.

FAQ

Q. What are the advantages and disadvantages of a felt-tip liquid eyeliner? A. Felt-tip liquid eyeliners offer quick precision, and they are easy to control, making them an excellent choice for beginners. They also create thicker lines. The drawbacks are that they’re more prone to smudging and sometimes require layering for opaqueness. They can also appear somewhat shiny. Felt-tip pens can dry out. These eyeliners are hard to remove without the help of a good eye makeup remover.

Q. What are the advantages and disadvantages of a brush-tip liquid eyeliner?   
A. Brush-tip liquid eyeliners are great for sharp thin lines, which create a more natural look. They need more time to dry than felt-tip pens but provide more of a matte finish. They’re also easy to remove. The drawbacks for using a brush-tip liner is that they can flake. They also require a steadier hand and more skill to apply — not to mention more time and strokes if you’re building a dramatic look.

Q. What’s the best way to make my much-labored-over cat eye stay put?
A.
Once you’ve selected a longwear, smudge-proof liquid eyeliner, there are a few other steps you can put in place to make your flicks last. First step is to apply a makeup primer designed for the eyes before you put anything else on your lids. Be aware that once you apply your liner, this makes it a bit harder to fix goofs. After drawing on your eyeliner, wait for it to dry and then gently pat on a translucent powder. This will keep it from transferring up to other parts of your lid or above.

The team that worked on this review
  • Ana
    Ana
    Writer
  • Angela
    Angela
    Editor
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Moriah
    Moriah
    Writer

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