The best liquid eyeliner

Sian Babish

If you're thinking about upgrading your eyeliner from pencil to liquid and you've never used a liquid before, the wet application can be intimidating. Thankfully, it's much easier than it looks to apply.

Liquid eyeliners deliver high-pigment precision in a low-maintenance formula. Their felt and brush-tip applicators don't dull or require frequent sharpening like pencils. Liquid eyeliner is also buildable, so you're able to experiment with and achieve a variety of looks.

If you're ready to pick up liquid eyeliner, keep reading our buying guide to learn more. We've included reviews of a few of our favorites at the end, such as our number one choice, Stila Stay-All-Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner, a top pick among those who want a sharp, precise line beneath their lower lashes.

Considerations when choosing liquid eyeliners


While the most popular color for liquid eyeliner is black, they're available in a variety of shades. Browns and grays are favorites, as they're neutral colors. There are also metallic, glitter, and shimmer liquid liners in a rainbow of colors, but you need to spend a little more to find ones with a higher pigment.

Formula type

Longwear liquid liners can last for over 12 hours, far outlasting their pencil counterparts. They dry quickly, so it's easy to fix lines and refine detail if necessary. Sometimes they require touch-ups at the end of the day, as they can begin to flake off your lids.

Waterproof liquid eyeliners are often preferred for all-day, run-free wear, especially in wet weather or humid environments. These have a reputation for staying put, so you need waterproof makeup remover to get them off.

Tip width

Liquid eyeliners either have fine or thick tips. Those classified as fine or slim offer the thinnest lines with application, though you can build a thicker line if desired. While they require a steady hand for best results, they're excellent for achieving dramatic looks.

Liquid eyeliners with thicker tips offer quick and easy application. They don't require much building, so they're often considered low-maintenance liners. A little goes a long way with these, so make sure you apply them with a light hand to avoid over-depositing the formula.

Tip varieties in liquid eyeliners

Felt tip: Felt tip liquid liners are by far the most common. Applicators often resemble pens, so they're easy to hold during application, especially for beginners. They're great for making precision lines, or you can build them up to achieve a thicker one.

Wand or brush: If you've mastered felt-tipped liquid liners, you might be ready for wand or brush tips. These tips dip into a mini paint jar, so the formulas are wetter than others. They're well-liked by those who have a steady hand, as they're effective at creating sharp lines for enviable cat eyes.

Dual-edge: Dual-edge liquid liners offer the best of both worlds. In these pen-style liners, you can create thick and thin lines. They have a small footprint, so they're a solid choice if you need a versatile liquid liner for travel or on the go.

Other popular varieties: Beauty brands have experimented to offer more variety in the application experience. They've stayed on the cutting edge and most recently have released rollerball, sponge ball, and even triangular tips for liquid liners.


A wide variety of drugstore liquid liners cost between $5 and $10. Premium liquid liners cost up to $25 and have better formula and pigment qualities. If you'd like a pro-quality liquid eyeliner from a luxury beauty brand, expect to spend as much as $40.


Q. I prefer a natural look with makeup. Will liquid liner be too extreme for me?

A. Not at all. Instead of going with a traditional black liquid liner, opt for one in lighter neutral shades, like browns or grays. In terms of lightweight application, pen applicators with felt tips are your best bet, as you can create light, subtle lines with them.

Q. How can I learn to do the perfect cat-eye?

A. It takes a while to master, but with practice, you can have killer wings. Besides learning technique, you also need to have a keen awareness about the shape of your eye. This helps you work with -- not against -- their shape, so you're able to navigate application more naturally.

Liquid eyeliners we recommend

Best of the best: Stila's Stay-All-Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner

Our take: Leader among pen liquid liners for its long-lasting wear and high pigment.

What we like: Fast-drying to prevent smearing or flaking. Easy to draw precision or thick lines.

What we dislike: Top of the price range, so it can get expensive if it's your daily eyeliner.

Best bang for your buck: Revlon's ColorStay Skinny Liquid Eyeliner

Our take: Affordable and high-performing choice for those who create cat-eye looks.

What we like: Felt tip for precision lining. Works well with lower lash wear. Washes off easily.

What we dislike: Dries matte instead of shiny or glossy.

Choice 3: NYX Professional Makeup's Matte Liquid Eyeliner

Our take: Quick-drying matte formula that stays put all day long.

What we like: Longer barrel makes it easier to hold during application. Available in an ultra-dark black color.

What we dislike: Tip is smoother like a brush, so applying with a lot of pressure results in thick lines.

Sian Babish is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.

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