I'm not exaggerating when I say I'm passionate about liquid eyeliner. I'm a cat-eye enthusiast, and back when I used to venture out into the world daily, my snatched eyeliner was the source of many compliments from friends, co-workers, and even strangers. Seriously, the beauty topic I get the most DMs about is my eyeliner! My big secret? Practice… and the best formulas, of course.
I'm woman enough to admit that it's taken years of trial and error to get my liquid eyeliner skills down pat. I've watched an embarrassing number of YouTube tutorials and used to spend my spare time at home rehearsing my stroke in the mirror until I got it just right. And now that I'm a beauty elder (I had a Myspace, okay), I feel it's my duty to share the top eyeliner tips I've picked up along the way. Check out my tried and true tips ahead, then keep scrolling for the absolute best liquid eyeliners money can buy.
#1: Do Less
In my experience, one of the biggest keys to perfect eyeliner is overcoming the urge to overdo it. I've learned that small shifts—like using my pinky for stabilization and letting my applicator do more of the work by stamping it across my eyelid rather than relying on my hand to draw steady lines all the time—are super helpful. These tips are especially handy when I'm in a rush and the pressure to get my eyeliner on quickly is making me nervous and more prone to a shaky application or rogue pen marks.
#2: Cleanup Is Key
Another tip that takes a ton of pressure off getting your eyeliner just right is remembering that cleanup is totally an option. In the event that I just can't get that perfect flick on the end of my eyeliner, I'll dip a flat makeup brush into some makeup remover and gently wipe away any ink that's not up to snuff. This saves me from having to take off all the makeup on my eye and start from scratch, which is especially annoying when there's eye shadow involved.
#3: Store Eyeliner Pens Upside Down
There's nothing worse than going to apply your eyeliner only to find that the brush is dried out. This can mean it's time to replace your pen, but a lot of times, it just means there isn't enough ink saturating the tip. A good way to always know for sure whether or not your pens are due for replacement is to store them with the brush tip facing downward so that any ink in the chamber is constantly flowing through the tip. This makes for super-juicy application, and when a pen stored this way comes up dry, you'll know it's time to grab a new one.
The Best Liquid Eyeliners
Liquid eyeliner conversations that don't start here shouldn't start at all. Stila's iconic waterproof liquid liner was the first pricey option I ever tried, and to this day, I still consider it one of the all-time best options for perfect eyeliner every damn time. It comes in a number of hues like blue, green, and a gorgeous berry, but if you ask me, the classic black is undefeated. I'm wearing it in the shot above, in case you still don't believe the hype.
This drugstore option holds its own against its expensive counterparts for a few reasons. First of all, it's actually waterproof, meaning even the excessive tears 2020 has inspired are no match. It's also super versatile and easy to control. Use light pressure for ultra-thin, lash line–hugging strokes or press down a little harder for more impact.
Fun fact: Rihanna's makeup artist recently taught me how to apply this eyeliner without pulling my eyelid taut as I'd been doing for my entire eyeliner application career. This option, in particular, makes that so easy to do because the tube is an easy-to-grip triangular shape. The formula itself is also lovely, but it's not super matte, which is something to keep in mind. It takes a little longer than some other formulas to fully dry down, so be sure not to use it when you're rushing to get your face done.
When Pat McGrath makes a product, you can pretty much expect excellence across the board. This eyeliner is just that. It claims 24-hour wear, which I've never tested because I'm not a maniac, but I can say that it's super inky and can stay put through a full day in the office complete with post-work events.
When Glossier launched this liquid eyeliner last year, I was prepared to be underwhelmed. It was a judgment based on the fact that the brand is known for more of a subdued makeup look, and I want my eyeliner to be anything but barely there. However, I learned a valuable lesson about making snap judgments because this eyeliner is now one of my all-time favorites. It is so good—just take a look at the photographic evidence above. The brush is comprised of tons of tightly packed, tapered bristles that make it flexible enough to follow the contour of any eye shape but firm enough to impart serious pigment. Storing this one upside down is an absolute must to keep the unique brush head nice and wet.
Fans of this OG eyeliner brand include stars like Alexa Chung, who is one of my personal liquid eyeliner muses. She always gets it right and has credited this brand for that.
I've now purchased this eyeliner at least five times over the years, and every time I come back to it, I'm reminded why it's got such a rabid cult following. It glides onto the skin so smoothly without any pulling or snagging, so creating beautiful lines is super easy. Pro tip: Use the length of the brush rather than just the tip if you're not getting as much color as you'd like. This liner is super pigmented, so if you aren't seeing that payoff, then adjust your application to allow for more ink to flow from the brush.
If you're in the market for a liner that will stay put through rain, snow, sleet, and intense heat, this is the one. It's blacker than black and applies smoothly when the brush tip is saturated in ink. (Here I go with the brush-down storage again.) You'll need to take care not to bump the bristles when replacing the cap after you use it. Otherwise, they could fray. When well taken care of, this eyeliner delivers beautiful, precise, and highly pigmented lines that don't budge.
I never thought clean eyeliner could live up to my high standards, but this one definitely does. The felt tip is midsize, so it can create tight lines and bold cat eyes with ease. The mineral pigment is so dark, and the payoff is just perfect.
Here's another top-rated clean liner that applies easily and stays put all day. It's also a quick-drying formula, so there's no bleeding or feathering.
This dual-ended eyeliner has a pencil on one side and a pen on the other, so you can layer one on top of the other for extra staying power. Genius!
For $6, you can't do much better than this flex-tip pen. It imparts super-black lines smoothly and without any skipping and dries down to a beautiful satin finish.
I love this eyeliner. All of Revlon's Colorstay liners are great, including the dip-brush version, but the ease of use here is much better. The photo above shows just how much intense color you get in one stroke. Easy!
This OG eyeliner is beloved by many because it's so easy to use. The brush tip is nice and soft, making it easy to follow any eye shape. Creating super-precise lines can be a challenge since the brush moves around so much, but if you aren't going for a dramatic cat eye, it's a great option.
I love this eyeliner when I'm in a rush. The felt tip is so thick that you can get a straight line quickly without agonizing over precision. Tight lines aren't possible due to the size of the tip, but that same characteristic makes it so that even a beginner could get the job done.
This J-beauty offering is Reddit famous but is somehow still under the radar. Several Amazon reviewers say that it doesn't budge, even if you accidentally rub your eyes.
This white eyeliner is my favorite. It's so easy to apply and is actually opaque. (Check out the photo above and join me in swooning over that perfect wing!) Whenever I'm in the mood for white eyeliner, this is the one I reach for.
This is a high-fashion eyeliner if I've ever seen one. It's handcrafted with specialty fibers that come together to form the perfect brush. It's truly like a mini fine-art paintbrush. The range of colors available is vast, with super-rich shades that deliver intense color on all skin tones. The hybrid polymer pigment is not only beautiful but is also super durable, providing color that stays perfect looking through all sorts of elements and that washes away easily. I'm a huge fan!
This matte blue eyeliner is the most perfect electric blue you'll find anywhere. The fine-tip applicator is a felt tip that behaves kind of like a brush for flawless strokes and intense pigment deposits.
This is the liquid counterpart to the now iconic gel liner from Marc Jacobs, and it totally lives up to the family name. While there are some great color options available in both traditional and metallic finishes, my favorite is this deep brown. It's super dark but not black, so it adds something special and interesting to any eye look. The brush is super bendy, which is great if you're getting artsy or going for some out-of-the-box shapes, and it definitely takes some getting used to. Once you get it down, though, you're off to the races.