Eyeliners wield a special power that a lot of other makeup products don’t: the ability to make a huge difference in just a few strokes. From supersharp liquid pens to luxuriously smooth pencils, here are the 18 best eyeliners we’ve tried for creating every kind of line (graphic, winged, squiggly) you could want.
The Best Drugstore Eyeliner
In an Ulta review, one woman noted that this liner stayed on during a car accident. “I fell out of a truck going 50 mph,” she explains. Even if you don’t regularly fall out of trucks, you will appreciate the reliability of this $8 version. The color is intensely black, dries quickly, and lasts throughout both positive and unfortunate situations.
The pen version from Amazon is also highly rated and costs only $4!
The Eyeliner That Will Never Come Off
This liner lives up to its name, famously staying put during a car accident and a subsequent ride to the hospital. (It’s unfortunate that car accidents can be used as a measure of liner durability, but here we are.) If you’re prone to blinking immediately after application, you’ll appreciate the quick-drying formula. If you have have oily lids, you’ll love the way it stays in place throughout the day.
The Best Eyeliner for Cat-Eyes
Maybelline makes one of the sharpest liquid liners out there. This pen has a supersharp tip and an easy-control grip that helps you create smooth, even lines. Use it to create a cat-eye, and you’ll end up with angles so precise your friends will think you used a protractor.
The Best Under-the-Radar Eyeliner
In general, you should not sleep on the Sephora Collection. Thanks to Sephora’s manufacturing know-how, the entire collection contains very satisfying dupes for high-end products at a fraction of the price. Its eyeliners are reliably long-lasting, come in a ton of fun colors, and cost under $10. The one is particularly nice because it doesn’t require any sharpening and doesn’t smudge, but also blends easily if you want a softer look (how it manages to do these seemingly contrasting tasks is a mystery, but it works).
The Best Luxury Eyeliner
Yes, this eyeliner is pricey. However, you get two eyeliners for the price of one. This liner comes with two tips — one bigger and thicker, and the other smaller and finer. Use the thicker side to line your eye in a hurry; use the thinner side to perfect the point and angle of a cat-eye. Both tips are sturdy, and the pigment flows from them as freely as drinks at happy hour (though it also dries very quickly). Once on your lid, it looks thick and expensive and not at all like a magic marker.
The Best Glittery Eyeliner
Leave it to Marc Jacobs, whose favorite color is “shiny,” to create a giant range of very good, very sparkly liners. If you want baby-pink shimmery liner, Marc Jacobs has that. If you want orange or mint green, the brand has two kinds of each. And the shimmer is very fine and not chunky, so you won’t look like an extra on Euphoria.
The Best Colored Liquid Liner
If you want a turquoise liquid liner, you have to go Stila. It’s notoriously difficult to make a liquid liner in a bright color, and it’s the only brand to do it well. No matter the shade, each performs equally well, giving you a vibrant, sharp line of pigment that glides across your skin. If you want slightly different shades of brown or black, Stila does those too.
The Easiest Eyeliner
If liquid liners leave you blotchy and pencil liners make your delicate eyelids shudder, this gel liner in a pot will be your saving grace. Use a brush to glide the creamy formula over your lids. It’s easy to guide it into hard-to-reach places or paint on cat-eye wings without skips. Once it sets, it stays put with a long-lasting matte finish that has a unique sheen you can’t get from a liquid or pencil liner.
The Eyeliner That Goes on Really Smoothly
This smudgeproof, budgeproof pencil is wildly popular, probably because it feels like coloring with an oil pastel instead of a No. 2. The formula is ultracreamy and glides on smoothy, while the color payoff is up there with something more liquid, like a marker. The creamy waterproof formula is also simple to play with (smudge it out for an easy smoky eye) before it sets for the day.
The Eyeliner That Will Make You Feel Like an Artist
Stop admiring all those graphic-liner trends from afar and pick up this Japanese liner pen. It has such a precise point (created out of five types of custom-made fibers that mimic hair cuticles) that you’ll find yourself taking your liner to places it’s never been before. These liners also come in a palette worthy of van Gogh, with shades ranging from electric blue and soft yellow to seven different kinds of black.
The Best Eyeliner for a High-Impact Look
Despite its grip-friendly triangle shape, Rihanna’s liquid liner is actually quite well-rounded. The shade (“Cuz I’m Black”) is super juicy and delivers an extra-saturated, inky line immediately upon contact. There’s never any need to go back over your handiwork to get an opaque line, and like other Fenty products (Pro Filt’r, Stunna Lip Paint), this stuff will last you all day.
The Eyeliner That Only Feels Expensive
This pencil doesn’t know the meaning of drag. It glides on smoothly, but it isn’t one of those pencils whose tip breaks off if you dare to apply any pressure. In a blind test, we bet you would peg this one as being from a luxury brand, but it’s less than ten bucks.
The Best Silky Eyeliner
The formula of this pencil might not have actual silk in it, but its name fits because it does have a very silky texture. A quick sketch along the waterline or beneath the lower lid proves it. It comes in eight shades, bearing names that represent the brand’s botanical bent, like Black Forest and Jasper.
The Best Clean Eyeliner
Makeup artist Jillian Dempsey is a leader in the clean-makeup movement, so she kept all preservatives out of this pencil (which means you need to sharpen it often to keep it fresh!). Dempsey created the velvety texture by loading it with jojoba oil, shea butter, and marula oil. Thanks to a built-in sponge tip, smudging this one is extra easy.
The Eyeliner That Comes in Cool Shades
Tilbury thinks beyond the usual eye-pencil shades. The taupe-gray Veruschka Mink is a nice alternative to black or dark brown, and the nude Eye Cheat is excellent at toning down redness in the eye area without looking concealer-ish.
The One That’s Easy to Smudge
There’s good reason this is a longtime favorite. It goes on as smoothly as a roller-ball, smudges in really nicely, and packs a bold punch of pigment.
The Best Blue Eyeliner
If you buy something through our links, New York may earn an affiliate commission.