obsessive tester

The 26 Best Eyeliners for Every Type of Makeup Look

We tested the best liquid liners, kohl pencils, and gels on the market.

Photo-Illustration: Chinea Rodriguez
Photo-Illustration: Chinea Rodriguez

I’ve been an eyeliner devotee from the moment I was able to perfect the cat-eye look. I’ve spent years testing out the best eyeliners to craft the perfect matte black wing or even the occasional pop of color.

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. The fun part is: There’s no one way to do your eyeliner, either. You can do a messy and glittery party-girl look that would rival any character on Euphoria, or you can lean into the clean-girl look and just opt for a simple yet classic cat-eye.

Whatever your look of choice is, the Cut Shop has tried and tested probably over 50 eyeliners in the last few years to find the best options on the market, from the best liquid liner to create the perfect wing to one that provides a pop of color. Yes, just like sunscreen, I take my eyeliner very seriously. The criteria for a good eyeliner isn’t just how good it looks; it’s how easy it is to apply (sans Q-tips cleanup) and how long it lasts. What good is a perfect wing if it’s flaking and smearing off in an hour?

Our Top Picks:

The Best Precise Eyeliner

Type: Liquid, Gel | Colors: 2

If you’re looking for a smudged look, keep scrolling. This Tarte eyeliner is ideal for a sharp look — whether you use the gel pencil side or the liquid felt tip. This two-in-one option is also waterproof, ensuring your look stays precise no matter the conditions.

The Best New Brand to Try

Type: Liquid | Colors: 1 

I went through quite a “wing” phase back in the day, and I wish I had owned this liner for it. I still love a dramatic wing look for an evening out, and when that happens, this AppleDoll will undoubtedly be my go-to. The felt tip is long enough for versatile lines and effortlessly glides on, making the art of achieving the perfect wing much less of a headache.

The Best Option for Subtle Color

Type: Gel | Colors: 3 

If you’re looking to play with color without straying too far from the norm, Rare Beauty offers this eyeliner in a classic black, chocolate brown, and a spiced burgundy (that feels perfectly aligned with the fall 2024 runways). The price point is fair, so feel free to experiment with a new hue that you might not reach for every day.

The Best Eyeliner That Does It All

Type: Gel | Colors: 3

Whether you prefer a precise line or smudged look, this eyeliner can do it all. The formula doesn’t dry down too fast, so you’ll have plenty of time to shape and smudge your lines. But when it does set, it won’t budge. You can forget the worries of your eyeliner running throughout the day with this one.

The Best Eyeliner for Clean Lines

Photo: Chinea Rodriguez

Type: Liquid | Colors: 1

This liner keeps it clean in more ways than one. With its inky felt tip, the liner glides perfectly and lasts all day without moving or transferring. The smaller tip also allows for the most precise wing so you can create the perfect cat-eye.

The Best Blendable Eyeliner

Photo: Chinea Rodriguez

Type: Cream | Colors: 4

Shiseido’s high-impact shades glide on and are easy to blend into a smoky eye with the attached sponge. Since this is a thicker liner, it’s perfect for smudging or creating a bolder, thicker line with the bright colors.

The Best Eyeliner for High-Impact Color

Photo: Chinea Rodriguez

Type: Gel | Colors: 13

It takes a bit of work to perfect this liner, but the color payoff is definitely worth it. For example, Electric Slide, a matte green, shows up vibrantly without any eye prep or priming. But do you know what’s even better? It’s long-wearing.

More Tried-and-True Options:

The Best Drugstore Eyeliner Pencil


Type: Gel | Colors: 6

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 under ten bucks.

The Best Eyeliner for Smoky Eyes

Type: Kohl | Colors: 23 

This 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 formula’s also simple to play with and smudge out for an easy smoky eye before it sets for the day.

The Best Liquid Liner for Jewel Tones

Type: Liquid | Colors: 8

If you want sapphire blue winged liner or a jade green cat-eye, you have to go Stila. No matter the shade, each performs equally well, giving you a vibrant, sharp line of pigment that glides across your skin and stays put. If you want slightly different shades of brown or black, Stila excels at those in liquid formulation too.

The Best Everyday Eyeliner

Type: Kohl | Colors: 8

Tilbury thinks beyond the usual eye-pencil shades, and her unique color blends define eyes in an effortless-looking way. Try the taupe-y Smokey Gray, a nice toned-down alternative to black, or the nude Eye Cheat, which is excellent at dialing down redness in the eye area without looking concealer-ish.

The Best Eyeliner for Cat-Eyes

Type: Liquid | Colors: 4 

Maybelline makes one of the best liquid liners out there. Why? Its ability to give a sharp line. This pen has a supersharp tip and an easy-control grip that helps you create smooth, even strokes. 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 Drugstore Color

Type: Gel | Colors: 13

A color liner can be quite unreliable: It can skip, drag, and leave you pulling at your eyelid to get any sort of pigmentation. Maybelline’s Tattoo Studio Gel Pencil is the exception. It applies smoothly and evenly without sacrificing any color or wear.

The Best Drugstore Liquid Eyeliner

Type: Liquid | Colors: 14

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.

The Best Under-the-Radar Eyeliner

Type: Gel | Colors: 18

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 Eyeliner for a Matte Finish

Type: Liquid | Colors: 1

Many eyeliners will claim they’re matte, but this one truly is. The super-black liquid liner has a dense but flexible brush ,much like the Pat McGrath Labs one, so you’re able to be a bit more creative with your liner. It does dry very fast, however, so move quickly.

The Easiest Eyeliner

Type: Gel | Colors: 4

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 Best Eyeliner for Pros

Type: Liquid | Colors: 1

If you want something thin and precise, this liner is for you. The brush is small and dense but flexible enough to create thin or thick lines. It’s also a true black color that doesn’t skip or smear.

The Best Eyeliner for a Hint of Color

Type: Kohl | Colors: 16

This satiny liner comes in a handful of subtle to not-so-subtle shades, including olive, a standout shade of metallic-y green that you should grab if you’re looking for an alternative to your standard black. The long-shade glides on and adds just a hint of color without too much shine or sparkle. You can also smudge it out for a smokier look.

The Best Eyeliner for Your Waterline

Type: Gel | Colors: 5

These creamy liners are great for waterline lining, tightlining, and general design-drawing because they consistently keep their precise shape, no sharpener necessary. The nonirritating vitamin E and aloe-infused formula not only comes in classic black and brown but also lush tones like amethyst and terra-cotta that pop on darker skin tones.

The Eyeliner That Will Never Come Off

Type: Liquid | Colors: 2

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 Luxury Eyeliner

Type: Liquid | Colors: 1

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 Eyeliner for a High-Impact Look

Type: Liquid | Colors: 2

Despite its grip-friendly triangle shape, Rihanna’s liquid liner is actually quite well rounded. The shade (called 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 Most Reliable Eyeliner

Type: Kohl | Colors: 2

There’s good reason this pencil is a longtime favorite. It goes on as smoothly as a roller-ball, smudges in really nicely, and packs a bold punch of pigment, which is why it still stands the test of time.

The Best Clean Eyeliner

Type: Kohl | Colors: 6

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.

Another Clean Option

Type: Kohl | Colors: 4

If you want a clean liner without sacrificing pigment and quality, this is it. This liner is easy to apply without tugging and stays put without smudging. While there’s a matte black and brown, we suggest splurging on the shimmering brown for a pretty hint of color and shine.

Every Eyeliner for Every Kind of Look