These Are the 18 Best Liquid Eyeliners

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Byrdie / Chloe Jeong

Applying liquid eyeliner is hard enough, but especially so when you're working with a fussy, hard-to-handle formula. (That's especially true if you're creating a cat-eye, which remains one of the hardest and most precious beauty feats that anyone can master.) We're referring to those lackluster formulas that leave much to be desired. You know the ones—they're either clumpy, sheer, or difficult to control, resulting in jagged shapes that require a cotton swab, makeup remover, time, and patience to fix.

While we always have a few cotton swabs and a lot of makeup remover on hand, we don't always have a surplus of time and patience, which is why we stick to formulas that we know perform well. From eyeliners with built-in brushes to felt tip pens, you can create a ton of looks as long as the intensity of the formula is on point. Rich inky pen liners can make your eyes pop with graphic flair, while an uber-pigmented cream ensures your smoky eye stays dramatic. (Just as a caution, felt tip pens dry quickly which makes them better suited for when you've perfected your eyeliner technique.) How are we so sure that these eyeliners perform so well? Easy—the internet.

Whether it's makeup blogs, social media, or straight from customers, we're convinced we've found the best liquid eyeliner formulas.

Our Top Picks
Stila's liner boasts a thin felt tip that makes precise application a breeze.
This wallet-friendly pick is ideal fo creating a precise cat eye, to re-apply product mid-day.
Best Drugstore, Runner-Up:
Revlon ColorStay Liquid Eyeliner at Amazon
With up to 16-hours of wear time, this affordable pick is a must in your makeup bag.
New to liquid liner? Experiment with different styles with this liner without spending a fortune.
Not only is this pick affordable, but it also has a 12-hour staying time and won't dry out.
The vegan and 99.2% natural formula won’t transfer, smudge, flake, or fade for up to an impressive 12 hours.
This liner may be on the pricy side, but its rep among reviewers (they love its staying power) makes it worth the splurge.
Fenty strikes again in the makeup space, with a water-resistant liquid liner that's super pigmented.
Eyeko features a Japanese precision brush tip that deposits waterproof, fade-proof, and long-lasting color.
This 100% vegan and cruelty-free formula features a long-lasting, pigmented formula.
In This Article

Best Overall: Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eye Liner

Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner
What We Like
  • Easy-to-control felt tip applicator

  • Long wearing

  • Available in various shades

What We Don't Like
  • Reviewers note it dries out fast

This Stila pick is a Byrdie-editor favorite. It's all thanks to the thin felt tip that's easy to control, depositing just the right amount of fluid black ink—never too much and never too little. Because of this—and, of course, its all-day staying power that won't smudge, feather, or run—it's been our go-to for creating the perfect cat eye for years. Plus, we love that in addition to black, it's available in a handful of dreamy muted shades, like espresso brown and deep blue.

Type: Pen | Shades: 6 | Free of: Sulfates, oil | Size: 0.02 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

What Our Editors Say

"I've worn cat eyeliner nearly every day of my life since I was a junior in high school—so I consider myself a veritable expert in all things liquid liner. Without question, Stila's Stay All Day Liquid Liner is the best of the best. The felt tip is exceedingly easy to use, and the product more than lives up to the claim in its name (but it also removes with relative ease)." Eden Stuart, Associate Editor

Best Drugstore: Maybelline Eye Studio Master Precise Liquid Eyeliner

Maybelline Eye Studio Master Precise Liquid Eyeliner
What We Like
  • Long wearing

  • Available in various shades

  • Easy-to-control felt tip applicator

What We Don't Like
  • Not as many shades as other options

If you’re looking for a high-quality liner at a drugstore price, turn to this Maybelline gel liner. With plenty of positive feedback, you can rest assured that this formula is beloved by many. The gel is formula is made with innovative Ink technology that keeps the pigment saturated throughout the day. The waterproof and smudge-proof formula ensures that your look will stay in place without the need for touchups and reapplications.

Type: Gel | Shades: 3 | Free of: Parabens | Size: 0.03 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Drugstore, Runner-Up: Revlon ColorStay Liquid Eyeliner

revlon colorstay liquid liner
What We Like
  • Long wearing

  • Dries quickly

  • Ophthalmologist-tested

What We Don't Like
  • Not as many shades as other options

As far as drugstore liner goes, this Revlon one ranks somewhere near the top. Since it's from the brand's ColorStay line, it boasts an impressive 16-hour staying power, though for us it was more like eight-hour staying power (still impressive). It also dries quickly, ensuring it won't smudge or smear mid-application, and the flexible applicator makes creating any look easy. Also nice: The formula is ophthalmologist-tested to be safe for sensitive eyes and contact lens wearers, so you don't have to worry about any burning or irritation if you accidentally slip.

Type: Pen | Shades: 1 | Free of: Sulfates, oil | Size: 0.08 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Beginners: L'Oréal Paris Infallible Super Slim Liquid Eyeliner

L'Oréal Infallible Liquid Eyeliner
What We Like
  • Easy-to-control felt tip applicator

  • Long wearing

  • Dries quickly

What We Don't Like
  • Not as many shades as other options

Liquid liner takes more precision and practice, but pencil products don’t typically give you as much saturation or definition. The perfect compromise for beginners is this easy-to-apply felt tip liquid liner from L'Oréal.

This formula is perfect for playing around with different application styles and looks without it costing you a fortune. The smudge-proof formula lasts up to 12 hours, which is perfect for everyday wear. The top-rated formula is also available in black, brown, and grey, so you can find the best shade to bring out your eyes.

Type: Pen | Shades: 3 | Free of: Parabens, oil | Size: 0.03 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

What Our Testers Say

"I really liked the finish of this liquid liner and how easy it was to use. Versatility is important when using liquid liners, and I feel that this one is very versatile compared to the competition." — Ashley Rebecca, Product Tester

Best Budget: Sephora Collection Long Lasting Eyeliner High Precision Brush

Sephora Collection Long Lasting Eyeliner High Precision Brush
What We Like
  • Affordable

  • Super pigmented

  • Long wearing

What We Don't Like
  • Only available in black

Another Byrdie favorite, this eyeliner from the wallet-friendly Sephora Collection liner is legitimately amazing for the price. It's ultra-pigmented and fluid (I, for one, have had this in my makeup bag for six months and it has yet to dry out or get goopy), and the long-wearing formula lasts all day long. Plus, it also comes equipped with an ultra-precise fine-tipped applicator that makes creating a cat eye or graphic look a breeze. For a quality product that costs less than lunch, it's an absolute must.

Type: Pen | Shades: 1 | Free of: Sulfates, parabens, oil | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Splurge: Byredo Technical Black Eyeliner

Byredo Technical Black Eyeliner
What We Like
  • Vegan formula

  • Long wearing

  • Precision tip applicator

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

When luxury fragrance brand Byredo launched cosmetics in late 2020, we all collectively squealed with delight. Just like the rest of their product offering, this liquid liner does not disappoint. Sure, it’s a little pricey, but it delivers incredible pigment payoff, with just a single stroke needed to create a killer eye look. The vegan formula won’t transfer, smudge, flake, or fade for up to an impressive 12 hours, and it comes equipped with a flexible, high-precision tip for expert application. It certainly doesn’t hurt that the formula is 99.2% natural and free of nasty additives and preservatives.

Type: Pen | Shades: 2 | Free of: Sulfates, parabens, oil | Size: 0.05 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Luxury: Christian Louboutin Luminous Ink Liner

Luminous Ink Liner KOHL 0.135 oz/ 4 mL
What We Like
  • Flocked applicator

  • Great color payoff

  • Long wearing

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

Okay, at $75, this is definitely the most luxurious liquid liner on the list, but this Christian Louboutin ink has a soft and flexible texture along with a gorgeous glossy finish. Plus, its innovative flocked applicator allows you to draw on lines with precision and just the right amount of color payoff. It has a glowing reputation which confirms that the steep price tag is certainly warranted. Plus, can we talk about this absolutely stunning packaging? Trust, you'll want to keep this one out on display.

Type: Inkpot | Shades: 2 | Size: 0.01 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: No

Best Satin Finish: Fenty Beauty Flyliner Longwear Liquid Eyeliner in Cuz I'm Black

Fenty Beauty
What We Like
  • Easy to hold

  • Super-flex felt tip applicator

  • Great color payoff

What We Don't Like
  • Only available in black

This hyper-saturated, water-resistant liquid eyeliner has everything that you want in a liner and then some. It has a smart triangle shape that makes it easy to hold, and it features a super-flex felt tip (a Fenty Beauty exclusive) that allows for a smooth, uninterrupted ink flow from every angle while the tapered shape allows you to get creative with line thickness. It delivers the color intensity of a liquid with the glide of a gel, putting this one at the top of our list.

Type: Pen | Shades: 1 | Free of: Parabens, oil | Size: 0.02 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Long-Lasting: Eyeko Black Magic Liquid Eyeliner

eyeko black magic liquid eyeliner
What We Like
  • Long lasting

  • Encourages lash growth

  • Great color payoff

What We Don't Like
  • Only comes in black

In case you're not already familiar with Eyeko, it's a British beauty brand that makes some seriously stellar eye products. Even though it comes from a Brit brand, this eyeliner was developed in Japan and inspired by traditional calligraphy brushes. The inky black liquid is waterproof, fade-proof, and long-lasting. Plus, its formula even contains peptides and encourages lash growth, which we think is pretty brilliant.

Type: Pen | Shades: 1 | Free of: Sulfates, parabens | Size: 0.07 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Oily Lids: KVD Vegan Beauty Tattoo Liner

Kat Von D Tattoo Liner
What We Like
  • Vegan formula

  • Long wearing

  • Available in various shades

What We Don't Like
  • Not as many shades as other options

Here's another insanely well-loved eyeliner. It still ranks as one of Sephora's best-selling liquid liners. It's opaque, fade-, melt-, and crack-proof, but what we love most about it is that it's 100% vegan and cruelty-free, just like all other Kat Von D products. Be sure to check out our exclusive interview with the makeup entrepreneur, all about her commitment to ethical beauty. 

Type: Pen | Shades: 3 | Free of: Sulfates, talc, oil | Size: 0.02 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Waterproof: EM Cosmetics All Day Wear Felt Tip Illustrative Eyeliner

EM Cosmetics Felt Tip Illustrative Eyeliner
What We Like
  • Easy-to-control felt tip applicator

  • Great color payoff

  • Vegan formula

What We Don't Like
  • May smudge on oily lids

Em Cosmetics is Michelle Phan's beauty brand and brainchild (you know, the makeup blogger and entrepreneur extraordinaire?). Our former editorial director, Faith Xue, swears by the brand's felt-tip liquid liner, which was inspired by comic art pens and their bold, one-stroke color. Subsequently, this liner creates a beautifully opaque graphic line, dries down quickly, and stays put thanks to a waterproof formula. Did we mention it's also cruelty-free and vegan?

Type: Pen | Shades: 1 | Free of: Sulfates. parabens, oil | Size: 0.02 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Waterproof, Runner-Up: Pat McGrath Labs Perma Precision Liquid Eyeliner

Pat McGrath
What We Like
  • Long wearing

  • Dries quickly

  • Precision tip applicator

What We Don't Like
  • Only comes in black

Leave it to Pat McGrath to create the perfect waterproof liquid eyeliner. This heavily pigmented liner has a precision tip that makes it easy to apply, whether you're an eyeliner pro or not. It gives you the flexibility to create ultra-fine velvety lines or to layer up for a more dramatic look. The slick formula lasts up to 24 hours (!) with little to no smudge, so feel free to leave it at home while you dance the night away—no need to reapply!

Type: Pen | Shades: 1 | Free of: Parabens | Size: 0.4 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Colorful: Dior DiorShow On Stage Liner

dior diorshow eyeliner
What We Like
  • Available in various shades and finishes

  • Long wearing

  • Hybrid tip applicator

What We Don't Like
  • Reviewers note it dries out fast

This Dior liquid liner, which joins the many other formulas the brand already boasts, is an ink pen version. What's unique about this one is that it comes in three different finishes. There's matte, vinyl (or glossy), and pearl, which has tiny light-reflecting bits suspended throughout. Also, if you're bored with plain black liner, there are a whole host of fun colors to try, including bubblegum pink, kelly green, and bright turquoise.

Type: Pen | Shades: 6 | Free of: Parabens, oil | Size: 0.01 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Double-Duty: Tarte Tarteist Double Take Eyeliner

TARTE Tarteist™ Double Take Eyeliner
What We Like
  • Long wearing

  • Great for travel

  • Available in various shades

What We Don't Like
  • Not as many shades as other options

Leave it to Tarte to master the art of creating a two-in-one eyeliner. This dual-sided liner gives you the best of both worlds: One side has the brand's traditional black pencil liner, while the other is equipped with a long-wearing waterproof liquid liner. For those who wear both pencil and liquid liner day-to-day, consider this the perfect way to declutter your makeup drawer (plus, it makes a great travel companion).

Type: Dual-sided pen | Shades: 3 | Free of: Parabens | Size: 0.02 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Design: Almay Liquid Eyeliner

almay liquid liner
What We Like
  • Affordable

  • Long wearing

  • Ophthalmologist-tested

What We Don't Like
  • Not as many shades as other options

Have you ever used a liquid eyeliner pen, only for it to run out of pigment mid-application? Then you have to tilt it upside down, so the liquid can reach the pen tip, before trying to apply it again. That's annoying. An easy way to get around that is to buy an eyeliner that comes in this inkpot packaging. All you have to do is dip the pen tip into the liquid for smooth (never dry or flaky) application.

Type: Inkpot | Shades: 2 | Free of: Sulfates, oil | Size: 0.1 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Sensitive Eyes: Clinique Pretty Easy Liquid Eyelining Pen

Pretty Easy Liquid Eyelining Pen 01 Black
What We Like
  • Long wearing

  • Ophthalmologist-tested

  • Precision brush applicator

What We Don't Like
  • Not as many shades as other options

This Clinique product was made for people who don't like liquid eyeliner. It applies smoothly and opaque, with lots of control thanks to the thick tube. Plus, the formula promises an impressive 24 hours of wear, delivering a precise, dramatic line with every swipe. Also nice: It's also free of parabens and synthetic fragrances and is ophthalmologist-tested, making it a great pick for sensitive eyes.

Type: Pen | Shades: 1 | Free of: Parabens, talc, oil | Size: 0.07 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Precision: CoverGirl Get In Line Liquid Eyeliner

CoverGirl Get in Line Liquid Eyeliner
What We Like
  • Contour grip for easy application

  • Dries quickly

  • Long wearing

What We Don't Like
  • May be difficult to add multiple coats

This CoverGirl pick is one of the more popular liquid eyeliners, which now comes in chic new packaging with a contour grip to allow for easier application. It has a super-tiny .1 mm tip, which makes it great for drawing a thin and precise line. We're also big fans of its quick-drying formula, which keeps rogue smudges and feathering from happening. All in all, it's a must.

Type: Inkpot | Shades: 2 | Free of: Parabens, talc, oil | Size: 0.08 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Longwear: Beauty Bakerie Lollipop Eyeliner

Beauty Bakerie
What We Like
  • Precision tip applicator

  • Safe for sensitive eyes

  • Great color payoff

What We Don't Like
  • Only comes in black

The results are in, and this smudge-proof waterproof eyeliner truly stays put until you want it off. The felt tip applicator serves up smoldering ink black and precision lines that are perfect for creating a cat eye. The best part of all? Unlike many other waterproof formulas on the market, this gem is safe for sensitive eyes. Plus, it comes packaged as a too-cute lollipop. How can we resist?

Type: Pen | Shades: 1 | Free of: Sulfates, parabens, oil | Size: 0.1 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Final Verdict

When it comes to liquid eyeliners, you want a product that’s easy to apply, deposits the perfect amount of pigment, and stays in place all day long. That’s why we’re giving top honors to the Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eye Liner, a Byrdie-editor favorite that applies smoothly and will last through anything—even a swim. Another liner we love is the Maybelline Eye Studio Master Precise Liquid Eyeliner, a true drugstore gem with a pigment-rich formula that’s both smudge-proof and waterproof. Have yet to master the perfect cat eye? The L'Oréal Paris Infallible Super Slim Liquid Eyeliner is super easy to apply, equipped with a soft felt tip that makes painting on those angles—or whatever lines and shapes you desire—a breeze.

What to Look For in a Liquid Eyeliner

Texture

When it comes to choosing a liquid eyeliner, celebrity makeup artist Kirin Bhatty suggests first looking at the texture, finding one that's best suited for both your skill level and desired look. “A cream formula dries less quickly, so you have more time to adjust it,” she says. “Liquid liners in a pen format dry more instantly but allow for sharper lines.” Consider opting for a pen for a graphic eyeliner look, and if you have yet to perfect your cat eye, try reaching for a cream.

Applicator

Another factor Bhatty takes into consideration is the applicator of the eyeliner, which will vary from product to product. Some come with built-in brushes, while others come in the form of a felt tip pen. Both can be great for achieving a multitude of looks, so choosing between the two is really more of a personal preference (though, pen formats tend to be easier for beginners to control). “This is such a personal thing,” she says. “For me, I love using either an angled liner brush or a very sharp tipped pen.”

Intensity

Because liquid liners are typically used to create bolder looks than their pencil counterparts, Bhatty also considers the intensity of a formula before making a purchase. “I like a rich, inky, deep black for liner—the deeper and more vibrant, the better.” Of course, liners come in many colors, but you’ll want something richly pigmented in order to really make your look pop. 

FAQ
  • How do you apply liquid eyeliner?

    New to applying liquid eyeliner? The best way to approach application is to first rest the elbow of the arm you’ll be applying the liner with on a flat surface to steady your hand. Use your other hand to gently pull your eye taut (no tugging!) and begin by applying small dots or dashes as close to the lash line as possible. Extend these dots from the outer corner of the eyes at a slight angle towards the end of the eyebrow, and then connect with short strokes to create a winged look. While you can start your line anywhere from the inner corner to the midpoint of the lash line, you’ll generally want to keep lines thinner at the start, thickening as you reach the outer corners.

  • Can you put liquid eyeliner in your waterline?

    Liquid eyeliners aren't intended to be used on the waterline, though you can use them to line the lash line. When it comes to the waterline, Bhatty suggests reaching for a pencil, especially one with a formula specifically intended for this sensitive part of the eye.

  • How long does liquid eyeliner last?

    Like mascara, liquid eyeliners have a much shorter shelf life than other cosmetics and should be replaced every three to six months. Because the formula is liquid, it’s more prone to inhibiting bacterial growth, which can lead to irritation or even an eye infection.

Meet the Expert

Kirin Bhatty is a makeup artist in Los Angeles, California. You can find her work in numerous fashion editorials and on many red carpets, and her celebrity clientele includes Tessa Thompson, Freida Pinto, and Kaya Scodelario.

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