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This past year, eye makeup has been “in.” Since we’re all wearing masks, there’s no reason to wear lip makeup.
This gives makeup enthusiasts an excuse to play up their eyes. Because of this, you may be looking for a new eyeliner. Here’s how to choose the best eye pencil as well as how to apply eyeliner, our favorite eyeliner looks, and some of our recommendations.
How Do You Apply Eyeliner Pencils?
Everyone has a different method.
Me personally, when I apply pencil eyeliner on the top lid, I stretch the outer corner of my lid out slightly to easily apply the liner. Some sources say this entices wrinkles, but others say as long as you’re gentle, it’s fine. Just to be safe, I make sure to use an eye cream twice daily.
You can also use the side of the pencil instead of the tip for a smoother line.
For the bottom lid, I pull down my bottom lid slightly and apply the liner on my waterline. Then, I apply a little liner on the actual lash line.
The nice aspect about pencil eyeliner is they’re flexible. You can apply them however you want. I will discuss a few different eyeliners looks you can do in another section.
Should You Use Pencil Eyeliner on the Top Lid?
Many people prefer using liquid or gel liner on the top lid (I will discuss this more later in another section). Does that mean you should avoid using pencil liner on the top lid? This depends on your preference and the look you want.
I personally use an eyeliner pencil on the top lid when I want a natural look. I use a liquid liner if I want something with more drama.
Eyeliner pencils are also the easiest to apply, so they’re a great option for beginners. You can also practice some eyeliner techniques, such as a wing, before moving to a liquid or gel eyeliner.
Different Eyeliner Looks
Pencil eyeliner is great because you can accomplish so many looks using this product alone. Here are a few of our favorite looks:
This is my favorite look to do with a pencil liner. This is a subtle look that’s flattering on everyone. You can also choose to smudge your liner, which will give your eyes a bit more smokiness. This is a look that everyone can do, and it’s ideal for all occasions.
If you want to take your eyeliner look up to the next level, choose a thick liner look. You’ll look more dramatic and applying thick eyeliner is super easy. Feel free to add some thick mascara or fake lashes to complete your look. This can be done with a winged liner, which brings us to our next section.
The winged liner is such a classic look that’s flattering on everyone. It’s always very chic and stylish.
Winged liner differs from long line liner (I will cover this next) because the wings on the winged liner are usually pretty small.
Still, doing a winged liner can be daunting at first. That’s why I suggest trying it with a pencil liner before switching to liquid or gel.
Keep in mind, the MUA on this tutorial is demonstrating the winged liner with a felt tip eye pencil. However, her advice is really good, and you can easily try this with a pencil liner before a felt tip.
Once you perfect the winged liner, you can do a long line look for more drama. This eyeliner is exactly how it sounds — it looks similar to winged liner, except the line is extremely long. The look is exaggerated but still elegant. You can draw the line straight out or curve it the same way you do winged liner.
I can’t find a tutorial for this specific look, but I just follow the typical winged liner look and extend the wing further for a long-line look.
For the ultimate edgy look, apply liner all-around your eyes. In short, this look entails a thin line of liner across the top and bottom lash line. This is an easy look that anyone can do, and you’ll look ready for the night.
If your eye pencil has a smudged end or you have a separate smudge brush, you can easily smudge out your liner for a smoky look. This look is super sexy and is easier to do than you think. It’s a perfect look to do when you’re going out.
I tried watching a ton of these smoky eye tutorials, but I think Julia Adams has the best one. She does a brown/neutral smoky liner look, which is beautiful yet subtle enough for beginners. While she does mainly smoke out shadow, she also smokes out her eyeliner.
If you want to get creative and do a super futuristic look, the fishtail liner looks like something out of this world! The top line starts off like a typical winged liner, but you mimic that exact look on your lower lash line.
I love using colored liners and I find myself using more of them lately. This look is totally 80s and you can easily add a pop of color without messing with eyeshadow. You can find just about any eyeliner color out there to color the town!
If you want to make your eyeliner extra edgy, try the graphic arrow look. You’ll start applying the liner like a cat-eye/winged look, except you’ll extend the wing into your crease.
Keep in mind, this MUA is using a liquid liner for her look, but you can follow her advice with a pencil liner.
Floating crease eyeliner is exactly what it sounds like. You’re drawing a separate line on your crease that isn’t connected to the liner on your top or bottom lash line.
It’s a very unconventional look, always looks super cool, and is easier to do than you think. All you have to do is draw a line of eyeliner on your crease, and that’s it! If you want it to not look as dramatic, smudge out the eyeliner.
Reverse (Reverse Winged)
This can either be a simple reverse liner or a reverse winged liner. In short, the thickest line is on your lower lash line and the top lash line has little-to-no eyeliner. If you’re doing a reverse winged liner, extend the liner upward.
MUA Painted by Spencer by far does the best tutorial on this, using black eyeliner on the lower lash and teaching you how to smoke it out. The end result looks absolutely amazing.
What to Look for in an Eyeliner
We’ll be going over some of our favorite eyeliners in another section, but it’s important that you know the different qualities you should look for in an eyeliner.
As stated previously, you can find eyeliner in just about any color.
There’s no right color to look for; it all comes down to personal preference. Black and deep brown are the most preferred colors, though you can find a myriad of fun colored eyeliners out there. Green, lilac, peach, and blue are other popular favorites.
Your eyeliner should be soft and buttery, so it applies beautifully. This will also give you the best and most even finish. A soft liner won’t drag or pull on the skin.
Another reason to pay attention to liner texture is the liner will easily smoke out. You’ll also want to find a liner that won’t budge and sets in place quickly. For many, that’s a waterproof liner, which brings us to our next point.
Eyeliners are available in two main formulas: washable and waterproof.
Waterproof eyeliner stays on longer, but you’ll need a great makeup remover to wash it off. If you live in a humid environment or you wear contacts, you’ll likely prefer waterproof eyeliner. Otherwise, if you want something that washes off easily, opt for a washable eyeliner.
Just because an eyeliner is waterproof doesn’t mean it will last all day, and just because eyeliner is washable doesn’t mean it will disappear quickly. That’s why you should find an eyeliner with great staying power. How do you find an eyeliner with great staying power? What I do is read reviews and try samples as much as possible.
To find eyeliner samples, Sephora has a beauty insider program where you earn points on your purchases, then redeem them for sample-sized products. Yes, Sephora also gives away eyeliners. That’s actually how I found the Marc Jacobs eyeliner, which will be on this list.
You can also ask around for recommendations. I discovered great brands that way. You can also read reviews like this article and watch YouTube videos for recommendations. Finally, look for labels on the products such as “smudge-proof.”
Regardless of the liner you use, always prep your eyes first. I swear by primer and powdering under your eyes. This article goes into more detail on proper prep for eyeliner longevity.
A great eyeliner shouldn’t break the bank. That’s why the price is one of the most essential factors to look for. And just because eyeliner is cheap doesn’t mean it isn’t good. I have a couple of affordable and drugstore brands on here.
Where you buy eyeliner also matters. Many people like the convenience of running into the nearest drugstore to buy their eyeliner. I personally don’t mind taking the trip to Sephora to buy my makeup, but this isn’t always possible for everyone.
In addition, some makeup brands are only available online. Ordering makeup online is convenient. Sure, you have to wait to receive your products, but it’s often worth it.
Some people swear by their favorite brands, like me with Urban Decay. If this is your case, then try eyeliners from your favorite brands. If you like their other products, then you will likely fall in love with their eyeliner.
There are other reasons to continue supporting your favorite brands. Maybe their products last a long time, maybe they’re in your price range, many brands are switching to vegan/cruelty-free, and some brands even give back to others.
Eye and Skin Type
As with all types of makeup, you have to take your skin type into consideration. This is especially true with your eye area. For example, I have sensitive eyes and have to be careful with the eyeliners I use. Urban Decay, Marc Jacobs, and Make Up For Ever liners don’t irritate my eyes and I’m willing to shell out the money for them.
But if I’m on a budget, I choose Sephora Collection and Nyx liners (though I’m so-so about Nyx).
Another common concern for most is oily skin. Even though my skin is normal-to-dry, I live in a humid environment, so I tend to use waterproof and smudge-proof liners. Using long-lasting eyeliners ensures the pigment won’t transfer or fade because of oily eyes.
Sharpenable vs Retractable Eyeliner
When shopping for eyeliner, you’ll likely see both sharpenable and retractable eyeliner. Which is the best option?
This depends on personal preference. I like both, honestly. Retractable eyeliners are more convenient because you don’t have to worry about sharpening them. Not only that, but sharpenable eyeliners usually require a specialty sharpener, so you don’t damage your eye pencil.
Why Opt for Pencil Over Liquid or Gel
As you can see from the videos I attached earlier, liquid and gel liners are extremely popular. So, why use a pencil over these formulas? I will first start off by saying all of this is based on personal preference. I use a pencil for certain things and a liquid liner for others.
First, you have to consider where you’re using the liner. I can’t stress this enough: don’t use liquid or gel liners on the waterline for both the upper and lower waterlines. Always use a pencil for this! But there are other reasons to use a pencil liner. I think pencil liners are more versatile. I use a pencil for a natural and simple look. Pencils are also great for smudging if I want a dramatic look. And as I’ve been saying, eye pencils are easier to use than liquid and gel formulas.
There are some downsides to using pencil liners. For example, running and bleeding are more common with pencil liners, so I only use a little bit of the pencil on my lower lash line.
Liquid and gels are better for certain purposes. I use my liquid eye pen on the upper lid, especially for cat eyes, because liquid liners won’t skip, feather, or pull on your eyelid. Liquid eye pens have a more intense color, making them great for cat eyes and winged looks.
Keep in mind that you can find more pencil liners with that same rich pigment. I also use my liquid eye pen a lot for natural liner as well as extravagant liner. I guess this all has to do with the product I feel will complete my look best.
I honestly never use gel liner. I actually only used gel liner when I worked at Sephora. Because of sanitation concerns, we were never allowed to use liquid liner on clients, but we could sanitize a brush and the eyeliner gel.
I will say, most gels are also heavily pigmented and are soft, like a liquid liner. But I just think liquid liners are easier to apply.
Best Eyeliner Pencils
We finally come to the point where I can start recommending eyeliner pencils! Here are my personal favorites.
Urban Decay 24/7 Eyeliner
There’s a reason why these classic Urban Decay eyeliners are my number one choice. I have never found a formula as creamy as these liners. The color is also extremely rich and pigmented. I actually have a variety of different colors of these liners. They’re overall very easy to use, including the colored ones.
While I wouldn’t say this eyeliner lasts 24/7, it does withstand oil and water well and will last a long time. These liners are great for both the waterline and the lash lines, so you can create a variety of different looks. These liners do smudge a little bit but not too much.
Sephora Collection Waterproof Retractable Eyeliner
The black liner I’m using now is actually a Sephora Collection liner! For the price, it’s very impressive. While the color isn’t as pigmented as the Urban Decay liners, I think they last longer and don’t smudge as much.
This eyeliner also applies smoothly. The texture is very waxy, so it’s ideal for the top and bottom lash line. Sephora Collection liners are available in a wide range of colors, but I still recommend the UD-colored liners if you want something more pigmented.
Marc Jacobs Fineliner
If you’re specifically looking for an eyeliner for the waterline, I can’t stress the Marc Jacobs Fineliner enough.
The liner is extremely pigmented and has a creamy texture, even though the liner is small and stiff when you first apply it. You can create a look that’s either natural or dramatic, and the formula is powerful enough to where it won’t budge.
Make Up For Ever Aqua Resist Color Pencil
Now I think these pencils are better for the waterline/tightlining than wearing on the lash line. They’re extremely long lasting, smudge-proof, and can really resist water. They also glide on the waterline effortlessly.
However, they’re not the most pigmented. This is really surprising because Make Up For Ever is a brand that usually has rich pigments. That and the color selection isn’t as impressive as Urban Decay’s or even Sephora Collections.
Nyx Eye Pencil
I’ve said this before, but I’ve had hit-or-miss experiences with all Nyx products, but especially their eyeliners. Most of their liners work well, are highly pigmented, and are extremely blendable. And for their cheap price, you can’t go wrong!
But I’ve had a few that had less-than-perfect colors that weren’t pigmented. For example, if you use a white liner to brighten, I wouldn’t suggest the Nyx one because you really have to press on the liner to get color. Their other colors work fine, especially if you choose a fun color. Another pro of these liners is the Nyx line has a wide selection of colors.
The other thing I will say is their liners aren’t the creamiest. If you love that buttery feeling, I suggest using the Urban Decay liners. But these are definitely good liners if you’re new to eyeliner and don’t want to spend a lot of money or if you need a simple eyeliner and are on a budget.
Eye makeup is seriously trending, which means you’ll want to know how to find the best eye pencil.
But choosing and applying eyeliner can be daunting if you’re a beginner. I recommend starting with a pencil to perfect the techniques, then switching to liquid or gel if you desire. Be sure to check out our eyeliner recommendations!