Liquid Eyeliner vs Pencil Eyeliner

Which is Best, Which is Better for Beginners, and How to Find Your Perfect Look!

woman holding multiple makeup brushes

Are you team liquid or team pencil? It seems those who have already found their favorite eyeliner have it on hand as one of their staple beauty products in order to achieve their favorite looks. But if you haven’t already found your favorite, this article will help you understand the pros and cons of each, and what looks you can expect to achieve with both. Here is our take on liquid eyeliner vs pencil eyeliner.

Below, we’ve broken down some topics ranging from ease of application, pigment types, and wearability. 

Liquid Eyeliner

liquid eyeliner

Let’s first talk about liquid eyeliner. A good quality liquid eyeliner typically delivers a darker and richer color with a precise application tip. Generally, liquid liner falls into two categories; one with a felt tip-like pen or a pot of richly pigmented color applied with a brush. 

A tip with a point definitely delivers a more precision and is great for things like these e-girl eyeliner looks; however, some prefer the pot and brush method for intense color without the need for exact application.

Applying Liquid Eyeliner For Beginners

For those delving into liquid eyeliner application and who need a visual first, a good place to start is this great video, from pro makeup artist Danie Chinchilla. Danie breaks down the steps and techniques he uses to achieve 3 different and easy looks using a cult favorite, KVD Vegan Tattoo Liner. Watch his Youtube video here.

The key points to take away are:

  • Holding the tip/brush horizontal to the eye
  • Start in the middle of the lash line and work your way out
  • Be sure to stay as close to the lash line as possible
  • Start with small/light strokes, building as you go

Pros and Cons of Liquid Eyeliner

lady justice holding her scales


It lasts a looonnng time and can create dramatic and precise looks. A waterproof liquid liner can easily last all day and into the evening (but don’t forget eye primer!) This is especially great in the warm summer months, or for anyone who’s dancing into the evening! With a little eye primer, or even translucent powder before applying a good liquid liner will look as fresh as when you applied.


It can be tricky to perfect the application and requires a more steady hand to get those really defined looks. Although it boasts greater wearability than a pencil, it can easily smudge during the application process. Also, if you have a unique eye shape, it takes a little practice to find what works best for you.

Our Advice:

Use a liquid liner if you’re looking for cutting-edge precision lines. Always apply the liquid AFTER eyeshadow to ensure the line stays crisp and doesn’t blend together. Look for a felt tip pen, and practice a few strokes on the side of your hand to gauge the pressure needed to achieve your desired look.

The Best Looks for Liquid Eyeliner

a bold, winged liquid eyeliner look with red eyeshadow

Liquid liner can give you some precision looks ranging from the fox eyeliner trend to the double wing. Try out the below trends and find your perfect liquid look!

  • The double wing — why stop at one? For an even more dramatic look, try applying that signature flick to both the top and bottom corners of your eye.
  • Fox eyeliner — be sure to use a felt tip liquid pen for this trend, as it requires a very thin line
  • Thick Winged Liner — think Amy Winehouse and 1960s vibes that’ll turn heads and bring all the drama!

Pencil Eyeliner

image depicting a dark blue smoky pencil eyeliner look

Now let’s delve into the tried and true pencil eyeliners. They’ve come a long way over the years and remain an excellent application choice for makeup beginners and pros alike. Many celebrities and pro makeup artists still use a great pencil eyeliner (i.e. Makeup by Mario) as their tried and true product to complete a finished look.

Pencil eyeliner can blend easily and come with handy built-in ends like brushes for smudging, and/or sharpening. 

Pros and Cons of Pencil Eyeliner

artsy photo of a woman wearing eyeliner with different colors of paint on her hands and face


Pencil eyeliner comes in a variety of creamy textures to ensure a velvety application. It can be easily smudged or blended to create smoky and sultry looks, and can even be applied by brush or cotton round to create different effects.


Pencil eyeliner tends to smudge during application and needs an extra oomph for setting power. Many formulas fade during the day, especially for those with hooded eyes where the lid may cause more contact with the liner. 

Our Advice:

Use pencil eyeliner if you want a more smoky or blended look, or if you are lining your lower lids. To add some extra staying power, try a setting spray applied after eyeliner application, but before mascara.

The Best Looks for Pencil Eyeliner

image depicting pencil eyeliner

A classic pencil eyeliner can be sure to provide you with a beautiful smoky eye look or even the trendy ‘transparent’ eyeliner seen on runways and models alike.

  • Transparent eyeliner — The original Tik Tok look is achieved using only concealer to create a ‘negative space’ type look, however you can achieve similar results with a lighter color or nude pencil. The barely there trend leaves a translucent effect, while still framing the eyes. Check out this article by Glamour, showing you some beautiful variations on this summer’s newest eyeliner look.
  • The smoky eye — an oldie but a goodie! After applying your liner, use a ring finger or brush to smoke out the eye line leaving you with a classic, sultry, gothic eyeliner look. This is also a great alt eyeliner trick!
  • Pop of Color liner — this is a great one for pencil lovers as you can choose from a variety of colors to match your vibe! Apply at only inside corners, or outside edges to give just a pop of unexpected color. 

Gel Eyeliner

Gel eyeliner has gained its own following in recent years and provides the best of both worlds! (we love a win, win!) Many formulas last all day providing great wearability and come in a variety of creamy and velvety formulas making application a breeze for anyone. 

Bobbie Brown Long Wear Gel Eyeliner is quickly becoming a sensation with its highly pigmented formula that lasts all day. It has over 100,000 likes on Sephora, and the beauty guru herself has made this a staple in her own daily look. Check out her IG for tips & tricks in applying this great formula, as well as how to get some of this season’s newest eyeliner looks!

The Best Looks for Gel Eyeliner

neon, graphic eyeliner in orange, gold, and blue

Gel eyeliner is great for a wide variety of looks, including those looking for a more natural and subtle eye, or those seeking something more colorful and bold. Take a look at some of the below trends, grab your favorite gel liner and glide on some of these eye-catching (see what I did there?) looks.

  • Neon eyeliner — Tik Toker approved and seen on celebs from Rihanna to Kylie Jenner, neon liner is all about self-expression and vibrant colors.
  • Floating eyeliner — as seen above, this look is sure to turn heads, and is open to artistic vision!
  • Graphic eyeliner — from geometric shapes to architectural lines, this trend is all about creating new shapes and not being defined by traditional looks.

Wearing Eyeliner Over 50

older woman wearing eyeliner

Those with more mature eyes often think that eyeliner can look too harsh or accentuate lines and wrinkles. But remember, rules were made to be broken! Throw those old antiquated ideas out the door and get ready to use some of these tips to bring eyeliner back into your makeup routine.

  • In order to keep eyes looking wide and bright, apply liner as close to the upper lash line as possible. This will maximize how large your eyes look, regardless of natural eye shape.
  • If applying eyeliner to the lower lash line, stick to the outer ⅓ of the lower lash lid. This accentuates the eye without looking too harsh.
  • If opting for a more natural look go for a gel liner in a more neutral color. Depending on your skin tone shoot for something in a caramel or light brown shade. 

Final Thoughts on Liquid Eyeliner vs Pencil Eyeliner

Both liquid and pencil eyeliner offer unique ways to do your makeup. As for which is better, that’s really up to you. Liquid eyeliner allows for pinpoint precision, while pencil eyeliner is the perfect tool for smudgy, less rigid looks.

Whether you’re a liquid diva or a demure demigoddess, you can achieve this season’s hottest eyeliner looks using some of the tricks above and the right attitude. Rather than choose between liquid or pencil, try out new looks using each. Who knows, you may just start your own trend!