Eyeliner 101: Find the Best Tool for You

With so many different options of liner out there, choosing the right one can be overwhelming — which is best for a smokey eye? What do you use for a sophisticated, classy style? What about that crazy look you are cooking up for a night out?

It all makes sense once you know the various formulations of liner and what each can accomplish. Here is a look at the products available and how each one can help you create the looks that will have everyone talking. Let’s get you educated! 

Pencil eyeliner

Pencils are a must-have for every makeup bag. Used to achieve any look from soft and smudgy to deep and dramatic, pencils are easy to use and great for beginners and pros alike. Pencil liners allow you to line inside the eye, around the lash line, and can even be used as a base to intensify any eye shadow. They come in a variety of formulations ranging from typical wax formulas to traditional Kohl’s and, now, even long-wear waterproof options. The trick with pencils is to be sure you are choosing the formula that works in your environment and its placement in your makeup design. For inside the eye, my preference is Kohl or waterproof because both tend to be longer-wearing and more densely packed with pigment. Always be sure your pencil is sharpened and sanitary. Hold it like a writing pencil and use the whole tip, not just the point, to draw in your desired shape.

Liquid liners

Liquid eyeliners are a classic cosmetic product. First developed for use in film, they were integral in the iconic makeup looks of the fifties and sixties. Liquid eyeliners are great for applying sophisticated cat-eye looks, soft kitten kicks of color, or any of the sharp lines or graphic shapes we are seeing this season. Highly pigmented, these liners can look less dimensional than other types and come off a little flat, but they can be combined with other formulations to achieve more dimensional looks. Liquid eyeliners require a more steady hand and precise application. For more control, try the options in a more modern pen-style applicator. Another tip to make applying a bit easier; create the shape with taupe eye shadow first and trace right over it with your liquid.

Gel eyeliner

There is a heated debate in the beauty world when it comes to gel eyeliner vs traditional liquid eyeliner, but I believe they are not interchangeable. Each has very different properties and finishes. Liquid eyeliner lovers can’t get enough of the immediately sharp line that liquid will make. Gel eyeliner tends to be more generous and pliable, allowing you to build your line to the desired amount of drama. Gel eyeliner can also be easier for those that are not as skilled in liner application. It allows for more versatility and can be used to create crisp hard lines or less dramatic, smokey effects. I also love dotting gel eyeliner along the lash line to create the illusion of a thicker lash. Gels tend to be long-lasting and waterproof, but unlike a liquid, they require the use of an additional brush.

Cream liner

Cream liners are the close cousin of gel liners. They tend not to have the durability or wear of the gel formula, but many artists consider cream liner and gel liner to be interchangeable.

Powder eyeliner

Powder eyeliners offer endless possibilities and come in a variety of packages. They can be applied by choosing your favorite eye shadow and applying with a stiff angled brush the way you would use any other liner. This allows you to employ an endless array of colors and textures to achieve any makeup you might wish to design. Powders are ideal for a smokey eye and tend to be long-lasting. They can also be combined with other liner formulations to achieve the red carpet looks of your favorite celebrities.

People have been wearing pigment on their eyes since the time of ancient Egypt, and there may be no makeup more powerful in creating an impactful look. In one immediate swoop, eyeliner can reshape an eye, adding depth and dimension. While every formula has its own identity and advantages, my recommendation is to combine a few formulations for a look that is not only longer-lasting, but has presence and placement that is unforgettable.

Cart Checkout

Your Cart