Types of Eyeliners and How to Use Them

Liquid, gel, shadow, pencil…when you’re selecting an eyeliner, there’s a lot to consider! With so many different types to choose from, we know it can be overwhelming, BUT this is not a decision to be taken lightly. It’s important to know what you’re getting yourself into—your choice will have a major impact on the application process and the end result. So, we’re here to break down the pros and cons of each kind—read on to determine which type of eyeliner is the right fit for you!

Liquid Eyeliner


Love dramatic winged liner? Liquid eyeliner may be your best bet! Typically, liquid eyeliner comes in a tube with a very thin brush or fine-tipped marker to apply the product with. Liquid eyeliner offers a bold, slick look and is useful for creating precise lines or the perfect flick. It is regarded as the most difficult to apply since the tiny tip can be a little bit challenging to control. However, if you’ve got a steady hand and a little bit of patience, give liquid eyeliner a go!

  1. Start at the middle of the eye, as tight to the lash line as you can get, and use short strokes as you make your way from the middle to the outer corner of your eye.
  2. Next, go to the inner corner of your eye and again use short strokes to connect the liner from the inner corner to the middle of your eye (where you first started).

If you’re a beginner, we recommend starting with pencil eyeliner and working your way up to liquid eyeliner. Practice makes perfect— once you’re able to master liquid eyeliner, it’s amazing for Arabic makeup and killer cat eyes!


Pencil Eyeliner

New to the eyeliner game? Pencil eyeliner is where it’s at! Pencil eyeliners are the most commonly used because they’re the easiest to control. They work just like any other pencil does, except they’re safe (and much gentler!) on the eyes. To apply, simply draw along your lash line. Sharpen your pencil as needed. Be advised though, regardless of how sharp you get your pencil, you won’t be able to achieve the same level of precision as you would with liquid eyeliner. The result will be a little less crisp, but that’s the tradeoff for easy application.

Pro Tip: If you want to add color to your waterline, we recommend using a pencil eyeliner.  They come in a variety of colors and are easy to find at your local drugstore. Look for ones that are ophthalmologist tested in order to prevent eye irritation—better to be safe than sorry!

Gel Eyeliner

Is a smoky eye your go to? Gel eyeliner is probably the way to go! Gel eyeliner generally comes in a pot that you can dip into with an angled or otherwise fine-tipped brush. Get the product on your application tool of choice and glide along the lash line for a quick, clean line. The thick, creamy formula is pretty easy to work with and manipulate into whichever eyeliner shape you’re after. Plus, the fact that it’s creamy means it’s easy to smudge (a wonder for smoky eyes!) and usually feels pretty comfortable on the lids. On that note, gel liner does have a tendency to move around a bit and usually takes a little longer to dry—make sure your eyes are primed (especially if you have oily lids!) and try to avoid blinking for a few seconds after you apply to prevent product from transferring.

Pro Tip: Use gel eyeliner as a base under eyeshadow to add intensity to your look and give it a little more staying power.

Eyeshadow Eyeliner


A fan of simple and subtle? Look no further than your nearest black eyeshadow! Using eyeshadow to line your lashes is super fast and creates a polished, yet undone, look. Use a stiff angled brush or a small pencil brush to pick up the eyeshadow of your choice and draw or smudge along your lash line. Eyeshadow lining won’t last as long as other eyeliners will, but it’s great for daytime and the color possibilities are endless!

Pro Tip: We don’t recommend using eyeshadow on your waterline—it won’t stick very well and the powder will likely irritate your eyes.

Profile photo of Marlena

CEO of Makeup Geek and Makeup Educator


Comments are now closed on this article.

I love love love love the Urban Decay liners. It stays on all day, and doesn’t smudge almost at all if I rub my eyes from my allergies!

I’m Areej from Palestine
and would be pleasure if u gave me your MSN to ask you bunch of stuff and to be friends
you’re really friendly and helpful
wish you the best
waiting for your reply..bye

Hi Areej :)

I don’t have MSN (not really sure what it is), but the best thing would be to join the forum- there’s tons of great people on there giving help, and I comment on it often :)

Thanks for this review! I’m really interested in cream eyeliners, but I don’t have a steady hand. I can’t do liquid liner. Would you say cream liners are easier than liquid? And do you know an inexpensive eyeliner brushes? Love your site!

i was just curious if anyone knows of any other liquid eyeliner brands that work great? I’m looking for a black liquid eyeliner that doesn’t flake off and is very cheap to buy… Any help would be deeply appreciated! Thanx a bundle!

I always mix some eyeshadow with a little water if i’me going to use it as a liner. it lasts forever!

I like the Almay Liquid eye liner. It comes with an easy to sue brush in a bottle. I find the tip is the easiest to use of all I’ve used and it’s way cheap and lasts long. It hardly ever comes off… in fact it’s usually the one part of my eye make-up that still looks as good at the end of the day as when I put it on. Well that’s until I started reading this website and using primer…..

hey marlena, i use jordana eyeliner for my waterline, but in less that an hour, i have a ton of black goop in the corner of my eye, and thru out the day i have to constantly check to see if there is black stuff in the corner……is this because it’s not a waterproof liner….if i use the urban deacy, or say a waterproof pencil eyeliner on the waterline, will i get less buildup thru out the day???? thanks this is one of my biggest beauty questions just because one of my good friends works for mac and always has tons of eyeliner on, but it always looks flawless and its never running or in the corner of her eyes

Hey Marlena,
Great video for applying eyeliner. I was just wondering now that you have showed me how to apply great eyeshadow, eyeliner and blush, could you recommend a nice full cover foundation? I have tried thousands and the latest was urban decay sureal skin. By lunch time it has sunk into my pores making them stand out more, my nose looks oily and I look like i have been partying all night!!!!!! I use mac oily skin lotion and smashbox photofinish primer for oily skin, but still cannot get the great coverage i see everyone else with :( any suggestions ??

Thank you

helpful…very helpful…thank ypu!!! my eyelids are oily and it takes some tym to apply the pencil liner…also, wth super watery eyes, its little difficult to apply it on waterline aswell….

Hi Marlena,
I love your make-up tutorials, you are very talented!
I love using eyeliner but my downfall is that most brushes are too rigid or too loose and I struggle to get a nice even steady line.. I also find it sticks to my lashes? – any suggestions?

I also wanted to ask you the name of the brush you used in this video, with the Mac Fluid Line?
The brush you used (angled and slim) looks just what I need!

Many thanks and Best wishes :)

great video…i’d love to seen an answer to glittermonkey78’s question as well. i have that same problem with foundations, pores, etc. also, can you recomment a good site to buy pigments? the best i’ve found so far is http://www.thebodyneeds.com they have 1/4 tsp jars for $1.59. i’ve bought all of their colors, but i want more and haven’t been able to find a site with comparable prices (they’re all way more expensive).

thanks for your time and the wonderful tips.

Marlena I love your videos and I’ve been recommending them to all my friends. Anyway, I recently switched to liquid liner and anyone that is looking for a great high end brand, the MAC liquid liner works great! If you start on the outer corner of your eye and use small strokes it really helps.

You are the best! You really are a guru. Thanks for this. I really am not good with applying eyeliner especially on my upper lashline. Thanks for the tips!

I use RImmel liquid eye liner and the brush is pretty wobbly like you said once i run out im definatley going to pick up Revlon’s. :) thanks so much i love all your videos

Hey guys!
Thanks for the tutorial and input about all these liners. There are sooooo many out there, it is hard to find one that really works well, stays on and goes on easily.
I just want to let others know that if they are looking for a drugstore brand of liquid liner, there is a product called “eye definer” felt-tip eye marker by Physicians Formula. It is used just like a pencil (looks like a pen) and has a nice felt tip to it.

I have this stuff and let me tell you, it does not budge. Just be careful when applying because if you mess up, you are stuck with it. You had better be quick to remove any mess ups because it seriously will not move and driest fast. (from my experience with it anyway) Practice with it first before you go out on the town.

I think it is only available in black and brown.
Ith has a long felt tip that is wider at the base and is pretty pointy at the tip, so depending on how you hold it, you can make a thin line up to a nice chunky line. It all depends on how you hold it and how steady your hand is, so take your time with it. Pretty good stuff!!

I ALWAYS have trouble with liners running/smudging under my eye because my eyes tear alot on the outer corner.
So I hope this helps those who are on a budget. It was around $7 at Wal-mart.

I still plan on trying the Urban Decay 24/7 and MAC fluid line also. I hope they work well for my teary eyes!!
I sure wish I could find that angled Sonia Kashuk liner brush!
Marlena, where do I find one?

hi marlena,

sweetest makeover i hav ever seen on….without paying on from ma pocket.

i hav one query..that one of my eyelid (right) is more oily than other one….(i knw its weird) wen ever
i have applied eyeliner (pencil, gel, liquid) on my eyelid ,it goes like leaving shadow on ma socket skin after an hour or two.

i have even tried to put some powder before applying eyeliner…but its useless…
seeking for your advice for perfect eyeliner look…..


Hi I just found your website and love it!
A drugstore pencil I like that goes on smooth is Prestige Waterproof Automatic and my fav color is Black 01.


i like all ur videos n am also learning makeup from u. first time i had seen urban decay colorful liners can u plzz make video wid colorful liners.

hi umm i seen your videos but they are extreamly gud and i love dem but can you do a liquid eyeliner for beginners cuz i ave problems on putting eyeliner on i watched a lot of videos and there no elp bt ur 1 is a lot elpfull and where do u get you gel eyeliner and that angle brush from itz my first question but please can u do a video plz i reli want 2 knw

I really want to know how much the urban decay eye liners cost and how to aply it cause I don’t really know how to aply it on the top only the bottom.

I was watching your videos on YouTube, and you talk about how great the angled brush is that you use, but I could never catch the brand name. What is it and where do I get it? Is it sold at Sephora? Thank you so much, you are so helpful in helping me to create fun and gorgeous looks! =)

Taryn – the angled brush is by Sonia Kashuk

Marlena – Thank you so much for the tips on eyeliner. I have been using liquid eyeliner for years and I still have so much trouble with it. I was interested in other alternatives and am going to try out the gel liner. Thanks again!

HI I would like to know what do you think about Mac Shadestick, does it work as a primer???
thansk you

I didn’t even know a thing about gel liners until this video.
Thanks so much for teaching me about them (:

Hey, I just started wearing MAC liquid foundation. But it tends to run off on things like my phone. Is there something I could use to make it stay on longer.

this video was sooo helpful! :D

but where can i buy the urban decay liner?
i can’t find it anywhere :/

i really, really thank u alot i had been searching in the internet for some kind of video to teach me how to apply the eyeliner on the top lid and thanks to this site i learned =D !!!!!! thanks many….many thanks

I also found out that if you get the eyeliner at Hot Topic, not the one with two colors.. the single color one(some has glitter).. those are very smooth, creamy and super easy to put on. They come in different colors and only cost $1.99 :]

I use the Loreal Liquid Lineur(FE063Z), It has a very fine brush and goes on even and smooth and stays on all Day. Everyone that I have had try it, LOVES IT. And it is very inexpensive. Love the video and tips.


I Have found the Urban Decay liner at Ulta Beauty. It is about $17.00 and they are always out of it, so that means that it must be good.

hey Marliena , i am a little darker and i was just wondering how can i use different colored eye liner without it looking kinda weird?

Hi Gorgeous Marlina =-)
Few ladies from work use Nyx glitter eye liner everyday in cute colors, now some over do [thick] others apply it onver black liquid eye liner, what’s the right/best way to wear them? Won a raffle beauty basket w/Crystal clear, blue & gold, not sure they are OK to wear on daytime. Please Help!!!

I am just starting out to wear make-up. I was just wondering since I wear contacts if there are any precautions I should be using or looking for. Thanks for your help and I love your videos.

Hey Marlena,

thanks so much for this video. it really helped. I usually wear liquid eyeliner (by Maybeline) however by the middle of the day it’s off one of my eyes. Recently i started putting pencil eyeliner on top of this and it has helped. do you recommend this?

the inexpensive BEST pencil eyeliner is called PRESTIGE WaterProof EyeLiner. its the best one to use inside the waterline. its really smooth and ULTRA black and it stays on like all night. trust me on this one girls…go get it!! its like $4 at cvs. GO GO GO!!

Almay has some great eye liner pencil with built in sharpeners at the end. It goes on very smooth and its about 8$. My fav is purple amethyst.

Hi! Thx for posting that vid! It was very helpful. I have to agree with you, liquid eyeliner is very hard to apply. Can you please give me an e-mail address so that i can ask you some more questions about makeup. THX!!!!!!

Hi Marlena!

I was just wondering is there any cheap eyeliner that is easy to use? I wear glasses and have 2 serious eye conditions, but I really don’t want that to stop me from wearing make-up! I can’t see out of one eye and I can only see a bit out of the other, so I generelly find puting on eye make-up quite hard! You might not have a clue, but i was just curious!

Please Help!
Maeve ?

Hi there Marlena!!

First I want to tell you how much I admire you. Your makeup looks amazing, and you’re a beautiful woman even without it!!
I do have a couple of questions about eyeliner though.

My first question is that when I line my waterline, after a couple of hours it has faded, or totally disappeared. Is there any way to help prevent this, or do I just have to keep fixing it through out the day?

My next question is…I have slightly uneven eyelids, so one of my eyes actually appears slightly smaller than the other. (Not very noticeable to most people, but it is to me!!) It is especially noticeable when I put on eyeliner, because when I make the eyeliner even, it doesn’t match up on my eye. How would I fix this??

Thanks so much :)
<3 Lauren

i love you sooo much i think your amazing.first of all i would like to tell you the best pencil eyeliner that i have ever used and i mean the best is bed head smugdie and it glides on so easy and its super creamy.my question is that i cant find any roll up eyeliners that are creamy and glide on smooth please help me

Have you ever used any of the powder eyeliners from Bare Escentuals? I’ve been thinking of trying those, but I wouldn’t know how to apply those. Thanks again for the vid, it helped out alot.

Hi I was wondering if you could help me, I’m emo…………. but i just can’t seem to figure out how to put on eyeliner, is there a particular brand that you would recommend for me to start of with. Your help would be VERY much appreciated

I have only found Urban Decay at Ulta and Sephora. But you might be able to buy it online.

Believe it or not, Avon has a really good liquid liner. It’s available in black, brown, grey, and navy, I think.

First of all, I want to say that I love your videos, and you are so very talented, beautiful, and a great inspiration!

In almost all of your videos you apply liner to the bottom waterline. I have (what I think are) small eyes. I am always trying to make them stand out and look bigger (love that video! confirms I’ve been doing things right all along!)

My question is: Do you recommend those of us with small eyes apply liner to the bottom waterline?

Heyaa! Thanks for the tips. Do you Know anything about which concealers are good and which aren’t? And how to use them? If so could you please do a video showing how to use themm ??!! Thank you!!

About halfway through the day the eyeliner that I apply to the top of my eyelids ends up on the skin under my eyebrows. I use the Revlon ColorStay liner (which you’d think wouldn’t do that!) and it still does that. Will eye primer rid me of that problem? Thanks!

Your help has been super helpful just wondering if you have any type of magazines that shoulds everything step by step, and what kind of brushes to use.

Thank you.

ok so i use lorial’s brand of liquid eyeliner and it is always flakeing off at the end of the day is there anything i can do about that w/o buying a different kind/brand?? p.s. love the tips they help soo much