We Tested 33 Eyeliners — These 11 Will Give You The Most Precise Lines Imaginable

Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner reigns supreme.

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Best Eyeliner

InStyle / Jhett Thompson

Have you ever ogled over the many, many graphic eyeliner looks that flood Instagram and TikTok, only to try to recreate it and ultimately feel disappointed AF? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. While part of the let-down can admittedly be chalked up to not being a professional makeup artist or beauty influencer (maybe one day!), another big contributor is the actual product you use. After all, some eyeliners lead to sharper lines, longer-lasting wear, and just plainly better results as a whole. 

Before you go analyzing your own stash of eye goodies and comparing it to the top customer reviews at Sephora and Ulta, though, get this: We’ve researched and tested dozens of the top-rated eyeliners on the market to make it easier than ever to know which pen, pencil, or pot to reach for next. 

To narrow down our initial pool of 33 eyeliner contestants, we had a group of 18 testers analyze the eyeliners based on application, pigment, dry time, wear, and ease of removal. Throughout their testing process, they were able to set aside the sub-par eyeliners to make room for the 11 best eyeliners. Of the eyeliners that made the list, the incredibly popular Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner was the clear winner. 

No matter what kind of eyeliner you’re looking for — whether it be liquid, pencil, or gel — uncover the best eyeliners, ahead.

Best Overall

Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eye Liner

Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner


What We Love: The pointed tip dispenses the liquid liner out so seamlessly that it glides on smoothly with every stroke. 

 What We Don’t Love: It requires more than one swipe to create an even, highly-pigmented line.

To give you an idea of just how popular this eyeliner is, on Amazon alone, it touts over 19,000 5-star reviews. When we put it to the test, there were a few things that immediately made it stand out. For starters, the pen itself is a perfect size — it’s not too thin, short, or long, all of which can make application trickier — and fits comfortably in the hand. “It allows you to really work the [tip] effortlessly,” one tester says. “I used it to create a small wing liner and after not doing so for almost three years, this product helped make things easy.”

That’s another thing we love about this top-rated eyeliner: The tip is on the finer side, which makes achieving precise strokes less of a hassle. It also streamlines detailing tight corners (like in the inner eye area) which is essential for mastering the siren eye trend.

Then there’s the fact that it lives up to its long-wear claims. “This liner felt like it dried almost immediately—I had no issues with smearing or caking,” our tester shares. “There is literally no transfer or change from when I first applied it.” 

While many long-wearing eyeliners make for pretty disastrous removal, our tester found that this liquid liner was easy to dissolve. “I quickly removed this product using just a makeup wipe — there was barely any residue left after about two to three swipes, and I didn't have that raccoon eye look at all,” she says. 

The one downside of this product (depending on how you look at it) is that, although the liner is dark in and of itself, to really make an impact, it requires more than one stroke thanks to the thin tip. That said, if you prefer ultra-thin liner, you’ll be even more in love with this liquid liner.

Price at time of publish: $23

Type: Liquid | Shades: 11 | Wear Time: 24 Hours | Waterproof: Yes

Best Value

Maybelline Eye Studio Master Precise Eyeliner


What We Love: It traces on effortlessly and delivers a rich, black swatch of color. 

 What We Don’t Love: Not a single thing.

Who said a high-quality, swoon-worthy eyeliner has to cost over $15 or $20? This drugstore find is —according to over 20,000 Amazon shoppers — unbelievably good. To put it to the test, we looked into how easy it was to apply, how pigmented the liquid liner was itself, and how easy it was to remove (among other things). In every instance, we were blown away by the results. 

“l love how flawless it was to apply with the super thin tip,” one tester says. “It makes it super easy for people who don't really know how to do a cat eye.” What’s more, this liner is richly pigmented, so you don’t have to make multiple passes to create an opaque line. Additionally, it makes transfer woes a worry of the past, as it dries almost instantly and stays put throughout the day. 

Point blank: We wouldn’t change anything about this affordable find. “It’s a great price for one of the best eyeliners around,” another tester adds. “I love this one!”

Price at time of publish: $8

Type: Liquid | Shades: 4 | Wear Time: 24 Hours | Waterproof: Yes

Best Splurge

Charlotte Tilbury Rock ‘N’ Kohl Eyeliner Pencil

Charlotte Tilbury Rock ‘N’ Kohl Eyeliner Pencil


What We Love: It glides on smoothly and doesn’t transfer. 

 What We Don’t Love: It makes for slightly thicker lines, which makes tracing on thin, precise lines a challenge.

This soft kohl liner from Charlotte Tilbury is a fan-favorite for its highly-pigmented formula that glides on effortlessly, blends beautifully immediately after application, and dries down within seconds for long-lasting wear. Of course, we couldn’t merely take the praise from over 40,000+ Sephora shoppers — we had to put it to the test. 

“The application was super smooth; it goes on easily with even application across the lid,” one tester says. “The color did not need to be applied multiple times. It was almost too easy to apply to both the top lid and the waterline without transfer.”

One thing to note, though, is that since this is a kohl pencil liner, it’s slightly thicker than typical liquid or mechanical gel liners, and as such, makes chunkier lines. That said, considering many of the model images associated with the product show buffed-out applications, it seems as though it’s meant for slightly thicker, more blurred wear — don’t let that make you think it’s a smudge-prone mess, though. Once dry, it stays in place for hours on end.

Price at time of publish: $29

Type: Pencil | Shades: 8 | Wear Time: 14 Hours | Waterproof: Yes

Charlotte Tilbury Rock ‘N’ Kohl Eyeliner Pencil

InStyle / Jessica Juliao

Best Pencil

Lancôme Drama Longwear Liqui-Pencil Eyeliner

Lancôme Drama Liqui-Pencil


What We Love: It’s highly pigmented and lasts all day long.

What We Don’t Love: Considering the incredible wear, we wish it came in more bright colors.

If you prefer pencil eyeliners over liquid options, look no further than the Lancôme Drama Liqui-Pencil. The creamy gel formula glides on smoothly and delivers an even, highly-pigmented swatch of color in a single swipe. Speaking of colors, it’s sold in eight shades, which are then broken down into matte, metallic, and glitter options. While eight shades is undeniably a lot in terms of eyeliner, it’s worth mentioning that the majority of the colorways are on the more neutral or autumnal side of things. (So if you’re hoping for a vibrant pop of color, you may want to continue your search in the products below.)

A key highlight of this easy-to-apply (and easy to remove) pencil eyeliner is that, while it’s long-wearing and smudge-proof, immediately after application it remains malleable for a few seconds. As such, it works beautifully for creating blurred lower lashlines and smoky eye looks as a whole. 

Price at time of publish: $22

Type: Gel Pencil | Shades: 8 | Wear Time: 24 Hours | Waterproof: Yes

Lancôme Drama Liqui-Pencil

InStyle / Jessica Juliao

Best Gel

Melt Cosmetics Ultra Matte Gel Eyeliner

Melt Cosmetics Ultra Matte Gel Eyeliner


What We Love: It glides on smoothly and doesn’t transfer while drying down. 

What We Don’t Love: It’s only sold in two colors.

If your idea of gel eyeliner is one that comes in a pot, we have the ultimate formula for you. In our testing, we found that this matte gel eyeliner provides the utmost pigment, not to mention the most precise application. 

“This gel liner has excellent pigment,” one tester says, noting that she could see the intense color after just one application. “Using a flat eyeliner brush, it was easy to pick up product and place some on the back of my hand. I used the flat tip of the brush for the application. It seemed a little wet but glided on seamlessly, didn’t transfer, and dried instantly.”

Although this liner doesn’t transfer or smudge (and can truly be worn all day long as a result), we found that it was very easy to remove using a wipe — no harsh tugging required.

Price at time of publish: $22

Type: Gel | Shades: 2 | Wear Time: 24 Hours | Waterproof: Yes

Melt Cosmetics Ultra Matte Gel Eyeliner

InStyle / Jessica Juliao

Best Waterproof

KVD Vegan Beauty Tattoo Liner

KVD Beauty Tattoo Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner


What We Love: A single swipe makes for a smooth, even, pigmented line. 

 What We Don’t Love: It cracks a tiny bit over time.

The KVD Beauty Tattoo Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner is beloved by over 560,000 Sephora shoppers and is a mainstay in many celebrity MUA kits — and for good reason. The tiny, pointed felt tip dispenses the rich liquid liner in the smoothest, most even way possible, which makes creating neat lines a breeze. And since the tip is so small, this liner lends to ultra-crisp wing application. That said, during our testing, one reviewer did find that the formula cracked a bit within the wing within the first 15 minutes. As such, for a fully opaque wing, you might want to layer it on. 

Tiny crack aside, we found this to be the easiest liquid eyeliner to use of the bunch. “It looked great from beginning to end and was easy to remove with micellar water,” one tester mentions.

Price at time of publish: $23

Type: Liquid | Shades: 2 | Wear Time: 12 Hours | Waterproof: Yes

KVD Vegan Beauty Tattoo Liner

InStyle / Jessica Juliao

Best Clean

NakedPoppy Clean Liquid Eyeliner

Naked Poppy Clean Liquid Eyeliner

Naked Poppy

What We Love: It’s richly pigmented, dries down quickly, and doesn’t transfer. 

What We Don’t Love: It’s only sold in one color.

So often, clean beauty formulas are automatically assumed to be less-pigmented. The Naked Poppy Clean Liquid Eyeliner, though, changes the narrative. “As is the case with any new liquid eyeliner and applicator, it takes more than one pass to get a clean precise line,” one tester admits. “Once the color is filled in, though, it is an easy to wear, bold black color that doesn't immediately fade to gray like other liners.”

Another high point of this product is just how easy it is to apply. “The felt tip and long handle make this product easy to apply with precision,” our tester says. “And since this product dries rather quickly, the liner doesn’t transfer and feels easy to wear without feeling heavy or tight.” Because of this, we not only found this liner to be the top clean option, but a great choice for beginners and experts alike.

Price at time of publish: $25 for a one-time purchase

Type: Liquid | Shades: 1 | Wear Time: 8-12 Hours | Waterproof: No

NakedPoppy Clean Liquid Eyeliner

InStyle / Jessica Juliao

Best for Winged Liner

Kaja Wink Stamp Eyeliner

Kaja Wink Stamp


What We Love: The stamp makes perfecting wing tips easier than ever. 

What We Don’t Love: The eyeliner side of the pen doesn’t glide on as smoothly or evenly as we’d like.

Love the look of wing tips but can’t master the application technique? The Kaja Wink Stamp will make you swoon. This liquid eyeliner features a thin felt tip on one side and an ink-filled wing stamp on the other. “The stamp works well,” one tester marvels. “It makes a nice shape and gives a perfect wing — but, you need to get it precise the first time because double stamping makes it thick.”

As game-changing as the stamp is, we must admit that the pen side of this liner leaves a little to be desired. “While it is fairly pigmented, it does not glide on smoothly and has some bumps and ridges — not bad, but noticeable when pointed out,” another tester reveals. “I would probably use the stamp daily and then connect it with my normal, daily eyeliner.”

One more thing to keep in mind: This liner isn’t as weightless as others on this list. “It dries within minutes but I can feel it drying,” one tester admits. “It feels rather tight and like something is in my eye. It’s noticeable on the eye and not for sensitive users.”

Price at time of publish: $29

Type: Liquid | Shades: 1 | Wear Time: 8-12 Hours | Waterproof: Yes

Kaja Wink Stamp Wing Eyeliner Stamp & Pen

InStyle / Jessica Juliao

Best for Thin Lines

Hourglass Cosmetics 1.5MM Mechanical Gel Eye Liner

Hourglass 1.5mm Mechanical Gel Eyeliner


What We Love: It glides on smoothly and imparts optimal color payoff. 

What We Don’t Love: It’s not retractable, so if you twist up too much, you may accidentally waste it.

Whether you’re hoping to achieve ultra-subtle eyeliner looks or incredibly sharp wing tips, the Hourglass 1.5mm Mechanical Gel Eyeliner will come in handy. “This liner has amazing application; it went on smoothly and was extremely pigmented without any difficulties,” our tester reveals. “The product glided across my eyelids beautifully with ease — no tugging or extra pressure.”

Once on, this fan-favorite eyeliner isn’t going anywhere. “It dried instantly upon application with zero transfer,” our tester reveals. “The product didn’t budge at all and it still looks exactly the same after 30 minutes.” 

Smudge- (and budge-) proof as it may be, this liner is delightfully easy to remove. 

The one questionable quality of the liner is that, while mechanical, it’s not retractable, so once you’ve twisted it up, there’s no going back. It’s because of this that the brand clearly states that the liner lasts for 17 to 20 uses (which seems a bit odd, considering most liners last much longer than that). Still, considering the color payoff and ease of use, this liner remains a top pick — especially for thin lines.

Price at time of publish: $20

Type: Gel Pencil | Shades: 5 | Wear Time: 12 Hours | Waterproof: Yes

Hourglass Cosmetics 1.5MM Mechanical Gel Eye Liner

InStyle / Jessica Juliao

Best Shade Range

Sephora Collection Retractable Waterproof Eyeliner

Sephora Retractable Waterproof Eyeliner Pencil


What We Love: It’s sold in so many colors. 

What We Don’t Love: The shimmer shades are difficult to remove.

The Sephora Collection Retractable Waterproof Eyeliner Pencil is a dream for anyone looking to recreate the year’s brightest, boldest eye looks. The creamy pencil is sold in a whopping 18 shades, including satin, shimmer, and matte options. It glides on smoothly and imparts rich color with the initial pass. That said, since it’s a pencil liner, it’s meant to be applied in dashes, not one single swipe, as dragging it across your lid may be uncomfortable and cause tugging. In our testing, we found that taking a connect-the-dots approach avoids this. “The pencil was comfortable and soft to the touch on my eyelid,” one tester shares.

From a color payoff perspective, this eyeliner sets a precedent. In our testing, we found that the liners have great pigmentation and, notably, the shimmer options tout a fair amount of glitter, which makes them really stand out on their own. One thing to keep in mind when opting for the shimmer shades, though, is that they’re more difficult to remove than the other options. “The glitter stays behind longer than the color of the eyeliner,” our tester reveals. “Even after wiping around my entire eye with the eye makeup remover, and wiping in specific spots where I saw glitter, I still had traces of glitter around my eye.”

Lastly, when using this easy-to-apply liner, prepare for it to dull quickly. Since it’s a creamy pencil, it blunts within a single use. “It starts off sharpened to a nice point but turns blunt and rounded pretty quickly during application, so it's hard to make a thin line,” a tester says. “However, there is a sharpener built into the pencil on the other end of the smudging tip (you have to pull the smudging tip out of the pencil to find the sharpener — it's not obvious!). The sharpener does make a good, sharp point, so if you want to make a fine line, you would have to keep sharpening during application.”

Price at time of publish: $13

Type: Creamy Pencil | Shades: 18 | Wear Time: 8-12 Hours | Waterproof: Yes

Sephora Collection Retractable Waterproof Eyeliner

InStyle / Jessica Juliao

Best Multitasking

MAC Pro Longwear Fluidline Eyeliner and Eyebrow Gel


What We Love: It doubles as a brow gel. 

What We Don’t Love: The colors aren’t entirely accurate.

We love a good multitasking beauty product, and this gel liner from MAC doubles as an eyebrow gel (albeit for folks with notably dark arches). No matter how you use it, it glides smoothly when applied with an angled brush. Just be sure not to apply too much pressure when picking up the gel liner, as it will accumulate on the brush and make for thick lines. As such, always wipe off the edges before applying it to your lids (or brows). 

Also, prepare for potentially surprising color. “I thought this was black eyeliner, but the color was a deep metal gray, which looked blue on my eyes,” one tester reveals. “So even though it sorta lied, I still loved the color.”

Once on, you can expect this gel liner to dry down quickly, so you don’t have to worry about it accidentally transferring onto your upper lids or below your lower lashlines. “It was simple to remove, too,” our tester says. “I just needed the Neutrogena wipes, and with one wipe, the majority was gone.”

Price at time of publish: $27

Type: Gel | Shades: 5 | Wear Time: 16 Hours | Waterproof: Yes

MAC Pro Longwear Fluidline Eyeliner and Eyebrow Gel

InStyle / Jessica Juliao

Our Testing Process

With so many eyeliners on the market, we rounded up the 33 most popular options and put them to the test. We analyzed each eyeliner on application, pigment, dry time, wear, and ease of removal, and assigned them a rating of 1 to 5 as a result. In doing so, we were able to weed out the less-than-satisfying formulas to make way for the 11 best eyeliners.

What to Keep in Mind

Eyeliner Type

The type of eyeliner plays a big role in how easy it is to apply, how long it lasts, and ultimately how easy it is to remove. Generally speaking, waterproof and liquid eyeliners are the most difficult to remove given their steadfast nature, while pencils and gels come off more easily. That said, pencils and gels often make for messier removal, as the pigment can more easily disperse, making for that signature raccoon look. However, at the point of removal, a little smudging isn’t the end of the world. 


If you find an eyeliner formula that you adore, it’s only natural to want it in numerous shades. Sadly, many eyeliners only come in black, brown, and other more neutral shades. Thankfully, more brands are venturing into dark jewel tones and some (like Sephora Collection Retractable Waterproof Eyeliner Pencil) are even embracing vivid hues, which are especially on-trend. 

Ease of Removal

The skin surrounding your eyes is the most delicate of all. As such, you only want to use eyeliners that are easy to remove, as rubbing and tugging can promote premature aging in the form of fine lines and wrinkles surrounding your eyes. That said, if you opt for an eyeliner that’s a bit more difficult to remove, knowing the best way to remove any type of eyeliner can help (more on that, below). For a longwear formula that’s still easy to remove, opt for our best overall winner Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner.

Your Questions, Answered

How do you apply eyeliner?

It all depends on the type. If it’s a pencil or liquid eyeliner, you’ll apply it directly from the tube. Where pencil eyeliners tend to apply better when traced on in short strokes, liquid eyeliner can easily be applied in a single stroke. Gel eyeliner requires a bit more precision. 

“I like to use a thin firm brush,'' says celebrity makeup artist Kate Synnott. “RÓEN's Everything Brush has a tapered pointed side that’s amazing for precision and leaves an effortless soft line.” For thinner, more pigmented lines, opt for an angled brush, like Sephora Collection Pro Eyeliner Brush #22.

Beyond the application itself, Nick Lujan, Director of Artistry & Education at Kevyn Aucoin Beauty, says that where and how you apply your eyeliner plays a role in your end look. “Waterliner is the simplest method and a great way to frame the whites of your eyes,” Lujan says. “I like to start every eye makeup look with this method of liner. Using a freshly sharpened and sanitized pencil liner, apply to the lower water line. Secure the lower lid with a clean finger and gently apply pressure so you can access the waterline area with ease. Repeat the process for the upper waterline area ”

Pro Tip: The color you choose can pump up the drama of your waterline lid look. “White or a flesh tone in the lower waterline makes the eyes appear more open and bigger,” Lujan says. “Avoid red liners, as they make the eyes look irritated and bloodshot.”

How do you do winged eyeliner?

Although it may seem like many people apply their eyeliner with their eyes closed, Synnott assures us that the best way to apply winged eyeliner — especially if you have hooded eyes — is with your eyes open. “You need to see your full eye shape to see where to extend and elongate the liner (wing),” she explains. “I like taking the liner from the slit of the upper lid out towards the brow. Pointy Q-Tips are a lifesaver and will help you master the perfect wing for your eyes.” If you don’t have the patience to perfect your wing though, try Kaja Wink Stamp, for seamless application. 

How can you wear eyeliner with hooded eyes? 

In addition to keeping your eyes open while lining, Synnott says it’s important to keep your liner on the thinner side if you have hooded eyes. “It will close your eye in if the liner looks too heavy,” she explains. “Keep the liner really thin at the lash line, then extend and make it a little thicker at the wing. You can also have more of a thick smudgy wing with hooded eyes but still keep the liner on your lids thin.”

How do you remove eyeliner?

If you’re hoping to remove liner to touch-up your overall end look, Synnott says to keep Q-Tips and micellar water on hand. “That way you can remove or clean up liner without ruining your makeup,” she says.

When it comes to fully removing your eye liner, Lujan swears by cleanser balms, which are designed to melt off even the most stubborn makeup. If any residual color remains, Lujan says to go in with a gentle water-based eye makeup remover. 

What Is InStyle Picks?

Notice the seal at the top of this story? It means that all of the eyeliners in this round-up have been hand-selected, -tested, and -rated by InStyle writers and editors. Every final contestant scored top ratings in application, pigment, dry time, wear, and ease of removal compared to the many other formulas that overcrowd the market. All in all, InStyle Picks are products we swear by; that we think are worth every penny (even if we may have received some of them for free) — and think you will, too. 

Why Shop With Us

InStyle beauty writer Rebecca Norris has been honing her beauty knowledge for over eight years. She forever has her finger on the pulse of the trendiest and most innovative products and formulas, which allows her to sort through the many, many launches that inundate the beauty market. For this story she interviewed celebrity makeup artist Kate Synnott and Nick Lujan, Director of Artistry & Education at Kevyn Aucoin Beauty for their expert tips on using every type of eyeliner. 

Want more product recommendations? From best-in-class concealer to the black pants you need for work, check out all of our InStyle Picks content.

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