How to Choose the Right Eyeliner For You

Kelly Dougher

When choosing eyeliner, there’s actually a lot to consider—more than you might think. There are just so many different types of eye liner, and the kind that you choose will greatly affect the application process and the end result. How do you know which eyeliner is right for you?

Never fear: we’re here to break it down. From gels to pencils, we’re explaining exactly what each type of liner is good for—as well as our favorite product picks at all price points. Gone are the days of spending all your hard-earned dollars on a sub-par pencil; flawless liner looks are your lot from here on out.

Here’s everything you need to know about all the various types of eyeliner—and how to choose the right one for you.

Gel Eyeliner

What it’s for: Gel eyeliner might seem intimidating at first but it’s worth trying if you tend to do a lot of cat eyes.
How to use it: It comes packaged in a small pot, usually with a brush included (although you can use any brush you want; an angled one is usually best).
Why we love it: You can quickly get a clean, precise line thanks to the thicker formula and precise brush. You can also switch up that brush to get different results. The creamy consistency is incredibly easy to work with, and it’s pretty easy to control what you’re doing.
Why we loathe it: Gel eyeliner tends to dry out , which is annoying, and if you misplace your brush you’re basically screwed. You also have to clean the brush regularly to avoid eye infections, too, which is just another chore.

Best drugstore gel eyeliner: Maybelline Eye Studio Lasting Drama Gel Eyeliner ($10, This is available in black, brown, and navy and comes with a surprisingly high quality brush.
Best department store gel eyeliner: Make Up For Ever Aqua Creamliner Waterproof Cream Eyeliner ($22, This is available in six gorgeous shades and lasts forever—plus it’s what Bachelorette Kaitlyn Bristowe wore!

Liquid Eyeliner

What it’s for: Liquid eyeliner is great for creating clean lines that swoop or flick. It’s for looks that require delicacy and preciseness.
How to use it: It comes in a variety of forms; for our money, we find that pens with marker-type tips are easier to use than the small vials with attached nail polish-like brushes. Draw the shape you want with the brush or applicator, then fill it in.
Why we love it: The very thin brushes and applicators make it possible to get really thin, subtle lines—perfect for adding a little darkness to our upper lash lines. Having a brush built in to the product also makes them easier to use than many gels; plus they tend to come in a wider range of colors and finishes.
Why we loathe it: The liquid consistency can make clean, precise application more difficult; in other words, liquid liner can be messy. There also tends to be kind of a steep learning curve, which can be intimidating.

Best drugstore liquid eyeliner: L’Oreal Infallible The Super Slim Liquid Eyeliner ($9, is long-lasting and reliable. Plus, it’s SO easy to use, even for liquid liner newbies.
Best department store liquid eyeliner: Make Up For Ever Aqua Liner ($23, has a foam tip instead of a brush to make application extremely easy. Plus it comes in 18 colors, from black to hot pink.

Pencil Eyeliner

What it’s for: There’s a lot to be said for the smoky eye look—and you can achieve that look with a pencil eyeliner.
How to use it: Like a pencil! Trace it along your upper and lower lash lines, and smudge it gently. Run it along your upper and lower waterlines for added darkness. You can also run small dashes underneath your lashes for a totally natural look.
Why we love it: Pencil eyeliner is great for a subtle everyday look that’s not too harsh, especially if you blend it slightly. Plus it’s ideal for really getting the liner onto your waterline (nobody wants liquid eyeliner running into their eyeball).
Why we loathe it: Keeping pencils sharpened is a pain—and if you opt for a twist-up pencil, they get blunt. Annoying. Plus, in your pencil liner journey, you will occasionally run across one that’s FAR too pointy and sharp. Ouch.

Best drugstore pencil eyeliner: NYX Slide On Eye Pencil ($8, is affordable, creamy, and available in 16 fun shades.
Best department store pencil eyeliner: Urban Decay Naked 24/7 Glide-On Double-Ended Eye Pencil ($16, is great because you get two shades in one pencil. They’re also very soft and creamy for easy, gliding application.

More from Daily Makeover: Amazing Eyeliner Looks from Pinterest