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Best eyeliner pencil 2024: The top pigmented, smooth and long-lasting liners on the market

However you wear it, nailing your eyeliner look is easy when you’ve got the best eyeliner pencil for the job

Finding the best pencil eyeliner can be a long and tedious process – that’s why we’ve tested a whole range of pencil eyeliners and put together this handy guide to help you choose the best one for you, whatever eye look you want to achieve.

Pencil eyeliner is a surprisingly versatile tool that you can use to create anything from a colourful graphic liner look to a classic smoky eye. If you fancy broadening your horizons and learning more about tips and tricks for applying pencil eyeliner, check out our buying guide below. Or, if you already have your technique down, scroll down to find our top picks for every look.

How to choose the best eyeliner pencil for you

Since cosmetics were created, eyeliner has been a staple product to frame our eyes. Evidence suggests that as early as 400BC Egyptian royals would use Kohl eyeliner as a mark of high status, often winging their eyes right out to the hairline — that’s where the iconic cat-eye look began.

Of course, eyeliners today have evolved to be more colourful, precise and better formulated which means pencil eyeliners are the best starting point for eyeliner newbies. Here’s a quick guide to everything you should consider before you buy a pencil liner.

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When it comes to eyeliner, the formulation can make or break a liner’s longevity. In general, pencil liners are formulated using a waxy thickening agent to keep the product on the skin, a polymer film former to help with smooth continuous application, and a coloured pigment. Of course, this varies from liner to liner and waxier pencil liners tend to glide on really smoothly but they run the risk of smudging throughout the day. Getting the balance right can be difficult.

You may have seen some life hacks online that claim you can substitute lip liner for eyeliner; whilst lip liners are similarly formulated to eyeliners, they’re definitely not interchangeable. When it comes to these hacks, a fail-safe rule is to take no chances with your eyes, so you should never, ever use a lip liner as eyeliner as some pigments used in lip products are toxic to your eyes.

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To hazard a guess, the pencil eyeliner colours you’re most used to seeing are probably black and brown; applied and blended over the lash line, these colours give the eye definition and a sultry, smoky effect. However, there’s a whole host of pencil eyeliner colours out there, all of which can be used to create different makeup looks.

For example, applying white eyeliner to the waterline to make your eyes appear larger is one of the oldest tricks in the book. If you were around in the eighties, you’ll remember Princess Diana’s iconic blue eyeliner look. The options really are unlimited when it comes to colourful eyeliner, and experimenting with colour has never been so popular.

If you’re feeling super technical, you can experiment with different colours based on your eye colour. According to colour theory, red-toned eyeliner helps to make green eyes pop, purple eyeliner is meant to compliment brown eyes, and orange-toned brown is best for blue eyes. If you have hazel eyes, choose the most dominant colour and use the complimentary liner colour for that, as above.

Getting the right ‘look’

Pencil eyeliners are an incredibly versatile tool to have in your makeup bag — there are tonnes of different ways to apply them, but getting the application right comes with practice. Here are some tips for applying pencil eyeliner to get some basic looks:

Basic liner: To achieve a basic eyeliner look, apply the liner in short, swift strokes so enough pigment is deposited across the upper lash line. Some people find that pulling on the outer corner of the eye is helpful to flatten out the top of the eyelid and provide some tension before application.

Smoky eye: Start by creating a basic liner look and then use a small fluffy brush or your finger to blend out the liner slightly. You can also use coloured eyeshadow to blend out pencil eyeliner.

Waterline: To apply eyeliner to your waterline, use a cotton swab to dry the waterline carefully and gently. Next, whilst looking directly into the mirror, tilt your head down and gently pull down the lower eyelid. Then, carefully apply the pencil over the lower waterline and let go. To do your upper lash line, repeat the steps, but tilt your head up and instead of pulling the skin, hold your lashes up on your brow bone whilst you apply. You can also apply an eyeshadow over the top to set the liner in place.

Cat eye: To start, create a basic liner look and then follow the line of your lower lash line upwards to create an angle. Some people find that using their fingertips to pull on the outer corner of the eye helps to draw a smooth line.

Graphic liner: Go crazy! There are no rules for applying graphic liner. Popular looks include drawing a line that runs directly between the eye and eyebrow, following the line of the eye – like a basic liner that’s floated off from the lash line. Or, some people like to draw extra wings on their winged liner. If you’re looking for inspiration, there are tonnes of ideas on Pinterest and TikTok.

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How we test eyeliner pencils

Eyeliner pencils are finicky makeup products to test because many claim to be smudge-proof, waterproof, transfer-proof and blendable at the same time. Few are actually as all-singing, all-dancing as they claim to be, meaning our testing has to be incredibly thorough.

Thankfully, there are simple tests we can perform to check how an eyeliner performs. We always test the liners side by side by applying the liners onto the back of our hands. Once applied, to test the liner’s longevity and smudge-proof qualities, we wait a few minutes for them to set in place and then use some force to rub over the top of them to see if they’re properly smudge-proof. With waterproof liners, we’ll splash the area with water to see if the liners run at all. To test the blendability, instead of waiting for the liners to set, we blend the liners using our fingertips immediately after application to judge how even the blend is, as well as how quickly, if ever, the liners set in place.

When it comes to doing a wear test, there are, of course, many different eyeliner styles. That means we tested each eyeliner in every style – in the waterline, over the lash line, and in a more graphic, winged style. This also gave us a feeling for how easy and smooth the liners were to apply in different areas, which showed us how well-suited each liner is for each style.

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The best eyeliner pencil you can buy in 2024

1. Victoria Beckham Beauty Satin Kajal Liner: Best overall eyeliner pencil

Price when reviewed: £30 | Check price at Victoria Beckham Beautybest pencil eyeliner Victoria Beckham Beauty Satin Kajal LinerWhether you want a grungy, undone finish, a graphic look or a sharp classic wing, this regularly sold-out liner from Victoria Beckham Beauty is a must-have tool that does it all. The pigment is so good, that it requires just the lightest touch, and it glides over lids with ease. The creamy, satin texture also blends like a dream, leaving behind a perfect haze of colour.

We tested the pencil in Olive Shimmer – a gorgeous dark green hue that makes a great alternative to a traditional smoky eye – but the Kajal liner is available in 16 shades, in either a Shimmer, Matte or Jewel format, the latter of which contains fine (ocean-friendly), glitter-like particles which catch beautifully in the light.

Each one is formulated with nourishing chamomile extract, vitamin E and panthenol (provitamin B5), so they’re suitable for people with sensitive eyes and contact lens wearers.

Key details — Colours: 16; Type of pencil: Standard pencil

Check price at Victoria Beckham Beauty

2. Kylie Cosmetics Kyliner gel pencil: Best pigmented eyeliner pencil

Price when reviewed: £16 | Check price at Boots

best_eyeliner_pencil-kylie_kylinerWhen we tested this eyeliner pencil, we were blown away by its pigment and smooth application. You’ll only need a light touch to get an incredibly strong colour payoff, and the pencil glides over the eyelid without pulling on the skin at all. It’s certainly the most comfortable eyeliner application you can get because you don’t need to go over the same spot multiple times and because the gel formula melts seamlessly onto the eye.

Better still, the liner is also really blendable; it can be used to create strong lines or blended out for a smoky effect before it sets. You may think that its creamy, blendable consistency lends itself to smudges, but the Kyliner is waterproof and sets in minutes, so it lasts all day without transfers. All in all, this is the best eyeliner pencil you can buy.

Key details — Colours: 15; Type of pencil: Standard pencil

Check price at Boots

3. Kat Von D tattoo pencil liner: Best waterproof long-wear eyeliner pencil

Price when reviewed: £19 | Check price at LookFantastic Kat Von D’s tattoo liner has been a cult favourite in the beauty industry for years, owing to its no-budge formula that’s opaque, waterproof, smudge resistant and lasts all day. While the range’s liquid liner is the most popular amongst makeup artists, fans of eyeliner pencils will be glad to know that the pencil version also lives up to the tattoo-liner name. It’s got great pigmentation for drawing on bold liner looks, and the twist-up applicator means there’s no need to carry a sharpener or waste any product sharpening.

There is one small caveat though; as this pencil is so long-wearing, the liner itself has a thicker formula that doesn’t glide across the eye as easily as some other liners and is almost impossible to blend into a smoky eye. However, this is a small price to pay because no other pencil eyeliner will keep your eye makeup looking flawless and sharp for this long.

Key details — Colours: 11; Type of pencil: Twist-up pencil

Check price at LookFantastic

4. Glossier No. 1 pencil: Best eyeliner pencil for graphic liner

Price when reviewed: £16 | Check price at GlossierIf you’re hoping to hop on the graphic eyeliner trend, this Glossier eyeliner is the perfect blend of pigmented, colourful and blendable. It gives you as much creative freedom as the heart desires. Either draw on your liner shape and leave it for 30 seconds to set, or use that time to blend the liner out to give a smoky effect before it sets into place.

This liner is available in nine funky shades, all of which glide smoothly over the skin without tugging the eyelid out of place. It’s also water resistant when dry and is suitable for sensitive eyes and contact lens users.

Key details — Colours: Nine; Type of pencil: Standard pencil

Check price at Glossier

5. Jones Road The Best Pencil: Best eyeliner for beginners

Price when reviewed: £22 | Check price at Liberty Londonbest eyeliner pencil Jones Road The Best PencilIt may look like a no-frills pencil, but we found this option from Jones Road Beauty one of the easier to use. It offers great precision if a crisp line is what you’re after but is also blendable for a softer look. Plus, there’s a solid selection of colours to choose from, all of which are highly pigmented so there’s no need to tug or repeatedly trace across your eyelid. For an even more intense colour, we found scribbling on the back of our hand to warm up the nib before applying worked best.

Though the pencil is technically not long-wear or waterproof, it survived brilliantly in testing with no smudging.

Key details — Colours: Six; Type of pencil: Standard pencil

Check price at Liberty London

6. Eyeko Limitless Long-wear Pencil Eyeliner: Best eyeliner pencil for the waterline

Price when reviewed: £15 | Check price at LookFantasticWhile every waterproof liner is well-suited to the waterline, this one from Eyeko is our favourite because it’s really smooth to apply, has great pigmentation and stays fixed all day. It’s available in five different shades: navy blue, dark purple, brown-black and nude; even the lightest shade here comes out totally opaque. We think the nude shade, ‘Higher Self’ works well in the waterline to make your eyes appear larger and brighter.

Again, because this is a waterproof long-wear liner, it’s not blendable, but that does mean your look will last on your waterline. More blendable liners are more prone to slipping off the waterline throughout the day as it gets wet.

Key details — Colours: Five; Type of pencil: Standard pencil

Check price at LookFantastic

7. Morphe Color Pencil: Best blendable eyeliner pencil

Price when reviewed: £6 | Check price at LookFantasticEyeliner pencils aren’t just great for creating basic lines around the eye, they can also be blended for a smoky effect. This eyeliner from Morphe is one of the best for blendability, making it great for softer liner looks. It has 18 different colour swatches, each with good pigmentation, so the world is your oyster when it comes to experimenting with colour. Use a black liner for a classic smoky eye, or a brighter colour for something a bit more interesting — you can read all about which liner colours suit your eye colour in the buying guide above.

One small issue you may encounter with this affordable liner is that it has a really creamy consistency and isn’t waterproof. That means it’s a little prone to smudging throughout the day; you can fix this problem with setting spray, or by setting the liner with a similar coloured eyeshadow over the top.

Key details — Colours: 18; Type of pencil: Standard pencil

Check price at LookFantastic

8. Milk Makeup Infinity Longwear Eyeliner: Best eyeliner for sensitive eyes

Price when reviewed: £20 | Check price at Space NKbest eyeliner pencil Milk eyelinerMilk’s highly pigmented Infinity Longwear liner offers up to 12 hours of wear. The twist-up pencil offers great precision and allows you to get super close to the lash line and create the most detailed looks. It’s also formulated with nourishing avocado oil and aloe vera, and is vegan-friendly, fragrance-free and ophthalmologist-tested, so those with sensitive eyes don’t need to worry about irritating ingredients – even when the product is worn along the waterline.

We thought this delivered great colour payoff without the need to drag or tug, making it a great option for graphic lines or cat eyes.

Key details — Colours: Three; Type of pencil: Twist-up pencil

Check price at Space NK

9. 17 Line Up Pencil: Best budget eyeliner pencil

Price when reviewed: £2.50 | Check price at BootsCheap eyeliners are often chalky, hard to apply and lacking in pigment. Luckily, this eyeliner from 17 – Boots’ recently relaunched own brand of makeup – is free from those vices. It applies to the eyelid smoothly with an impressive opaque pigment and is really easy to blend out to a smoky eye if that’s the look you’re going for.

As ever with cheaper liners, it does transfer when you touch it, but that can be fixed with setting spray or black eyeshadow over the top. Considering the general quality of this eyeliner, however, it’s a no-brainer if you’re looking for something affordable and effective.

Key details — Colours: Six; Type of pencil: Standard pencil

Check price at Boots

10. Everlasting Brows Iridescent Double-Sided Eyeliner Pencil: Best eyeliner for party season

Price when reviewed: £7.95 | Check price at Everlasting Atelierbest eyeliner pencil Everlasting Brows Iridescent Double-Sided Eyeliner PencilIf the price of this affordable pencil wasn’t enough, its versatility makes it extra special. With a precise black pencil at one end – perfect for creating a smoky eye or a feline flick – the glitter pencil at the other allows you to add a light-catching, shimmery edge.

The pigment and staying power of both colours are great – particularly for a product of this price point. Both also glide over the eyelid seamlessly for easy-breezy effortless makeup with maximum impact.

Key details — Colours: One; Type of pencil: Standard pencil

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