3 Basic Eyeliner Types and Their Uses

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Basic Eyeliner Types


Eyeliners are essential makeup tools. They give character to the eyes, depending on how they are applied. With so many brands and types of eyeliners out there, even long-time makeup addicts need to categorize them in order to better choose which one to use.

Everyone has their own preference on which eyeliner type is the best and they’re more comfortable with. I personally prefer liquid eyeliners for my winged/cat eye. Then use pencil types for tightlining, for my waterline and lower lash line.

Pencil Eyeliners

Pencil eyeliners are the most common and basic type of eyeliner. Every beginner should start with this type. It is very easy to use. Since the time we have learned to write, we have been taught to use pencils, thus it is second-nature. Beginners would feel very comfortable using this.

Not all pencil eyeliners are the same though. The best pencil eyeliners out there should glide easily when applied. I would suggest to test the pencil first before making a purchase by drawing a line on the back of your hand a couple of times. Check if it glides smoothly. Never settle for pencils that tug on your skin when applied, regardless of how cheap they are. Keep in mind that our eyes are very delicate and should not be subjected to constant tugging. There are even high-end brands which tug as well so don’t forget to test the pencil first. It is also a very good idea to research on the product first. There are lots of reviews you can find online which will help you get an idea about the product.

One caveat in using pencil eyeliners is that it can sometimes be hard to create a dramatic winged-eye look. You cannot create a very thin line with it unless you sharpen it to a very fine tip. Especially with automatic, retractable pencil eyeliners, I find it hard to sharpen the tip really fine.

Basic Eyeliner Types Pencil

I use dark brown and black pencil eyeliners mostly to tightline my upper lash line. Unless you’re a pro in makeup application, the tightlining technique is best achieved using pencil eyeliners. Same with the waterline. Because liquid eyeliners may get in your eyes, it is safer to use pencil eyeliners on both the waterline and for tightlining. You may also want to stay away from glittery-types for these purposes as the glitters may also get in your eyes and irritate them.

Basic Eyeliner Types Pencil

For the waterline, I use light eyeliners which make the eyes appear brighter, more open and alive. I also use light, glittery eyeliners along the inner lower lash line to highlight my eyes.

If you decide to buy a pencil eyeliner, another thing to keep in mind is that you will need to sharpen it every now and then. I sharpen my pencils before using them because this is the only way I know how to keep them clean and sanitized (sort of). As much as possible, I don’t buy high-end pencil eyeliners as the mere thought of sharpening it seems like I’m wasting part of the money I paid for it. I still have a few Chanel Stylo Yeux eyeliners, but these are retractable and only the tips need sharpening.


If you are living in a city where it’s hot and humid, you probably notice that it’s hard to sharpen the pencils because they tend to be a little soft. In these cases, I would advise you to keep the pencil in the freezer for 15 minutes to an hour depending on how cold your freezer is. Then, when you take it out from the freezer, you’ll find that it’s easier to sharpen it.

Liquid Eyeliners

Basic Eyeliner Types Liquid

Most experts use this type of eyeliner. You must have a very steady hand to use this. I’m no expert and my hand is not that steady but I also use this as well. Maybe because I like how it feels when it glides smoothly and the clear and definite line it creates. The caveat though is that mistakes in application become clear and defined as well.

It’s consistency is more watery than gel eyeliners and it sets and dries up fairly fast. Since it dries up fast, it is not advisable if you want a smudged effect for a smokey eye look. The thinnest of lines can be easily achieved with liquid eyeliners, especially using the pen-type ones.

Basic Eyeliner Types Liquid Pen-type

The pen-type liquid eyeliner is so much easier to use and glides smoothly without tugging on the eyes. You can easily create a winged-eye look with this type of eyeliner. This is my go-to type when I want to achieve a clean cat-eye look. It gives a very dramatic effect and I’m able to wing my eyeline with ease. Well, as long as I can steady my hand when using it, lol!

When I swatch liquid eyeliners on my arm, I usually check if it dries up glossy or a bit matte. Sometimes I want my eyeliner to be really glossy, especially for night time makeup. But for a daytime look, I prefer the not-so-glossy and more matte eyeliners.

Gel Eyeliners

Basic Eyeliner Types Gel

If are going for a smokey eye look and want to smudge your eyeline, then gel liners are the way to go. I know that there are also pencil eyeliners like the MAC Kohl pencils which are also great for smudging. But, if you like applying your eyeliner using a brush for more control, then gel liners are best for you. Its consistency is semi-liquid, gel-like as the name implies. A fine-tipped brush would have to be used with this for a winged-eye look. The Bobbi Brown brush photographed above is not as fine-tipped as I would like it to be. But there are a lot of fine-tipped brushes out in the market you can buy.

If pencil eyeliners is to sketching, then gel eyeliners is to painting. There is no tugging on skin. It glides like a paint brush, well that actually depends on the brush you use with it. 😉 When I test this type of eyeliner, I draw a line on my arm and wait for it to completely dry up. Then I check how it looks like when it has dried up, giving me a clear idea on how it would look on my eyes when used. I also test it on how beautifully it smudges and how fast it dries up. On the eyes, I also want it to last on my oily lids. The Bobbi Brown Gel Eyeliner is not a favorite of mine because it smudges big time on my eyes.

Gel eyeliners is best when you want to use a smudged effect for a smokey eye look. This is my least favorite type of eyeliner. Just because I don’t want to use a brush when I have other products out there I can use without a separate brush. 😀

If you want to check my reviews on some of the products photographed in this post, here are the links to them:

Chanel Stylo Yeux Waterproof – Iris
K-Palette Real Lasting Eyeliner – 1Day Tattoo
Etude House Proof 10 Gelquid Liners – Forest
Etude House Play 101 Pencils – 1 & 2, 3, 4 & 50

Having this knowledge of the basic eyeliner types, I hope it helps you in choosing what eyeliner to buy when you next go to a makeup counter near you. Or, you might also want to check the eyeliners you have in your makeup stash and try them out. Just for fun. Happy Savvy Sunday! 🙂

I hope this had given you more idea on the basic eyeliner types. Which type is your favorite and why?

Alyssa Melanie



  1. I am currently using BYS liquid eyeliner i am much comfortable using liquid eyeliner . I am kinda nervous to try gel liners because first i really didn’t know how to use it ,.. Might smudge on me .he he

    • How is the BYS liquid eyeliner in terms of longevity? Have you tried using it to wing your liner? Do you also have oily lids? I wasted money on the Bobbi Brown gel liner because it smudges big time on me. 🙁

      • i havent tried bobbi brown . And yes ,ive tried doing that wing hehe,, BYS glides smoothly naman i have combination skin and their eyeliber lasts the whole day naman on my eyelids. 🙂

  2. Im using lliquid eyeliners, too scare to try other type, I think its gonna be hard to use to other product like gel for me :p

  3. Thank you for the post! Im not a make up enthusiast but reading your blog makes me more curious and explore… Easy reading and informative.. 🙂

    • Thanks Sigried! Check the blog everyday for more makeup reviews, beauty tips and other great stuff. Who knows? One day, you might just become a makeup addict yourself. Or a makeup expert! 😀 xoxo

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