The ultimate guide to eyeliners for that perfect cat eye or smokey eye

The ultimate eyeliner guide

Eyeliner appeared roughly 12,000 years ago, in Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. Then both males and females wore eyeliner to define and protect their eyes from wrinkles and the hot desert wind and sun. It’s the first known cosmeceutical, used to prevent eye infections caused by bacteria.

Eyeliner was the very first makeup product I ever used I remember using my mother’s ‘’tiro’’ for the first time and how grown up it made me feel. I soon graduated to using liquid liners in university and exploring using different colours. Fast forward a few years (ahem). There are now so many varieties of eyeliner on the market today that if you are not in the know it may make your head spin.

As much you would like to find out which of them is the Holy Grail when it comes to eyeliner, all I can say is it depends. There is no single one that will address all your needs they all work for different purposes and situations. If you are wondering which eyeliner is ideal for you this guide will help you pick the right eyeliner.

Pencil Eyeliner

This is the commonest type of eyeliner and is one you should have in your makeup bag because of versatility. As the oldest type of eyeliner available were formerly made of wood without a lot of choice about the texture of the pencil but has changed recently. There are 2 main types of pencil liners a regular pencil which you need to sharpen like a regular pencil or a retractable eyeliner pencil with a twist-up mechanism.  Pencil liners are also known as kohl pencils and are found in in a vast multitude of colours, sizes and finishes making them extremely versatile.


  • NYX Professional Makeup Slim Eye Pencil

Retractable liners

Retractable liners, on the other hand, work the same regular eyeliner which you can’t sharpen. Twist the barrel of the pencil and the lead pops up. The only downside of a retractable eyeliner is that once used there is no way to sharpen it. Pencil eyeliners are ideal for beginners and anyone not comfortable with liquid liners. Pencil liners can be used along the waterline especially if you have naturally watery eyes


Kohl Pencil Eyeliner

The main characteristic of Kohl eyeliner is the creaminess and out of the world pigmentation. This creaminess and smudge ability differentiates Kohl pencil from regular black pencil making it easier to create Smokey eyes without tugging at your eyes. Kohl eyeliners apply easily on your waterline without irritating your eyes since you don’t have to repeat application to get the effect you want.



  • Easy to use and blend
  • Readily available
  • Affordable and cheap
  • Great for everyday use
  • Perfect to use on your waterline
  • Easy to smudge for  a Smokey eye look


  • It’s not smudge-proof
  • Needs to be sharpened often
  • Not good for precision work like a cat-eye

Liquid Eyeliner

liquid eyeliner

If you love a good cat-eye (I certainly do), liquid eyeliners can be the best or the worst depending on your ability to wield that magic wand. Thankfully liquid liners now come with a variety of tips that make the application easier, in the past all you had was a brush tip which took time to master. Now we have brush and felt tips of varying shapes and sizes so even as a beginner you can make some pretty intricate looks

When it comes to staying power and creating dramatic looks nothing beats liquid eyeliner with its precision. A good liquid liner applies smoothly but needs some practice to get it right so isn’t ideal for beginners. Just remember to your eyelid low or closed until it dries otherwise smudge city.

There are two types of liquid eyeliners in the market a liquid eyeliner with a brush tip or with a felt-tip marker called art liners by some brands.

Brush Tip Liquid liner

The brush tip liquid liner is the traditional liner which is great for drawing thin, wispy lines but needs practice and a steady hand. They look like felt tip liners only instead of a felt tip have a brush tip. The thinness of the brush tip allows them precision and thickness depending on the type of pressure applied. These are more likely to dry out because the formula is a water-based formula


Felt Tip Liquid Liner (Art liner)

art eye liner

These pen-shaped liners come with a felt tip, which most commonly looks like a fine marker, but comes in a variety of thicknesses and pen shape. Felt tip liquid liners are very beginner-friendly because it allows you more control to create an easy cat-eye effect. It allows you to create either thick and thin lines depending on how you hold the marker.

Although they are easier to work with they tend to dry faster than a liquid liner, which means less chance of smudging this translates once on they won’t move until you wash it off


  • Milani Eye Tech Bold Liquid EyeLiner – Black
  • Eyeko Skinny Liquid Liner, Black
  • Eyeko Fat Liquid Eyeliner, Black,

Cushion liner

Cushion eyeliner

This is a newer type of liquid liner that’s currently more popular in the Asian countries. Here you have a small pot which contains a sponge saturated with the eyeliner liquid and you use by pressing your liner brush onto the sponge to pick up the product. Cushion liners are like a dip pot liner but without the messiness of the wand.



• Gives a very defined line (even a thin one)
• Has different formulations for oily skin types
• Easy to use and control
• Long-lasting
• Works to create a multitude of looks


  • It isn’t ideal for beginners as it takes a lot of time to master it
  • Can’t be used on your waterline.
  • Less colour pay off
  • Need to be removed carefully (it sticks )
  • The felt tip can get a bit frayed

Gel Eyeliner

Gel eyeliner
source: Ulta Beauty

Gel types of eyeliner are identifiable by their little pots and attached angled brushes. They sit somewhere in between a pencil and liquid eyeliner, with the soft texture of a pencil and the precision of liquid eyeliner. Although most are available in a pot there are some gel pens available and can be used as an eyeshadow base in a pinch.

One of the benefits of gel eyeliners is the easy application thanks to the smooth consistency. The versatility also allows you to create different looks depending on the brush size you choose. If you are looking for a liner that will stay put no matter what then Gel eyeliners are for you, thanks to their wax content will not come off easily. This also makes it great for your waterline or times you think you may cry because it’s very waterproof.



  • Easy to control the brush
  • Easy to blend
  • Perfect for beginners and experts
  • Perfect for any kind of look
  • long-lasting,
  • Smudge-proof and waterproof


  • You need a brush to use it
  • The brush must be cleaned regularly to avoid eye infections
  • Gel eyeliners dry out quickly, so needs to be applied quickly
  • Can dry out easily because the pots are exposed to the air:
  • Not as portable as a pencil eyeliner

Kajal Eyeliner

kajal eyeliner

Kajal eyeliners originated in Pakistan and unlike other liners don’t smudge easily even in the waterline. Kajal made from a combination of natural ingredients that is soothing to the eye and protects against infections. The original purpose of using Kajal is to protect eyes from the sun glare. Although Kajal lasts a long time (days even) it is not easy to apply and can be pretty messy.

To apply Kajal you need a bit of moisture then it applies easily without tugging on your eyes. Most traditional Kajals are not readily available outside Pakistan due to concerns over the ingredients content particularly lead which was found in a number of products. Kajal is best used when you want smudge-proof eyeliner which will not budge.


Honourable mentions

Eye Shadow as Eyeliner

Think about when you want to do a Smokey eye but with olive green or navy blue. In the past, regular eyeliners would not cut it because they only came in basic colours, however, if you don’t have or don’t want to spend the money buying a product you won’t use it frequently. Then eyeshadows and a wet brush are your friends, this doesn’t last as long as pencils, gels or liquid liners but can be extended with a primer.  Do not use this on your waterline it will irritate your eyes and will not stick either.


  • Multiple colours to choose from
  • Easy to apply


  • Cannot be used on the waterline
  • Does not last as long as other eyeliners do

Which of these should you use?

Since eyeliners come in the many forms above how do you know what’s best for you? Well, you think about what look you’re trying to achieve, for a natural look pencils especially regular pencils are the way to go. For a bold and or dramatic look, liquid or gel liners work best. Finally, if you want to full-on Smokey eye then Kohl eyeliner is your best bet.

Another factor that is important when choosing what to use is the time you have available to put on the look. You don’t want to be in a hurry and try to put on liquid eyeliner that is a recipe for disaster if I ever saw one. So choose based on what look you want and the time you have available.

Which is your go-to eyeliner? Take the survey to see how you stack up. if you enjoyed this post share it on your social media.

Follow me on social media

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin


You have reached Beauty Harbour how can I help you?

PS: Check out my book Banish Breakouts for anyone struggling with Acne:


× How can I help you?