This Is The Difference Between Liquid, Gel And Pen Eyeliner

Nadine Dilong
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Eyeliner isn’t a one-size-fits-all situation. There are so many ways to apply eyeliner, you could literally go a month using different products and techniques on a daily basis and create a unique look every morning. But, when you want to create your signature, go-to look, the first step is deciding what kind of eyeliner to use. Eyeliner pen vs. liquid eyeliner vs. gel eyeliner—how do you even choose? Read on for the low-down on the difference between the eyeliner types. 

From a smudged, smokey eye to a sharp winged liner, the makeup world is your oyster when it comes to eyeliner, making it one of my fave beauty products. Nothing can make your face look “done up” easier than a quick swipe of eyeliner and a dash of mascara.

But, because there are so many possibilities, applying eyeliner can get quite frustrating and choosing the right product to buy? It’s downright confusing. Especially if you’re a makeup novice who has just entered the fun world of beauty tutorials.

Don’t worry, though; you’ll love painting your face as much as I do once you get the hang of it. All you need is someone to explain a few makeup basics to you, like which brushes to use for which part of your face, what primer actually does, and what the difference between liquid, gel, and pen eyeliner is, so here we go…

1. Gel eyeliner

First off the rank, gel eyeliner. It’s not a liquid, it’s not a pen… So, what actually is it? And, is it the right kind of eyeliner for you? Let’s find out.

What is gel eyeliner?

Gel eyeliner is like a hybrid between a pencil eyeliner and a liquid eyeliner. You get some of benefits of a liquid eyeliner, without the expert skill level required to apply it.

Gel eyeliner usually comes in a little pot and has a creamy consistency, and you need a small, angled brush to apply it. It’s great for applying a solid line, or if you’re going for the smudged smokey eye look.

What is gel eyeliner good for?

In short, gel eyeliner is great for beginners and people with an unsteady hand. This is the most forgiving kind of eyeliner as the brush makes the product glide on effortlessly. Moreover, gel eyeliner is very buildable giving you control over the kind of coverage you want.

Go over the same line two or three times to achieve a deeper black, or leave it more natural with just one layer. Since it creates a soft edge, the line doesn’t have to be perfect.

Note that you won’t be able to draw a sharp-edged wing with this one, but gel liner is ideal for a more smudged look and smokey eyes.

Is gel eyeliner better than liquid eyeliner?

The difference between gel and liquid eyeliner is like comparing apples and pears. If you’re a newbie or you’ve tried to apply liquid eyeliner, and failed time and time again, then yes, gel eyeliner is better for you than liquid.

Unfortunately, there are still some makeup looks you can only achieve with liquid eyeliner—they’re worth conquering the learning curve though!

Fave product: Melt Cosmetics Ultra Matte Gel Eyeliner

Ultra Matte Gel Eyeliner – $19

2. Pen eyeliner

Next up, the pen eyeliner—not to be confused with the classic eyeliner pencil (which every woman should have in her makeup bag!) Is an eyeliner pen the right choice for you? Let’s dive in.

Related: 13 Makeup Hacks That Actually Make Your Face Look Thinner

What is a pen eyeliner?

Pen eyeliners are like a liquid eyeliner, but in a handy little pen. They usually have a pointy felt tip with the eyeliner product inside the pen, meaning you don’t need a brush, and instead you apply it with the felt tip.

What is pen eyeliner good for?

This is my go-to type of eyeliner for getting a sharp cat eye look. As the felt tip isn’t very bendy (just like a Sharpie), it’s perfect for drawing straight lines. On the flip side, pen eyeliner doesn’t leave much room for error, so it might not be the best if you’re a beginner or don’t have a steady hand.

If your hand isn’t steady enough to draw a sharp line, you could try sticking some tape at the angle of your desired wing on the outer corner of your eye. This way, you can draw over the tape, but removing it once the liner is dried will leave you with a sharp edge. This is an easy winged eyeliner hack for ensuring your cat eye lines are even—because we’ve all been there!

Fave product: KVD Beauty Tattoo Liner

KVD Beauty Tattoo Eyeliner – $21

3. Liquid eyeliner

Last, but not least, we have the liquid eyeliner. Known for being the hardest kind of eyeliner to use, liquid eyeliner is also the most rewarding when you finally nail that look.

What is liquid eyeliner?

Liquid eyeliner – as the name suggests – comes in liquid form, typically packaged in a small bottle with a tiny brush attached to the lid. To use, dip the brush into the liquid and say a prayer to the eyeliner gods before applying it, as this one requires some fairly hefty practice.

Related: Pucker Up — These Are The 13 Best-Selling Lipsticks Of All Time

What is liquid eyeliner good for?

Absolute pros with the steady hand of a neurosurgeon. This type of eyeliner’s consistency is beautifully glossy and rich, but hard to apply with the small, flexible brush it usually comes with.

It’s ideal for tight-lining (drawing a thin line directly onto your lash line) and delivers a very opaque, shiny finish. If you want to create clean lines and add some definition to your eyes without a big flick, this is your product, but better budget for some extra time practising first.

Fave product: Lancome ARTLINER Precision Felt-Tip Liquid Eyeliner

Lancome ARTLINER – $31

In a nutshell, there’s an eyeliner out there for everyone—whether it’s a humble pencil, pen, gel eyeliner or liquid. If you’re new to the eyeliner game, gel liner will be your best friend, while pen eyeliner will give you the winged eyes of your dreams. Lastly, liquid liner is for the overachiever desiring precise, fine lines fit for Adele.

Comment: What’s your all-time fave eyeliner product? Do you prefer gel or liquid liner?