Difference Between Liquid and Pencil Eyeliner
By Claire Miles - April 29, 2022

Eyeliner is a makeup staple that has existed for several centuries, known by different names and made with different ingredients across multiple civilizations and periods. The eyeliner has signified the looks of kings and queens, actors, singers, dancers, and even sex workers at varying times in human history. It is only standard that there be some modern-day complications regarding its use.

Table Summary

Easier to applyApplication is a little complex without practice
Likely to smudgeDoes not smudge
Thickness: can be adjustedThickness: is based on product
Easy to removeNot as easy to remove
It works perfectly for a smudged lookIt works perfectly for a winged or cat-eye look


The pencil eyeliner is the first type of eyeliner used across ancient India and Egypt as a dark line across the eye. It was used not only for aesthetics but as a shade of protection from the desert sun.

The liquid eyeliner came into popularity in the 1920s through to the 1950s during the Tut-mania trend that gripped the western world and its media. It was common to see actresses like Josephine Baker or Soad Hosny on the silver screen recreating the winged or cat-eye look on Nefertiti’s bust.

Pencil VS Liquid Eyeliner

The Egyptian kohl and Arabian Kajal are types of pencil eyeliner. It is easy to apply and is quite versatile. The effect is a soft subtle look perfect for the smudged or smoky look. An added advantage is that it can be used on the waterline and as a base for eyeshadow. However, this type of eyeliner is not usually waterproof and is likely to run in case of an accident. In contrast, Liquid eyeliner allows for the precise and beautiful ‘straight’ lines required for such intense looks. However, when over-applied on the eye, a smear is not so easy to correct since it dries up almost immediately.