Beauty on a budget: A guide to felt-tip liquid liners

Photo illustration by Joel McCarthy
Photo illustration by Joel McCarthy

Good choices for every budget

By Lauren Kelly, Editor-in-Chief


A couple years ago I made the switch from pencil liners to liquid after I had reviewed the NYX liquid liners. However, they were super finicky because the brush was thin, long, and flexible. I’ve since transitioned to felt-tipped liquid liners, which are easier to control. I’ve sampled a bunch of them at different price points, and here are my opinions on each! Liquid liner is super fun, and it’s easy to create subtle or dramatic looks—whichever you think fits you best, good luck!

Kat von D (KvD) Tattoo Liner – $25 at Sephora

Kat von D’s Tattoo Liner is one of the more well-known and commonly-used liners in this style. My first felt liner was Tattoo in both brown and black, and while I liked them, I found that neither appeared that bold on me. Additionally, my black liner began to dry out and appear even lighter even quicker than I’d expected. I wouldn’t really recommend these liners with the other options out there, but you may have more luck with them than I did.

Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eye Liner – $29 at Sephora

The Stila liquid liner is also pretty popular, and I can see why. This was my next purchase after being convinced by a friend after I complained about the KvD one to her. I find the colour to be much bolder and darker, which is what I’m looking for in a black liner. I’ve also had no problems with it lasting on my eyelids. However, since it’s waterproof, it is not as easy to take off. Unfortunately, only black is available in most Sephora stores, so you’ll have to go online or to another retailer if you were hoping for the softer tones of brown or a more colourful option.

Physician’s Formula Eye Booster 2-in-1 Lash Boosting Eyeliner + Serum – $15 at London Drugs

Described as a dupe for the Stila liquid liner, this liner also claims to include a serum that lengthens your eyelashes over time. I used it daily for over a month, and my lashes do look great, but I made the mistake of not taking a “before” picture for comparison. The liner itself is nice, and comes in three shades—Ultra Black, Black, and Brown. However, while the Ultra Black was dark, it was not as dark as the Stila. When I did a test on my arm to compare the longevity of the liners, this one rubbed off much less than the others after a day. At the cheaper price point and with the lash boosting effects, this is a pretty solid product, even if it’s not perfect.

Elf Intense Ink Eyeliner – $5 at London Drugs

This one is the super low-budget dupe. For the price, it’s a great starter liner. The one major difference is that the applicator brush is much larger than the others. Even with the large size of the brush, I still found it relatively easy to apply, although the corners weren’t as sharp.  This one is available in black only, so it’s the most limited of the four I’ve discussed here. In online discussions of this liner, users found it to be super black. However, in my experience it was noticeably lighter and a bit waterier than the other liners. I’m assuming there might be something wrong with mine, though, based on images I’ve seen of others. At this price, it’s worth trying it out for yourself!