Liquid Eye Liners | Chanel, Kat Von D, Marc Jacobs Beauty, Charlotte Tilbury and Tom Ford

August 26, 2014

I’ve never been a fan of liquid eyeliners on me. The traditional kind with a tiny brush at the end has always felt flimsy to me which has never let me control the line on the eyes. I don’t have the steadiest hands and prefer to line with a detail brush and a darker powder shadow or a pencil that I can blend easily. I’ve tested a few felt tip liquid liners in stores (on the hand) and found they either looked grey when they dried, had felt tips that looked mushed after use, or bled into crevices easily. I dismissed them for many years until I discovered Tom Ford’s Defining Eye Pen last year and it completely changed my outlook on liners. Since then I’ve been braver with the liquid liner application and have been able to test a few more. I don’t have a good tutorial on application but find it’s best when applied in short strokes (even if it’s messy) along the upper lash line and then built up for thickness and precision. I absolutely loved this Easy Winged Liner Technique video by MakeupbyTiffanyD which helped me tremendously as a liquid liner beginner.

Five liquid liners I’ve tried that I wanted to share (with a Sharpie and Post Card for size reference):

  • Chanel Γ‰criture de Chanel Stylo Eye-Liner in Noir ($35) was the second liquid liner I purchased. The artists at the Chanel counter raved about it when it came out with the fall collection. Noir is a true black but when you compare it to the other five I have, it’s not the deepest and looks slightly greyish. It has a felt tip and the cap has a slight spring inside when you close it, the packaging seals it completely so it doesn’t dry out. My initial thoughts on this were that it was a good liquid liner, but after comparing it to others, it’s just not as good. It takes a long time to dry, the tip isn’t quite as precise and just looks grayish once it does dry.
  • Kat Von D Ink Liner in Trooper ($18) has made it into my top three picks. The Ink Liner comes with a felt tip while the Tattoo Liner comes with a brush tip. This one has a stiffer tip that is still slightly flexible. For me it creates a super precise line and is very easy to control. When testing which one would remove easily off my arm with a dual-phase eye makeup remover, this was the second longest lasting (next to Tom Ford). This one also has a spring insert in the cap which seals it completely once closed. I like that it’s very fluid and there’s no bleeding when you apply it.
  • Marc Jacobs Magic Marc’er Precision Pen in Blacquer ($30) is one I had high hopes for based on the rave reviews. When I first tried it I did not like it. The felt tip was too soft for a precise line. After experimenting with it some more, I found it best when applied sideways or horizontally and then gliding it across the lids in short feathery strokes. It dries nicely to a true rich and glossy black but doesn’t smudge. It is a liner I find takes more time. When I’m in a rush, this one isn’t the best for me. 
  • Charlotte Tilbury The Feline Flick Quick Fine Line ShodΓ΅ Pen is something I purchased from the from the Rock Chic set on Charlotte Tilbury UK. Now available in the US at Nordstrom, Net-a-Porter, Bergdorf Goodman and Beautylish. This one is quite amazing with a super precise line and glossy rich black finish. It stays put and sets quickly. I love that it is super easy to glide on for precise application. The stiffer tip makes it easier for me to apply versus one that bends easily. Huge thumbs up for this one.
  • Tom Ford Eye Defining Pen in Deeper 01 ($55) is hands down the best liquid eye liner I’ve tried. It comes with two tips, one is a thicker brush, the other is a smaller felt tip. This one is super easy to apply. It gives a super dark black line and is the easiest for me to use (which is important since I’m not the best at applying liquid liners). It’s lasted almost a year for me without drying out and the tips have remained sharp.

Comparisons to pencil liners: Houglass 1.5 Mechanical Pencil, Chanel Stylo Yeux in Gris and Edward Bess Defining Eyeliner in Deep Brown

To summarize my thoughts:

Top three picks
Tom Ford, Charlotte Tilbury and Kat Von D
Deepest black: Charlotte Tilbury
Longest lasting: Kat Von D, Marc Jacobs and Tom Ford
Most precise: Tom Ford and Kat Von D
Easiest to control: Tom Ford

If I were pressed to pick just one, it would hands down be the Tom Ford Eye Defining Pen even though $55 for an eyeliner is quite ridiculous. It’s super easy to control for a lighter or deeper line. It also has two tip sizes for a fine or thick line. It glides on and doesn’t smudge and retains its lush dark glossy black color even when dried.

Are you a liquid liner fan? What are your favorites?

The Marc Jacobs and Kat Von D eyeliners were provided courtesy of Sephora for review consideration. The others were purchased by me. More information in my Disclosures.

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  • I wanted to buy Chanel but after reading this……. it does not seems a good value. Tom Ford's too expensive, I'm not a huge fan of eye liner on myself. only sometimes

  • When I glanced at your first product picture–without reading your post first–my initial thought was, "OMG! That Marc Jacobs liner looks just like a Sharpie!" Well, duh! Silly me πŸ˜›

    I still haven't embraced liquid eyeliner pens which is odd seeing as I wore liquid eyeliner throughout the 60's. My hands are very steady and I like the look so I'm not sure why I don't have any pens in my stash. I think it might be something to try when CT's line launches next month.

    • Yeah, I thought the sharpie was a liner, too! I was thinking that was really cute packaging and I'm actually bummed it isn't a liner, LOL

  • Wanna try the Tom Ford one! I have the Chanel one and it's great πŸ™‚

  • I never use liquid eyeliner, I'm a pencil or powder user, but this really makes me want to give liquid liners another try!! I think I might need to pick up the Tom Ford liner soon πŸ™‚

  • Wow I love this review! I am in the market for a new eye liner, I think I am going to give the Kat Von D one a try!

  • Anonymous

    The TF is my hands down favorite (runner up being the YSL liquid liner). The TF allows for precision which is good for me since I do not have a steady hand! he YSL is beautiful for longevity and color, but I can't get it on straight to save my life. I'm anxious for the CT launch stateside…. – Zeynep

  • This review couldn't have come at a better timing. I've scratched TF from my wish list as it's so expensive but you make me wonder if it's not worth the try after all. A year without it drying out and the tips remaining sharp, hmm … Shall I add it back on my wish list? πŸ˜‰

    X Alice

  • Thanks for this comparison review, Sabrina! I'm glad to see the comparison includes detail info about TF liner. My fave liquid pen liners are from Japanese brands (Coffret d'Or, Lunasol, Maquillage, etc.). I see much preference for TF brush liner and I found Japanese brands has brush tip and refillable "ink" making it probably the best liquid pen liner I've ever come across. They come in numerous colors (from ashy brown, to grey, to sparkly blue, to deepest black), and the tip, unlike felt-tip, never dulls. Not available in the U.S. sadly but not impossible to get, either.

    • What Japanese brands do you recommend with the refillable ink, Claire?

  • Such an ultra helpful comparison! I'm a huge sucker for black liquid liner and I'll definitely bookmark this for when I'm craving a luxe option πŸ™‚

  • Hi Sabrina,

    What a fun post! I guess I have the opposite liner tendencies — recently it seems like I'm all liquid liner all the time! The liners I've been using are the brush model; I kind of like the feeling of dipping the brush in liner and drawing on a line. That said, it did take a bit of a learning curve!

  • Hi Sabrina! I completely agree on Tom Ford. It is one of the best liners with its performance, color intensity, ease of use and quality of the ingredients. Marc Jacobs was a disappointment for me. Best πŸ™‚ XO

  • Chanel and Tom Ford products look awesome!
    Lots of love, xx


  • I have honestly felt the same way about liquid liners, so this post was SOOOOO helpful!!! I am really loving the stila liner at the moment but I definitely think I'll be looking into either the Kat Von D or Tom Ford liners very soon….the only problem for ek is that the Tom Ford liner has quite a hefty price tag!!!! Great post though, very thorough!!

    Gaborillaa.blogspot.ca | Makeup and Beauty Blog

  • Anonymous

    Hi Sabrina,
    I love your swatches and reviews. Thank you for doing them, but I noticed when you write "it's" I think you mean to write "its."
    it's = it is

    I'm sure it's just an oversight, since your reviews are so well written, so just an FYI.

  • Hi Sabrina: What do you think about the new Benefit gel liner in a pen – "They're Real Push-Up Liner"? I have it and even though it's a bit of a learning curve to it, I like it better than the gel liners in the pot like Bobbi Brown or Mac.

  • This is an amazing post! Tom Ford and Charlotte Tilbury are going straight onto my wishlist.

    Claudia xx | Beauty and the Chic

  • Chanel and Tom Ford look like the best ones! Thanks for sharing.
    Lots of love, xx


  • Fabulous review! I am an enormous fan of TFs' liner. I was unfamiliar with Kat von D and Charlotte Tilbury so I appreciate the heads up. Disappointing news on Chanel. When I draw black I don't want to see grey! Marc Jacobs as a cosmetics line hasn't grabbed me yet. I think they still have a lot to prove (they seem all style over substance)!

  • wow, yes i agree $55 for an eyeliner is huge but if it's really good, then it's worth ~

    kat von d seems great for the price..

  • Hi Sabrina, looks like I may have to try liquid liners myself now – that's how convincing your post is! I've always been afraid of them looking too harsh and needing too much precision. Unrelated question please: What script font are you using in the second and third photos? (I'm a graphic designer, I notice these things) Thank you!

  • If I still liked felt tip liners I would want to get the KVD liner since if read/watched other good reviews on it.

    While I love brush tip liners the most, but I'm not sure I'd be able to let myself get the one from TF…$55..oh my…I think I'll stick w/ the one from Physicians Formula.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for posting this really informative post! I really appreciate you sharing your opinion and being super constructive. Love your blog! will def. pick up the tom ford and the kat von d!

  • Hi!

    I know you mentioned that you've had your Tom Ford eyeliner for a year and it hasn't dried out but I was wondering how often you use it? KVD's Ink Liner is my current HG eyeliner. I use it every day and one pen usually lasts me 3 weeks or so. Just wondering if the Tom Ford would be a better buy if it lasts longer than just a few weeks.

    Thank You,

    • Hi, I don't use liquid liners very often, probably once a week at the most.