Blame it on the surplus of cat-eyed models on the runway this season or the perennially cool effect of a dramatic rimming of kohl. Black eyeliner has been on the lids of street style stars and red carpet actresses alike of late. And for good reason: The staple is timeless and goes with virtually everything, from lacy underpinnings to ripped jeans to black-tie frocks. But when it comes to choosing one of the hundreds of thousands of formulas on the market, where to begin? From smoky pencils to liquid liner and everything in between, here are seven professional makeup artists on their top picks—and how to make that line last all day long.
“My favorite black liner is by Sephora,” says Ariel Tejada, known to his 1.9 million followers (and counting) as @makeupbyariel for the smoky eyes he’s executed on Kendall Jenner and Ashley Graham. “I love its matte finish and how blendable it is,” he says of the waterproof texture.
Patrick Ta, the pro behind some of Adriana Lima’s and Bella Hadid’s best looks, points to Inglot’s gel formula as his top pick. “To ensure the perfect wing, trace out the shape of the liner with an angled brush and shadow, then go over it with the gel liner,” he says. But be forewarned: “Taking off gel liner can be a mess.”
Hung Vanngo, who counts Selena Gomez and Jennifer Lawrence as his top clients, always has this liquid liner in his kit. The expert recommends first swiping on an eye primer and then “outlining the shape with a black pencil.” The final touch is to “complete the lines by going over it with Marc Beauty’s Magic Marc’er” for a long-lasting, completely waterproof effect.
“I use this [formula] with a thin liner brush,” explains Kim Kardashian West’s pro artist, Los Angeles–based Mario Dedivanovic. “It goes on very smoothly and allows you a few seconds to blend before it sets,” he explains. Not to mention, it “stays put all day and night.”
“My favorite black eyeliner is Jillian Dempsey’s,” notes New York–based artist Romy Soleimani who has worked with everyone from Natalie Portman to Jessica Chastain. The expert suggests applying a “very rich and super black” formula directly in the waterline and “to the inside of your top lid” for an eye-opening and smoky look.
“I love how tiny and precise the tip is,” says Joyce Bonelli, who counts the entire Kardashian-Jenner clan as longtime clients. For best results, “start by drawing the wing up and out from the outer edge of lashes.” Bonelli’s best trick for a perfect cat-eye? “The easiest way to do this on yourself is to look down into a vanity mirror,” says Bonelli. “This allows you to have your eye in the position needed to paint on eyeliner while having it open just enough to see.”
“What I love about this eyeliner is the super fine 2mm tip,” explains Michael Ashton, the man behind Adele’s famous black wing. “It allows for precise application and the workable gel pencil means I can build thickness as needed.” For a defined flick like the Grammy-winning singer’s, Ashton recommends applying liner from the outside in. “It makes the hand create a straighter line to the inner corner of the eye.”