Whether you’re applying a full face of glam or everyday makeup, eyeliner is a go-to for creating a striking look. Sure, long fanned-out lashes go a long way, but to really bring attention to your eyes or to take your look from day to night, you’ll want to reach for a liner. “Many people don’t realize how an eyeliner can create such a wide range of looks and shapes,” says pro makeup artist Maria Gianno. “Although black is universally loved by so many, I have loved using different colors on the eyes, as it is a simple and beautiful way to make a statement or bring out certain features.”
You can glide a classic strip over your lash line, smudge a dark liner in for a smoky effect, flick out a liquid liner for a playful cat eye, or create a modern outlined look. But which colors are best for you? While it largely depends on the occasion and your mood, some hues flatter different eye colors better than others.
With that said, we rounded up the best eyeliners for every eye color, including recs from makeup artists. Keep reading to find out the most flattering hue for your own eye color, along with pro-approved tips and tricks.
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Dark brown is arguably the most versatile eye color, and bold hues can really make them pop. “I find for brown eyes, when I use colors such as blues, greens, or purples, it makes the eyes appear lighter and will almost make them look more vibrant,” says Gianno. Try KVD Super Pomade Eyeliner in Satellite Blue, Power Green, or Roxy Purple for a show-stopping look.
Type: Pomade | Shades: 15 | Free of: Sulfates, parabens, alcohol | Size: 0.2 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Lancôme’s Artliner in Green Metallic is also stunning on dark brown eyes. This easy-to-use liquid liner has a marker-like foam tip, helping you get a precise line on the first try.
Type: Liquid | Shades: 4 | Free of: Sulfates | Size: 0.04 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: No
This highly pigmented eyeliner from BLK/OPL offers the precision of a freshly sharpened pencil and the smoothness of a liquid. The After Hours shade is a gorgeous electric purple that makes brown eyes sparkle.
Type: Pencil | Shades: 5 | Free of: Sulfates, parabens, alcohol | Size: 0.04 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes
“I think brown eyes really look beautiful with black eyeliner,” says Montreal-based makeup artist Natasha Raquel. “I love a nice smoked black liner with brown eyes to create a dreamy and sultry look.” With that said, you can’t go wrong with Fenty Beauty’s hyper-saturated Flyliner in Cuz I’m Black.
Type: Liquid | Shades: 2 | Free of: Parabens | Size: 0.02 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes
What Our Testers Say
“Luckily, Fenty Beauty’s Flyliner was on my side and blessed me with a sleek yet dramatic look. I love the point of the eyeliner, which is pretty thin, similar to a writing pen. The product sits comfortably between my fingertips, and the design makes it easier for me to be more precise and have more control.” — Celeste Polanco, Product Tester
For light brown eyes, we adore MAC Liquidlast in Late Night, a blackened green shade that looks vibrant against amber and chestnut irises. The no-flake, waterproof liquid formula swipes on effortlessly in a perfectly defined line and lasts for up to 24 hours.
Type: Liquid | Shades: 1 | Free of: Sulfates, parabens | Size: 0.08 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: No
“If you have light golden-brown eyes, any variation of violets and lavenders are always stunning,” says Portland-based makeup artist Analisa Marie of The Wildflower Collective.
Type: Pencil | Shades: 28 | Free of: Sulfates, parabens, alcohol | Size: 0.04 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Amber eyeliners with shimmery tones can bring out the pretty golden flecks in light brown eyes. We suggest this jumbo eye pencil in Gold. The extra-smooth waterproof formula lasts for as long as 12 hours, and the semi-thick tip means you can use it as an eyeshadow or liner.
Type: Pencil | Shades: 25 | Free of: Sulfates, parabens, alcohol | Size: 0.1 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: No
Light brown-eyed beauties looking for the perfect black eyeliner should check out Beauty Bakerie Lollipop Liner. Thanks to the flexible felt-tip brush, the inky jet black color goes on smooth and precise for easy wings and cat eyes.
Type: Liquid | Shades: 1 | Free of: Sulfates, parabens, alcohol | Size: 0.1 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Courtesy of Ulta
Like brown eyes, those with hazel eyes can rock anything from black and gray to green and gold. But as Racquel points out, purple is a go-to for enhancing hazel eyes. We’re all about NYX Retractable Eyeliner in Deep Purple, which is deep enough to be subtle but also plenty pigmented with plum undertones for a flattering effect.
Type: Mechanical pencil | Shades: 12 | Free of: Sulfates, parabens | Size: 0.01 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes
“Pink and mauve tones are stunning with green and hazel eyes,” Racquel tells Byrdie. This pale lavender shade is a little shimmery but not over the top, creating a flirty effect that brings out the greenish-brown hues of hazel.
Type: Mechanical pencil | Shades: 4 | Free of: Sulfates, parabens, alcohol | Size: 0.01 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: No
“I don’t often love to use gray or taupe liners, but hazel eyes can really pull these shades off,” says Marie. NYX’s ultra-smooth, clump-free Slim Eye Pencil in the shade Taupe is an excellent pick.
Type: Pencil | Shades: 24 | Free of: Sulfates, parabens, alcohol | Size: 0.04 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Marie recommends shades of green for those with hazel eyes. “These colors are a go-to alternative to the brown liner trick with hazel eyes,” she explains. The Evergreen shade of this incredibly smooth and brilliantly pigmented gel eyeliner from Almay is a solid choice.
Type: Gel | Shades: 2 | Free of: Sulfates, parabens, alcohol | Size: 0.03 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: No
“For green eyes, I love using burgundy colors or plums that have a brown undertone with a touch of purple to make your eyes mesmerizing,” says Gianno. As it turns out, green-eyed goddess Drew Barrymore’s Flower Beauty makes a killer purply brown. Check out the brand’s Forever Wear eyeliner in Amethyst.
Type: Pencil | Shades: 3 | Free of: Sulfates, parabens | Size: 0.01 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes
“Red-undertoned liners will particularly compliment green eyes. Think rust tones, terracotta tones, and hot tones like bold pinks,” says Marie. The deep wine hue of Urban Decay’s 24/7 Glide-On eye pencil is just the thing for enhancing green irises.
Like Marie, we can’t get enough of the red eyeliner trend. “But be wary here because you can quickly go from bold to looking irritated if you diffuse a color like this too much,” she warns.
Type: Mechanical pencil | Shades: 34 | Free of: Sulfates, parabens, alcohol | Size: 0.04 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes
“For green eyes, I love to use black to make them really pop,” says Raquel. Try Milani’s intensely pigmented and long-lasting gel liner, Supreme Kohl Kajal, in Blackest Black.
Type: Kohl pencil | Shades: 1 | Free of: Sulfates, parabens, alcohol | Size: 0.01 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes
To add some contrast to green eyes without straying from earth tones, opt for shades of brown, like IT Cosmetics Superhero eyeliner in Cosmic Copper. The extra-smooth gel formula is designed to resist tugging to prevent bumpy, uneven lines.
Type: Gel | Shades: 8 | Size: 0.04 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes
People with blue eyes often reach for black liners, which can undoubtedly look striking. However, Marie says navy liners can actually create better contrast for a more intense effect. This super-rich, black-adjacent Midnight blue eyeliner by Stila is a great option.
Type: Liquid | Shades: 8 | Free of: Sulfates | Size: 0.02 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes
“For blue eyes, I love toning it down with browns. A subtle brown liner with shadow really brings out the blue,” Racquel tells Byrdie. Try Estée Lauder Double Wear Eyeliner in Espresso.
Type: Mechanical pencil | Shades: 9 | Free of: Sulfates, parabens | Size: 0.04 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: No
“The contrasting color to blue is yellow,” says Marie, which is why sunny hues like NYX Vivid Halo liquid liner can have such a knockout effect. “These yellow tones really bring an element of chicness in an underdone way when used minimally around your eyes,” she explains.
Type: Liquid | Shades: 9 | Free of: Sulfates, parabens, alcohol | Size: 0.06 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes
“For blue eyes, I have loved to use warm tones such as earthy tones, coppers, and golds,” says Gianno. We love Nudestix Luminous Eye Color in Copper Foil, which works as both an eyeliner and an eyeshadow.
Type: Crayon | Shades: 12 | Free of: Sulfates, parabens, alcohol | Size: 0.1 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: No
For dark brown eyes, the best option is KVD Beauty Super Pomade Vegan Eyeliner, Shadow & Brow Pigment in Satellite Blue, Roxy Purple, or Power Green. The best eyeliner for light brown eyes is MAC Liquidlast Liner in Late Night. If you have hazel eyes, your best bet is NYX Professional Makeup Retractable Eyeliner Deep Purple. For green eyes, the best eyeliner is Flower Beauty Forever Wear Long-Wear Eyeliner in Amethyst. And for blue eyes, the best option is Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eye Liner in Midnight.
What to Look For When Buying Eyeliner for Your Eye Color
If you have brown eyes, blue, green, and purple liners will make them pop, though jet black can also be flattering. For hazel eyes, purple, green, gray, and taupe are all excellent choices. People with green eyes should look for burgundy, rust, and other warm, reddish tones, though black and brown can also work well. If you have blue eyes, opt for navy, copper, dark brown, or yellow eyeliner.
“When in doubt, look at a color wheel for some inspiration,” says Marie. “Opposite colors complement and colors adjacent to each other in varying tones offer less contrast, but generally look very pretty when used all together.”
Darker shades work well with every eye color, but for those with lighter irises, the contrast lends to more of an evening look. Light shades can be worn day or night, and vivid hues offer the most striking effect. However, as Marie notes, there are no real rules, so don’t hesitate to try out any and every shade you love. “If you are drawn to a certain color you’d like to play with, I say go for it, and have some fun,” she says.
When browsing eyeliners, you’ll also want to consider the type. You’ve got your traditional eye pencils, which are generally great for beginners and usually need to be sharpened. Then there are gel eyeliners, which are also easy to use and glide on a little smoother than regular pencils. Liquid liners are ideal for creating cat eyes or a winged effect. They tend to be the most challenging to use, but it’s nothing you can’t handle with a little practice.
Can I apply eyeliner to my waterline?
You can, but choose accordingly. The waterline is very sensitive, so make sure you’re using a soft, creamy formula that doesn’t tug or scratch the area, and if you’re using a pencil, sharpen it regularly to remove any bacteria that may be on the surface.1
Can I use a colorful eyeliner even if it’s not the match for my eye color?
Of course! You can choose to go for any color in the ROYGBIV spectrum to create your desired effect. There are no hard and fast rules about which shades are on or off-limits. But in general, choosing a hue on the opposite end of the color wheel from your own eye color is a surefire way to make your own natural hue pop.
How often should I replace my eyeliner?
The lifespan of your eyeliner can vary depending on the brand and formulation you choose, but a good rule of thumb would be to sharpen your pencils regularly to ensure a fresh, bacteria-free layer of product is always making contact with your skin. When it comes to gels and liquids, opt for anti-microbial formulas, and if you notice any changes in the texture, finish, or smell, toss it right away and replace it with a new option.