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Cream/Gel Eyeliner: The Best of the Best

Cream/Gel Eyeliner Breakdown

Cream/gel eyeliners are usually thick creams (the consistency of a cream, but the thickness of more like a paste… or a lipstick, for a better beauty reference!). They usually require a brush to apply it, and most use these on the upper lash line (they can be irritating on the lower lash line, particularly for those with more sensitive eyes). They’re a very, very popular item with numerous brands having their own take on the cream/gel eyeliner product type.

At the end of the day, they’re all quality cream/gel eyeliners and none are not worth paying for. As with many cosmetic products, some will work better on others–we’re not all going to fall in love with the same formula–but I do think these are all good picks. Personally, I tend to choose by the color/shade rather than the brand! If I had to give you a top three (in alphabetical order), they would be: Bobbi Brown, MAC, and shu uemura.

Here’s a comparison across eight different brands and their cream/gel eyeliners…

Stila Smudge Pot ($20.00 for 0.14 oz.) are richly pigmented, fairly creamy, and have a good variety in color selection. It is available in seven shades: Black, Bronze, Brown, Cobalt, Grey, Jade, and Kitten. Stila also regularly releases limited edition shades throughout the year.

  • Texture: Creamy, thick
  • Finish: Matte, metallic, shimmer
  • Wear: Smudge-proof, budge-proof, doesn’t crease
  • Price per Ounce: $142.86/oz.
  • Comments: Smudge Pots can take a little longer to dry down than other cream/gel liners. They’re very creamy and can easily be used an eyeshadow base as well. The mattes are more pigmented and opaque than the shimmers, which can require layering to build up intensity (particularly if used as a base).
  • Related Posts: Holiday Smudge Pots (Review), Cobalt Clutch & Purple Pumps Smudge Pots (Review), Kitten & Black Cat Smudge Pots (Review)

Smashbox Jet Set Waterproof Eye Liner ($22.00 for 0.10 oz.) is lightweight, thick (and just a bit creamy–has a very gel-ish texture) gel eyeliner. It is available in five shades: Bronze, Dark Brown, Midnight Black, Midnight Purple, and Navy Blue.

  • Texture: Gel, thick
  • Finish: Matte, metallic, shimmer
  • Wear: Smudge-proof, budge-proof, waterproof — not creamy enough to use as a base as easily as other cream/gel liners
  • Price per Ounce: $220.00/oz.
  • Comments: The packaging is no-nonsense; very compact and travel-friendly. The texture is thick and kind of “sticks” so it’s best used as an eyeliner.
  • Related Posts: Navy Blue (Review)

Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Gel Eyeliner ($21.00 for 0.10 oz.) is a creamy, richly pigmented long-wearing gel eyeliner. It’s surprisingly thin, lightweight, and creamy–but still has the pigmentation you’d expect from a gel eyeliner. Bobbi offers an amazing shade range compared to other brands. It is available in sixteen shades (!): Black Ink, Black Mauve Shimmer Ink, Black Plum Ink, Bronze Shimmer, Caviar Ink, Chocolate Shimmer Ink, Cobalt Ink, Espresso Ink, Forest Shimmer Ink, Granite Ink, Graphite Shimmer Ink, Hunter Ink, Indigo Ink, Ivy Shimmer Ink, Sepia Ink, and Violet Ink.

  • Texture: Creamy, thin, smudgeable
  • Finish: Matte, metallic, shimmer
  • Wear: Smudge-proof, budge-proof, crease-resistant
  • Price per Ounce: $210.00/oz.
  • Comments: It’s thin and creamy, yet it doesn’t take long to dry, and they work easily as bases or as eyeliners. You should work fast, but you don’t have to work too fast–it’s kind of the “just right” in terms of timing. The variation in shades offered is excellent, as well.
  • Related Posts: Forest Ink Gel Eyeliner (Review)

shu uemura Painting Liner Eye Liner ($24.00 for 0.098 oz.) is a thick, gel eyeliner with a creamy texture that comes in a good variety of shades. It is available in thirteen shades: Black, Brown, Citrine, Gold, Green, Metallic Black, Metallic Brown, Night Blue, Purple, Silver, Turquoise, Vivid Blue, White.

  • Texture: Thick, gel, smooth
  • Finish: Matte, metallic
  • Wear: Smudge-proof, budge-proof, waterproof
  • Price per Ounce: $244.90/oz.
  • Comments: The shimmery shades tend to have more drag and may require layering for a solid look, but the matte shades are a little creamier and more opaque from the get-go. They give you a good window for working – they don’t dry too fast, but they don’t stay wet. Painting Liner is very much a true-to-form gel eyeliner. It’s thick and has a smooth consistency.
  • Related Posts: Citrine & Turquoise (Review)

Make Up For Ever Aqua Black Waterproof Cream Eye Shadow ($22.00 for 0.24 oz.) is listed as a cream eyeshadow, but it feels and acts like a cream eyeliner. It’s also curious that there aren’t more shades available, if it truly is a cream eyeshadow (lots of shades to be offered/created). Anyway, Make Up For Ever also has Aqua Creamliner ($20.00 for 0.14 oz.) and is available in six shades: Matte Black, Matte Brown, Matte Light Brown, Matte Turquoise, Matte Purple, and Matte Green. I haven’t tried them, though, so I can’t give you any insight on how they compare or differ.

  • Texture: Smooth, thick
  • Finish: Matte
  • Wear: Smudge-proof, budge-proof, waterproof
  • Price per Ounce: $91.67/oz.
  • Comments: I found this to be very comparable to MAC’s Fluidline, except it’s creamier and takes a little longer to dry than most cream/gels. It does, however, hold up very well–it lasts all day without fading, smudging, or migrating elsewhere. You get a fair amount of product (funny enough, since it’s an “eyeshadow” you get 0.24 oz., but if you purchase Make Up For Ever’s actual Creamliner, you only get 0.14 oz.!), but this is not that good — more product to go bad faster. If you use it on the daily, you may find it gets drier and drier as less product sits in the larger jar. It’s not a big deal, but since gel eyeliner should be regularly replaced (since it is an eye product and you’re often double-dipping), more is not always the best thing.
  • Related PostsLooks using Aqua Black

MAC Fluidline ($15.00 for 0.10 oz.) is a gel-based eyeliner that comes in a heavy glass pot with a smooth texture. Fluidlines used to be available in a lot more shades, but currently is only available in six shades: Blacktrack, Blitz & Glitz, Dipdown, Macroviolet, Rich Ground, and Waveline. MAC used to regularly release new fluidline shades, but they’ve slowed down quite a bit in the past year.

  • Texture: Smooth, creamy, blendable
  • Finish: Matte, metallic, shimmer
  • Wear: Smudge-proof, budge-proof, long-wearing
  • Price per Ounce: $150.00/oz.
  • Comments: It’s creamy enough to be able to draw a tight line and not worry about drag or fading–it’ll be opaque and you won’t have to fuss with it much. It dries down fast enough not to smudge once you’ve finished applying but slow enough to give you time to work with it as well.
  • Related Posts: Looks using Blacktrack Fluidline

Lancome Ink Artliner Gel Eyeliner ($23.50 for oz.) is a creamy, gel-based liner. It is available in four shades: Brun Elegance, Noir Magnificence, Brun Mystere, and Plum Tease. However, availability depends, because it’s difficult to determine if any of the shades are permanent. (Lancome’s website only lists Brun Elegance and Plum Tease; Nordstrom has the most–four.) There have also been limited edition shades (e.g. Indigo Charm).

  • Texture: Smooth, creamy, blendable
  • Finish: Metallic, shimmer
  • Wear: Smudge-proof, budge-proof, long-wearing
  • Price per Ounce: $167.86/oz.
  • Comments: The liner is pretty, but it can have a tendency to drag when you’re using a more shimmery shade–you may have to go over it again to get the pigmentation you want. It dries down in a reasonable time (not too fast, not too slow), and it does wear well. Lancome just started rolling out Ink Artliner this past year, so it’s still not clear what shades (if any) are permanent.
  • Related Posts: Plum Tease (Review), Indigo Charm (Review)

Sonia Kashuk Dramatically Defining Long Wear Gel Eyeliner ($8.99 for 0.18 oz.) is a large-sized, creamy gel-based eyeliner. It is available in three shades: Cocoa, Ebony, and Indigo. They’re impossible to track down online and often sold out in-stores (carried primarily at Target).

  • Texture: Creamy, smooth, pigmented
  • Finish: Matte, metallic, shimmer
  • Wear: Smudge-proof, budge-proof, long-wearing
  • Price per Ounce: $49.94/oz.
  • Comments: The biggest drawback I encountered with these is they have a tendency to dry out faster than other cream/gel eyeliners I own. When you get a good, tightly-screwed on pot, it’s a very smooth, creamy product. If it dries out, it definitely gets a lot harder to work with.
  • Related Posts: Review


Stila Black Smudge Pot, Smashbox Navy Blue Jet Set Eyeliner, Bobbi Brown Forest Ink Gel Eyeliner, shu uemura Purple Painting Liner, Make Up For Ever Aqua Black Cream Eyeshadow


Make Up For Ever Aqua Black Cream Eyeshadow, MAC Blacktrack Fluidline, Lancome Indigo Charm Ink Artliner, Sonia Kashuk Indigo Gel Eyeliner

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About the Reviewer

Christine has normal-to-dry skin with areas of dryness (cheeks, nose, and under the eyes). She has a light-medium skintone with subtle, warmer yellow undertones. Her best foundation matches include: Tarte Rainforest of the Sea in Light-Medium Neutral (best match), Estee Lauder Double Wear Stay-in-Place Makeup in Desert Beige 2N1, Giorgio Armani Maestro Glow in 4.0, Hourglass Warm Ivory Vanish Seamless Finish, Laura Mercier Candleglow Soft Luminous in Dusk, MAC NC20/NC25, Make Up For Ever Ultra HD Liquid in Y305 (140). (For more information, please check the FAQ.)

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70 Comments

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Thanks Christine! This is great!! I have MAC blacktrack fluidline and just recieved the Stila smudge pot 24k Gold in black.. couldn’t decide which one I like better.. this was helpful! thanks!

I don’t like Stila smudge pots at all. I find them to be too slippery. I like my gel liners a bit stiff. I had to apply a few times to get the intensity that I wanted. I’m referring to the blue smudge pot from the barbie collection. Bummer.

My fave Cream/Gel liner is MUFE’s aqua black. It’s incredible in texture and it lasts all day, even when I got caught in the rain. I can also apply it to my waterline and it’s not the disaster that Mac’s feline is. I’m so glad more colors will be coming out this year.

Christine, which one is your favorite/which one do you recommend? I’m using Stila’s Smudgepots right now but I want to try something different (nothing wrong with the smudgepots)!

I can not stand Bobbi Brown’s gel eyeliners. For me, they’re horrible. They never make an opaque line. There is always a part or two of my eyeliner that would be not as opaque as the rest.

Personally, MAC’s fluid line is the best I’ve tried.

ooh, thanks so much for this post! gel liners are my favorite, and pretty decent stocking stuffers too~ 😛
oh, and have you tried the coastal scents gel liners? i’ve heard some good things about them.

I’ve reviewed them in the past, but I personally find that they smell really bad… like “what did they put in here?” kind of bad. They’re also really, really wet.

Thumbs up on mac fluidline and bobbi brown gel liner. I like Bobbi Brown in expresso. I have had it for two years and it still is not dried out.

I loved this post!!
It’s a really awesome set up for comparison.
These types of posts would be awesome with different products, maybe tinted moisturizers? I love my tinted moisturizers.

**I love Bobbi Brown, I have a few of her gel liners and it has staying power,
MAC, I’m not so crazy about..the intensity is there (I have a few) but I’m sticking with Bobbi.
The Sonia Kashuk looks amazing!
I’m huge fan of blue and would love to ad this to my collection, but I’m not crazy about the fact that it dries out faster. I had Bobbi forever and its lasted.

Based on your swatches, I’ll pick MUFE!

the shu one is suck an awesome purple!
kinda bummed you didn’t swatch my favourite gel liner- inglot ones are fantastic, have you heard of them? they have a shop in nyc [but are a lot more accessible here in aus], they’re my absolute fav.

[how come this doesn’t tell me when you reply? dammit.]

hmm. any way i could send you a mini-haul of inglot? i don’t work for them at all, but i really like them. personally i reckon they’re comparable in price and quality to MAC, so i’d kinda like you to try them out, haha!

That’s so sweet of you! I’ll have to look into the range a bit more and see if there are some pieces I’d be willing to buy sight unseen.

What are your favorites? What are the must-haves (either shades or products in general)?

damn this non-notification thing! even when i was subscribed to the thread!

their gel liner is my favourite thing ever though i’ve only purchased it in black so far, and their mixing medium is amazing too. i’d also recommend their primer, but it’s pretty much a dupe of smashbox photofinish, so… maybe that’s a no go for you?
their pigments are also pretty good!

Great comparisons! I have always used liquid eyeliner and heard that the staying power of gel liners are better so was thinking of giving them ago but wasnt sure which one to try. Im looking for one with most intense pigmented black, any recommendation? from your pics seems like the MUFE one is the best. Have u ever tried the clinique brush on cream liner? ive heard thats good.

I just wanted to let everyone know that my Mac fluidline dried out so I googled for some tips. Someone advised me to put 2-3 drops of eyemakeup remover in it and then swirl and I must say it worked like a charm the consistency is better than when I first bought it. So keep this in mind.

I have tried the Bobbi Brown eyeliner, it melted in less than half a day! Oh my eyelids are hopeless, but my Stila Smudge Pot was a little better ( but a little on the dry side?)

Which is better, Mac fluidline or Shu? I’m looking for another gel liner!
Also, do Shu Uemura eyeshadows hold better than the Mac Shadows with TFSI??

Hmm, I like them both about equally – guess it just depends on the color 😛

I find they work the same, but I don’t have a lot of issues with creasing!

Hey Christine,
I was wondering if you can use cream/gel eyeliners on the lower lash line or on the lower waterline?

Thanks! 🙂

The Stila Smudge Pots dry out after awhile. My best friend and I used to always buy the Stila’s but eventually we found out that they dry out so fast! And they flake. So, we went back to the Mac Fluidline and it works out AWESOME. Plus, Mac’s Fluidline is cheaper than the Stila Smudge Pots.

i am using the Make up forever aquaproof and MAC fluidline Dipdown. i feel more comfortable applying the MAC one bc its smoother and easier to blend. The aquaproof is a bit difficult to blend, but it ll be a lot better if you dip your liner brush in water.

the aquaproof gives such a dramatic and intense black color that the MAC fluidline cant.

For dramatic smoky eyes, i would definitely suggest the aqua proof, but for daily use, fluidline is perfect.

between Bobbi Brown vs. MUFE which one would be the best. i am asian and have decently oily lids. my problem is that when i wear eyeliner its fine in the beginning and then at the end of the day i look like a raccoon or the kid from the grudge. i need one that doesnt smudge and does not end up on the under of my eyes. just one that stays put from day to night through rain and shine.

Hey Christine I wanted to know which one is darker and more intense (in the black colour) – the MUFE or the Bobbi Brown? I would like to know because on my NW45 skin MAC’s Blacktrack is NOT black enough for me, it looks charcoal grey:( Thanks in advance!

Thx for the comparison 🙂 i never try eyeliner gel before and i have been using different liquid eyeliner for the last few years but i could never find the right one. I got asian eyes so eyeliner ALWAYS get smudged at my waterline, specially the corner of my eyes.Do u have any suggestion of which eyeliner gel product i should get??

Thanks very much!

No Clinique? I’ve seen several make-up artists using it on tutorials, and I’ve always loved other Clinique products. The only one I’ve tried is MAC and it’s great but I kind of have the impression the product is drying out (bought it only a month ago) so I was looking for other options.

which is the best in terms of long-wearing?
My Bobbi Brown gel liner starts to smudge after a couple of hours…with a primer underneath and topped with a black eyeshadow, it might last for another hour, but thats it 🙁

thanks for the awesome comparison!! very very helpful!

i know this is an old post, but is there any way you could swatch all of the different eyeliners in their black shades? i’m looking to buy the blackest gel liner possible and so this comparison would be really helpful, if possible.

Much Thanks and Love from Canada 🙂

Hi Christine. Have you tried the Clinique Brush on Cream Liner? I’ve tried MAC (and I’m not so happy with it) and I’m choosing between the Clinique one and the Bobbi Brown one for my next purchase. Looking forward to your response. Thanks, Christine 🙂

I have – I like them all – they are all very comparable to me. I worry if you didn’t like MAC, you won’t like the other two, as they’re all owned by Estee Lauder, so the formulas are comparable.

okay, if you had to choose between the mufe and the mac one, which would you choose? Let’s not include the price in the decision making process. Just the ability to stay for a VEEEEERY long time. I work 12 hour shifts and by the end of the day, nothing looks very fresh.. =(

I tried both eyeliners and I settled with the make up forever one. It may be a tad more expensive, but I find it smudges less at the end of 12 hours than MAC fluidline. It’s kind of wierd coz it dries fast on my eyes than mac fluidline. Maybe it’s coz we dont have the same surface oils? *shrugs* Also, when the product dries on my brush, it’s kind of hard to add more product without wiping the brush first. Thanks for the review! It helped a LOT!

Hi, I’ve tried sooooooo freakin many pots and they literally all dry out and i end up throwing most of it away??? Super frustrated, I’ve tired the make up forever, smash box and MAC. what am i doing wrong I always close them good after I use them???

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