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Liquid and pencil eyeliner are as different as night and day in terms of appearance, application and longevity. In general, pencil eyeliner is recommended for novices because it is easier to apply. Applying liquid eyeliner is also easier once a makeup artist has mastered the basics of applying eyeliner, and learned to steady his or her hand. Some people develop a preference for one type of eyeliner early on, however, and simply like the look of it over the other. Both liquid and pencil eyeliner have their own advantages and disadvantages, and neither is “better” than the other overall.
The difference in appearance can be quite noticeable depending on how much is applied and where. Liquid eyeliner tends to have a wetter look, similar to paint that is not dry, but is also bolder than pencil eyeliner. When applied, liquid liner goes on in a very thin line, whereas pencils have bigger lines. In addition, liquid eyeliner stays put and generally cannot be smudged to make the line bigger. This is where pencil eyeliner excels; it can be smudged to give the wearer a more rugged or professional look, depending on how much it is smudged.
Liquid and pencil eyeliner are also applied in different methods. With pencil eyeliner, the wearer can simply apply the liner with one stroke, then smudge it to create a softer line. Liquid eyeliner is typically applied in small, short strokes because applying it in one stroke is extremely difficult. If a mistake is made when applying pencil eyeliner, it can usually be smudged to perfection or just wiped off. Most liquid eyeliners are difficult to remove, which is useful for people who wear makeup for long hours, but frustrating to fix mistakes or remove before bed.
Both liquid and pencil eyeliner products are small and easy to store. On the other hand, liquid liners are still liquid and capable of spilling just like any other liquid cosmetic. The pencil-shaped container must break to spill the eyeliner, but it occasionally happens and can ruin a handbag and the items inside it. Pencil eyeliners are basically just pencils created from waxes, and can even be used to write notes on paper, though this a quick way to unnecessarily dull it. If a pencil eyeliner is capped, it poses little threat to a handbag or its contents, even if it is accidentally broken.
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