Eyeliner is one of the greatest makeup products of all time; it’s one of those things that can single-handedly change a look without much effort. A striking color or the way you place eyeliner — on the waterline, above the lid, etc. — can define your eyes in so many different ways, so picking the right liner is key.
But how to choose? You should first and foremost always just do whatever makes you feel good. (There are no real rules in beauty after all.) But another helpful way to narrow down all your choices — because there are so many — is by choosing an eyeliner that really complements your eye color. That’s where color theory comes into play.
The primary colors — yellow, blue, and red — come with complementary shades. For example, the complement to blue is orange, the complement to red is green, and the complement to yellow is purple. This then becomes your easy guide to picking the best color eyeliner for your eyes. “As a general rule of thumb, using the color wheel and engaging with complementary colors is the best way to overstate your eye color with understated color choices,” says MAC Cosmetics Senior National Artist Keri Blair.
But this doesn’t mean it’s a strict rule to abide by. “When it comes to makeup, especially with pencil, gel, liquid, or powder liners, you have a little bit more wiggle room when choosing colors,” says Blair. “Although color theory is where makeup artistry meets science, there are subtleties and variances in colors that make your options a bit more varied.”
With all that in mind, Smith and Blair broke down which eyeliner colors are best for every eye shades. To see which color eyeliner you should be reaching for to really make your peepers pop, see what they recommend below.
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The Best Eyeliner Colors For Dark Brown Eyes
Those with dark brown eyes (which, according to the World Atlas, is the most common eye color in the world) have their pick when it comes to eyeliner colors; pretty much any hue will define dark eyes. “Dark brown eyes are the most versatile,” says Smith. “Whether it’s a reflective liner that draws light to the eyes or a monochromatic dark brown, any liner is a winner.”
Keeping in theme with the monochromatic dark brown Smith recommended, opt for something like Kulfi Beauty’s Underlined liner in Cheeky Chiku. It has a creamy feel as you glide it on and the long-lasting formula, which has great color payoff, will not budge.
Blair agrees with Smith and says anything goes when it comes to brown eyes. “Brown eyes have this innate ability to look stunning in every color because brown is generally created by mixing all the primary colors (red, yellow, and blue) together,” Blair explains. “Even the most subtle hint of color can make a brown eye stand out.”
Blair says gold in particular, like MAC Cosmetics Eye Kohl in Powersurge, is a great color that will also bring some subtle shimmer to the eye.
The Best Eyeliner Colors For Hazel Eyes
If you have hazel eyes, Smith says to go with a purple or burgundy as those colors will help boost the green. Warm purple shades like Urban Decay’s 24/7 Glide-On Waterproof Eyeliner Pencil in Rockstar perfectly complements greenish hazel eyes.
If your hazel eyes are more brown-leaning, Smith recommends a blue or purple with cool undertones to create contrast and brighten the eye pigment. NYX’s Epic Wear Long Lasting Matte Liquid Eyeliner in Sapphire is a striking blue shade that will do just that. It also creates a waterproof film that won’t smudge and its fine brush tip is perfect for creating precise lines.
The Best Eyeliner Colors For Amber Or Light Brown Eyes
Both Blair and Smith agree that those with amber eyes look stunning in purple eyeliner. “I always tell people with yellowish amber eyes to go strictly purple or super dark,” says Smith. “Anything contrasting will make the lightness of the eyes really pop.”
“Amber colored eyes will pop with a dash of violet or plum swept around them,” adds Blair. This metallic plum from Lancôme has a gel texture that goes on super smooth and is buildable for a more dramatic effect. It also has a nice matte finish that will last for up to 24 hours.
The Best Eyeliner Colors For Blue Eyes
If you’ve got blue eyes, the best eyeliner color happens to be another primary hue: red. But reds with a tint of brown are especially complementary to blue eyes. “Red browns make blues super icy, so it'll boost your eye color and look more natural than just black,” says Smith. This one from Haus Labs is a really pretty terracotta shade that comes in a nice matte finish.
Blair agrees with Smith and adds that earthy toned liners pair nicely with blue eyes. “[They] always look bluer when you use warmer earthy tones,” Blair says. “One of my favorite pencils to really bring out the clarity of a blue eye is Costa Riche Eye Kohl; it’s an extremely warm brown that heightens the blue without the use of screaming color. The subtle nuance of warm and orange-y tones in the pencil is the perfect complement to a blue eye.”
The Best Eyeliner Colors For Green Eyes
“I've said it once and I'll say it a thousand times: purple,” says Smith. “Green looks ethereal and unreal when surrounded by purple...so grab that eggplant liner and go H.A.M.” This burgundy color from Make Up For Ever is highly pigmented, so the color payoff is pretty great. It glides on easily and has long-staying power. What more can you want from a liner?
Not straying too far away from the purple color family, Blair says to look for shades of plum, berries, and wine if you have green eyes. This liner from Charlotte Tilbury is deep berry brown that you can build up for intense color.
The Best Eyeliner Colors For Grey Eyes
Like beauty lovers with dark brown eyes, grey-eyed beauties look great in pretty much any eyeliner color. Smith suggests opting for a classic shade, like an ink-black. A great option: the PermaGel Eyeliner Pencil from Pat McGrath. Besides being rich in pigment, it’s also waterproof, so you don’t have to worry about mid-day raccoon eyes. Bless.
“The beauty of a grey eye is that, similarly to a hazel eye, you can use a wide variety of color options to make them really the focus feature of the face,” says Blair. “Warm tones, any terracotta shade, and bold yellow tones give in to the bluer side of things, where brighter cooler tones like wines, purples, and even red-violets compliment the grey muted tones of the iris.”
This waterproof one from Maybelline New York is such a pretty dusty red-brown that it will really make grey eyes pop — and the $6 price point isn’t bad either.