Black Eye Pencil or ‘Black’ Eye Pencil

by Sarah

I promise I didn’t make a mistake in the title of this post :) Have you ever seen pictures of eye makeup looks and wondered ‘why doesn’t my black eyeliner look that intense?’. If so, this post will help you choose the correct shade of black eye pencils for the looks you want to achieve…

When it comes to colors (in makeup in our case), we know that each color comes in many different shades and tones; some are more vibrant, some have different undertones etc. When we say “black”, we automatically think there’s only one shade…black. However, this couldn’t be further from fact – especially when it comes to eye liners in particular. And here’s how to check the difference:

For the purpose of this ‘experiment’, I swatched 2 popular black eye pencils from MAC and 2 popular eye pencils from Urban Decay. The pencils are from the same line of each brand so the texture and the formula are exactly the same. It’s just the color that we’re testing out to see how black pencils vary in shade and tips to how you can compare the intensity when shopping for a black eye pencil.

 Left to Right: MAC Smolder; MAC Feline; Urban Decay Zero; Urban Decay Perversion

As you can see in the swatches above, although every single pencil would be considered a rich black if swatched on their own, obvious differences are highlighted when swatched side by side. These differences can become even more apparent during application.

Starting with the 2 MAC pencils, Smolder on the left was the very first rich black pencil I purchased (or so I thought at the time). It’s only after I got the shade Feline that I realised Smolder was in fact more de-saturated in color. It also made sense why everytime I tried smudging Smolder, a gray/green’ish undertone would appear. Feline however is a true rich black and the color stays exactly the same when blended out.

The Urban Decay pencils are also similar. The shade Zero is a great everyday black but it is definitely not as intense as Perversion (which is a shade more comparable to MAC Feline). Zero almost has a dark brown undertone compared to Perversion and this is highlighted further when smudged.

I reach out for MAC Smolder and Urban Decay Zero for my daytime looks, whereas I know I’ll get a super rich application with MAC Feline or Urban Decay Perversion for more intense looks.

The best way to ensure you get your desired shade and intensity when it comes to purchasing black eye pencils is to swatch them side by side and smudge them – as I did in the pictures above. Whichever swatch applies creamy and opaque, stands out amongst the rest of the testers and the color stays the same when you smudge it (with no other undertones showing through), it’s safe to say that pencil will give you the most intense black eyeliner application. You can even do the swatch test with the black pencils you already have at home, to see how they compare ;)

I hope this post was helpful in how you can check for different intensity of black eye pencils and make your purchase (or use them) according to the results you’d like to achieve ;)


What is your favorite rich black eye pencil? xx

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Nina Napoli May 7, 2016 - 3:35 pm

Thank you so much….I cannot tell you how many times I grabbed one of my eyeliners which ironically are one of the four that you mentioned in this blog post. And I always think, “I wonder what’s the difference between all of these eyeliners?”
Thank you for answering the explanation!
The only thing that I think you could have touched on was which of the eyeliners are waterproof. Which I believe the Urban Decay ones are? Is that correct?

Sarah May 7, 2016 - 6:15 pm

Hi Nina, thank you for your feedback. It’s amazing how texture, quality and undertones of products can affect the end results. The MAC pencils are definitely not waterproof. With the UD ones, they do set and have a longer wear time than most pencils but I would classify them as water resistant more so than waterproof. Hope this helps :)


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