Sunday, April 10, 2011

Brushes 101: Essentials vs. "Good to Have" (Ideal Info for Beginners)

If you consider yourself a newbie or totally lost when it comes to makeup, then one of the most intimidating areas can be makeup brushes. I should add here that many makeup artists prefer using their fingers for certain applications, whether it be for a particular look or just personal preference. It's totally okay to use your fingers, but there are some aspects of makeup application that are far easier with the right brush. Let me share what I have discovered to save you the legwork.

This post will outline what I consider the "must have" essential brushes and the "nice to have" extra brushes. That should help reduce any beginner's anxiety!


1) Fluffy All-Over Eyeshadow

These brushes are from the Shopper's Drug Mart "Quo" line.

I'm including these as essentials because they're multipurpose. First, although you may absolutely use Q Tips or your fingers to apply your eyeshadow (make sure your hands are clean!), brushes like these make life a lot easier especially if you're just beginning. They pick up just the right amount of product and you can deposit the shadow onto your lids with better control.

You should initially pat the eyeshadow onto your lids (instead of "rubbing" it) to ensure its lasting power, but you can also use these brushes to do a little blending. Furthermore, these brushes can double as facial contouring or cheekbone highlighting brushes (more on that below) so you don't have to drop mad cash on brushes.

2) Blending

The white tip brush is one of my FAVES. Holy grail brush! It's the MAC 217 blending brush. 
The brown tip one is the Smashbox #10 Crease Brush. The bristles are stiffer and fan out more than the MAC 217, which makes me feel less in control. I adore the 217 and have several of them.

I consider blending brushes absolutely essential. Whereas applicator brushes can be substituted with fingers or Q Tips, you definitely need a brush or three to blend out your eyeshadows so there are no harsh lines. Blending takes a bit of practice but once you get the hang of it, it is the key to flawless, professional-looking eyes. I'll do an updated blending tutorial soon. If you want a good blending brush, definitely pick up the MAC 217. This brush is also multipurpose; you can use it to blend out concealer, highlight cheekbones, etc. Just an all-around lovely brush!

3) Liners

The two brushes on the left are from Shoppers' Quo line and the one on the right is from Sephora.

Your makeup brush collection should include one or several of these types of brushes. Again, the theme is multipurpose. You can apply gel liners with these brushes or wet your eyeshadow and line your eyes with that rather than using pencil liners. If you're a beginner and aren't good with eyeliners, my tip is to wet one of these brushes and dip it into a brown or black eyeshadow. Line your eyes with this method instead - it looks great and it's amazing practice for you to figure out the shape and contour of your eye.

You can also use these brushes to fill in your brows (no special brow gear necessary - any matte brown shadow that suits your colouring will work. I'll do an updated brow tutorial). As well, you can use these brushes to highlight the inner corners of your eyes with light shimmery shadows, an important step in brightening your overall appearance. Do get one of these brushes for your set - totally indispensable! If you're just going to get one, I recommend the middle angled liner for its versatility.

4) Angled Powder

This brush is from Quo. Use it for blush and cheek contouring (brown colour shown above).

For the face, an angled brush is very important. To slim your face and create all sorts of contouring, you will need this brush. It can also be used to apply blush. Updated contouring tutorial to come.

5) Kabuki

This retractable kabuki is from Posh.

I've included a kabuki brush in the essentials section because after you apply blush and/or contour, it is extremely important that you buff out any harsh edges. The kabuki has dense, stiffer bristles for the job, unlike any other brush (i.e. blush or large powder). I like to take this brush and make wide circular motions along the top and bottom of wherever I've applied blush/contouring, and also a little on top of the colour - but not so hard that it removes what I've applied. Blending with a kabuki is the trick that will give you that pulled-together airbrushed look you see on people.

6) All-Over Large Powder

This brush is from Benefit. It's real pony fur instead of synthetic bristles so it tends to shed a lot.

This brush is the final essential piece for your basic collection. It's a large all-over brush for loose powder application. It is hard to replicate the function of this brush with anything else, which is why I've included it under essentials.


1) Concealer or Flat Foundation

This brush is from e.l.f. It's medium sized, not too big.

This brush is good to have but not totally essential. The reason being, you can always apply foundation and concealer with your fingers. To apply foundation with your fingers, dab a few spots of it all around your face, then blend with your fingers. The heat of your fingers will help smooth everything out. To apply concealer with your fingers, tap on the concealer without rubbing it off. A tiny concealer brush is good to have for problem areas, but again, it's not completely necessary. Some makeup artists swear by tiny concealer brushes because it can reach the smallest surface areas, so that would be the next brush I'd recommend you get for your collection, outside of the essentials.

2) Stippling

This is the MAC 287, a large synthetic stippling brush.

This brush is really neat to have because its synthetic bristles and soft "stippling" build make for an airbrushed smoothness when you apply foundation or blush. It's a great no-brainer brush for beginners and might be something to consider purchasing after a small concealer brush.

3) Flat Shader Eyeshadow

This is the MAC 242.

Once you master the use of all-over eyeshadow brushes, this flat shader brush is good to have for patting on pigments or loose eyeshadow. Not totally necessary though, especially for beginners.

4) Pencil

This is the MAC 219.

I love this brush for blending out shadows along my lower lashline, particularly for smoky eye looks, and for accurately placing highlight shadows along my inner corners. However, I lived without this brush for many years and used a combo of my angled liner and MAC 217 blending brush (white tip). That worked just fine. But if you have the money, pick up this brush at some point. You can also use this to define your "outer v" area of your eyeshadow or blend out concealer. Get creative with it!

5) Angled Contour

This brush is from Quo.

This brush is a small, stiff, fluffy angled brush meant for contouring areas like the sides of your nose with better accuracy than a larger contouring brush. However, as mentioned in the essentials section, you can easily dupe this brush with a fluffy all-over eyeshadow brush. I just included it as an interesting addition. Definitely the least necessary of all the brushes you should purchase! :)

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