I remember when I was 16 and foundation was applied with nothing other than your hands. Then, along the way someone told me that I should invest in a foundation brush, so I did. Now, ten years later, I am a qualified makeup artist and I use a range of makeup brushes because I know which ones to use and when. The truth is that without training, most of us are sometimes unsure of what makeup brush we should be using or if we even need one at all. If you watch a makeup artist at work  it can be intimidating to look at their brush belt, with what seems to be a hundred brushes of all shapes and sizes. However, if you watch closely, the artist may only use ten or so carefully selected brushes to do precisely what he or she wants. For any makeup wearer, professional or not, you must have your own personal set of brushes and you do not need a hundred or even twenty. Owning eight to ten brushes for personal use is ample. Of course, the more the merrier.


Using these tools will remarkably improve the look and finish of your makeup. One of the other positives is that it reduces the amount of product wasted. The use of brushes will allow you to achieve different looks and different results depending on what tool you use. Most makeup you buy comes with an applicator inside the packaging. In the case of most eyeshadows you get a tiny little sponge tip applicator inside your compact; however in my experience it does not help to create an effective eye. Instead of clunking around with the same sponge tip that is used over and over, owning your own eyeshadow brush will flawlessly and cleanly put the shadow where you want it to go. With multiple brushes varying in size you can apply shadows as eyeliner, or on the lid, or just in the crease, to create whatever type of eye you like. Doing this with the one-size sponge tip applicator is very difficult and results are often not what is expected!


In my line of work, I use a variety of brushes and to help you navigate the plethora of different types of brushes and different brands, we’ve put together a list of the key brushes you should try to own as part of your beauty set.


Since foundation forms the base when applying makeup, let’s first talk about foundation brushes. A lot of people use a flat synthetic brush and some people like to use their hands, which is also fine. However, I love using a natural bristle brush that looks like a powder brush to apply foundation to my clients. This technique really buffs foundation into the skin and gives and almost airbrushed result. This technique is particularly great on normal to oily skin, however if skin is dry I would stick to using fingertips. The technique to using this is simple: apply foundation to brush, dab onto areas of the face and in circular motions, buff in. The best thing about this brush, aside from the finish, is that it uses way less product than hands, and disperses it evenly over the face. If you are on a budget, this brush can be wiped down after use and then used for powder, so it is definitely multifunctional.


Giorgio Armani Blender Brush ($79)


A concealer brush is also important for those who have a few little flaws they would like to hide. The concealer brush is also a synthetic, small, firm brush that is shaped to get into small delicate areas like under the eye and beside the nose. Concealer brushes are only synthetic and small because the areas are so precise that need concealing that a buffing action would be impossible. Also concealers tend to be thicker than liquid foundation so it is important that the product come off the brush easily and effectively.

MAC Concealer Brush ($39)


The powder brush is the most obvious brush that most will already own since it is essential for application of powder to the face. Usually translucent powder or pressed powder is used to set liquid foundation or any other form of liquid base to ensure that it does not slip throughout the day. Setting any liquid or cream makeup is essential and you will need this brush to do it. Using powder with a buffing motion on skin will work the powder into the skin and leave skin looking flawless.

MAC Large Powder Brush no 134 ($105)


The blush brush is smaller than the powder brush as it deposits colour onto the cheek as opposed to the whole face. A large brush will not be effective in applying blush as the broad radius may deposit the pigment in the wrong spot. This can make your face look misshapen and odd. A helpful tip is to keep the brush to where you want the colour and using a buffing motion apply the blush onto the face to produce a blended cheek colour that looks natural.

NARS Blush Brush #6 ($74)


Instead of, or as well as the blush brush, is the contouring brush. It is similar to the blush brush but it is angled and curved at the edges. The contour brush is used to place darker shade powder in the areas of the face that are drawn back, such as under the cheekbone. This ultimately causes the area next to the darkened area to be highlighted. The contour brush is shaped to place pigment exactly where it is intended and the angled bristles mean that the brush can be held comfortably in the hand at the correct angle so that the bristles fan from under the cheek, where the most colour will be deposited, outwards to the outer edges of the face. It is very important to contour however you can use a blush brush also, as long as it is thoroughly cleaned. Pink contouring is not a good look.

MAC Angled Contour Brush no 165 ($65)


Next you need are an assortment of eyeshadow brushes. Firstly, a large fluffy eyeshadow that can be used to sweep the entire lid with shadow or to apply shadow to the crease or contour lines. Next, you will need a smaller and firmer eyeshadow brush for applying colour with more precision. I would recommend a brush that is quite firm and shaped like the tip of a bullet, often called a bullet brush for obvious reasons. Use this brush to deposit colour, then follow with a larger soft brush to blend out. Also to include in your must have list is a smaller fluffy eyeshadow brush. This is important for depositing and blending shadow in a smaller area like on the lid, or just under the brow bone, whereas a bigger brush makes it difficult to contain the shadow to the desired area. Then last of all you need a thin brush that is flat and firm and can be used to apply shadow to the lash line. These four brushes are imperative for creating a glamorous and professional eye makeup. Another addition that you could make, while not a necessity, would be a small firm angled brush. This is amazing for lining the eye and can create a very effective “winged” eyeliner with ease. A small angled brush is also great for filling in eyebrows.

NARS Large Dome Eye Brush #13 ($54)


NARS Eye Shader Brush ($88)


MAC Blending Brush ($37)


NARS Push Eyeliner Brush #2 ($42)


Giorgio Armani Angled Eyeliner Brush ($38)


Last but not least is a synthetic lip brush. This brush can also be used for concealer as the type I recommend are almost identical to a concealer brush. Using a lip brush can dramatically improve the look of your lipstick. You use less product, can get different effects with your lipstick and you’ll find the brush allows a more precise edge to your lips which looks better and you wont really need to use a lip liner. Most of the lip brushes you see are thin and long, however I like to use a lip brush that is wide and flat. This means it covers more lip in each stroke which makes doing your lipstick a lot quicker and also minimises errors.


Gorgeous Cosmetics Lip/Concealer Brush ($31)


Now that we’ve provided you with the basic brushes you should have in your makeup kit, it’s time to invest. There are great ranges available for everyone’s budget and depending on what you like, you should ensure that you take care of them by storing them so their bristles are not bent and washing them every few weeks. To clean brushes, rinse with warm water before dabbing in some gentle baby shampoo and lather by brushing in circles on your opposing palm. Rinse, lay flat on a towel and dry overnight. Alternatively many brands have brush cleaner available in their collection.


Having a great selection of brushes will help in your makeup application and investing in good brushes will pay back in spades over the years!


All images courtesy of Giorgio Armani Cosmetics, MAC Cosmetics and NARS Cosmetics.

About The Author

Georgia Walsh

Georgia Walsh is a Melbourne based make-up artist, who is passionate about making women look and feel gorgeous through good practices of skincare and of course the art of makeup application. Georgia specialises in photographic, film and beauty makeup and her training and experience enables her to create a flawless look time after time. www.georgiawalshmakeup.com

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