Makeup 101- Brush Basics

It’s a big wide brush world out there. So many choices and so many purposes. Brushes can make makeup application more fun, and also help get the most out of your product, but there are SO MANY variations that many makeup beginners are intimidated. I pulled my most-used brushes out of my collection to share what I think are some great basics. So pull out a notepad, THROW AWAY THE SPONGE APPLICATORS and dig in…

If I have pictures of these tools in action from previous posts, I’ll add those too.

First up are small brushes…


The brushes I use from left to right:

1. Gel liner brush
2. Angled liner brush
3. Accent brush
4. Flat shadow brush
5. All purpose shadow brush
6. Large crease brush
7. Spoolie


1. Ok. So the gel liner brush is self explanatory. This one came with my L’Oreal gel liner, and we get a long just fine. I have a few other ones, but I prefer this one. It’s flat, and just flexible enough that the product goes on smoothly, but isn’t so flexible that you can’t control where the liner goes. I love this brush for eyeliner and tightlining. It gets between my lashes on my upper waterline brilliantly. Total cost for this brush: $10. It includes the gel liner, so there’s that. It probably doesn’t have a long shelf life, and when I buy new liner, I’ll use the new liner brush.


2. Angled liner brush. This one is a MAC 266 brush that currently retails for $20.00. This is the brush I reach for when I’m using eyeshadow as liner, or running black shadow over black gel liner. This is also a great brush for anyone that does cat-eye looks (which I don’t very often). It’s slightly scratchy, and I think it’s a natural fiber brush, so it picks up product very well. I use this a lot to blend out pencil liners and trace with shadow. They have a smaller synthetic one, the 263 which is better for precision lining, if that’s your jam.

3. Accent brush. This one, and #5 are a part of the Real Techniques Starter Set. (As a side note, Real Techniques is a FANTASTIC company for brushes. They are synthetic and inexpensive, and amazing quality. You’ll see that I use lots of their brushes because you cannot beat the value for dollar. Check them out if you do not know where to start.) The set retails for $18 and you cannot buy the brushes individually. This accent brush is the one I reach for when I spot conceal on my face. I can apply the tiniest amount of concealer on an area, pat it in, and it vanishes. Great for anyone that has regular breakouts and needs to get their concealer game on point.


4. Flat shadow brush. This is one of the brushes I’ve had for AGES. It’s a MAC 213 and I use it to precisely place eyeshadow on my lids (like in this look). Flat brushes like this help control fallout if you use a glittery or sparkly shadow, and they help pack product on in a more opaque way. Makes building color easier to pat it on with a flat brush than to swish it on with a fluffy blending brush. Like most MAC brushes, this too retails for $20+ and is currently priced at $24. There are probably lots of great dupes out there for this style of brush, but I happen to have gotten this brush in a set, so I use it.


5. All-purpose shadow brush. Technically, this is called the Base Shadow Brush and is a part of the Real Techniques Starter Set mentioned above. If I could buy multiples of this brush, I would. It’s synthetic and the BEST multi-purpose brush. I can apply a single color all over my lid and crease with this, I can blend with it, and I can be decently precise with color placement. It’s a great all around.

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6. Large crease brush. This one is a MAC 224 Tapered Blending Brush. The secret to any eye look is the blending. See how I failed at it here. A large fluffy brush like this one makes any shadow blend seamlessly with just a few swipes back and forth. If you’ve ever admired someone’s eye makeup because it looks airbrushed, the secret is the blending. One of the most common mistakes is using too small a brush for proper blending. AND SPONGE APPLICATORS JUST WON’T DO IT. (Can you tell I get worked up by those?)

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7. Spoolie. Get a bag of them at CVS or wherever. Comb eyebrows, declump mascara. They do it all.

Next up is face brushes… (Still with me? This is a long one)


I have four brushes and a sponge that I think are pretty good starters for all things face. Again, from left to right:

1. Setting brush
2. Blush brush
3. Powder brush
4. Contour/Bronzer brush
5. (top) Foundation sponge

1. This setting brush is another from Real Techniques. It’s small and makes powdering under eye concealer easy. I’ve also been known to use it from time to time for highlighter, but it’s nice to have such precise placement for a powder brush.


2. This blush brush is ancient. I got it for Christmas so long ago that I can’t find it online now. It’s flat and rounded, so I have great control over blush placement. It’s a natural hair brush, so it picks up a lot of product, which I almost always diffuse on the inside of my wrist before swiping on my cheeks. As you can see, I use it every day. It looks like you can get something similar at Sigma.

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3. Powder brush. Although I don’t really use a brush to apply powder (I prefer the sponge) I think a powder brush is critical for any collection. Mine is a MAC 150, and I’ve had it easily 10 years now. Again, natural fiber so it picks up product well, and I can dust any setting powder all over my face with it, especially on good skin days.

4. Contour/Bronzer brush. I’m new to this world. And very very very unpracticed. But I recommend a small rounded brush like this if you are interested in contouring. For me, the head on this brush fits perfectly in the hollows of my cheeks and diffuses the product enough to warm up my face and provide just a touch of definition. Again, it comes in a collection, but it has a few other good brushes in it, and well worth the $18 price tag.

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5. Last but not least is the sponge. I use the Real Techniques Miracle Complexion Sponge, but there are others EVERYWHERE, most of which are sold as dupes of the Beauty Blender. You all know by now that I have texture issues, and there is no better friend to texture than a sponge. Pushing and patting product on my face means I can disguise imperfections more easily. I apply foundation with it, and I pack powder with it. I couldn’t live without it. If you are more of a buffing kind of person, then use the buffing brush that comes in the Real Techniques Core Collection or I used to use the F84 Sigma Kabuki brush, and still can if I’m in a pinch. It’s also great.

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I’ll probably do another post soon about more job-specific brushes that I own, but these are the basics to help anyone’s makeup game go up a notch or two.

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