Makeup Brushes Guide

Makeup Brushes Guide 4.00/5 (80.00%) 2 votes

Makeup is a magical art. And makeup brushes are the magical wand that a makeup artist wields to create this art. Makeup artists use a variety of makeup brushes to apply various makeup and beauty products on the face and transform a plain-Jane look into a celebrity look. This article describes the various types of makeup brushes available, their characteristics, function, and usage.

Makeup brushes come in a variety of shapes and sizes, depending upon the region of the face they are used on, the cosmetic product that is applied with them, and the final desired look the makeup artist wants to achieve. For example, they can be round and fluffy, or thin and chiseled, or flat and straight, or flat and tapered.

Makeup brushes can come with natural bristles or synthetic bristles. Natural bristles are generally made from hair of animals like goat and horse. Synthetic bristles are made of nylon or other such materials.

In general, makeup brushes with natural bristles are more suited for application of powder products because the micro-porous structure of natural fibers makes them lift powder particles perfectly. Liquid products would tend to get trapped in these micro-pores.

Makeup brushes with synthetic bristles are not suited for application of powder products because of their compact structure, but are great for application of liquid and cream products.

From the makeup point of view, the entire facial area can basically be divided into three regions: the main face, the eyes and the lips. So accordingly, there are three main types of brushes according to the region they are going to be used on:

  • Makeup brushes for the face
  • Makeup brushes for the eyes
  • Makeup brushes for the lips

Makeup brushes for the face

The art of face makeup involves application of a variety of cosmetic products on the face to achieve the final magical transformation. For example, once the natural surface of the face has been thoroughly cleansed for application of makeup, it would expose all the natural flaws on the skin, like blemishes, scars, hyper pigmentation, dark spots, broken capillaries, etc.

So, the first step in makeup would involve application of a concealer to cover up these flaws. This is followed by application of a foundation, compact powder, blush, and highlighter. However, just application of these products is not enough. Post application, a product must be evened out and thoroughly blended with the skin tone to avoid an artificial, painted look. This step-by-step makeup procedure is carried out using different types of brushes for each application and for blending.

Contouring (or shading) and highlighting are two makeup tricks that makeup artists employ to give definition to the bone structure of the face, to enhance and highlight the facial features, and to hide any natural imperfections in the bone structure, such as too long or too broad a face, imperfect nose shape, jaw-line that is not well defined, or cheekbones that are not very prominent.

It is with the magic of contouring and highlighter brushes that a makeup artist can create the illusion of the cheekbones being more well-defined, jaw-line more angular, nose sharper and smaller, and forehead less broad.

Based on these requirements, thus face makeup brushes can be categorized as:

  • Concealer brushes
  • Foundation brushes
  • Powder brushes
  • Blusher brushes
  • Blending brushes
  • Contouring brushes
  • Highlighter brushes

Concealer brushes: mac_concealer_brushConcealer brushes are brushes designed for application of a concealer on different parts of the face to camouflage blemishes, dark spots, scars, dark circles, or other imperfections, and create an even base for makeup.

These brushes are generally flat with round dome-shaped tip for application on larger areas. Basically, they look more or less like mini foundation brushes. Sometimes the same brush can be flipped and the reverse side used for blending the applied foundation too.

The tip can also be slightly tapered for more precise application. For high-precision application in very small regions, such as to fill thin wrinkle lines around the eyes or to apply concealer around the lip line, the concealer brush takes the shape of a thin, round, tapered brush with a pointed tip. Concealer brushes normally come with soft synthetic bristles.

Foundation brushes:  mac_foundation_brush

Foundation brushes are the basic makeup brushes used for applying foundation on the entire face to give a uniform, smooth and streak-free flawless complexion.

Foundation brushes come in different shapes and sizes depending upon the area of application. For example, they can be flat with dome-shaped spatula-like head for application on large areas or thin and round with tapered head for application in narrow regions.

A stippling brush is a special type of foundation brush that is used to give an airbrushed finish to the makeup. It is a dual-fiber brush with loosely packed white synthetic bristles at the top and dense black natural hair bristles at the bottom.

The white synthetic bristles serve to lightly pick the foundation at the tips and then dot the skin with numerous tiny specks (a process called stippling) of foundation. These dots are then spread out using the lower part of the brush in swirling motion.

A stippling brush can, in fact, be used for light application of other products too, such as loose powder, blush and bronzer.

Powder/bronzer brushes: MAC-Powder_BrushPowder brushes are round and fluffy, with dense and voluminous bristles and with short stems. The bristles can be made of natural as well as synthetic fibers. They are used for applying powder foundation, face powder, both loose and compact, mineral powder, bronzer, etc., on the face to give a smooth, fresh and oil-free look to the skin.

Some powder brushes can also be flat. A fan brush is a special type of a flat powder brush with its soft and loosely packed bristles spread out in the shape of a fan. It is used for giving a final  light touch of powder by gently sweeping over the face. Its feathery touch can also help redistribute or sweep away any excess powder.

A fan brush can also be used to sweep away excess bronzer, highlighter and blush.


Blusher brushes:  mac_blush_brush

Blusher brushes are soft, dense and round brushes that are used to apply blush/blonzer on the cheek bones and on the apples of the cheeks. They resemble a mini powder brush and can come with tapered or round tip.






Blending brushes:mac_blending_brush Blending brushes help blend any makeup product post-application, be it concealer, foundation, blush or highlighter. Blending is done to lend a natural look to the makeup.

Powder blending brushes are dome-shaped fluffy brushes with loosely packed bristles. They are used to blend powder products, such as face powder, compact powder, highlighter, or eye shadow powder.

Kabuki brush, sometimes also referred to as mushroom brush, is a multipurpose powder brush completely made of natural fibers like goat or horse hair. It is a soft and fluffy brush with a short stem and dense bristles. It is useful for application of any type of powder cosmetics, be it loose powder, mineral powder, blush, or bronzer.

The popular duo-fiber brush, with a combination of synthetic fiber bristles at the top and natural goat hair bristles at the base, is another example of blending brush. The duo-fiber brush head is flat, round and feathery, and is perfect for buffing and blending applications. This brush can also double up as a blush brush.

Contouring brushes: mac_angled_contour_brush

Contouring brushes are round and fluffy angled brushes with bristles that are more firm than those of powder brushes.  The firm bristles and the round angled head allows easy contouring. They are used for sculpting and defining cheek bones, jaw line and brow bones. The right use of a contour brush can make a fat face look slimmer and a thin and long face look less long.




Highlighter brushes: mac_fan_brushHighlighter brushes are used for applying highlighter and bronzer to accentuate some important facial features like the cheekbones, brow bones and the jaw line after contouring.

A fan brush (described earlier under powder brushes) can also be used as a highlighter brush for applying bronzer and shimmery highlighter powders.



Makeup brushes for the eyes

Eyes are considered as the most attractive feature of the face. But it is important to accentuate and highlight this feature in order to reflect their real beauty on the face. Eye makeup is the perfect tool to do that. The first step in eye makeup involves application of a primer foundation, which helps the makeup last a long time. So, one needs some kind of a regular but small-size foundation brush for the eye region.

This is followed by application of the eye shadow on the eyelids and under the eyebrows. The use of right brushes with different shades of eye shadow to complement the eye color is crucial to this step. Perfectly done eye-shadowing can add a bewitching depth and dimension to the eyes, make small eyes look bigger and vice versa.

An eye-liner is applied thereafter for giving a definition to the eyes by outlining the crease of the eyes nearest to the eyelashes, followed by mascara application onto the curled lashes. The final step involves shimmering and blending to give a finishing touch to the eye makeup.

Eye makeup thus requires the following brushes:

  • Eye shadow brushes
  • Eye liner brushes
  • Smudge brushes
  • Eyebrow brushes

Eye shadow brushes: mac_eyeshadow_brushAn eye shadow fluff brush is a soft flat brush with round head and dense bristles. A larger-size fluff brush is needed to apply the shadow across the eyelids and under the eyebrows.

A thinner, pointed-tip, precision eye shadow brush is more suitable for the crease area.

An angled eye shadow brush is used for shading the eye socket area.  An eye shadow blending brush helps diffuse and blend the color smoothly.


Eyeliner brushes:mac_eyeliner_brush An eyeliner brush is a soft, thin and pointed precision brush that is used to create a perfect outline of the eyes, giving a well-defined shape to them.  A flat eyeliner brush with straight head and short firm bristles is used for giving angular finishing to the eyeliner.

The same brush can also be used to push the eyeliner down into the lash line. Another variation of the flat eyeliner brush is the angled eyeliner brush. It is used for creating the gorgeous winged-eyeliner look.


Smudge brushes: mac_smudge_brushA smudge brush has shorter and denser bristles than a regular fluff brush.

A flat, rounded-tip smudge brush is perfect for diffusing the eyeliner and softening the look. It can also be used to apply darker eye shadow to the outer contour area and the crease to create a sultry, smoky-eyed look.

A smudge brush with relatively stiffer bristles smudges more than one with softer, more flexible bristles.


Eyebrow brushes:
Eyebrow brushes are small flat brushes with firm bristles. An eyebrow brush with angled head allows precise control while filling color in the sparse areas of the eyebrows to create a perfect shape.

Another eyebrow brush is a spiral type brush called a spoolie. It looks like mac_brow_brusha mascara wand with a tapered head and soft bristles, and is used as an eyebrow shaping tool. When combed through the eyebrows, it can tame the most unruly hairs and set them in form for shaping and filling in.  

It can once again be brushed through the brows to blend and even out the filled color for obtaining a natural look. A spoolie can also be used to separate the eyelashes and remove clumps of excess mascara by carefully combing through them.

Another variation of the eyebrow brush is the dual-sided eyebrow brush that combines a comb with it. On one side is a flexible brush for setting the eyebrow hairs meticulously into place before grooming. The same side can be used later to blend the filled-in color.  The other side of the brush is the comb, with stiff bristles. This is used for separating the eyelashes and remove clumps of excess mascara by carefully combing through them.


Makeup brushes for the lips

No face makeup is complete without the lip makeup. It makes the lips look attractive, glamorous and perfectly defined.

Lip makeup starts with application of a lip balm to moisturize the lip surface for smooth application of lip cosmetics. It also acts as a base to hold on the lip makeup. A lip liner is used to draw the outline of the lips before filling color on them from the chosen lipstick. A lip gloss, applied on top of lipstick or alone, gives a glossy look to the lips.

Lip brushes can be categorized as under:

  • Lip liner brush
  • Lipstick brush
  • Lip gloss brush

Lip liner brush: mac-311-lipliner-brush

A lip liner brush is a thin and round, tapered-head brush with a pointed tip and a long wand. The bristles of a lip liner brush are closely packed and firm to allow perfect outlining.





Lipstick brush: mac_lipstick_brush

A lipstick brush is a brush used for applying lipstick color on the lips. A lip brush gives perfectly uniform and smooth application of lipstick in contrast to direct application from the lipstick tube. A lipstick brush also makes lipstick application more hygienic.

A lipstick brush can be flat with straight head or slightly round with tapered head. The bristles should be soft and gentle on the lips, but at the same time should allow precise application.



Lip gloss brush: lipgloss_applicator 


It is used to spread the lip gloss over the lips. Lip gloss is a sticky glossy product that gives a shine and luster to the lips. It finishes the lip makeup and helps it to stay for long.

Lip gloss brushes are soft and round, with very small bristles.





Makeup brushes need cleaning at least once a week. Unclean makeup brushes are home to bacteria and germs. Cleaning of makeup brushes gives longevity to them, keeps the bristles soft and safe to use over time.

That was all about makeup brushes.



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