Tuesday, 17 September 2013

So, what are all of these brushes for?

All the images in this article are from Sigmabeauty.com unless stated otherwise

It's well known that good make-up brushes are essential to put on make-up properly. Sure, you can use the little applicator that you got with your palette for free, but we all know how that goes. Applying it goes ok at first, but somehow the colours won't blend nicely together. That's because you need a different tool for it.

The make-up world seems to think you need a brush for pretty much anything actually, not only are there eyeshadow brushes, but there are eyeshadow brushes specifically used for a certain technique or a certain part of the eye! It's all quite daunting, especially when you're just getting started and you don't know what you're doing. So that's why I thought it might be handy to explain to you what all of these brushes are for.

I'll also explain what I personally use them for, because to be honest, I find it a bit silly to use a different brush for everything but I can see how you'd still want to know the proper way to use it.

I'll explain the most common used brushes to you right here, since some brands have brushes that are unique to their brand it's a bit tricky for me to explain absolutely all of them. Also, since all the brushes that I use are synthetic and I don't use animal hair on principle I can't really tell you when it's better to use brushes made out of animal hair or synthetic hair, sorry about that.


Tapered Eyeliner Brush

This little pointed brush is good to use with a gel liner because it's so tiny and it will allow you to make very accurate and smooth lines. 

What I use it for: Eyeliner, creating cut creases, applying a highlight in the inner corners, everything that needs detail. 

Angled Eyeliner Brush

An angled brush is also very popular to use for gel liner, as it's easier to create a wing with it. The shape is also a bit more reliable and feels a bit easier to work with since it allows for more control, so it's good for those amongst us who have shaky hands. 

What I use it for: Eyeliner, winging out eyeshadow, lower lashline, eyebrows (especially eyebrows)

Foundation/Primer/BB Cream/Concealer Brushes

Flat Foundation Brush

This is a flat foundation brush, and it's commonly used to apply liquid foundation, bb-cream or primer. Pour or pump a bit of product on the back of your hand, load up your brush and apply on your face as if you were painting on it. It's very easy to control how much product you put on your face with this brush, and the shape of it allows you to get in the tricky bits like the corners of the nose. 

What I use it for: I prefer applying liquid products with my clean fingers, so I don't use it at all. 

Stippling Brush

Source: Realtechniques.com

A stippling brush is a brush where the hairs stand a bit further away from eachother, this causes the brush to pick up less product and create a more subtle effect. By stippling the product gently on your face you get less coverage but very natural looking, blended in foundation. 

What I use it for: I exclusively use this to apply blushers that are a bit too pigmented for me, it works especially well on cream products so I love using it for my cream blushers. 

Flat Kabuki or Face Brush

A flat kabuki brush or a face brush is a brush on which the hairs stand very densely together. It is used to buff the product into the skin, blending it as you go. As opposed to the flat foundation brush, this brush is worked into the skin and minimizes the appearance of pores and other imperfections. It also picks up a lot more product so you have to be a bit careful that it's not too much coverage in one go. It works especially well on flat areas of the face, such as the forehead, chin and temples. 

What I use it for: I have a Real Techniques Expert Face brush which has a slightly rounded shape, I don't use it that much anymore but I used to contour and apply blusher with it. Which worked ok, but a proper blush brush is still better. 

Concealer Brush

A concealer brush is a flat little brush that's ideal for picking up cream product and smoothing it out on your face. It's like a mini flat foundation brush basically. Because of it's tiny, tapered shape it's easy to reach under the eyes and around the corners of the nose. 

What I use it for: I prefer to apply concealer with my clean fingers, but I sometimes use it for precise contouring such as the nose, around the mouth or temples.

Powder Brushes (Setting Powder, Powder Foundation, Blusher)

Buffer/Kabuki Brush

Buffer brushes have a lot of hairs, but they're not actually that dense together. This means that they pick up quite a lot of product but they distribute it evenly as well. Because the surface of the brush is so big, it's easy to dab it in some powder, tap the excess off and quickly set your whole face with it. 

What I use it for: Setting my face with powder, sometimes as a blush brush, to wipe away fallout. 

Tapered Face Brush

This brush is pretty multifunctional! Just the way I like it. It is meant for applying powder product in specific areas, so it's ideal for contouring, applying blusher and applying setting powder on the places where you need it. Because of the tapered shape, it gets everywhere easily so places like the corners of the nose and under the eyes are a piece of cake with this thing. 

What I use it for: I don't own one of these beauties, but it seems mighty handy because of its multifunctionality and precision.

Powder/Blush Brush

This brush has a rounded shape to it with hairs that aren't too close together, that allows you to softly apply blusher on the areas where you want it or to powder your whole face if you so wished it.

What I use it for:  I prefer using a different type of brush for blusher or powder.

Angled Blush/Contouring Brush

Angled brushes allow for an easy application just on or under the cheekbones, which makes this brush not only suitable for applying blusher, but also for contouring. 

What I use it for: Bronzing, contouring, applying blusher

Fan Brush

White Fan Brush
Source: Janeiredale.com

Officially, the fan brush is used to wipe away excess powder that was put under your eyes to pick up the fallout from the eyeshadow, leaving your skin spotless once again. Whilst it's very good for that, it's also ideal to apply bronzer and highlighter with. The fan covers a large area but the hairs are so far apart that it's really good at picking up a little bit of product for a subtle effect. 

What I use it for: I don't own one of these, but I don't really think this is an essential brush either. It's very good for people who like subtle effects though.

Eyeshadow Brushes:

Regular Eyeshadow Brush

This is a regular eyeshadow brush, it is used for applying an even amount of eyeshadow on the eyes. It works best if you swirl the brush through the desired eyeshadow and then pat the colour on. A good eyeshadow brush is soft but dense instead of fluffy. 

What I use it for: Applying a base colour, applying eyeshadow on the lower lashline.

Pencil Brush

A pencil brush is extremely handy for more detailed or crease work since it's tapered and the hairs are very dense. It's great for highlighting the inner corners of the eyes, making a cut-crease, smudging eyeliner and applying colour on the lower lashline. 

What I use it for: I don't have this one, but I use an eyeliner brush instead for all of those things listed above. 

Blending Brush

A blending brush is a brush that you use for blending eyeshadow colours together so that all the harsh lines disappear. A good blending brush is very soft and fluffy, they can be tapered to a point for more precision or rounded like the example above for more coverage. The hairs are a bit further apart, which makes the brush pick up less product. This is good because you don't want it to pick up too much eyeshadow from your eyes when you're blending. 

What I use it for: Blending eyeshadows, applying a subtle amount of eyeshadow.

Short Shader/Smudge Brush

A short shader brush is a firm little brush with very dense hairs that's great for smudging out eyeliner or eyeshadow for smokey looks but since it picks up a lot of product you can also apply eyeshadow with it like with a regular eyeshadow brush. It's also great for applying highlighter on the browbone and cheekbones. 

What I use it for: Softening eyeliner and smudging it out, sometimes also as a brow highlight. 

Other brushes:

There are many variations and other types of brushes that differ from the ones I've just shown you, but it's definitely possible for you to figure out for yourself what you need and what you want to use it for. Brushes that are made with hairs standing very close together are good for smudging out kohl liner, applying a lot of product evenly and applying product in an opaque way. Fluffy brushes are meant to pick up less product, but they're good at applying a subtle amount evenly on a bigger surface, or to blend harsh lines out. Tapered brushes are good for detailed work and for getting into tricky areas, you can also use them to blend areas that are very tiny and need a lot of precision. You can use most brushes for a multitude of things, so don't hesitate to try!

How to recognise a good brush:


Little to no shedding (shedding is hairs coming loose and falling on your skin)
Soft to the touch, a good brush feels like stroking a rabbit's or kitten's fur. Incredibly soft.
Picks up the right amount of pigment (dense hairs pick up a lot of pigment, fluffy brushes less) 
Don't feel prickly or uncomfortable on the skin. 
Don't fall apart after using it for only a few months. 


If the brush feels like its bindings are coming loose way too soon.
If they feel uncomfortable or prickly. 
If they apply in an uneven way, leaving strokes of random product everywhere.
Shedding. Shedding means that the brush hasn't been made properly, which causes the hairs coming loose and falling out. 

I hoped this information helped you a bit. If there's anything I've forgotten to cover or am mistaken about don't hesitate to share it with me in the comments section below. 


  1. I've been looking for really easy to understand information about brushes for a while! Thanks for writing this, it's great :) Absolutely love your blog!


  2. Yay thanks! <3

  3. Thank you! So glad it's helpful, I was struggling a lot with brushes and what their use was in the beginning so I'm happy it was to your service. :D