makeup brushes

Guide to Makeup Brushes: A Beauty Newbie Guide

by Holly James
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A makeup brush for almost every step of your makeup routine can make a big difference to the appearance of your makeup. Using the right brush, whether it’s a tapered foundation brush or a flat concealer brush, can transform the way you apply makeup and give you a flawless finish. Before you pick up your tool, you should also consider whether it is a natural or synthetic makeup brush. Natural makeup brushes are often made from animal hair and are known for their shine and absorption properties, while synthetic makeup brushes are made of artificial materials such as nylon and are ideal for precise, streak-free application. 

We’ve covered must have in brushes below, but keep in mind there are practically a bazillion brands, materials and styles that makeup brushes are made in. This is just to give an overview or the bare minimum in brushes and the most common brush styles used and to help you figure out a few options when it comes to picking your first, or 50th brush.

Feel free to click on the images to get more details.

makeup brush
makeup brush

Powder Brush

A Powder Brush is usually very full and used to apply loose or compact powder to set your makeup. After you apply liquid foundation, use this brush to seal the foundation in place. This can also be used for the “veil” powders in mineral makeup, but the kabuki brush (found below) is more common for doing so. Use the fluffy bristles to collect a thin layer of loose powder (don’t remove excess, don’t remove it) and sprinkle over the T-zone and under the eyes. Load the product to “bake” the makeup or apply a little powder to quickly fix the foundation or concealer. 

Beauty Sponge

A Beauty Sponge, such as the Beauty Blender seen on the left is usually a silicone-type sponge that is good for a few applications (depending on the type of sponge–the one on the left lasts a long time) before throwing them away. Use sponges like these to apply foundation and even out concealer on your face. Because of the points/edges it really helps get into the crevices and get an overall blended look. The trick to using a sponge most effectively is to saturate it with running water, squeeze out the excess, and then squeeze it into a clean towel or paper towel a few more times. This moisturizing process not only prevents the sponge from absorbing the entire foundation (since it is already wet with water), but also helps to blend makeup as smoothly as possible. Use the wide sides of the sponge to stamp and apply the cream formulas to the face and the tip of the sponge to reach the cracks around the nose and eyes. 

Stippled Brush

A stippled brush looks striking: the fibers are of two different lengths. Most of the brush is full fiber and is densely packed with longer fibers that intermingle. Polka dot brushes are ideal for applying different layers of makeup. Primer, base and blush can be perfectly combined with each other with this type of tool. A Stippling Brush is a great way to apply liquid foundation and apply face powder. To apply it, apply cream or foundation blush to the back of the hand, gently dip the brush into the product and apply it to the face. How exactly do you “steal”? Press the brush down on your face with small movements. Think of a soft makeup pogo stick. After the first few stains, it’s time to start using these longer bristles. Gently press down with the longer bristles and make gentle swirling movements. Don’t push too hard with the bristles, as too much pressure would leave puddles of makeup. It hasn’t been a makeup fad, so it’s best to avoid it. 

Foundation Brush

A foundation brush is used for applying liquid foundation. It’s usually a thinner brush and most of the time synthetic. It reminds me of a painters brush because that’s kind of what you do with this brush- you paint on your liquid foundation. This can be a great way to apply foundation, but make sure you get a really good foundation brush. What I do, when using a foundation brush, is put a small amount of foundation on my hand and wipe a little foundation on the brush, making sure it is evenly spread. Then I make light little strokes in a outward direction all over, to help keep an even look. For a perfectly smooth foundation application, start at the center of the face (cheeks and T-zone) and apply foundation outward with even, even movements to avoid sharp makeup lines around the edges of the chin line and hairline. If you use a mineral or powder foundation, twist and polish the bristles to apply the product to the skin. 

Blush Brush

A Blush brush is used to apply blush to keep redness youthful and fresh. A blush brush surprisingly looks like a powder brush. However, blush brushes tend to be a little more difficult as they cover a smaller area than a powder brush. When applying blush, avoid red circles on the cheeks reminiscent of raggedy-ann. To avoid the appearance of a doll, sprinkle the blush outwards while applying it to the cheeks. Start with light pressure and perform a pigmentation test on the back of the wrist or the back of the hand. It is much easier to accumulate paint than to clean it after you have applied it. 

Kabuki Brush

Kabuki brushes are one of the most impressive brushes. They are often of greater variety, with densely packed fibers. However, you can also buy a mini travel kabuki brush. They work best for loose powders on the body and face. Do you want to add a little sparkle to your neckline? Spin your shimmering product in large circles for a magical and glamorous finish. Kabuki brushes are also ideal for powder foundation and blush. Distribute the concentrated product by turning the brush into the makeup, patting it to remove excess, then apply it gently with large circular motions. 

Concealer brush

Concealer brush is used to apply stick or liquid concealer. It’s small head is ideal for those little blemishes and under the eye area to hide dark circles. You use this in a very similar way to the foundation brush. Apply the tip of the brush in a small amount of concealer and then gently tap the brush on the pimples, the area under the eyes, whatever. After covering the area, hide the edges and be careful not to clean the rest of the concealer. Other great uses: Sharpen and clean messy eye makeup or lipstick edges with feathers. 

Lip Brush

Lip brush is used to apply lipstick and lip gloss. Using a brush helps make sure everything stays within the lines of your lips and even application. It also helps to avoid “feathering” (this is when lipstick creases around the edges of the lips). Try a lip brush on the contour of your lips as a lip liner or on the lash line to tighten your eyes. You can also use it to draw graphic and cool eyeliners if you don’t have colored eyeliner pencils. Pro Tip: When drawing, keep it at a slight angle (rather than straight up and down) to make the line smoother, straighter, and less shaky.

Eyeliner Brush

For adding liner to achieve a fuller lash line or cat-eye look. Brigitte Bardot, Twiggy, Marilyn Monroe: all these icons used a cat’s eye to achieve a glamorous and sensual look. An eyeliner brush serves multiple purposes. First and foremost, of course, for your eyeliner. Dip the brush into the eyeliner bottle to use it (often the eyeliner has a brush built into the product). Starting from the inside of the eye, draw a line outward, gradually increasing the width of the line and going crazy towards the ends. Practice makes perfect, as they say, and it is especially true to try any kind of eyeliner technique. The key to eyeliner is to keep your hands steady (don’t drink three cups of coffee before trying it). Sometimes taking a selfie after applying eyeliner is a good idea to check the similarity of your wings. A good way to start developing your knowledge about cat’s eye is to use the hash or dot method. Use the eyeliner brush to make small dots or dots along the lash line and an end point where the tip of the wing is. Connect the dots to achieve cat’s eye perfection. If you really want precision, you can use a stencil or even adhesive tape if you want to make sure that the angles of both wings match. 

Angle eyeliner brush

Angle eyeliner brush is used to apply gel or liquid eyeliner, and even wet/dry eyeshadow as eyeliner. One of my favorite eyeliner brushes is from Coastal Scents. Whether you use a gel eyeliner or prefer a more fuzzy contour with your powdered eyeshadow, you’ll find a useful eyeliner brush to rinse the product against your eyelashes. Dip the bristles into the product and then use them to apply the eyeliner like a regular pencil or liquid eyeliner. 

Angled Eyeshadow Brush

There are as many different eyeshadow brushes as there are colors in the rainbow. This one on the left is a very common shape that is great for packing on color, and it’s the kind of eyeshadow brush that I use normally. For more experienced beauty lovers, an angled eyeshadow brush is a perfect complement. Use it to add intense color to the corner of the eye for precise blurring and to add a contrasting color to the crease. The angled shape of these bristles conforms to the contour of the brow bone when you apply shadow to the crease of your eye (think of it as a contour brush for your eyes). Because the bristles are dense and fluffy, this type of makeup brush is also very useful for spraying the outer “V” shaped eyeshadow for shadows with mixed wings. 

Flat Eyeshadow brush

An eyeshadow brush is actually the key to achieving an even, opaque layer of color on the eyelids. These brushes tend to be flat, rounded at the tip and dense, so they can hold a ton of powder or cream for a concentrated color performance. After rubbing the brush on the product, apply or press the eye shadow onto the eyelids. Gently twist the brush around the edges to blend them. You can also spray your brush with a setting spray first to deepen the dullness of a powdered pigment or to better absorb bright eyeshadow. Keep this handy for eyes with very sharp folds. 

Blending Brush

A Blending Brush is a brush that is used to blend colors together. This brush is important because it helps keep an overall smooth look… so it doesn’t look like you drew marker on your eyelid in stripes. The blending brush is one of the most coveted makeup brushes because it’s so useful for giving off that “air-brushed” eyeshadow look we all love on the celebs. Swipe the fluffy bristles into the crease of your lids with a windshield-wiper motion to apply your eyeshadow for a diffused look, and swirl it around the edges of your eyes when transitioning between colors or blending multiple shades on top of one another.


A Smudge-Brush, sometimes referred to as a “crease-brush” is used to blend out eyeliner and more concentrated areas of color. For example, if you want to do a smokey-look this brush works great for blending right around the eyes and on the outer crease of your eyelid. Dip the brush directly into the eyeshadow and run it along the lash line for a thick, smoky line, or use it to extend and fix the eyeliner. Here’s what I mean: apply your cabbage eyeliner or pencil and then use the brush to blur the edge of the eyeliner outwards. Then use the same brush to cover the eyeliner with a similar shade of eye shadow. This not only sets the color underneath, but also the textures of the layers to add depth so that your smoky eyes don’t look one-dimensional. 

Contour Brush

A contour Brush is difficult to distinguish from the crowd simply because it can appear in many different ways.

Contouring is a makeup skill that every beauty lover should know, but one that requires practice to perfect the worst case scenario when it comes to creating a good contour? Unmixed dark stripes. But we support you so that you never leave home like a two-color nightmare. 

The first step is to invest in a well-angled contour brush. It is important to use angular brushes instead of flat brushes, as they allow you to follow the natural curves of the face. For a contoured look, choose the dark outline color (this is the “shadow” that acts as a contrast to the “highlight”). Usually, especially if you’re light-skinned, you don’t want to get too dark. Choose a medium tone, but keep in mind that if it is not dark enough, there is no contrast. I need you to find out that Goldilocks suits me. So you have the darkest outline color. We’re going to make a map of your face now. If you want to minimize your forehead, trace the area near the hairline with the angled contour brush. Then pout your face. Use the contour brush just below the cheekbones to apply the darkest shade in the recess under the apples of the cheeks. If you want to thin your chin, grab the brush and make clamps around it. And finally, add some darker lines to both sides of the jaw. Your face should now be shown with the darkest contrast. The next step is to mix everything up. It sounds simple, but it’s actually the hardest and most critical part of making the outline look as natural as possible. For mixing, you can use a powder brush, a kabuki brush or any other full fiber brush. The last step is to add a highlighter to the cheeks, forehead, nose, chin and Cupid’s bow, which can be applied with smaller brushes. Use general powder brushes to highlight larger areas. 

Highlighter Brush

The shape of your highlighter brush depends entirely on the brightness you want. Use a long conical brush or a fan brush (we’ll talk about this later) with very long bristles for a more diffuse effect, or take a brush with short, dense bristles to make even a cheap highlighter look super bright and opaque. Place the brush over a powdered highlighter, remove excess, and then apply lightly to the tips of your cheekbones, brow bones, Cupid’s bow and any other place where light naturally strikes your face. Did you want an even brighter glow? Spray the brush first with a setting spray to improve pigment production. 

Fan Brush

A brush with a name that really makes sense with shape! The bristles of this brush are unfolded and flat to give it a very distinctive silhouette that is very different from all the others. Imagine taking a powder brush and squeezing the bristles together at the base to soften them, it’s a fan brush. These can come in smaller sizes (like an inch in diameter) with sparse bristles, or they can expand up to a few centimeters at their widest point and be filled with dense brush hairs. With a lateral motion (such as a windshield wiper), use the bristles of a large or medium fan brush to remove rain or excess fixing dust under the eyes, or apply highlighter along the cheekbones. And if you use a smaller brush, you can even use it to apply mascara for a clump-free finish. Rub the fan brush against the mascara stick and then press the pigment against the roots to load the base and pass it along the lashes. 

Eyebrow Brush

You’ve definitely seen your eyebrows with a spiral or comb before, and probably even brushed, but a double-ended brow brush like this also has flat, dull, angled bristles that allow you to draw individual eyebrow hairs with eyebrow gel or powder. Use the roll-up side to shape your brows first, then twist over the firm, slanted bristles of this small brow brush to fill in sparse brows with brow powder. If you use too much product, you can also use the spiral brush to comb your eyebrows and remove some makeup to soften them. Alternative Use: Comb, tame and ungroup eyelashes; just make sure the bobbin is clean first 

Pencil Brush

A pencil brush does it all: it blends the eyeliner, places the eyeshadow directly on the lash line, helps to blend precisely under the eyelashes, etc. If the other brushes are too big or too fluffy, grab this stiff, dense and sharp brush, especially if you have smoky or hazy eyes mixed with the shadows. After applying the eyeliner, wipe it gently with the pointed tip of the brush. Or skip the eyeliner and use the tip to smoke the eyeshadow under the lower lashes. You can also locate smaller areas around the eye, such as the inner and outer corners, by applying intense pigment. 


Although they are makeup brushes, it is important to keep an eye on your routine to avoid infection. Make sure the word “soft” is clearly printed on the label to avoid harsh chemicals that can loosen the adhesive that holds the bristles in place. Rub the fringed brushes gently in the palm of your hand and then rinse thoroughly until the water jet is clear (sign that dirt and makeup are coming out). Then place them on a paper towel to dry overnight. Do a contact test before using them, as larger brushes may take a little longer to dry. 

The golden rule of washing brushes is to do it once a week. However, if you skip a week, don’t sweat. and wash them at least once a month. Reusing brushes from dirt and dirt not only causes breakouts, but can also cause other unpleasant skin reactions and skin allergies. Plus, accumulating color on your brushes means that the shade you’re trying to put on your face may not be what you’re actually getting. A regular cleansing means a clean face and true colors. 

So this definitely doesn’t cover all brushes that have ever existed. If you take a look at M.A.C’s website, that’s proof alone. However, with this info, all the Beauty Newbies out there should have a handle on the most common ones.

Did I miss one? Or do you have a fave brush? Post a comment below letting me know!

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