Claire Saliu Makeup Artistry

Makeup Artist, Beauty and Lifestyle blogger and busy Mama.

Makeup Brushes 101

Makeup brush musthaves

At the Irish Beauty Show last weekend, it struck me just how many makeup brushes there are out there on the market. Crease brushes, angled brushes, flat brushes, kabuki brushes – some of which I would consider essentials and some that you would rarely use but they look nice on the dressing table! The queues around two makeup brush brand stands in particular at the show were proof that it’s not just me who has a bit of a thing for brushes – so I thought for today’s post I would share with you what I would consider the essential brushes – a makeup brush guide for beginners of sorts! This basic guide will take you through the various face and eye brush types that will give you the best results with your makeup. After all, there’s no point in spending all your hard earned funds on makeup if you don’t have the correct tools to apply it with to make the most of it and yourself!

Foundation brushes.

Blank Canvas F20 Nima flat kabuki brush

There are two main types of foundation brushes – flat or kabuki types. I’m more partial to a kabuki brush as I think you can get much better coverage and more of an “airbrush” effect as you can dab and buff the product into the skin as opposed to wiping it on with a flat brush. My holy grail brushes are the  Blank Canvas F20and the Nima flat head kabuki brush from their Starter Brush Set. Both of these brushes are super dense and extremely soft and I would definitely recommend. Both also stand up to deep cleaning really well. If you haven’t tried this type of brush, test one out and I guarantee you won’t look back!
Concealer brush.

Zoeva concealer buffer Real Techniques Deluxe Crease brush

When it comes to applying concealer, some like to use a beauty blender, some use a brush and some just pat it in with their fingers. I tend to go for a brush, especially when using a concealer palette. To apply the concealer, I dab the product gently onto the under eye area, blemishes or redness with the brush and blend without dragging the skin. I often then go over the area to blend again with the foundation brush, just to make sure that there are no lines left and the product is fully blended into the rest of my base. For concealer, a small, dense brush works best, like this Zoeva Concealer Buffer. I also actually use the Deluxe Crease brush from the Real Techniques Starter Set.

Powder brush.

Blank Canvas F34 Nima Powder Brush Primark Kabuki brush

When you’re finished with your foundation and concealer, it’s time to set it all in place with a translucent setting powder. For this, a big fluffy brush is best but you don’t have to spend a fortune on them. The Nima powder brush - again from their Starter Set and the Blank Canvas F34 are great affordable options. At the time of writing this, the F34 was out of stock on the Blank Canvas Cosmetics website and the Cloud 10 Beauty website but I found it on the Cara Pharmacy website hereI have two of these small kabuki brushes from Penneys/Primark too which only cost a couple of Euro but do the job perfectly.

Contour brush.

Makeup Revolution Contour Brush Real Techniques Contour Brush

If using a powder contour product, a small, straight contour brush works great to define and add shape to the cheekbones if like me you’re not blessed with the most chiselled cheeks! I use this one from Makeup Revolution to apply a cool contour shade and then blend it in with the above powder brush to avoid any harsh lines. The Real Techniques Contour Brush from their Core Collection is another option if you prefer a tapered brush and is one of my go-to brushes that I've had for a few years now! Lots of brands do this type of brush so you are bound to find one to suit your budget.

Blusher brush.

Luxie Large Angled Brush Primark Angled Brush

To add colour to your cheeks, use a small angled fluffy brush and gently pat your blusher on. I have a few of these in my collection but again Penneys comes up trumps with the black one, along with this pretty pink and rose gold Large Angled Face Brush from Luxie Beauty.

Highlighter brush.

Primark highlighter brush Real Techniques Contour Brush Flawless Brush Primark Strobing Brush

Some like to use a fan brush to apply their highlighter, but I would recommend a small, tapered fluffy brush to get the best effects. This tapered one from Real Techniques (see link above in the "Contour" paragraph) is meant for contouring but I find the size and shape works really well to dust highlighter on top of the cheekbones or wherever else you want to add a bit of glow. The black tapered brush and fan brush are both from Penneys/Primark and are great for strobing or a subtle highlight respectively. The white tapered brush is from Flawless Irl and is part of their six piece brush set and is also great for more intense highlighting. 

Brow brush.

Lidl spoolie Blank Canvas E38 Nima Brow Brush

A decent angled brow brush is one that you definitely can’t do without if you are applying either gel or powder brow products. They can really help to carve out the shape of brows that are naturally bare or fair and the type of brush can really help to create realistic-looking hair like strokes. My holy grail ones are the Blank Canvas E38 Brow Finisher (so much so that I bought a second one at the Beauty Show!) and the Nima brow brush, also from their Starter Set. Both of these are thin enough to allow you to gently build up the product and create the best shape for your brows. Some brow brushes can be double-ended with a spoolie brush on one end to comb through the brows first. If your brow brush doesn’t have one of these, make sure you pick up one separately to tame those brows before you add your product. Mine is from an old brush set that I picked up from Lidl but most brands do these also.

Eyeshadow brushes

Zoeva Luxe Petite Crease Zoeva Contour Shader Real Techniques Base Shadow Brush Blank Canvas E40  E41

Flat shader brush.

One of these is essential to “pack” colour onto the lid or sweep a colour all over the lid. Some of the best out there are the Blank Canvas E40 , the Nima Large Shader from the Starter Set and the Real Techniques Base Shader Brush from the Starter Set mentioned above.

Crease detail brush.

If you are applying shadow to define the crease, you need one of these to get a precise application. The ones I use are the Zoeva Contour Shader and their Luxe Petite Crease. And then you need to blend it all out which brings me onto the next one..

Blending brush.

Whether you are creating a simple daytime look or a full on smokey eye, you need to blend, blend and blend some more. These fluffy brushes, used in a windscreen-wiper type motion across the crease or socket will ensure that you remove any harsh lines and that all the colours blend seamlessly. I know I sound like a broken record in terms of brands by now but the Blank Canvas E41 and the Nima blending brush from the Starter Set are both great for this. In fact, Blank Canvas do a double-ended brush too which has their E40 at one end and the E41 on the other end - meaning that you have your crease brush and a blending brush in one. 

Small detail brush.

If applying shadow to your lash line or highlighting the tear duct or under the brow bone, one of these is a must to give you that precise, clean application. Again you don’t have to spend a fortune but it is worth having in your kit. It's not pictured here but there is a tiny brush in the Real Techniques Starter Set which will do this for you, and also in the Nima Starter Set there is a similar Pencil Smudge brush. Basically you want a brush that is shaped like a thin pencil, tapering to a fine point. 

Angled liner brush.

Inglot Gel Liner Primark Angled Bent Liner Brush

I must confess I’m a recent convert to gel liner, having stuck with felt tip liners for many years for fear that I would make a mess of it. However, I recently decided to bite the bullet and purchased Inglot’s AMC Gel Liner in Black, and a bent angled liner brush from Penneys to test it out with. While this brush might look scary, it really isn’t, and it allows you to get nice and close into the lash line with the liner and it has a really fine tip too. Another thumbs up for Penneys and I think it only cost me around €2!

So that’s all the brushes that should have you covered and help you make the most of your face and your products without splashing out on hundreds of brushes. For beginners who are buying quality brushes for the first time, you can also buy some great starter sets from most of the major brush brands - Blank Canvas, Real Techniques, Nima Brush or Zoeva - which will do the work for you and give you all the brushes you need for a complete look. 

Whichever you buy, make sure you clean them regularly too – whether with good old fashioned baby shampoo, a solid brush cleaner or your gadgets of choice. This is so important to remove bacteria and prevent potential breakouts, and also to prolong the life of the brushes that you’ve invested in! I have a couple of posts already on makeup brush cleaning if you would like a few tips – here with a solid brush cleaner and here with some old reliable baby shampoo. I hope you found this post helpful, and as always, any questions or comments are welcome. If you would like to see more of these “beginners guides” type of posts let me know too!

Bye for now,

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  1. Really informative post. I own some nice brushes from H&M and am also trying out some of the Superdrug B range xxx

    1. Thanks so much x H&M Beauty is doing really well these days isn't it? I must try out some of their brushes!

  2. I will definitely look in to those contour brushes as I'm in need of a new one at the moment. I love real techniques for brushes! X

    1. Thanks for reading Kate! Real Techniques are great aren't they - affordable and great quality. The contour brush is a firm favourite of mine! x