How to use make-up brushes

Makeup brushes
Some of my favourite make-up brushes.

When doing bridal make-up I’m often asked various questions by my clients about how to use make-up brushes, many brides are amazed at the sheer number of brushes that are used to do their make-up even when their look is quite natural.  A lot of the brushes I roll out when working are multiples of the same brush as I need plenty of clean ones for each new colour that I use (usually when doing the eyes) and of course the same range of clean brushes are needed again for each extra person that I may do make-up for on the wedding day,  this all adds up to quite a large collection.  This post will cover the basic use for each of my favourite and most used make-up brushes, hopefully this will make choosing your make-up brushes a little less daunting.

Without going into too much detail about all the different types of hair used to make brushes the main varieties are animal hair such as sable, goat and squirrel (faux hair is also available) and synthetic.

Most of my brushes are by MAC but as they are from my kit I don’t know all the numbers as many have worn off but by looking at the brush you can see what type of brush it is and most companies sell something similar.

Large brushes
Large powder and blusher brushes.

These large round brushes are used for applying powder to the face and blusher to the cheeks, choose the size of brush that fits the face. I usually use the smaller one for applying powder to the face when setting the foundation and the larger one for applying blusher and sweeping bronzers across the forehead as the bigger the brush the more even the application when going for a natural sweep of colour.

large angle brush
Large angled contour brush.

This brush is for contouring the face, I usually use it for shading under the cheekbones but I also like to use it to apply blusher as the size and shape sweeps nicely over the cheekbones.

Foundation brushes
Various foundation brushes.

These are a few of the different types of foundations brushes by Mac, my favourite is the large flat brush on top followed by the smaller black haired brush at the bottom for when working on smaller faces, the middle brush is one that I like to use when applying a lighter coverage foundation as it works in circular motions which I like buffing into a well moisturised face. Sometimes for a more heavier coverage I like to apply foundation with a cosmetic sponge but generally I use a brush especially when using liquid foundations as the sponge can start to absorb the product.

Concealer brushes
Concealer brushes.

These concealer brushes are my favourite size as their shape fits nicely under the eyes with the tapered tip being perfect for more smaller areas needing precise cover, I prefer to work with the larger sized concealer brushes rather than the smaller ones.

Eyeshadow application brush
Eyeshadow fluff brush.

This is my favourite brush for applying and blending eyeshadows both at the same time, it’s flat enough to press on the colour and has enough movement in the hairs to then softly blend the edges using small circular motions.

Round blending brush
Eyeshadow blending brush.

I always use this brush for blending the edge of the eyeshadows and for applying loose powder to smaller areas of the face such as under the eyes and around the corners of the nose.

Small eyeshadow brushes
Flat shading brushes.

These flat eyeshadow brushes have hairs that are more tightly packed which makes the tips perfect for applying eyeshadow more precisely when doing eye make-up such as cut crease looks or when placing colour under the eyes and highlights on the inner corners.

Sponge tipped applicator
Sponge tipped applicator.

This is my go to brush for placing glitter dust on the eyes as it sits on the sponge perfectly making it easy to transfer onto the lids, I find that other types of brushes tend to leave you with a lighter application as some of the loose glitters get a bit lost in the hairs of the brush. Sponged tipped applicators give you a much denser application, this particular one is from Charles Fox and is great because you can buy replacement sponge tips.

Angle brushes
Eyeliner brushes.

Here are three different types of brushes used for applying liquid and cream eyeliners. The angle brush makes applying eyeliner easier than using the round brush (at the bottom) as it already has a straight edge which can help you press on the line.  I usually use the middle one which is the smallest, if I need to do a bigger thicker line then I will go straight for the larger sized angle brush and sometimes I used the round brush to draw the lines more freehand or to help with blending depending on the texture of the skin I’m working on. Small angle brushes can also be used for filling in the eyebrows and drawing sharp edges when doing strong brow shapes, the edge of the lips can also be sharpened using angle brushes when wearing strong colours on the lips such as reds.

Small mascara brush
Small fan mascara brush.

This has to be the one brush that I have stuck with since the early days of doing make-up, it’s a mascara fan brush by Supercover and has been my favourite and most unique brush in my kit. MAC have more recently got their own mascara fan brush in their range but it’s not the same as the Supercover one, this one has stiff bristles which makes it perfect for applying mascara. There are a number of reasons that I prefer this brush for applying mascara, firstly I need to extract my mascara onto a spatula for hygiene reasons so the flat brush makes it really easy to lift off of the spatula, secondly the flat shape and stiffness of the bristles means I can easily brush and coat the top of the lashes from above to clean the eyeshadow that sits on top of the lashes giving me a really clean finish to the eye  make-up, thirdly the flat shape makes it easier to brush the top lashes from underneath and the bottom lashes too without hitting mascara onto the face like a round mascara brush would. I would only use this brush for applying mascara professionally, personally I would use the mascara wand straight out of the tube it comes in as its easier when applying on yourself and you don’t need to be too concerned about hygiene.

Small makeup brush
Small short haired brush.

This must be one of the smallest brushes which makes it perfect for more precise detail, the slimmer sides and tip can be used for applying eyeliner, I especially like using this one when doing softer eyeliner that’s applied with eyeshadows and for filling in the eyebrows.

Round mascara brush
Round mascara brush.

This is a round mascara brush but I use it for brushing the eyebrows through.

Large round brush
Large round brush.

This large round brush is great for sweeping large amounts of colour onto the skin, I like to use it for highlighting the face.

Lipstick brush
Round tipped lip brush.

Round tipped lip brushes make it easy to follow the natural curves of the lips, if you have difficulty drawing the straight edge of the lips freehand then you can also use straight edged lip brushes for the lip lines rather than the curved ones.

These are just my personal favourites and how I use them, there are plenty of other make-up brushes around and make-up artist don’t all use the same brush in the same way so it’s a case of playing around with products and brushes and seeing what works for you. The post how to clean your make-up brushes talks more about how to clean and care for your make-up brushes which you might find useful.  I hope this has helped to simplify things a little for those that are less familiar with make-up brushes and their uses, you don’t need every brush and even if you do have every brush you tend to find that the majority of the time you will end up using the same few. The quality of the brush does makes a big difference to the application of your make-up so although you don’t need the most expensive brushes basic good quality ones are worth the investment, most of mine are either from MAC, Screenface, Charles Fox, or Supercover.


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