Eye Basics: Get to know your eye brushes

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Miscellaneous / Tips & Tricks
brushes

Getting into eye makeup past eyeliner and mascara can be a little daunting, especially when picking out the brushes. There are so many brushes out in the market, so here’s a rough guide I cobbled up for you, to help you out.

Remember, I’m just going by my meager brush stash, and show you how I use some of the brushes I have. Obviously, you can always use these brushes outside their specific intended function. Let’s hop to it!

FLAT SHADER BRUSH — for basic eyeshadow application! Use these brushes to pat on eyeshadow to minimize fallout and get maximum pigmentation.

Eye Brushes - Flat Shader

From left to right: MAC 239, Urban Decay Double-Ended Good Karma Shadow/Crease Brush (comes with Naked 2 Palette), NARS No. 3 (from the And God Created the Woman Set), Charm Wet/Dry Shadow Brush (from Sonia Travel Pro Set)

My favorite of the three is the MAC 239, followed by NARS (which provides a good wash of color instead). Both the UD and Charm brushes work in a pinch, though.

The density—or the fullness of the bristles—of the brush affects how much color is actually transferred on the lid. The NARS brush is a bit fluffier than the rest, so the effect is much softer.

BLENDING BRUSH — for blending out harsh lines and blending colors into each other. The shape and fluffiness blurs out harsh lines and makes your look seamless. Basically, this is a magic tool for a more polished eye look.

Eye Brushes - Blending

From left to right — Urban Decay double-ended Good Karma Shadow/Crease Brush (from the Naked 2 Palette), MAC 217 (broken?), Charm Blending Brush, e.l.f. Blending Brush

My favorite is obviously the MAC 217, but I feel like my spot cleaner dried out the bristles and some of them broke off, and it makes me sad. I like the UD next, though it’s much stiffer. The Charm one is okay, but it’s too fluffy and it doesn’t seem to provide much resistance. It squishes down a bit and splays out when you put pressure on it. The e.l.f. blending brush is okay, but I wouldn’t use it unless I absolutely had to.

PENCIL/POINTED BRUSHES — for applying shadow on a specific, concentrated area. You can use this to add a particular color on your inner corner, outer corner or smudged along the lower lash line.

Eye Brushes - Domed Pointy

From left to right — Marionnaud N°8 Eye Brush, Marionnaud N°37 Eyes, Charm Pencil Point Brush

My favorite is the Marionnaud N°37! It’s the perfect stiffness, density, and point width for inner corner highlight application and outer corner shadow application. The Marionnaud N°8, I rarely ever use but I think it would be great to serve the same function as the N°37.

The Charm Pencil Point Brush, I mostly use for smudging color below my lower lash line. I also have the e.l.f. “C” brush, which is with my sister right now, that I use for the same purpose. The line I get is thicker and much softer. You can also use it to create a “C” shape from the upper lash line, upward and outward, which is ideal for a smoky eye.

RANDOM/MISC BRUSHES — for more specific purposes, see below.

Eye Brushes - Domed Fluffy Misc
From left to right: Charm Eyebrow Defining Brush, RealTechniques Domed Shadow Brush, Charm Angled Shadow Brush

The Eyebrow Defining Brush, I find a bit too small to use on my eyebrows, so I use it for smudging on eyeshadow on my lower or upper lash line, or adding a sharp angled color on my outer corner. The RT Domed Shadow Brush is one of my favorites to travel with as it’s multi-purpose. It’s great as a flat shader brush and it blends beautifully.

The Angled Shadow Brush is something I also use for blending out the crease color. The shorter end, I rest on the crease, where I want the color to be more pronounced, and then the longer, fluffier side rests on the part where I want to color to blend out in a haze.

EYELINER BRUSHES — different strokes for different folks! Various eyeliner brushes to suit your preference.

Eye Brushes - Liner
From left to right: Charm Flat Liner Brush, Charm Bent Liner Brush, MAC 211, MAC 266

So, I feel like these mostly differ according to the angle you like to hold your brush when applying a liner, but they mostly have the same purpose. I use the Bent Liner Brush for gel liners, though I find that I prefer the width and feel of the MAC 211. The Charm Flat Liner Brush and MAC 266 are mostly used for lining with eyeshadow, but I prefer the feel of the MAC 266, which I can also use for gel liners.

Mostly, it depends on what makes you comfortable, really.

EYEBROW BRUSHES AND TOOLS — for enhancing or drawing on eyebrows.

Eye Brushes - Brows
From left to right: EcoTools Angle Brow Brush (from Recycled Brow Grooming Set), Charm Brow Lash Spoolie, EcoTools Spoolie Brush (from Recycled Brow Grooming Set), Marionnaud N°38 (other end is a spoolie)

I’m very low maintenance when it comes to brows so any stiff angled brush that will let me apply eyebrow powder in neat strokes will do it for me. The spoolie is for extra neatness, for brushing the hairs in place.

And that is the end of this post! There are other brushes out in the market, but I hope this somewhat basic round-up was helpful for some of you. :)

It took me a while to figure things out and unfortunately, my progress is well-documented on this blog, lol. I know it’s a bit hard to take on eye makeup when you’re more used to lipstick and blush application, but once you get the hang of things, it’s really quite fun!

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The Author

Indoorsman. I design things for a living and I teach on Saturdays.

24 Comments

  1. It’s posts like this that gets beginners to the regular users! Thanks for the very detailed explanations!

    Right now I use a set of Artist Studio brushes which are probably synthetic, and they seem to be okay. I might try another brand of flat eyeshadow brush though as mine doesn’t really deposit a lot of pigment on the lids properly.

    • Hi Pat, thanks! I’m glad it was helpful for you. I think synthetic brushes have a more “slippery” quality to them and are more suited for cream products than powders (though you can obviously use them for both). Just based on my experience as one of my first eyeshadow brushes was a synthetic one from The Body Shop.

  2. I’ve been wearing makeup since college but I still consider myself a newbie. I gotta learn these things coz I have a lot of makeups. I only have travel set and a couple of brushes. This post really helped me to know more. Thanks for the tips! :)

  3. tropicthrill says

    The RT domed shadow brush is one of my favorites too! I always think of it as a smaller (not to mention cheaper haha) MAC 27

    This is an amazing post! Eye brushes 101 at it’s best.

    • I wouldn’t say that they’re similar, but I guess they’re comparable. I like the RT one; I wish you could buy it by itself. :(

      Also, thank you!

  4. Hey Carina, this is quite a collection! My favorite blending brush is MAC 217 as well, but I need to find something just like it, because MAC brushes aren’t really what they’re used to be anymore. For the moment I’m eyeing the Wayne Goss ones. They look similar enough!

    • Hi Sunny! I actually feel like I should have made wiser choices with my brushes, hah. I am looking at some Hakuhodo and Sigma ones. :)

      • You’ve inspired me to look at getting new brushes too :) I have several all-rounder brushes but no real specialised brushes. Do you have a favourite brand. I can see you like a lot of the MAC brushes?

      • Yup, I like them a lot, but I find them to be expensive. Similarly priced but also quite good is Hakuhodo. A great drugstore alternative is Real Techniques. Marionnaud is also cheap and quite good, but I’m not sure if they are available where you live. :)

        I’ve heard good things about Sigma, but I haven’t personally tried any of their brushes. Hope that helps!

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  6. We have a similar-ish collection, though I mostly own just one or two of each kind that you listed, versus your four. The one thing I feel that you NEED in your collection is a tapered blending brush (such as MAC 224). It refines overly heavy-handed application and can blend through multiple colors like a teenage dream!

    • Haha I have a lot of rotations because I use eye makeup a lot and they obviously get dirty eventually. So I like having something to use for a) looks with many colors, and b) in between washings. :) Thanks for the rec!

  7. I find makeup tools like brushes really intimidating especially since I’ve just started to learn wearing makeup but now I’m inspired to start a collection. :)

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  9. Doing a ‘softly’ marathon on all your eye makeup brushes.

    I think I’ll get that marionnaud pointy and angled brushes and a few from NARS til I get hakuhodo. Having 2nd thoughts on the latter because of customs duties.

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