18 Makeup Brushes You Absolutely Have to Have and How to Use Them

18 Makeup Brushes You Absolutely Have to Have and How to Use Them

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Often when I meet clients for the first time and I open my brush kit containing ‘just’ 48 makeup brushes (don’t worry, I’m only going to recommend the 18 makeup brushes you need and how to use them in this article) their faces either show signs of bewilderment and wonder or, if you’re like me, the first time I opened my brush kit, complete overwhelm!

Why on earth would you need 48 different makeup brushes!? Little did I know, as a makeup artist on a busy day, that I would be wishing I had more!

48 different kinds of makeup brushes, you must be thinking that’s insane! But there are in fact many more.

Yep, in the beginning, I must admit, it did feel a little daunting, but now I can confidently say that I know what each and every brush is and what it’s used for (not that I always use the brush for its intended purpose).

Makeup is art, right? Yes, you agree – good, and what do artists need to create beautiful works of art? A range of brushes! Of course, you got it! Makeup is no different.

Gone are the days when our grandmothers, and even our mothers for that matter, had a single blush brush and the little sponge eyeshadow applicator that came with the eyeshadow.

No, no, no, no… today we’re all about an excess of things designed to make life easier. Makeup brushes are no different. Each and every brush is a spoke in the wheel of the bigger finished picture.

In this article I will introduce you to eighteen brushes from the wonderful world of makeup brushes and how to use them – from the fluffiest fluffy brush to the smallest eyeliner brush.

But before we amble down Brush Alley… listen up!

Makeup Brush Roll

The Brush Container or a Brush Roll

I know that this might sound a little pedantic to some, but I can’t stress enough how important it is to have somewhere to store your brushes, especially the ones that cost waaaaay too much!

Keeping your brushes clean and stored correctly is imperative! Not only does storing your brushes keep your kit organised, but it prevents the brushes from being damaged, such as bristles bending, and if you are using natural fiber brushes, the hairs breaking off (gasp, horrified emoji).

Besides preventing damage, keeping your brushes stored in their own special place will also keep them clean. Putting all of your brushes and makeup into one bag may seem like a good idea, but as soon as something leaks or breaks there is going to be one heck of a mess to clean.

If you’re stuck in lockdown like me and are rarely putting on makeup at the moment (read my article on why this isn’t a good idea), having something leak in your bag with the brushes and going unnoticed for some time, until you have the inclination to put on makeup just to take a trip the the lounge, can be a disaster of Shakespearian proportions!

Not only can a leak stain the fibers of your brushes forever (I’m not being dramatic when I say forever, because no matter how hard you try to clean them, the offending leak may possibly never come out of your previously white fiber brushes) but can effectively ruin your brushes, especially if they have wooden or bamboo handles. 18 makeup brushes is an expensive exercise to have to replace!

You get what I’m saying, girl!?

Here are a few of my top picks from Amazon with good reviews:

So, from the biggest to the smallest brush, these are the 18 brushes I recommend you have in your kit.

You can definitely get away with fewer if your budget is limited and of course there is no such thing as too many brushes if you want more! If you are just starting out, pick a few to start off with and build your collection as you get more and more into makeup. I will also put a few options from Amazon you could consider.

I have a makeup kit checklist for you that you can download and print if you would like.

Fan Makeup Brush | 18 Makeup Brushes You Absolutely Have to Have and How to Use Them

Fan Brush

The fan brush has many different uses depending on personal preferences. It is often used to apply highlighter but works for applying contouring as well. I quite like using this brush to remove excess setting powder like a powder brush.

Powder Makeup Brush

Powder Brush

The powder brush is probably the most common and well-known brush out there, easily identified by its large fluffiness. Not be confused with the blush brush.

This brush is used to apply powder to the face like compressed powder, loose setting powder and the like. This brush can also be used to apply blush, bronzer, and highlighter but because of the size, it isn’t the easiest to work with when applying products other than setting powder.

Blush Makeup Brush | 18 Makeup Brushes You Absolutely Have to Have and How to Use Them

Blush or Bronzer Brush

The blush or bronzer brush is very similar to the fluffy brush but can sometimes be angled so that the blush is more easily applied to the skin and is slightly smaller than the powder brush. This brush can also be used to apply bronzer, contour and setting powder.

Makeup Dual Fibre Brush

Dual Fibre Brush

The dual fiber brush fairly uncommon brush if you’re not a makeup artist, this brush is used to apply moisturizers and primers because of its good blendability.

This brush can also be used for blending out contour and foundation.

Dual fibre simply means that the brush contains fibres or hairs that are different in length by a few millimeters.

Makeup Highlight Brush | 18 Makeup Brushes You Absolutely Have to Have and How to Use Them

Highlighter Brush

The highlighter brush is used purely to apply highlighter, this brush is round, tapered and smaller than a blush brush.

I like to use this brush to apply blush because of the shape. I feel I have a little more control of where the product goes.

Makeup Contour Brush

Contour Brush

The contour brush looks like a smaller blush brush but it is either angled or short and stubby so that it is easier to apply contouring and to achieve the fine angles you need.

This brush can also be used to apply and blend out contouring powder and cream-based products.

Foundation Blending Brush | 18 Makeup Brushes You Absolutely Have to Have and How to Use Them

Foundation Blending Brush

The foundation blending brush is a short but thick dome-shaped brush, used to blend foundation and concealer together.

This brush can also be used to buff and remove streaks created by previously using a foundation brush, and can also be used to pack setting powder onto the skin for methods such as “baking”.

Foundation Makeup Brush

Foundation Brush

The foundation brush looks like a fancy paint brush, it is slightly stiff, sporting a rounded tapered end and is quite flat.

This brush is used to apply foundation to the skin and also works well for applying body paint.

I personally prefer using a beauty blender rather than a foundation brush for most types of foundations because the brush can make the product look streaky. However, I recommend you use a foundation brush when applying cream foundation as opposed to liquid foundation and then blend it out with either a foundation blending brush or a beauty blender/makeup sponge.

Eyebrow Makeup Brush and Comb | 18 Makeup Brushes You Absolutely Have to Have and How to Use Them

Eyebrow Brush & Comb

You may think that the eyebrow brush and comb is just to tame your brows but it is actually a dual purpose brush with the comb side used to comb out and separate your lashes after you apply mascara (not for combing grandpa’s long bushy brows!) No more spidery clumpy lashes!

After I discovered this it changed my life! Try it out for yourself.

Blending Fluffy Makeup Brush

Blending Fluffy Eye Brush

The blending fluffy eye brush can be identified by its dome shaped fibers and softness and is perfect for blending eyeshadow on large areas like your eyelid.

Soft Angled Blending Makeup Brush | 18 Makeup Brushes You Absolutely Have to Have and How to Use Them

Soft Angled Blending Eye Brush

The soft angled blending eye brush is similar to the pro angled blending brush but is softer and flat as opposed to round. This brush is perfect for smoking out eyeliner and eyeshadow for a more sultry look.

Tapered Blending Makeup Brush

Tapered Blending Eye Brush

The tapered blending eye brush is the same size as the blending fluffy brush, this brush is tapered to blend smaller areas for more precise blending.

Pro Angled Blending Brush | 18 Makeup Brushes You Absolutely Have to Have and How to Use Them

Pro Angled Blending Eye Brush

The pro angled blending eye brush is cut at a sharp angle and flat at the top, this brush is used to apply powder to the crease/socket of your eye. Perfect for precise blending and application.

Medium and Small Concealer or Lip Brush

Medium & Small Concealer or Lip Brush

You’ll see that I have listed two concealer/lip brushes here. They both look the same but one is of course smaller than the other and it is very situational.

I suggest you choose the smaller one for concealer and the medium brush for lipstick. You could also use the smaller one for lipstick when you need that high precision.

Short Blending Makeup Brush | 18 Makeup Brushes You Absolutely Have to Have and How to Use Them

Short Blending Eye Brush

The short blending eye brush is a stubby looking brush and is used predominantly for smoking out eyeliner. It can also be used to pack eyeshadow for a more intense pop of colour or, due to its size, can be used to apply eyeshadow to the lower lash line.

Bullet Makeup Brush

Bullet Eye Brush

Just like the short blending eye brush the bullet eye brush is quite dense but is tapered for precise blending in very small corners of the eye and for blending out your crease. This is also a great brush to apply highlighter to your brow bone, tip of your nose and cupid’s bow. Because of its density, you can make the highlighter really pop!

Eyebrow Powder and Angled Eyeliner Makeup Brush | 18 Makeup Brushes You Absolutely Have to Have and How to Use Them

Eyebrow Powder or Angled Eyeliner Brush

The angled eyeliner brush is one of my favorite brushes for applying eyeshadow as eyeliner for a subtle wing effect, or a smoked-out liner as well as filling in brows.

This brush is designed to get to those hard-to-reach angles and is fine enough to create a delicate line.

Eyeliner Brush

Gel Eyeliner Brush

The gel eyeliner brush is the smallest brush I own, the eyeliner brush, is used to apply gel eyeliner (that comes in a pot) with high precision. You can of course just go with the applicator that comes with a liquid liner.

Applying eyeliner with this brush requires a lot of practice if you don’t know how to use liquid eyeliner. A lot of my clients don’t like to use gel or liquid eyeliner because they “aren’t good at it”.

I promise I didn’t wake up one day and decide to be good at eyeliner. I was terrible in the beginning! I remember my first attempt, I looked like a racoon. But practice makes perfect, don’t be afraid to try new things!

If you are just starting out here are a few of my top Amazon picks for complete makeup brush sets if you need:

So there you have it, 18 makeup brushes you should have in your makeup kit! I know it seems like a lot, but I guarantee you won’t be using all of these brushes in one look or even all in the same week, but with these eighteen brushes you will be able to create any look under the sun and then some!

Go out there! Be bold, be brave, try new things and be unapologetically you!

P.S. Don’t forget to download the checklist.

Lots of love,

Courtney Signature

Courtney Cullen

A full-time professional makeup artist and a free-spirited, unabashed makeup and lash addict blogging about all things beautiful! Makeup is art, but beauty is spirit...

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