Makeup and math don’t seem like they go hand in hand, but achieving any look requires solving an equation: one half is finding the perfect product formulas and shades and the other half is using the right brushes to apply them.
While choosing the right products is important, applying each one with a makeup brush that’s specifically designed for it is the key to getting your desired finish. So, if you’ve ever applied full-coverage foundation and got a streaky, blotchy finish, the brush you used could be to blame. The same goes for not being able to draw a precise cat eye.
However, knowing which brush to pair with which product is easier said than done because there are so many available options. That’s why we turned to top makeup artists to break down what every makeup brush does, along with their pro tips on how to use them.
A powder brush is generally a thick, full-fibered brush—either synthetic or natural—that has the versatility to perform a multitude of beauty jobs. This omnipresent makeup brush (you can hardly find a makeup set without it) is an important tool to have in your makeup arsenal.
To use a powder brush for foundation, dip the brush into the powdered product—applicable for both pressed and loose powders—and swirl in circles or sweeping strokes until you achieve even coverage. Pro tip: it’s easier to ensure adequate application if you start in the middle of your face and work your way out.
This is an exceptional beginner multi-tool, especially for use as a mineral foundation brush, because it’s simple to blend and work in your product.
2.Angled eyeshadow brush
Some eyeshadow brushes are rounded, some are flat, some are tapered—but the brush we’re talking about right now is the angled one. These brushes might be fluffier than an angled eyeliner brush, which is very thin and flat, but they have a similar slanted silhouette with firm bristles that are shorter on one end and gradually grow longer and fuller toward the other end.
How to use an angled eyeshadow brush
The angled shape of these bristles hugs the contour of your brow bone when applying shadow in the crease of your eye (think of it as a contour brush for your eyes). Because the bristles are both dense and fluffy, this type of makeup brush is also super-helpful for diffusing eyeshadow in an outer “V” shape for blended winged shadow.
A blush brush is smaller than a powder brush and features a dome shape with long, super-soft bristles. The specific blush brush you choose, however, depends on how you apply your blush (on the apples versus along the cheekbones) along with your desired effect (a light wash of color versus high-coverage). “If you want a wash of color, go for a bigger brush than you’d typically reach for—I love this one from Sephora Collection because you can use use it to create light sweeping motions from the apple of your cheek back towards your ear for the perfect flush,” explains Phillips.
A stippled brush has a striking appearance—the fibers are of two distinct lengths. The bulk of the brush is full fibered and tightly packed with longer fibers interspersed. Stippling brushes are great for layering different levels of makeup. Primer, foundation, and blush can be seamlessly worked together with this type of tool.
While stippling brushes can be used with powders, its best use is for liquid cream foundation or cream blush products. To use, put cream blush or foundation on the back of your hand, carefully dip the brush into product and stipple onto face.
How do you “stipple” exactly? Use small motions to push the brush down onto your face. Think of a gentle makeup pogo stick. After the initial stipples, it’s time to utilize those longer bristles. Gently press down with the longer bristles and make soft swirling motions. Don’t push too hard with the bristles because too much pressure will end up leaving puddles of makeup—so far, that hasn’t been a makeup trend, so best to avoid it.
5.Lip liner brush
Maybe you call it a lip liner brush, or maybe you call it a precision liner brush. Either way, you instantly recognize this type of makeup brush when you see it because of its distinct small, pointy shape. One would think the tip of this brush is thin enough that you could count the bristles, but it’s packed full of synthetic hairs to help maintain its shape so you can draw precise lines in even the tiniest places.
In a lot of ways, the kabuki brush is the opposite of the stippling brush. Its name might not ring a bell, but if you’ve ever played around with makeup, this classic makeup brush definitely will. Made famous by Kabuki Japanese drama theater, this style of brush is most commonly recognized by its short, chubby handle and very dense, firm, flat or dome-shaped bristles.
A synthetic kabuki brush can be used to apply liquid foundation or body makeup for a medium-to-full coverage, but the density of the brush makes it perfect for packing on superfine powders or mineral foundation for a fuller-coverage finish.
How to use a kabuki brush:
Because these bristles are so dense and firm, you’ll probs find that a slight pressure is necessary for working the product into the skin. Use the tips of the bristles to pick up the product, then swirl and buff to diffuse it across your face.