Whether I am addressing aspiring make-up artists or teaching a master class for seasoned professionals, one of the questions I am most often asked is "Which brushes are best?" The answer is not nearly as simple as the question, since there are many factors that must be considered.
The type of bristles you need depends on the medium you are working with. Natural bristles work best with powder products and synthetic bristles with oil based products. Powder works well for camera work, as it doesnt melt or shine. Therefore, most of the brushes in a media make-up artist's kit should be made with natural bristles. But with hundreds of brushes to choose from how do you know which are best?
Quality, not quantity, is the rule. A general guideline is to look for high quality brushes created for a specific use. Most of the brushes should be dense, with a silky texture and a tapered, rounded shape. Here are my ten favorite brushes that no make-up artist should be without.
Don't be tempted by huge, fat brushes. They actually defeat their intended purpose, which is to apply powder to the face. They pick up too much powder and drop it around. And they are too large to get into the places that need the most powder. The ideal brush should be fairly flat with rounded edges. Not only does this give the best all over application, but it can be squeezed into areas where shine is prevalent. In the case of powder brushes, bigger is definitely not better.
It is extremely important that your blush brush not be too large or too small. If it's too large, the area you cover will be too wide. If the brush is too small, you will get a stripe. As with all the brushes, the amount of product you use, and the angle and pressure you apply, will greatly effect the success of the application.
The traditional contour brush with the flat head is not the best shape for applying contour. It is too wide to contour the nose and the flat shape makes stripes. You will get much better results with a smaller version of the blush brush. That shape brush can be squeezed for narrow application, or used as is for subtle contouring that doesn't leave lines of demarcation.
Although this brush is sometimes used on different areas of the face, its most frequent use is under the eyes. In order to apply enough highlight powder the brush should be slightly larger than an eye shadow brush. You will get the best results if it is very dense and has a rounded tip.
You will need two different types of eyeshadow brushes. One brush should give a concentrated application around the rim of the eyes, for a smoky effect. The second brush needs to give a soft, even application over the entire eyelid, so it should be soft and rounded. With these two brushes you can create a multitude of shadow effects.
When cake eyeliner is needed, a tapered, fine tip brush gives a thin, precise line. A thicker line can be achieved by applying more pressure. This spreads the brush and widens the line.
For precise application in creating a smooth lipline you need a flat brush with a straight end. How you angle the brush when applying lipstick is just as important as a good quality brush.
No make-up kit is complete without a removal brush. If a little powder eyeshadow accidentally falls onto the cheekbone, you can remove it with a fantail brush, using a light outward sweep. White goat's hair bristles remove powder. Dark natural bristles are for application.
This is the only nylon brush I recommend because the firm bristles separate and shape the eyebrows. It is also essential when blending eyebrow pencil.
© 2000 Amy Ward