Five Essential Makeup Brushes and How to Use Them

Michael Brown

Beauty Expert

There really is an art to makeup (they don’t call us ‘artists’ for nothing!). Knowing how to use highlight and shade to re-structure the face, which colours contrast and bring out others, and how to colour correct common skin conditions are all essentials for any artist. And like a painter and his paintbrush, none of this is possible without the right tools of the trade – makeup brushes.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of the fingertip application for quite a few areas of makeup artistry, but for all powder and a few liquid/cream products, my work would be nothing without my favourite brushes by my side for that perfect placement and blend.

mb-brushesimage via Zimbio

Choosing Your Tool

It is so important to know what area you are working on with the makeup product in front of you (is it a larger area of the face or will it be used more concentrated?) as this determines the size of the brush you need.

You also need to think about the application needed for the effect you are after. Are you going to dab the product for more intensity in a small area or sweep the product onto the face for a more sheer effect?

The overall shape and how the brush tip is tapered into the finishing edge is everything in my decision making for the brushes I use on different areas on the face. The brush edge should mimic the end result you want to create.

For Example:
If you want a precise eye socket line, use a thinner tipped brush.
If you want an angled outer winged liner, use a small angled brush.
If you are contouring under the cheek, use a medium sized angled brush.
If you are using blush, use a rounder brush to match the apple of the cheek.

Every brush has its purpose and many can be used in a multi-functional manner and while makeup artists love a large variety of brushes, an individual only really needs between five and ten brushes to master a look — success is in the knowledge on how to use your brush wisely.

Know Your Face


Foundation Brush – Using your fingers can create heat and friction which is terrible for someone with an already pink or sensitive skin. I like to sweep foundation from the centre of the face, where most coverage should be, then continue outwards to the edges of the face seamlessly.

Because of the action, the foundation brush should have a very thin tapered tip — this will assist in smoothing the product, not bulking it. If more coverage is needed, I can then use the flat side of the brush in a stippling application, to build and layer coverage on areas of concern.

The tapered tip of the foundation brush can also be used as a concealer brush, but I prefer to use my fingertip, it melts the product in for a greater bond.

MB PRO TIP; The trick to a good foundation brush is that it is not bulky or thick. It should have a thin, tapered tip while still being firm enough so it does not fan out and cause streaks. The tapered tip is also a great smoother, or eraser used later on around the eyes too!


My choice of foundation brush is Bobbi Brown (RRP $60). It works every time and the shape is perfect for a light sheer coverage for day, then adding more coverage, where needed, for night.

Angled Contour Brush – With contouring, it’s important to get the tool for the job, otherwise it could be a muddy mess when applying the shade tone.

For complexion contouring we are adding a shade tone (anything neutral/taupe/bronzer that is matte) under the cheekbone to create more of a hollow and lifted cheekbones. For this, we start at the back of the face, near hairline, and work our way to the front of the face – gong the opposite could apply too much shade to the front of the face, looking muddy. This is why an angled, brush that is not too bulky is essential.

Once dipped into product, the base of the angled brush receives most of the product, leaving the tip of brush clean, making it perfect for adding shade to the face as it allows application and blend with the one sweep and brush – genius.

This brush can also be used to shade top of forehead, temples and under jawline, receding these areas if necessary.

MB PRO TIP: Always dust excess product, once applied from product on the back of your hand, before applying to the face – this avoids a n nasty overkill of product, never apply straight from product to face.


My chosen angled contour brush is the Rae Morris Brush 3. Ultimate Cheek Bone (RRP $80).

Amazing to get right under the cheekbone without looking muddy and thick, plus a great pressed powder option and even using the tip for blush on the apple of the cheeks. This one is perfect for anyone who only wants a few brushes. Go the multi-tasker!


Base/Blend Brush – So many brushes have more than one purpose and there are no rules to the possibilities available when you really think about each application.

This brush for me is my most used eye brush. I generally start all eye makeup with a matte shade tone – usually a bronzer or taupe eye shadow – as I want to sculpt the eye shape. This brush is large enough to cover a bigger area, but not to fluffy (a fluffy brush gives no control or precision into the socket line).

Start by using the flat side of the brush, adding depth on the mobile eye lid, but my focus point being the socket line, receding away any unwanted puffiness or heavy lid that may be present.

With the eyes open you see the natural socket line and any folds that are present and you can use the very base of the brush to blend and smooth any harsh edges while the eyes are open. I use this the entire way through eye makeup application to ensure all lines/edges are seamless.

My go-to base and blender is the Artiste All-Over Eye Shadow Brush (RRP $15.95) as it can apply base shades on easily with a shape and size to blend everything on the eyes together as one. 

Pop Colour Brush – This brush has such a small role with my eye makeup application, but it creates the wow factor for eyes. Definitely a ‘must have’!

I call it my pop colour brush because once I have applied my base shade tone to the mobile eyelid and socket area (stencilling out the eye shape and lift that I require) I need a little lift or jazz point for the eye and, for me, its all about the mobile eye lid.

The lash line and socket areas work best with a deeper tone for depth and structure. If the socket area is weak, the more matt the shade tone is, the better. To contrast, anything lighter than your shade tone or something eye catching like a metallic shade can be placed on he mobile eye lid — this reflects light, brings forward a deep set eye and contrasts perfect against the matte shades used in and around the eye socket.

Use the flat part of this brush on the mobile lid for controlled pop colour. Use the thin base of this brush for shading the lower lash line and for a more detailed shade tone in the socket line, the base of this brush works wonders.


This little baby, M.A.C. 247 Flat Shader Brush (RRP $45), is always ready to add some pop to the eyes… I love the perfect mobile eyelid fit and the multi-tasking action for socket or lower lash line shade.

Eyebrow/Liner Brush – Eyebrows are my thing. I love the way they can lift and shape the entire face – they are really are the new generation eye anti-ager.

If you have a lot of exposed socket/eye space with skin and that skin is weak or puffy/heavy, your eyes look smaller. Eyeshadow applied by a shade tone in the socket can combat that, but so can adding more density to your brows.

For this I am a fan of brow powder as it adds density in a very natural way, where as pencil when used incorrectly can look very placed and drawn – no thanks.

An angled brush – the same as the above contour brush for under the cheekbone – gives application and blend out of the one product, this is perfect for an area where you don’t want one solid, block colour.

Brows need more structure from mid to ends, more than the start of the brow. The angled brush allows when applied with the base as your depth point and the tip as your blend, to mimic real hairs when applied in small, feathered strokes.

This brush for me is the perfect way to add liner to your outer eye, the perfect wing… Because of its angled shape, it can mimic the winged eye look with the base of brush is at base of lashes and the tip is pointing in the diagonal point of wing application – great for gel or powder liners.


My choice and handy man is the Shu Uemura Natural 60b Brush (RRP $50). That perfect, firm bristle gets precise application every time.

Brushes are an investment to your daily makeup routine. They create magic and mixed with fingertip application for lipstick, concealer and highlighter, my top five can really do it all when less is best for your budget – #winning.


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feature image via zimbio


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