The Only Makeup-Brush Cheat Sheet You'll Ever Need

Refinery 29

We say it time and time again: often, it’s not what makeup you have on your face, but how you apply it. That’s why your brushes and tools can have a huge impact on the end result. We’re talking the difference between a streaky finish and flawless lines and edges. Of course, no one ever said it was easy to lock down your squad. Finding your foolproof brushes is a challenge, since there’s no right brush for everyone.

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How do you navigate the world of beauty tools when it seems as if there’s a new option every time you hit the store? Fret not, because we’ve put together this handy-dandy cheat sheet to bookmark — and consult before adding anything to your cart!

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Ahead, a quick guide to the basics of makeup brushes: What are the most popular options typically used for? What shapes are most effective for different formulas? Plus, other important tips. Of course, feel free to get creative and forge your own path — this is just a reference point to get you started.

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For Liquid Foundations & Creams

1. The Flat Foundation Brush


This common brush is a go-to tool for many. It applies base evenly, allowing you to build coverage as you see fit. The best part? The application is just like painting with a paintbrush.



2. The Pointed Foundation Brush


A smaller brush, often with a tapered point, is great for a more detailed application of foundation and concealer, especially around your nose and mouth.



3. The Duo-Fiber Stippling Brush


For an airbrushed effect, a duo-fiber brush, often with white synthetic strands peeking out, is great for gently buffing product onto skin. Squeeze some foundation or cream into your hand, tap the white brushes into it, and lightly tap and blend the cream onto your skin.



4. The Concealer Brush


Think of this as a denser, smaller, pointed foundation brush. A stiff concealer brush is the most precise tool of these four, meant to apply cream or liquid concealer in small amounts, making any red spots or bumps disappear.



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Perfectly flat and wide, for a smooth, even finish.

Make Up For Ever Large Foundation Brush, $36. Shop it here.

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This option from Sonia Kashuk is great for getting into the areas around your nose.

Sonia Kashuk Core Tools Synthetic Pointed Foundation Brush, $12.99. Shop it here.

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A duo-fiber brush for less than five bucks? Sounds impossible, but this version gives you a smooth, airbrushed look.

E.L.F. Stipple Brush, $4. Shop it here.

A classic concealer brush will magically cover any blemish.

Shiseido Concealer Brush, $20. Shop it here.

For Powders


1. Angled Contour Brush


You know how to get a precise, flattering contour? By using this brush, with an angled edge to emphasize those cheekbones with highlighter, blush, or bronzer.



2. Fan Brush


Fan brushes are excellent at creating soft-focus swipes of highlighter, blush, and even bronzer. These gently diffuse powder, resulting in sheer coverage.



3. Domed Blusher Brush


A fluffy, domed brush is great for applying color to the apples of your cheeks — and blending, too.



4. Tapered Blush Brush


A tapered blush brush is both fluffy and precise, with a flatter edge than a domed brush. This means more specific application of color, which you can build up, too.



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A soft, vegan blush brush that feels luxe and applies blush and bronzer like a dream.

Antonym Contour Brush #3, $22. Shop it here.

Use this option to gently sweep on a wash of highlighter.

Sonia Kashuk Core Tools Duo Fibre Fan Brush No. 129, $7.99 Shop it here.

For a perfectly flushed look, apply color to the apples of your cheeks and blend up and out.

Sonia Kashuk Domed Blusher Brush No. 29, $17.99. Shop it here.

These strands pick up just the right amount of color for a soft flush, which is great for a pop of natural-looking color of the apples of your cheeks.

Real Techniques Bold Metals Collection Tapered Blush Brush, $19. Shop it here.

For Both Powders, Liquids & Creams: The Kabuki Brush

Kabuki brushes, which originated in Japan, are incredibly versatile. Made for overall coverage, these brushes are large, fluffy, and quite cute.

Thanks to their size, kabuki brushes are great for applying liquid, cream, and powders — and blending them in over large surfaces. For liquid, simply tap the makeup onto your face with your fingers where you need coverage before using the brush to swirl and buff until it disappears into skin. For powder, tap the brush in the powder, give it a quick shake, and apply as you see fit. Use a light touch for a natural, airbrushed effect.

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A flat, soft edge gives this brush a light touch.

Sisley-Paris Phyto-Touches Brush, $40. Shop it here.

For blending, opt for this short and sweet version.

Tarte Airbuki Bamboo Powder Foundation Brush, $28. Shop it here.

For Eyeshadow


1. Shading Brush


A wide, flat brush is great for applying powder eyeshadow all over your eyelids, evenly distributing the color.



2. Blending Brush


For major blending power, look for a soft, fluffy blush that can seamlessly blend pigment.



3. Precision Brush


For statement lines of color, reach for a small precision brush, with tightly packed hairs. These small, versatile tools are great for a variety of looks: Smudging your pencil liner, swiping on lines of eyeshadow, and tapping on an accent color.



4. Crease Brush


These brushes can go either way — super fluffy for blending, or denser for precision. The tapered point makes it easier to get into the crease, which makes it incredibly versatile.



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With a short, rounded top, this eye shading brush is perfect for a base layer of eyeshadow. Think: an everyday wash of color.

Sigma Eye Shading Brush, $16. Shop it here.

You could opt for a classic domed, fluffy brush to check this box, or try the blogger-fave Artis brush. Blend out the crease with this cult classic for a killer smoky eye.

Artis Oval 3 Brush, $40. Shop it here.

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By: Jessica Chou