Just a few there. I CAN STOP ANYTIME I WANT
So first up, the liner brushes. I have three of these, well, two and a ring-in. Eyeliner is one of those things that is so strongly personal choice based. Some people like to use a liquid liner in a pen, some people prefer to use a gel liner and within that group there are those who like to use an angled brush, and those who prefer a fine, pointed liner brush. I haven’t figured out which one I am yet, and both definitely have benefits, so I am really on the fence.
Going from the top, you can see that teeny little one is the Napoleon Perdis 2h fine liner brush. It really is quite teeny. The bristles are very stiff which is what you want with these brushes, IMO. If they are too soft and flexible, they don’t give you the precision that you really want with this application technique. You want to be able to use it almost like a sharpie. One advantage of a tweeny little brush like this is that I find it easier to do very small, fine details such as the outside corner of a graphic wing (a graphic wing is where the wing is kind of triangular and filled in, as opposed to a more flicky wing that’s just a line). Some would say that this is a better eyeliner brush for those who are more advanced in technique and I’d probably agree with that. Nevertheless brushes like this are available in all brush ranges, this particular one is $25 from Napoleon Perdis.
The Real Techniques detailer brush is kind of a mystery to me, not gonna lie. It’s again from that garbage pack that I hate (apart from my beloved buffing brush). The only thing I’ve used it for so far is doing the very inner corner of my eye if I want a tiny smudge of colour there but honestly, you could use the edge of any brush for that. I’ve also used it as a lip brush but it’s not great for that, you really need it to be more dense for that purpose. I’m in the market for a good lip brush and would love to hear opinions, by the way! Anyway if you like the look of this one you can get it here.
This one is the ring-in. It’s the Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Brush and it is MAGICAL. I love this brush for filling in my brows, obviously, but it’s also a fantastic brush for a fine eyeliner effect. Use it for graphics or a flick, it’s great for both. The advantage of the angled shape is that you can use the whole edge of the brush to “stamp” your line, creating a framework to work from, instead of drawing a line with shaky hands. The other end of this brush has THE BEST brow brush you can imagine, it’s a nice wide but dense spoolie type brush and it’s honestly the best one I’ve found. Can’t recommend this one strongly enough and really what with its dual purpose, I consider it something of a “must have”. That’s if you’re a brow person, I suppose! You can get it online at Hairhouse Warehouse for $35 or in-store.
The last is the Real Techniques angled eyeliner brush and it’s fabulous. See all comments above except it’s just a bit more dense, therefore not as great for filling in brows and has no spoolie (tbf, that’s NOT what it’s designed for so it gets an obvious pass). The extra thickness along the bottom means that you will get a thicker line on your eyeliner so if you’re more likely to tend towards a dramatic line then this one is for you. It’s part of that amazing and wonderful pack from Real Techniques that I strongly recommend you buy (more on that in this very post, my friends).
Next up is .. well, I don’t really know what to call these but they are not blending brushes or fine liner brushes. Other.. brushes….. yeah.
The Napoleon Perdis 7r Smudging & Sculpting Brush isn’t really what I wanted when I ordered it. I was looking for something more soft. However, it has really come in handy for when I need something very stiff and dense to smudge out a smoky liner, or get into a closed area such as the crease and apply colour a bit more densely than I would with a blending brush. It’s not strictly for applying colour but it won’t blend out to the extent that a fluffier brush would. Kind of hard to explain but it’s a good one for smudging out the lower lashline when you don’t want to lose too much colour density. Hopefully that makes sense. It’s extremely dense and very stiff, almost like a little sponge? Anyway you can get it here for $40.
Hakuhodo is a new entry for me, I’ve only got two of these brushes so far but they are quite good. Unfortunately, the site is utterly enormous and impossible to navigate unless you are pretty experienced and know exactly what you’re looking for. I found it immensely overwhelming. However, if you have a fair idea of what kind of brush you want, and you find it in a brand that you consider to be too expensive, you could do a search to see if anyone knows a Hakuhodo dupe and you’d be VERY likely to find one of great quality. They are well priced brushes for the most part. Hakuhodo is the brush maker behind a lot of luxury brands including Tom Ford, an incredibly luxe brand. So if you are willing to put in a bit of research they’re well worth the saving!
Anyway, the Hakuhodo B533 is a pencil brush which has a soft but dense pointed tip. It’s great for softly smudging out a smoky liner. Sometimes I find it a bit too soft, I find I have to use it very promptly after applying anything that dries fast that’s for sure. But it’s lovely and soft and can also be used as an inner corner application brush, that is what I use it the most for. Is it a must-have? No. However if you think it’s for you, grab it here for $19 (horse hair, other hairs are also available). Important note: Hakuhodo brushes are natural bristle but cruelty-free, meaning that the animals are brushed to obtain the hair that naturally comes out of their coats.
The Napoleon Perdis 9b Tapered Shader brush is fantastic. I have had this brush for a very long time and it is still going strong. It’s quite dense-bristled and very smooth. It is best for picking up product and applying it to the eyelid fairly precisely. It’s not for blending but absolutely nothing that I have tried beats it for just plain ol’ putting shadow onto the lid / eye area. Enough said. It’s a superstar. However, it is $30 (get it here) and I reckon you can probably do better for value. Not that I’m saying that $30 is an awful lot to pay for a brush, it’s really not, but it’s such a commonly made brush shape that I bet if you went to priceline and had a look at the EcoTools section you could find something very similar. I have no complaints about this particular brush though, and expect my love affair with it to last for many years to come. Great brush! A brush of this TYPE is a must-have, in my opinion.
Blending brushes have been a relatively recent love for me, but it is a true love. A strong love. A love that will last forever.
These all have a very similar use, so I’m not going to talk about them each in turn. They’re for blending and smoking out eyeshadow. Using two colours and want to blend them together so they appear seamless? Blending brush. Just want a wash of colour over the lid rather than a dense, opaque shadow look? Blending brush. Want to blend the edges of your eyeshadow so that there’s no stark line against your skin? Blending brush. They are bloody fabulous. You need one.
As for which one, well, this is one of the only times when I will suggest a more expensive brush. It is my dream brush, the only brush I have two of, the MAC 217. I. LOVE. THIS. BRUSH. It’s absolutely wonderful. It’s the exact right density and softness. The end of it is angled and tapered, so that you can use it two-sided. There are lots and lots of videos, reviews and such on this brush so if you are on the fence after these I really suggest checking them out. You can use it to apply colour if you just want a light wash but usually I’m more likely to apply with either my finger (cream shadows) or the flat NP brush (loose / pressed powder) and blend that colour out using this brush. You can use it in a windscreen wiper motion to blend colours or in the crease to create definition, or in small, feathery circles to blend and smoke out the edges of your eyeshadow. It is magical.
HOWEVER! If you’re thinking about buying my beloved Nic’s Picks pack from Real Techniques, just hold your horses on the ol’ MAC online ($37, or instore) purchase. The base shadow brush is just about as good. I really like it and use it all the time. I would say that it doesn’t have the tapered tip that the 217 has, so it’s not quite as versatile, but the duofibre bristles make it nice and soft and great for blending out any harsh lines.
The RT angled shadow brush, however, I am more likely to use for blending out undereye concealer. This isn’t because it is bad at blending shadow, it’s not, but it’s VERY good for concealer under the eyes! The shape makes it just perfect for getting up into the inner corner with the concealer but it’s large and fluffy enough to not make it a chore. So that’s just a quick side-note about that one. It’s great for eyeshadow as well, but I have enough blending brushes that I don’t need to use it for that. It’s from that same amazing brush pack as above.
The one I use the least is the Hakuhodo J142. It’s great, don’t get me wrong. It’s just that I do not think it’s a dupe for the 217, as I had read. It’s possible I bought the wrong brush because I do find that site so overwhelming. It has a rounded top rather than a tapered top but it works very well for blending. It’s a smidge more dense than the 217 I think, which means it doesn’t blend out as much which can be a good thing when you don’t want to lose any colour density. You can get it here for $19 (goat hair).
So after all that, let’s summarise. Which of these brushes do you truly NEED? Well, none of them. If what you’re doing is working for you, and that is using your hands or a sponge, go nuts. Sometimes I use those things too. But if you’re in the market for brushes or you want to up your game and think they could help, I have some ideas for you.
A great place to start is the Nic’s Picks pack from Real Techniques. The only things it doesn’t have in it that I’d really recommend is a buffing-style brush and a flat eyeshadow brush. For a buffing brush (foundation application), you can pick up the Expert Face Brush (as mentioned in part 1) or you can investigate any flat topped kabuki style brush like the Sigma F88 which is extremely popular and well-priced. When I get to the USA, I will probably be picking up a few Sigma brushes as they are incredibly good value and highly regarded. For flat eyeliner brushes, Sigma has those too or check out EcoTools, a brand created by Alicia Silverstone of fully recycled brushes that are extremely well-priced. Perhaps this set? I haven’t tried it but for the price, you can’t go wrong!
To treat yourself, grab the MAC 217. When I first got this, Ray had picked it up for me in Guam on his way to Australia and I may have squealed out loud and said “oh my god” when I first used it. It’s seriously wonderful and I guarantee you’ll love it.
If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments. I’m sure there’s stuff I’ve left out!
I will post about brush care and cleaning very soon.
Things are going to get crazy for me over the next 6 weeks. My visa medical went great, I passed (pending xray and blood tests) and I also received my visa interview date which is the 17th of March. As long as I pass that, about which I am confident because the love I have for my husband is self-evident (and we have tonnes of evidence anyway) and I’m healthy and crime free, I will be heading off at the end of March. Wowsers. But bear with me! I promise to keep posting whenever I have the time – it’ll keep me sane.