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Make-up brushes: a definitive guide

by Shannen Valkenburg

It’s easy to get confused when it comes to the magical world of make-up brushes. There are just so many out there!

Using the right brush to apply make-up can make a huge difference to the finished look, taking ‘okay’ to ‘fabulous’.

So to help you unravel what brush does what, we’ve enlisted the help of Open Colleges student and make-up connoisseur, Shannen Valkenburg.

Here, she explains what brushes are a make-up must-have, what they do, and how to use them.

make-up brushes guide - get it right

We can all agree, when it comes to make-up, we sometimes have no clue as to what brushes we need and where to purchase them.

This can be intimidating, but using the following essential brushes can make a huge difference in your make-up application. It will also save you money in the long run as you’ll be using less product and it’ll last longer as your make-up will stay germ free.

So it’s time to graduate from using your fingertips and powder puffs, and brush it like it’s hot!

Foundation brush

1 foundation brush



Sure, you like to use your fingertips to apply and blend your foundation, but have you ever thought about how much bacteria you’re transferring from your fingertips to your skin? Enough to cause those nasty breakouts.

Using a flat, round foundation brush can make the most inexpensive products look a million bucks, all because the product will be free of bacteria.

These fantastic brushes were invented to help your foundation glide easily on, and to get into those hard to reach places.

Pro Tip: Apply the foundation to the centre of your face and spread outwards towards your hairline. Synthetic brushes are best as they tend to soak up less product.

Powder brush

make-up brushes guide - powder brush


Apart from feeling utterly amazing when brushing the bristles across your face, this brush actually serves a major purpose for makeup application: to evenly distribute powder.

Specifically designed to diffuse loose powders onto the skin for a less concentrated colour, the brush helps to create a flawless finish that won’t smudge your foundation.

Pro Tip: Dip your powder brush in your powder and tap off the excess. Gently dust the bristles across your face to evenly distribute the powder. Focus on your t-zone area to help avoid that unwanted shine. Shine bright like a… NO, NOT TODAY!

Angled eyebrow brush

make-up brushes guide - angled eyebrow brush


If you’re like me and prefer eyebrow powder over a pencil then an angled eyebrow brush is a must for your beauty bag.

These brushes are thin and tiny and can often be mistaken for an eyeliner brush. They are perfect to imitate shape and shade in the brow.

Pro Tip: Apply powder to the brush and tap off the excess. Start by outlining your brow from the arch to the tail. Fill in the brow using light feathery strokes in the direction of hair growth. Make sure you use lighter strokes when working on the inner parts of the brow. The brow should gradually go from light to dark, naturally. Brush out the excess powder with a spoolie brush.

Lash and brow comb/brush

 make-up brushes guide - brow lash comb

Why have one when you can have two? These bad boys have multiple uses, and therefore can come in handy when you’re experiencing those “bad make-up” days.

The comb is used to separate clumped up mascara to give a more natural lash appearance, while the brush is used to tame those unruly brows and put them in place.

Bronzer brush

make-up brushes guide - bronzer

A bronzer brush can come in a few different shapes and sizes and it all comes down to your personal preferences when choosing one.

The most common versions of a bronzer brush include an angled brush with no harsh edges, as well as a large, soft brush. Either one you choose, they will both do the same job when used correctly.

Pro Tip: Sweep the bronzer upward onto the cheekbones, around your hair line and down your neck for an all over, even glow.

Blush brush

make-up brushes guide blush brush

This brush is specifically designed to deposit colour to your cheeks slowly and evenly without applying a harsh blob. It can also be used to deposit highlighter since it won’t transfer heaps of product. When choosing a blush brush opt for a round, airy brush that won’t carry a lot of product.

Pro Tip: Sweep product to the apples of your cheeks and sweep towards your ears.

Eyeshadow brush

eyeshadow brush make-up brushes guide

This small, stiff brush can work wonders. Depending on the look you want to achieve, it can be used to deposit shadow all over the eye lid. This brush will help give you a smooth finish and a more intense pigment rather than a fluffier brush would. Therefore, using less product.

Pro Tip: Sweep the powder or cream shadow over the eyelid, starting from your inner eye and working your way outwards.

Blending brush

blending brush make-up brushes guide

This super soft brush is used to add colour to the crease of your eye and blend shadows further. It also won’t pick up unwanted extra product.

Pro Tip: Work the brush in a circular motion starting at the outer crease of your eye and working your way in.


The following brushes aren’t exactly essential but most make-up experts tend to own one or two of them…

Contour brush

 Contour brush make-up brushes guide

We all know how Kim Kardashian got famous, right? Her amazing contour (duh).

Using the correct brush for contouring will help you succeed in chiseling your cheekbones naturally and bringing to focus on your amazing facial features.

There are a few styles to choose from, and once again, it all comes down to personal preference. Whichever one you choose, the brush is designed to deposit colour without the harsh lines when blended correctly.

Pro Tip: Brush and blend the product in the hollow parts of your cheeks towards the top of your ear. Also apply on the jawline, hairline, sides of face and tip of your nose.

Beauty blender

10 Beauty blender make-up brushes guide

Not a brush but more of an egg shaped tool, the beauty blended is very popular with make-up artists.

It doesn’t really matter where it’s purchased, just as long as you have one. I picked mine up from Kmart for $5.

The beauty blender is the ultimate make-up applicator.It seamlessly and efficiently blends product into your skin for a flawless complexion.

It can be used to further blend your foundation in, after using a brush, for a more airbrushed finish.  It can also be used to blend cream blushes and contours.

Pro Tip: Dampen the blender and squeeze out the excess water. Use in a tapping motion to blend your product. This will further deposit your make-up into the skin, making it last longer.

Purchasing brushes

Brushes can be expensive but are definitely worth it. Inexpensive brushes will fall apart over a short time, whereas if you pay a bit more in the beginning you will get a set that can last for many years, when cared for properly.

Spectrum Collection brushes

Spectrum Collection brushes - make-up brushes guide

These brushes are made in the UK and can be shipped internationally. Because of their massive popularity, you can probably expect to see them sold on Australian shelves in no time.

Not tested on animals, boasting good quality materials, the brush sets come in super cool colours, and are sold in sets of up to 30 brushes.

Sigma brushes

Sigma Set - make-up brushes guide

In every make-up tutorial I have seen the artist will use Sigma brushes, or at least have one. And there’s a good reason why all beauty professionals own them: they’re fantastic quality.

The brushes are made with an exclusive synthetic fibre and are each individually handcrafted so they last a lifetime.

The downside is these brushes can be expensive, but they do come with a two year warranty. Bonus!

Real Techniques brushes

make-up brushes guide Real Techniques brush set

Real Techniques‘ range of brushes do the same tricks as the brands above, however, they won’t last as long.

They are perfect for first time make-up users who don’t have the money to spend on high-end brands.

With the bristles made of taklon, you’ll be pleased to know that they are also free from animal cruelty.

Real Techniques can be purchased in sets or individually from your local Priceline pharmacy.

Ready for more than a new look?

Whether you’re hoping to change careers or get that promotion, studying for a qualification with Open Colleges could help you reach your personal and professional goals. Study online, in your own time and at your own pace. Find your course now.

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