Getting good makeup brushes made the biggest improvement to the quality of my makeup application. In this post I review my favorite eye makeup brushes, and mention a few misses. Although I like many of these brushes, I don't think it's necessary to buy all of these brushes at once. One from each category is sufficient to get you started. Also, it's best to buy brushes as you need them for specific techniques or looks.
For more of my thoughts on makeup brushes in general and an overview of my favorite face brushes check out the face brush post. You don't need to buy the EXACT brushes I mention here - the shape is what's important.
FLAT SHADER BRUSHES
Flat shader brushes are used to apply color to the lid. A good shader brush will hold a lot of shadow and apply that shadow evenly across the lid. The MAC 239 is hands down the best shader brush I have ever used. It is great at packing on color to the eye lid, because it not only holds a good amount of shadow at one time, it also is just the right size to fit the lid with precision. For more precise color application, I really like the MAC 228. It is a teeny shader that is great at applying color to just a portion of the lid, or to the bottom lashes. For loose pigments, I find a brush with some synthetic bristles cuts down on the amount of fallout. So for loose pigments, I really like the MAC 242. I also like the 242 for cream shadows and even concealer. The MAC 252 is a larger sibling of the 242. I find it too big for anything, and don't use it very much.
Blending brushes are used to blend edges of the shadow, and to blend between colors. The MAC 217 is the best blending brush I own. In fact, if I had to choose only one eye brush, I would choose the 217. It is just stiff enough to be effective, but still fluffy enough to be a great blender. Because it's slightly flat and slightly tapered, it is also quite good at applying color to the entire lid. I also use the 217 to sweep a mid-tone color into the crease. For blending the highlight shaow to the crease color, there is nothing better than the MAC 227. This dense brush looks really big and clumsy, but it is a champion blender. It is also good at sweeping color onto the lid, or onto the whole eye area. And as a bonus, the 227 is big enough to be used to apply highlight to the cheekbone. The MAC 226 is a great brush for more detailed crease work. Its fine tip allows for a more defined crease color application and for application of color more precisely into the outer corner. Finally, when it comes to blending eye shadow, the MAC 224 is absolute rubbish. The 224 too big, too flat on top, and too soft. Stick to blending out concealer with this one.
EYE LINER/BROW BRUSHES
My favorite brush for gel eyeliner application is the Sonia Kashuk bent eye liner brush. It is just the right thickness and the angle allows easier application of the liner. For a more precise or finer line, I like the MAC 210. The MAC 209 is also a good liner brush, but gives a thicker line. For brows, I like the MAC 208. It is smaller and stiffer than the MAC 266. I also use both the 208 and the 266 to apply shadow over my gel liner to set it, and to make it more blended and less severe.
SPECIALTY EYE BRUSHES
There are several brushes that I use reglarly that do not fit into any of the above categories. My favorite of these specialty brushes is the MAC 205. The 205 is intended to apply mascara, but I use it to declump my mascara once it's applied. The bristles are short, stiff and fine, so they work themselves between lashes perfectly, separating them and rmoving any clumps. I also often reach for the MAC 219 pencil brush, using it to apply shadow to the lower lashes, into the inner corner, to just the arch of my brow, and to the outer corner. In short, this brush offers the utmost precision, wherever it is needed. The MAC 214 s great at smoking out eye liner, applying shadow over gel eye liner, an applying shadow to the lower lahes. Finally, I often reach for my spoolie brush for combing out my brows or lashes. The one I have is from Anastasia of Beverly Hills - I got it in a brow kit. However, for the longest time I used a mascra wand that I washed after the mascara was done, and it worked just as well.
That's it for brushes. Don't forget to clean your brushes regularly - check out my brush cleaning tutorial. Which are your favorites? Which do you regret buying?