Beauty 101: Eyeshadow Brushes

Sometimes it feels like there are about 12,000 eyeshadow brushes to choose from. Are you ever confused about what to use? Or how to use it? What size to use with what technique?

Let’s break it down. I’m going to run through two categories of eyeshadow brushes: what you should own and what you could own. “The should own” are brushes that will likely be used on a daily basis. “The could own” are extras that you can add to your collection later on. Of course, everyone does their makeup differently–so don’t use this as a rule but more of a general guidance for beginners.
What you should own:

A basic eyeshadow brush should be about medium in size. Smaller than your eyelid, but not smaller than your pinky finger nail. You should be able to swipe it across eyeshadow and cover all of your lid with color. Use this brush for the main color of your eyeshadow, which should start near your inner corner and stretch all the way to your crease.

A crease brush is rounder, tighter and smaller than your basic eyeshadow brush. It’s used for adding depth into the crease and outer corner of your eye. You can use this brush by pressing firmly and swiping across your crease, and also by pressing firmly along the top of your lash line for extra depth.
Finally, if you clean this brush well, you can pick up some light shadow and press it info the inner corner of your eye. It will brighten the eye area dramatically!

A small angle brush is perfect for adding shadow to your lower lash line. It gives a softer effect than eyeliner. Start by dragging the shadow from the outside of your eye to the center. A few swipes back and forth with blend the shadow in nicely.
If you are going for more of an eyeliner look, moisten the brush and dip in a dark shadow. Then stoke a line just like you would for eyeliner.
You can also use this brush for applying to softening eyebrow color. If you use an eyebrow pencil, use this brush to soften the color and prevent and of your “pencil marks” from showing. Or, use this brush to fill in your eyebrows.
What you could own: 

A large fluffy brush is great for blending shadows and softening lines at the edges of eyeshadow. This type of brush is great to use on your brow bone to blend in the area between your crease and brow bone.
Instead of using a blending brush, you can soften the line between your crease and your brow bone with your ring finger, pressing gently. Or be sure to wipe off your basic eyeshadow brush a few times on a tissue and blend with that. 

An eyeliner brush is a tiny, pointy brush that is best suited for gel liner, or even moistened eyeshadow. It’s precise and if you have a stead hand, can create a beautiful line of color on either the top or bottom of your eye.
Instead of using this brush, you could simply use a kohl or pencil liner. Or liquid liner that comes with an applicator.

A smudger brush is used to smudge out kohl or pencil eyeliner. One of the benefits of having a brush dedicated to this function is that you run no risk of accidentally using it to apply a light eyeshadow and you wind up with a dark smudge.
However, you could either use your ring finger, or the angled shadow brush to do the task of a smudging brush. Also, some eyeliners come with a sponge-y tip on the bottom end of the package. Use that to smudge your eyeliner too!

Tempted to go out and buy a bunch of brushes?

Here are some of my favorite brands

There is a noticable difference between affordable and expensive brushes. If you are waivering on whether or not to pay up for a good brush, I would spend on the basics, and save on the extras. So, in other words, buy a high quality basic eyeshadow brush and crease brush. And then start out with an “e.l.f.” smudge brush since you may not use on in a daily basis.

Hope you enjoyed today’s Beauty 101! Comment below with any questions or brush suggestions you may have! 


  1. says

    There are actually MANY good “cheap” brushes out there. I suggested looking up so youtube videos for more information before you spend tons of $$ on make up brushes. While you have Real Technique brushes on your cheap list, they are higher quality brushes that don’t cost as much as MAC and Sigma. Other brushes to consider that are good inexpensive brushes are brushes, Eco Tools and Essence of Beauty brushes that you can find at CVS. I’ve even found my favorite fluffy brush at Target!

  2. says

    I caved in and bought some sigma brushes this summer. They are amazing! I started using their F80 kabuki for putting on liquid foundation and it is crazy how much better my makeup looks. They are not that expensive, and many of the kits come with great travel cases.

  3. says

    I agree – you get what you pay for. I find that cheaper brushes always wear out much sooner even if they seem to perform ok at first. I always prefer to spend a bit more, when I can, for a longer lasting , good quality product.

  4. says

    Love this! Those are awesome suggestions. I’ve been waffling back and forth about the Real Techniques brushes. I really want to get them … and then I don’t get them, haha. Youtubers have hyped them up so much, I’m not sure if they’re really worth or REALLY worth it, you know what I mean?

    • says

      Real Techniques brushes are TOTALLY worth the hype! I would go for it. Buy them a few at a time using Ulta’s free printable coupons. That’s how I purchased mine and ended up saving a ton on their already bargain price!

    • says

      Plus if you sign up for an Ulta rewards card…every dollar you spend adds up to savings on future purchases. I’m always getting $3-$10 off my purchase because I have redeemable points!Being on the list gets you coupons in the flyers too.

  5. says

    This is probably a dumb question, but what is kohl? Lol. I kept thinking of the department store. I guess I have a lot to learn! Good thing I’m in “class”. :).

  6. says

    Oh, I think I’m going to really enjoy going back to school with you! Great first post, I’m looking forward to seeing what else you have to share with us.

  7. says

    I have a few E.L.F. and Kashuk shadow brushes and really like them. I have looked at purchasing some of the more “expensive” brushes, but I always get so confused. Synthetic vs. natural? Is this just a personal preferance, or is one better for different applications? And is there any certain type of cleaner/way of cleaning brushes that is the best? What is the best routine for that?

  8. says

    I watch QVC when Tarte and Bare Escentuals are on and have gotten some amazing buys especially when they do kits. They usually come with great brushes and sometimes the cost of the kit equates to the cost of the brush if I were to buy it at retail. Also, many artists recommend going to an art supply store for brushes as the cost is quite a bit less. No doubt about it, having good brushes makes a difference in putting on your makeup well. Thanks for the post Kate!

    • Debbie says

      I’ve done the same…All of my BareMinerals (Bare Escentuals) brushes – and this is the only kind of brush I use – are from kits from QVC. If you are a BareMinerals makeup girl, this is the way to go! :)

    • Amy E. says

      I think the best thing about good brushes is that you really don’t have to replace them. I have a Trucco eyeshadow brush that is 15 year old that I use every single day and it still looks brand new. I use Bare Minerals brush cleaner. Partly because it says it’s moisturizing and partly because I got it for free and it has lasted forever.

  9. says

    I am a fan of Ecotools brushes. They are readily available at most stores (Target, of course!) and are divine. Soft, quality brushes. I bought their eye brush kit about a year ago and love it.

    Sephora brand brushes are nice, too. I have some really great, quality ones from their “Professional” collection that were less than twenty bucks.

    Great post!

    • says

      I agree with you on EcoTools. The eye brush kit is nice because of the shorter handles. I find I can get in closer to the mirror and really see what I’m doing.

  10. Amy E. says

    I’m so happy you posted this today! I splurged on a few brushes at MAC last night and wasn’t sure if I should keep them. You reminded me that my favorite, oldest brushes are the ones I’ve paid more for and don’t regret those one bit.

  11. says

    Love this! I never know what to do with all of the brushes I have, and never seem to have the right ones! Am looking forward to the rest of the topics you listed yesterday:)

  12. says

    Loved this post! I have good brushes but I have a problem controlling spillover of shadow in areas I don’t want it. For example, when I’m creating a shadow in creases, some of the shadow gets on my face!! How do you prevent this? Am I using too much shadow?

  13. says

    I agree, Sigma brushes are actually as good as my mac full size (vs. the short handled ones that are not as good quality). I also buy depending on the brush and not the brand because even the higher end stuff can be hit or miss depending on the type of brush. I will admit that one of my splurges was a shu blush brush after wasting too much time and $$ on less expensive options. Lovely. I’ve heard hakuhodu are also quite nice and rumor is that they make some mac as well as shu brushes.

    I only buy less expensive options for smaller head brushes. The larger the brush head the more likely it will be to shed all over your face (which was the case with my SK brushes).

    Japonesque is another good and affordable brand.

  14. says

    I have been using my brushes from The Body Shop for years and they have held up great and clean very easily! I highly recommend them and they are very reasonably priced if you find them on sale or have a coupon! Also, they look nice too. I keep them in a cute glass vase on my vanity for quick grabs and to keep them out of a messy drawer or bag.

  15. says

    Katie, I love all the information you give on your blog and especially the hair videos… they are the most helpful I found so far… and I have been searching for a how to’s for awhile. Thanks for sharing.

  16. Jennifer says

    I personally really love the Sonia Kashuk “professional” brushes from Target. I love her regular, basic brushes fromTarget too, but her professional line is the best (they’re the black brushes in her line, and are more expensive than her basic brushes but worth the extra cost). I also have Bare Escentuals/Bare Minerals brushes, and still love my Sonia Kashuk.

  17. Sarah says

    Thanks for the great info! I too am interested in what you recommend/use for cleaning. I’ve used brush cleaners, baby shampoo, etc. Just curious what you use. I have the hardest time getting my eyeliner brush clean!!

  18. says

    That’s super helpful, but what is the brush third from the right (the lighter brown bristles, but bigger than the smudge brush)? I have one of those that came in my set and I have no clue what to do with it…

  19. says

    Thanks for this, I admit I have about 10 different eye/eyebrow brushes! You didn’t mention one that I find I use every day…the slanted/angled larger brush. I’ve seen you use one from BM that’s double sided. Mine is Bare Minerals and single sided. I find I can do the best job on getting in the crease and the outer eyelid with that one. I stick to Bare Minerals or the Real Techniques because I find that the cheaper ones don’t last very long if you clean them regularly. They start to shed bristles too fast.

    Now if only you could help me do a better job using that gel liner brush and getting a nice line and wing…lol!

  20. says

    Thank you for this Kate! I have a quick question, I recently got glasses and now my eyelids perspire heavily! My current eyeliner is melting all over my lids (ugh!). Could you please recommend a liner that will stay put?! Thank you so much!

    • Jackie says

      I would recommend Revlon colorstay liquid liner. It’s easier to apply than most liquid liner and really stays put once it dries

  21. Paige says

    But Kate, there are seven brushes in the top picture, and you only talked about six of them! In the top picture, are the first and third from the right both eyeshadow brushes?

  22. says

    I love e.l.f.’s brushes. They’re nicer than some that I’ve paid a lot of money for, and none of them have ever lost bristles. I’ve got one set for light shadow and one for dark. I used nail polish on the tips of the handles so I know which is which!

  23. Kim says

    Thanks so much for all the information. You explain it so well. I like Avon makeup brushes. I am looking forward to your other Beauty 101 blog posts. Thanks.

  24. says

    Nice review. I would recommend you other serum which is xlash eyelash serum. You can get it from here i have tried xlash eyelash serum and i got the result. I’ve been using this product for the past 5 weeks and wow! First, it was the thickness of my lashes, then came growth. Over the past 2 weeks, I’ve started using it on my eyebrows too and again, wow. The hair strands are thicker and darker. Try this it works really good.

  25. says

    Think of your face as an artist’s canvas. I’m the artist, and the right brushes and cosmetics allow me to smooth out the rough spots, add careful shading and — well, improve on the original in a way that’s subtle enough to pass muster, even on a sunny day. That’s what the right makeup brushes do.

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