Flawless Foundation with a Stippling Brush




I made it a goal this year to apply my foundation with a brush instead of my fingers. I’ve been doing it that way now for over 6 days and I’m officially convinced that I’ll never go back. Not only does it feel cleaner, the coverage is a million times better.

A million times I tell you.

In fact, I think I can bump down to a medium build-able coverage because the brush makes the foundation so much more effective that a full coverage is almost too much for me.


In the tutorial I shared below, I used a stippling brush I got in a Tarte holiday collection kit. Sonia Kashuk makes a really nice stippling brush that would be similar to the Tarte version. A stippling brush is known for the fullest, airbrush-like coverage. You basically dot the foundation on, so it’s a very flawless finish.

Another brush would be the standard foundation brush that you see around makeup stores. The best example I have is the orange handled Real Techniques Expert Face Brush pictured above. It doesn’t have the long dual brushes like the stippling brush, and the hairs are typically pretty tightly packed so it’s a somewhat firm brush. A good rule of thumbs is the fluffier the brush, the drier the product should be. So, tightly packed brushes are good for liquid or creams, and super fluffy brushes are better for pressed or loose powder.

When using another kind of foundation brush, you can do small swirls to smooth out the product. I’d still suggest dotting the product on the main parts of your face, but you can sort of buff it into your skin using small motions.

Avoid dragging any brush you use across your face as you’ll pull the product off.

I used Arbonne Perfecting Liquid Foundation in Soft Blush, Make Up For Ever Full Cover Concealer in the lightest shade, Mac Studio Fix Powder Foundation in N4



earrings: c/o Rebecca Gough, top: Loft; boxes in brush photos: West Elm


Do you swear by a makeup brush for foundation, a sponge, or do you just apply with your fingers like I did? 

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Comments (87)

  1. April says
    Posted January 13, 2016

    I started doing this a few weeks ago after a constant video on Facebook convinced me to try it with my own foundation. I couldn’t believe the difference! I will never go back either. And I also went to a lighter foundation since what I had been using was now too much coverage.

  2. Tasha McDaniel says
    Posted January 13, 2016

    I am for sure a brush user! In fact, I was putting on my makeup on the way to work yesterday (I know… not the safest), and I dropped my brush between my seats. There was no finding it while driving. I had to resort to my hands, and let me tell you, it was the strangest feeling going back to my natural tools. My hands felt dirty which made my face feel dirty, and I definitely used more product.

    On a side note, I can’t believe how long your hair is getting!! It looks great!

  3. Amanda says
    Posted January 13, 2016

    I use Urban Decay’s foundation brush. I LOVE it! If I’m in a rush I’ll use my fingers but agree that the coverage is better when I use my brush.

  4. Amanda says
    Posted January 13, 2016

    I’d love to see a demo please. I have used a foundation brush, but have, as you described, dragged it over my face hence pulling the foundation off again. I’ve never been too impressed when I’ve gone to a make-up counter and they’ve done it for me because they really cake it on.

    • Amanda says
      Posted January 13, 2016

      Ok doh, the demo has just come up as it wasn’t showing before. Thanks for the demo!!!

  5. Kacie M says
    Posted January 13, 2016

    Back when I first started using foundation (Covergirl) YEARS ago, I would use my fingers. But, then moved on to a sponge-type thing through high school, college and a few years after. Then 10 years ago I started using BE and used their brushes. I liked how quick it was to apply my face make-up with their products and brushes. Just a few years ago, I went back to liquid (smashbox) as the powder stuff wasn’t doing much for my face anymore. So, I brought a brush (smashbox), and loved the way it looked. However, I got a full size beauty blender in a Birchbox and gave that a try – and have used every day since! I like how it glides the make-up, and makes my face look great. I still use the other brush every once in awhile, but the beauty blender is my go to.

  6. Katherine says
    Posted January 13, 2016

    I use tinted moisturizer (Laura Mercier-HG product for me) so I use my fingers to apply. I prefer doing it that way because I can wash my hands, whereas I feel the brush would get product and germ buildup.
    Kate, I always think you have the most beautiful skin, just wondering if you’ve ever tried tinted moisturizer? Your skin looks so good you don’t look like you need heavier coverage.

    • Kate says
      Posted January 13, 2016

      Yeah I like the Estee Lauder double wear BB for lighter coverage!

      • JUSTENE says
        Posted March 27, 2016

        Hi Kate,
        What colour do you use in the Estee Lauder double wear and what under eye concealer do you use?
        Thanks, J x

  7. Heather says
    Posted January 13, 2016

    I’ve used a brush for years and years, knowing my fingers weren’t the best tools for the job. I’m surprised you haven’t been using one.

    • Kate says
      Posted January 13, 2016

      I would use it off and on but got so set in the habit of applying with my fingers

  8. Sarah says
    Posted January 13, 2016

    Hi Kate! I’ve recently started to apply my foundation with a beauty blender…do you think that a stippling brush would offer better coverage and a more air-brushed look?

  9. Ashley says
    Posted January 13, 2016

    I never wore foundation until just a couple of years ago. When I started, I used a brush and loved it, but THEN I found the Beauty Blender and Real Techniques Foundation Sponge. Wowee Zowee!! It was even better than the brush! If you haven’t tried using one of these before, I’d recommend it. They are life-changers! Just be sure you wet it first and then squeeze out any excess water before applying your foundation.

  10. Melissa Brooks says
    Posted January 13, 2016

    Kate I hope you can respond back because I need help! I bought the Maskara Pallete you suggested a while back. However I feel like it just sits on my skin. Like its caked on and I feel like it’s an inch thick! I even bought the dual ended brush that you love and tried with a sponge to apply and it still feels so thick!

    Any pointers? I really want to love it but just can’t stand that feeling.

    • Melissa says
      Posted January 16, 2016

      The Maskcara team is pretty responsive. I see people posting these questions to her on IG and she always encourages them to shoot an email for help 🙂

  11. Shawnda says
    Posted January 13, 2016

    I have found when I use my fingers I also put far to much foundation on as well as I find little streaks lol. Thank for sharing the video!

  12. Sara w says
    Posted January 13, 2016

    I’ve used my fingers forever but I don’t love the coverage. I’m using Tarte’s foundation which I love-wish I could buy that brush!

  13. Heather says
    Posted January 13, 2016

    What do you use to deep clean your brushes?

    • natalie says
      Posted January 14, 2016

      baby shampoo is a recommended cleaner for brushes/sponges

  14. Donna says
    Posted January 13, 2016

    Kate, why do you put the concealer on over your foundation and not under as directed on the Make Up Forever product?

    • Kate says
      Posted January 13, 2016

      When I apply concealer first it can rub away when I apply foundation, so I like doing it last!

      • Donna says
        Posted January 14, 2016

        Thank you

  15. Lindsay says
    Posted January 13, 2016

    When I decided to switch to liquid foundation many years ago, the sales associate sent me home with Clinique’s standard foundation brush. It doesn’t look much different than what you’d give a preschooler to dip in tempera paint. I had NO idea there was a better way — looking forward to picking up a stippling brush and not feeling like my foundation is so painted on. Thank you!

  16. Vanessa says
    Posted January 13, 2016

    I have been playing around recently between using my fingers, a damp beauty blender, or a brush to apply my foundation. The only negative I have with the brush is that my foundation seems to look a bit more cakey. The sponge makes things more sheer, so not enough coverage for me. I guess I am just a work in progress! lol!

  17. Sarah says
    Posted January 13, 2016

    I think it looks great with a brush application. I just want to say that I think you could definitely use less product, and it would look even better! One complaint I read in reviews for the Tarte brush (one of their foundation ones) is that they soak up a lot of product, do you find that to be true? It’s why I was hesitant to get any when the beauty blender works so well for me and I don’t feel like I’m wasting any foundation except for any remaining on the back of my hand.

  18. Janet says
    Posted January 13, 2016

    I have been using bare minerals foundation with a bare minerals foundation brush for over a year. I love the coverage from using a brush and a little foundation goes a long way! So much more economical if you’re on a budget.

  19. Kim says
    Posted January 13, 2016

    Thank you for this! I struggle with the patience of buffing instead of rubbing! The struggle is real haha. But your foundation looks amazing!


    http://trendkeeper.me .. Travel tips for a long flight!

  20. Stephanie O. says
    Posted January 13, 2016

    Gah! Your hair and makeup always looks so flawless! Love it.

  21. Lori says
    Posted January 13, 2016

    I would love to try Arbonne foundation. How can I choose a shade?

  22. Alyssa says
    Posted January 13, 2016

    I used to use my fingers for my foundation/tinted moisturizer because honestly I couldn’t be bothered and didn’t even have much of a foundation routine. However! Since starting to use the Maskcara IIID foundation, I’ve loved using her brushes and don’t know if I could ever go back!

    Alyssa | Glitter and Grey

  23. RBM says
    Posted January 13, 2016

    Will you do a post on cleaning brushes?

    • Malou says
      Posted January 14, 2016

      Same question here.

  24. Helen says
    Posted January 13, 2016

    I’m exactly the same! Until recently I always used my fingers. I use a liquid foundation, and I still put it on my face first with my hands, then use the brush to blend to even coverage – I am also converted! I use the real techniques brush shown here, and it comes clean so easily with a face wipe after use.

  25. Breeze Raxter says
    Posted January 13, 2016

    Thank you SO much for doing is post and video! I’m 36 years old and just recently married and I was just telling my husband I really needed someone to tell me what makeup brush to use for foundation. I too have used my fingers and feel I do a horrible job at it. I was tickled ok when I saw you were going to do a post soon when I saw your Instagram picture and comments. Thank you for using your gifts to empower other women as such as myself.

  26. Sydnee says
    Posted January 13, 2016

    Awesome post! I love the brushes, they look so nice! Could you check out my blog too maybe?

  27. Julie says
    Posted January 13, 2016

    Love using a brush!
    Another question: what are your (now) thoughts on the Maskcara foundation? I am contemplating purchasing, but see that you seem to never wear it?

    • Kate says
      Posted January 13, 2016

      I do wear it, just keep in mind that a part of my blog is trying new things in order to share my experience. I still really like it!

      • Julie says
        Posted January 13, 2016

        Of course, I totally get that! Thanks!

  28. Posted January 13, 2016

    I finally changed my foundation after 10 years, and the ladies at Ulta said I needed to apply it with a brush. I will admit, I have still used my fingers most days. This video was definitely needed. I just had no idea what I was doing with the brush!

  29. Posted January 13, 2016

    Your complexion looks stunning, I must say flawless is understatement. Oh, and your hair has grown so much, any tips you can share with us, please? x

  30. Becca says
    Posted January 13, 2016

    Curious if you have tried a Beauty Blender…I am a finger-applier and have also been trying to switch to using an applicator. I have a Beauty Blender and wet/squeeze it first but I still find that it soaks up for of product (I have to use triple the amount I use when applying with fingers) and kind of makes it not blend well into my skin, just leaves a heavily made up look which I don’t like. Is the an issue with application? I’m always so surprised when I hear people love these things! And I noticed the same issue when having makeup applied at Sephora with brushes.

  31. KC says
    Posted January 13, 2016

    I’m heavily freckled faced, and I love my freckles. Can you do a tutorial for lighter coverage, or maybe just enough to hide the overly red cheeks? I always see these models that seem to have perfect skin under freckles, and I just don’t get how they do it!

  32. Lisa says
    Posted January 13, 2016

    I don’t wear foundation. I use a BB cream (which I apply with my fingers) and then a light powder on top to set it (which I apply with a fluffy brush). Would you suggest still using a foundation brush for the BB cream? Do you still use BB cream yourself? Thanks for the tips!

    • Kate says
      Posted January 13, 2016

      for sure use a brush!

  33. Kirsten says
    Posted January 13, 2016

    What is on your lips? I love it!

  34. Jillian says
    Posted January 13, 2016

    Maybe I haven’t found the right brush but I am totally a Beauty Blender convert! I received one for Christmas in 2014 and have not used anything else since.

  35. Alysia says
    Posted January 13, 2016

    I’m not a regular makeup wearer and I wear very light makeup when I do wear it. I usually just stick with a BB cream and apply with my hands. I do have the Real Techniques brush, but don’t know how to use it. When I tried it, I ended up having brush streaks all over my face. Would I use the same technique you’ve used here with the stippling brush with the Real Techniques brush?

    • Kate says
      Posted January 14, 2016

      You can do small circles with either brush to help soften the look!

  36. Bethany says
    Posted January 13, 2016

    Thanks for this! I am guilty of using my fingers with my foundation, so this tutorial is much needed! For your concealer, what brush do you recommend besides the Tarte one?

    • Sarah says
      Posted July 20, 2017

      This is a great question! I’m wondering the same.

  37. Jen says
    Posted January 13, 2016

    Love this post! So I use a thick cream pot foundation by Laura Mercier. Right now I use a sponge but could I use a brush? I would like to but wasn’t sure how it would work.

  38. Posted January 13, 2016

    I used to apply foundation with my fingers – years ago.

    But now I swear by a the Deluxe Buffer M439 by Morphe. and I apply my concealer with a damn beauty blender! 🙂

    -Ashlee Michelle

  39. Sarah says
    Posted January 13, 2016

    What is the small brush in the far right of your pictures? I’ve just started using a brush for my foundation and I too agree, it’s amazing the difference!

  40. Posted January 13, 2016

    The stippling brush leaves a very flawless look to your makeup!

    I usually just wear BB cream and put it on with a beauty blender sponge. I love those things, but I’ve heard a lot about applying foundation with a brush lately. Might be something to look into!

    Thanks for the video!

  41. Amy says
    Posted January 13, 2016

    I have to know, what is your eyeshadow AND your lip color? You look stunning!

  42. Reese says
    Posted January 13, 2016

    I’ve been using a stippling brush for years for foundation and bb cream. but you should be buffering the brush around in circular motion all over your face to give the flawless coverage. you dont just keep blotting, that will/can yield a blotchy look, because you are not getting smooth coverage.

    You may also want to try less foundation. When you apply foundation with a brush, you will find you don’t need as much product.

  43. Nicole says
    Posted January 13, 2016

    This was my favorite makeup tutorial. I have never even thought about using a brush for it. I am going to try this.

  44. Sarah says
    Posted January 13, 2016

    I was a finger foundation person until I got the perfecting brush from Bare Minerals, I never fell in love with their foundation but the brush with the space for foundation it was an epiphany. Wow I was wasting so much foundation before and at $40 a pop from MUFE. The brush was a life changer. I’m on the fence though on how often to clean the brush at first it was every day, then 2 x’s a week, now it’s around once a week.

  45. Courtney says
    Posted January 13, 2016

    Would you suggest Marc Jacobs foundation brush #1 or the foundation buffing brush #3 for this same affect?? Both got great reviews. I also would love to know your lip gloss and eye shadow in the pic above (love both of them)! I truly enjoy your blog!!

  46. Christina says
    Posted January 13, 2016

    It’s so funny how everyone uses their tools/brushes differently. I LOVE the Real Techniques Stippling Brush, but I use it like a buffing brush for very light, sheer coverage. I especially love using it with full coverage powder, like tarte’s and urban decay’s, because it gives a nice sheer airbrushed look.

  47. Morgan C. says
    Posted January 13, 2016

    Hey Kate,

    What brush did you use to apply your concealer

  48. Evelina says
    Posted January 13, 2016

    I am in love with my sigma kabuki brush! It gives such amazing coverage and makes a huge difference! Great tip to pat instead of paint. That definitely helps with application.

  49. susan says
    Posted January 13, 2016

    Okay, you’ve convinced me to try a brush!


  50. Posted January 13, 2016

    I use a tarte brush as well. Tarte and It cosmetics have the best brushes. I also go over with a sponge in a,stipling motion to make sure I have 0 brush strokes. The brush you used for powder is also amazing at applying contour to cheekbones, temples, and highlight. I used it for blush until I purchased the It blush brush. It is perfect. Its cut at an angle and applies the blush to the apple of the cheeks flawlessly.

  51. Posted January 13, 2016

    RT buffing brush is my favourite, I use it with my thicker BB cream. It gives me a great flawless look, that takes no effort at all. It also cleans up so well haven’t mine for a couple of months now, cleaned it now 5 times and it turns out great every time.

  52. Sarah says
    Posted January 14, 2016

    I SWEAR by my Tarte double ended complexion brush – it’s a stippling brush with a bigger buffer end and a smaller end to concentrate and buff out around your nose and eyes, and I even use it as a concealer buffer too. It is my absolute necessity for my foundation! You could use it a contour brush too.

  53. Ash says
    Posted January 14, 2016

    Hey Kate. Random question but just wondering where you got those boxes your make up brushes are sitting in :)! Thanks ps definitely a brush girl it blends nicely.

    • Kate says
      Posted January 14, 2016

      I made a note of them at the bottom of the post 🙂 The are from West Elm

  54. Ashley says
    Posted January 14, 2016

    Have you ever done a video or blog post about how to deep clean your brushes? I’ve seen several tutorials but would love to see how you do it me what you recommend. Thanks for considering! 🙂

  55. Posted January 14, 2016

    I can remember when I started wearing makeup and I used my fingers to blend foundation in and I would never go back to it because brushes just make your skin look 1 million times better!


  56. Adelle Davis says
    Posted January 14, 2016

    This morning I applied my foundation with a brush. It was AMAZING!!

  57. Caz says
    Posted January 14, 2016

    These brushes are gorgeous!

    Caz | thisiscaz

  58. Michele O'Sullivan says
    Posted January 14, 2016

    Beautiful, as usual! I just splurged on the it cosmetics celebration foundation and airbrush brush to help me look less like a powdered donut and more flawless, like your look. I’ve been wanting to try it for a while and this list just sold me on the try!

    Any chance you could do a post for a “5 minute face” look? I’d love to pull off something even remotely similar to your looks, but I just don’t have the time before work, especially with an infant! I’m sure other readers could relate!

  59. camille says
    Posted January 14, 2016
  60. Jasmine says
    Posted January 14, 2016

    These Tarte blushes sound amazing, I’ve seen them in a few videos now and they look great for buffing in foundation! I really need to update my brush collection and get my hands on a few more!

    Jasmine | jasminehardingmakeup.com xx

  61. Posted January 15, 2016

    Your complexion looks so mooth. I must admit the only make up I put is a good concealer and some blush and highlighters but I always use fingers for the concealer and brushes for the rest. 😉

  62. Christina Ruiz says
    Posted January 15, 2016

    I love the photo step by step tutorials! They are great for us girls who like to read your blog during lunch breaks at work but can’t have the audio turned on!

  63. Dianne says
    Posted January 15, 2016

    I was at Target and could not remember the Sonia Kashuk brush # you recommended so I bought #130 the Buffing Brush. The label says for “flawless airbrushed appearance.” I’m hoping this one will work as well as the #115.

  64. Suzers says
    Posted January 18, 2016

    My skin is super pale and prone to redness in all its forms–acne, broken capillaries, sunburn, hyperintense blushing, general irritation–so I always used to have trouble getting decent coverage in shades that actually match. But last year I tried using a brush, and voila! Buffing provides a layer just thick enough to mask the redness and just thin enough not to look too dark. I don’t wear makeup to work most days and if I do I put it on with my fingers while I’m on the train (with a 70-75-minute commute I don’t like to get up a minute earlier than absolutely necessary,) but anytime I am not in a rush I go for the brush. I also find it makes for much smoother application of blush/highlighter/contouring shades.

  65. Posted January 18, 2016

    I have never ever used a brush … always fingers. I take that back, there was a time when a wedge sponge was all the rage. But I went back to fingers. I can’t even find a foundation that works with my skin so I usually end up combining it with face lotion. It just feels too heavy otherwise. Can I just say, in the video your face looks HEAVILY foundationed (I know that’s not a word lol) … but the pictures you look great. Maybe the lighting?? I’m a firm believer in less is better … especially when you’re so pretty like yourself 🙂

  66. Liz says
    Posted February 5, 2016

    What are the towelettes that you use in the video?

  67. Erika Pourrajabi says
    Posted March 25, 2016

    I love love love the Lancôme Precision Cheek Brush #7 to apply foundation. It is the best one I’ve every tried because it blends smoothly and leaves no streaking or unevenly applied spots. It’s expensive but I’m so glad I tried it!

  68. Habiba says
    Posted January 2, 2017

    Can I just say I absolutely love everything about your blog! It’s just so chic and seamlessly finished and the content is beautiful. Definitely my inspiration <3 x