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The Ultimate Guide To Make Up Brushes

A wide shot of Spectrum Collections’ KJH 25 Piece Brush Set displayed in its green, leather cylinder pot in a studio setting.

We all know the saying ‘an artist is only as good as their tools’, right? But did you know this is also true when it comes to your make up application? Whether you’re a professional or beginner, make up brushes are a must when it comes to your cosmetics. Not only do they make the process easy and efficient, but they can also boost MUA-level results – we’re talking everything from carefully curated contouring to beautifully blended eyeshadow and more.  

But, like with most of our make up bag must-haves, when it comes to picking your perfect brush set the options are endless. With that in mind, here at Cult Beauty we’ve done the hard work for you and uncovered everything you need to know about the treasured tools.  

Keep scrolling to discover, the different types of tools out there, along with how to use them and the best make up brushes on the market right now.    


Make up brushes are a personal investment. They’re each specially designed to target particular areas of the face. So, when it comes to picking the right ones for you, you must consider your face shape and size. For example, if you chose an eyeshadow brush that’s too big for your eyelids, it won’t place the product where you want it to naturally sit. Don’t know where to start? Don’t worry, we’ve put together a list of all the different make up brush types and how to use them…


FOUNDATION BRUSH – Responsible for creating the base for the rest of your make up look, a foundation brush is arguably the most important tool in your cosmetic kit. With that in mind, we suggest investing in one that works well for both liquid and powdered formulas. Think: a soft brush that has a large surface area and is topped with tightly packed bristles.   

How to use the make up brush: blend your foundation in a sweeping motion all over face for a seamless finish. 

POWDER BRUSH – The formula to remember when picking out your powder brush is – the fluffier and more flexible the bristles the better the blend. It really is that simple… 

How to use the make up brush: start by dipping the brush into your face powder (whether that be a pressed or loose powder) before applying it in circle or sweeping stokes – starting in the middle of your face and working your way out – until you’ve achieved even coverage.  

CONCEALER BRUSH – Small but mighty, a concealer brush works like the foundation brush to create the ideal canvas for the rest of your products. Shrunken down to get into those hard-to-reach areas (under eyes, we’re looking at you), it buffs and blends those often forgotten about spaces. If you use a liquid concealer, opt for a natural-haired brush to soak up some of the formula’s excess moisture.  

How to use the make up brush: start with a small amount of concealer on your brush and build up the coverage as needed. Buff over desired areas and seamlessly blend with patting motions. 

A wide shot of two Laura Mercier make up brushes stacked on top of each other with the foundation in the background, in a studio setting.

CONTOURING BRUSHUsed to sculpt your facial features, a contour brush is available in all shapes and sizes. Most commonly found with small round or oval silhouettes, it’s bristles is densely packed to help position and blend pigment with precision. But, if you’re looking for a more concentrated look, we suggest selecting an angled brush as this will ensure minimal fallout.  

How to use the make up brush: use the brush to apply product to areas of the face where contouring and definition are desired with a gentle stamping motion. Diffuse and blend for an edgeless effect. 

BLUSHER BRUSH – Similar to your powder brush – but smaller – a blusher brush’s bristles are long, soft and loosely packed to avoid depositing too much colour all at once. But, coming in various sizes, when it comes to selecting your perfect match you must pick it based on how you apply your blusher and what coverage you want. A case in point? If you want a pop of colour on the apples of your cheeks go for a bigger silhouette. Or if you enjoy a natural wash on your cheekbones, opt for a smaller head.  

How to use the make up brush: swirl the brush onto the product to pick up the pigment and then dust across the apples of the cheeks and over cheekbones to apply.  

BRONZER BRUSH Sitting comfortably between your blusher and powder brush, a bronzer brush is known for being fluffy and round, covering a large surface area. Designed to add dimension to the sides of your foreheads, jawline and cheekbones, its bristles are super feathered for quick and easy application.  

How to use the make up brush: swirl the brush onto the bronzer to pick up the pigment then sweep over the cheekbones, forehead, nose and chin to boost an instant glow. 

HIGHLIGHTER BRUSH Featuring fluffy bristles, a highlighter brush comes to a slight point at the tip. Why? Because this silhouette is primed to blend and diffuse pigment for a soft, shimmering sign off.   

How to use the make up brush: brush gently to spread a little highlighter or press firmly to deposit a heavier layer. Then, swipe the base of the brush back and forth to blend the highlighter onto your skin. 

FAN BRUSH Another iteration of your typical highlighting brush, the fan is recognised by its splayed-out, flat bristles that resembles (you guessed it) a fan. Multifunctional, it can be used to apply powdered highlighter down your cheekbones, along with cleaning up powder fallout from other products.  

How to use the make up brush: apply the product to the brush before dusting it over the highest points of your face. Or sweep the brush over your face to remove excess powder.  

MAKE UP SPONGE  – While this technically isn’t a brush, a sponge is a must when it comes to blending. Made from absorbent material, it gives you less coverage than a foundation brush, making it ideal for a no-make up make up look.  

How to use the make up brush: start by wetting the sponge with water and squeezing out any left-over liquid. Then, dab your foundation, powder or any other complexion products across the face in small, quick motions.  



ANGLED BROW BRUSH From pomades to powders, an angled brow brush can be used to apply a plethora of products. Aptly named, its created with an angled tip to boost precision when filling in or outlining your arches.  

How to use the make up brush: move the brush with upward strokes following the natural line of the brow, or with eyeshadow to create a cut-crease effect. 

SPOOLIE Taming brow hairs, spoolies are essential for grooming your arches before, after and during make up application. Whether you want to achieve a feathered, S-shaped or rounded silhouette, this wand has you covered.  

How to use the make up brush: reach for the spoolie before or after you’ve applied your products to shape you arches and tame any flyaways.  



ALL OVER EYESHADOW BRUSH – Doing exactly what it says on the tin, the all over eyeshadow brush adds colour wherever you want. Paddle-shaped and both blend- and beginner-friendly, no make up bag should be without it.  

How to use the make up brush: apply your powder or cream eyeshadow by evenly patting the brush over your entire lid, starting from the inner corner of your eye and working your way outwards. For a softer finish, use a sweeping motion with quick gentle strokes. 

EYESHADOW CREASE BRUSH Defining, contouring and adding dimension to every look, a crease brush makes the application of colour a whole lot easier. While the shape of the brush boosts precision as you place the pigment, its tapered bristles work their way into the smallest of surface areas to ensure your lids are covered… and beautifully blended.   

How to use the make up brush: dip into eyeshadow colour and apply to target areas using short strokes. To smudge or blend your look draw the brush outwards in back-and-forth motion.  

PENCIL-SHAPED BRUSH – A smoky eye’s dream, the pencil-shaped brush blends eyeliner into eyeshadow for a smudged look. Shading on the lid with precision, it can be used to apply both powders and creams along your lash line and within your eye crease.  

How to use the make up brush: once you’ve dipped the brush into the product, apply pigment by following the line from the middle of you eye lash to the inner corner. After that, continue the line from the middle to the end, drawing the curved silhouette you desire.  

ANGLED EYELINER BRUSH Putting you back in control of your eyeliner look, this brush creates lines of precision for your upper and lower lash line. Fitted with stiff yet soft bristles, the angled brush typically finishes with a flat tip.  

How to use the make up brush: draw across your line upper and lower lid line by starting outwards and working your way in.  




Blend and buff your way to your ideal base with Hourglass’ Ambient Soft Glow Foundation Brush. Mimicking fingertip application (minus the mess), this tool harnesses the power of fibre technology to deliver a streak-free finish. Plus, housed in the brand’s bespoke brown casing, it’s designed to complement the rest of your MUA kit.  


Searching for the secret to a soft-focus finish? Cue: Patrick Ta’s Contour Brush. Shaped to hug hollows and place pigment effortlessly, this everyday essential is densely packed with firm yet soft bristles that eliminate edges for a diffused look with no harsh lines. 


A multi-tasking must-have VIEVE’s 121 Blush & Bronze Brush picks up just the right amount of pigment to serve up a natural flush. Crafted with synthetic bristles, it works with all formulas (cream and liquid blushers included) and is shaped with tapered sides to ensure you can bring out your inner artist wherever, whenever you like.  


Featuring not one, but two brushes Anastasia Beverly Hills’ Brush 12 combines a synthetic angled bristle with a spoolie wand. While the latter has many functions – from combing up hairs and exposing any stragglers you may want to pluck, to softening powders and pencil strokes for natural results – the brush itself is designed to fill in your arches. Who said one tool couldn’t do it all?  


A beauty phenomenon, Beautyblender’s Original sponge makes applying your primer, foundation, concealer and any other product you can think of an absolute breeze. Completely edgeless and shaped to its signature egg silhouette, it blends across large areas as well as hitting those smaller contours of your face your brush may not be able to reach. 


Complete your complexion repertoire with Spectrum Collections’ KJH 25 Piece Brush Set. Bringing together all the tools you need to perfect your artistry, this bestselling bundle features a full-face brush assortment that helps you contour, highlight, bronze and so much more. What’s more, housed in a luxury cylinder case, you can store and transport them safely and stylishly. 


Now you have everything you need to create the ideal make up brush wardrobe, it’s important to treat them with the TLC they need. Head over to our Lazy Girl’s Guide To Brush Cleaning to see how.  


Trifonia Asmar

Trifonia Asmar

Senior SEO Copywriter

Cult Beauty’s Senior SEO Copywriter, Trifonia started out in the industry when bold brows were just becoming a ‘thing’, and shares a passion for all things fashion and beauty. Currently embracing her curly girl journey (after endless years of straightening her strands), she is finally reverting to her natural ways! When Triffy isn’t busy testing out the latest curl-saving solutions, you’ll find her binging the latest reality TV show or on a long walk listening to her ever-evolving country music playlist.