Makeup Brushes 101 | A List of Essentials

Welcome to Makeup Brushes 101, where I’m going over all the essential makeup brushes and uses. You’ll want to bookmark this! I’ll even answer the question, “how do I clean makeup brushes?”, because cleaning your brushes is just as important as having the right ones. Everyone wants their makeup to be on point, and no one wants a raging case of conjunctivitis! Read on for some great beauty tips for girls, or anyone who is curious about makeup brushes and uses.

Life With Young Daughters

makeup brushes 101

“What’s that on your face?”

This is not a question that a young girl appreciates from a mother. I know this because I have mistakenly asked this question to one or both of my daughters, and the response was less than pleasant. It was “makeup, of course!” with an eye-roll and a shrug for good measure.

“You didn’t go to school like that…did you?”

“Of course not!”  Whew! Thank goodness.

Lately, I’ve come home to two little smudged up faces a lot. There seems to be some experimentation going on. On Thanksgiving Day, the girls had slept over at Madre’s with Aunt Jimmie, and when Coach and I got there we were greeted by two little shiny girls wearing glitter eyeliner. Aunt Jimmie loves glitter eyeliner. A lot. Naturally, Tigger and Pooh also love glitter eyeliner. What’s good for Aunt Jimmie…

Anywho, my point is, It’s time to have a little tutorial with Pooh, a little “makeup brushes 101”, if you will. I’m not just her Mom, but I’m also a makeup artist, so I’m up for the job. Plus, it’s important to provide beauty tips for girls…they need guidance! Tigger can watch, but Pooh is just on the verge of starting a little skincare routine, makeup and all, so I’ll let her get a little more hands-on. There are a few things I want to get to start her off right, so I’m taking this blog-ortunity to make myself (and you guys) a little list of makeup brush essentials.

Makeup Brushes 101

I believe in makeup brushes. The applicators that come with makeup are a nice little touch, and are fine in case of emergency, but to properly apply makeup, there are a few brushes that any beginner should have. Knowing about makeup brushes and uses can go a long way in helping you achieve the looks you love. I highly recommend:
makeup brushes 101Avon Makeup Brushes. Avon’s makeup brushes are sold separately, not in a set. This is perfect for those of you who have a few brushes, but want to add to your collection. You can take a peek at them here. They’re great quality brushes, and if they are properly cared for, they will last a long time.

makeup brushes 101


e.l.f. makeup brushes. These are available on Amazon, and also at big box retailers. These brushes are well-made and are soft on the skin, which isn’t the case with all makeup brushes. e.l.f. brushes are sold in sets, and also separately, and are usually very affordable; some are only $1. Click here to check out their 12-piece set!

makeup brushes 101

EmaxDesign 12 piece set. That’s a link to buy! This is for those of you who need to build your collection, although the 12 in this set will serve pretty much all of your needs. I absolutely love these brushes, and the reviews are great.  The bamboo handles are so pretty (and durable!), and they come in a cute little pouch.  You just can’t go wrong with this set.

A little list of essentials

Makeup brushes 101 is all about having the right brushes for the right job, and I’ll do a little run-down of the different makeup brushes and uses.

Eye Makeup Brushes

Let’s start with the eyes. There are several different eyeshadow brushes to choose from, and you can create so many different eye makeup styles with the right tools. The essential brushes to have are:

Three examples of a blending/crease brush.

1. A blending brush for eyes. I actually call this my crease brush, because I use it to place shadow in the crease, as well as using it to blend.  These are a little bit pointy and compact, good for applying darker shadows to the crease area, and other things.

Various eyeshadow brushes.

2. An eyeshadow brush. This brush is usually shorter-bristled and wider than the crease brush, and it’s used for applying to the lid and brow bone, although I blend with this brush, too.




A couple of eyeliner brush options. I also use fine tip art brushes on occasion.

3. An eyeliner brush. This brush is very short-bristled and compact, with a narrow tip. There are several different kinds. Just find what works best for you. This can be used to apply gel eyeliner, apply shadow liner or blend eyeliner, or even to enhance eyebrows.

Lovely gap-tooth smile from the eyelash separator...

4. An eyebrow brush. Grooming your eyebrows is important! In a later post, I will delve into the subject a little bit more deeply. Please ignore its lovely gap-toothed grin…it’s old!




Creating all sorts of eye makeup styles is so much fun, and a great way to change up your look for work, play, or a night out with your honey.  If you invest in these few brushes, the possibilities are limitless!

Face Makeup Brushes

Makeup brushes 101 for the face is a much simpler subject, with a much shorter list. Here’s my essentials list for face:

makeup brushes 101

A powder brush (right) and a blush brush.

1. A powder brush. This is a bigger, puffier brush, used for applying powder or powder foundation to the face.

2. A blush brush. Similar to a powder brush, but slightly smaller, this brush is used for applying cheek color, highlighting and bronzer.

I also have a separate powder brush for bronzing, and one for highlighting. It just keeps me from creating looks that would wake the dead, ya know?

I hope this clears up any questions you have about makeup brushes and uses…I definitely wish I’d had makeup brushes 101 when I first started learning! As a makeup artist, I have just found what I like by trial and error. Nothing gets me more excited than buying new makeup brushes, let me tell ya!

the proof is in the Put-ing

Here’s a little experiment I did.  I decided to compare applying and blending eyeshadow with one of these little eyeshadow diddly-wicthets (they come with most palettes) against an eyeshadow brush, just so you can see the difference.

Little eyeshadow diddly-witchet.

So, I applied the pewter color you see here with the little diddly-witchet (left) and the eyeshadow brush (right).

photo 2 (49)

As you can see, the right side looks so much more natural and blends into the skin seamlessly, while the left side, done with the diddly-witchet, looks like a gnarly bruise.  Not only that, but the makeup applied with the spongy diddly-witchet sunk in to every little crack in my skin, which makes that spot look 100 years old.

photo 5 (10)Even with more product and bolder color, the imperfections just got more noticeable on the left, while the side done with the brush just looks a little more “evening-ish” (I know that’s not a word…this is makeup brushes 101, not English 101).  Applying with a good brush gives a gentler touch, which is not only better for your skin, but it leaves a prettier finish.

how do you clean makeup brushes?

I’ve been asked a lot, “how do you clean makeup brushes?” When it comes to caring for makeup brushes, it’s extremely important that you clean them well at least once a month, but it is very easy to do (you might want to clean them on the weekend, because they do take a good 24 hours to dry). To keep them clean in between, especially when I’m using my professional ones on clients, I LOVE this product from e.l.f. cosmetics: e.l.f. Daily Brush Cleaner.  It’s a quick and easy way to disinfect your brushes daily without drying them out! makeup brushes 101

For a deep clean, I rinse them really well in warm water, then lather them up with a makeup brush shampoo like this one.  I lay my brushes on a flat surface with the bristled end hanging over an edge. This way the bristles will stay in shape as they dry, whereas if you put them in a glass, the weight of the water would cause the bristles to spread and fan out.

You know what works just as well? Johnson’s Baby Wash! <—You can click that link to buy some, but really, any mild, moisturizing shampoo will work.  It only takes a tiny dab of any of these options, so don’t go overboard, or you’ll be rinsing for days!

These are the essentials, in my opinion, of makeup brushes 101.  I don’t use many extra makeup brushes, even when I’m working as a makeup artist. I tend to go back to my favorites again and again, and just use them in different ways to create different eye makeup styles and blending techniques.

my first makeup experience

I remember getting some makeup in my Christmas stocking when I was 9 or 10 years old. I put on some green eye shadow later that day, and stared at myself in the mirror for what seems like forever. I just couldn’t believe how different that little bit of color on my eyes made me look! I don’t think I had ever before paid attention to my eye color, and was surprised that my eyes were that green, just because this other shade of green was hanging out on my eyelids. Makeup is a really cool thing, and I’m always amazed by really elaborate makeup looks and different eye makeup styles. I love to see the kind of transformation that only a makeup artist could create, because makeup is my most frequent medium for art. I want to be that good, to make people look flawless and perfect and fabulous.

Makeup and my girls

For Pooh, I think I will encourage her to start off with just a little touch of color on her eyes and see where it takes her. She has the most beautiful blue eyes and dark hair, and I can picture her in some bronzy browns, taupe, or even soft pinks or mauves. It will be fun to play around with some color on her, and watch her develop her own preferences.

I just don’t want to raise my children to believe that they have to be flawless and perfect and fabulous all the time. I want them to enjoy makeup, but not think they can’t leave the house without it. I want them to have styles all their own, and be confident in who they are, not what they wear or don’t wear, and to know how to apply makeup properly, if they choose to wear it at all. Most importantly, I want them to know that it does not require primer, pore-reducer, concealer, highlighter, bronzer, foundation, powder, blush, eyeshadow, eyeliner, mascara, brow shadow, eyelashes and lipstick to be beautiful. I don’t want them to spend that much time on their looks every day. Hopefully they’ll know that with or without it, they are beautifully and wonderfully made.

On the other hand, I hope they rock out some really great makeup every now and then…there’s nothing wrong with getting dolled up here and there, right?  In a few years….

Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a great hair and makeup day!

X,O,X,O,   Martie