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A Guide to the Types of Makeup Brushes

By Carly Cochrane and Rebecca Jenkinson - 3 years ago | Updated
types of makeup brushes

Long gone are the days where we would apply a full face of makeup with just our fingertips (don’t worry, we’re grossed out at the fact we used to do it, too). Since being introduced to makeup brushes, we’ve been able to take our makeup game to new heights.

Any well-reputable artist will tell you that talent is elevated with the tools that you choose to use, and the same logic applies to makeup. A good selection of quality makeup brushes can be a total game-changer when it comes to painting your face, as they are specifically designed to target certain areas and make your favourite products work harder. That being said, using the wrong brush with the wrong product can totally throw off your whole look.

With so many makeup brushes to choose from, it can be a hard to know where to start, especially if you are starting from scratch. Fear not, as we’ve not only put together a list of the different types of makeup brushes, but also teach you how to use them.

Kabuki Brush

Sigma Beauty F80 Flat Kabuki

£18.00 £26.63 (33% off)

What is a kabuki brush?

A kabuki brush, also known as a stippling brush, is a professional makeup tool that boasts dense, tightly-packed bristles. It can be identified by its typically short handle and large, round brush head, however, flat-top, angled or tapered kabuki brushes are also available. It uses quality, synthetic bristles, although some are made with natural materials such as animal hair.

The kabuki brush is designed to apply powder, cream and liquid makeup to the skin without absorbing the product. Instead, it leaves a smooth and seamless canvas.

What makeup can you apply with a kabuki brush?

Kabuki brushes are typically used to apply makeup products such as liquid foundation, setting powder, blusher and bronzer. The density of the bristles help to provide a medium-to-full coverage as they buff and layer on liquid formulas without absorbing the product. They also make packing on fine powders super easy.

Can you apply liquid foundation with a kabuki brush?

Yes, liquid foundations, cream foundations, BB or CC creams and tinted moisturisers can all be applied with a kabuki brush. The short, tightly-packed bristles are great for buffing liquid formulas across skin without soaking up all the product. Try out a flat-top kabuki brush for foundation and an angled kabuki brush for applying makeup products such as liquid contour.

Concealer Brush

delilah Concealer Blending Brush


How do you use a concealer brush?

Start by dipping your bristles in your concealer product. If your concealer formula is in a tube, use the applicator to apply the product to the areas you want to conceal and then buff into the skin using your favourite concealer blending brush. Apply the concealer in areas where you need a little extra coverage, for example under the eyes, around the nose and across any blemishes or uneven skin.

To achieve a smooth finish, gently blend the concealer into skin using soft back and forward motions. This helps the product melt into the skin and mix perfectly with your foundation. A concealer brush is the best option for precise application, whether it's a flat, angled or oval shaped.

What is the best brush to use for concealer?

Flat brushes are great for spot concealing blemishes and scarring, while fluffy, oval concealer brushes are perfect for blending lightweight products. Smaller kabuki style brushes are also great for a lighter coverage and angled brushes fit perfectly in the contours on your face, like around the nose and eyes. For more precise application, use a detailed, fine tipped concealer brush.

What is a flat concealer brush?

A flat concealer brush is a great brush for applying cream products. The bristles lay flat and are often compact and denser than fluffy blending brushes. This helps push the product into the skin and gives a full coverage look, whereas softer bristles give a sheer, more natural finish. A flat brush is the best option for covering smaller blemishes, spots or acne scars as it gives a seamless finish.

Do you have to apply concealer with a brush?

Not necessarily, it all depends on whether you prefer full coverage looks or the natural no-makeup makeup look. Applying concealer with a brush allows you to have more control over the product. It also helps you achieve a smoother, full coverage finish. This is perfect for big events where you want your makeup to last longer. For blemishes or small spots, a concealer blending brush is also the best option.

Powder Brush

ZOEVA Rose Golden Vol.2 108 Face Finish Brush


What kind of powder brush should I use?

This depends on what makeup products you're applying to your face and what kind of look you're trying to recreate. A dome or round powder foundation brush is the best for applying base products. While for blusher, we recommend a fluffy, soft powder brush to achieve a light wash of colour. A larger powder brush is perfect for bronzer and a fan powder brush is ideal for applying highlighter to the tops of your cheekbones.

How do you apply powder with a brush?

The first step though is picking which powder you want to apply and where. Next you need to find the best brush for the job. Domed powder brushes are best for all round application of foundation, blush and bronzer, while big, fluffy brushes are great for setting your makeup in place.

Dip your brush into the pot, pan or compact to pick up the powder. Then gently dust over the areas of your face you want to sculpt, highlight or define. Apply more pressure when using contour powders for a more chiselled look, while for blush use a light touch for a sheer, natural finish.

What is the best brush to apply loose powder?

When applying loose powders, a fluffy setting powder brush is perfect for the job. These brushes can help buff and blend powder seamlessly into the skin, so you're left with flawless results. Just make sure to tap off any excess and lightly dust over areas you may get oily. With loose translucent setting powder, apply across the T-zone and under your eyes. This helps set your makeup in place and avoids any midday shine.

Eyebrow Brush

blinc Brow & Liner Duo Brush

£18.00 £24.60 (27% off)

What kind of eyebrow brush should I use?

There's lots of high-quality, professional brow brushes for you to choose from when applying makeup to your eyebrows. An angled brow brush is perfect for applying powders and pomades as it helps carve out your preferred brow shape. Densely packed, fine tipped brushes are also great for adding short hair-like strokes. And finally, a spoolie eyebrow brush helps shape and tame your brow hairs.

How do you use a spoolie brush on eyebrows?

You can use a spoolie to help define, blend and shape your brows. Before adding powders, brush through your brow hairs with a spoolie. This helps you see the shape of your brows and highlights the sparse areas you can fill in with powders, pomades and pencils.

After applying your brow products, you can then use the spoolie again to blend any harsh markings. This helps soften the look of powders and pencils, so your brows look more natural, rather than one block colour.

Which kind of brush should I use for an eyebrow pomade?

If you prefer to use pomade on your eyebrows, choose an angled brow brush that has short, dense bristles. This makes it easier to buff, blend and define your eyebrows. The densely packed bristles give you more control over your application, especially when creating short, hair-like strokes. When applying your chosen pomade, remember to lightly coat the bristles instead of scooping out too much product. You can always go back in and add more until you get the desired finish.

Should you wet your eyebrow brush?

This depends on the type of look you want to create. Lightly wetting your eyebrow brush, whether with water or setting spray, can ensure more colour payoff for powders and waxes. This works well when you want to add more shadow and definition to your eyebrows.

Eyeshadow Brush

Fenty Beauty Plush Eyeshadow Brush

£19.60 £23.30 (16% off)

What eyeshadow brushes do I need?

Creating stunning eye makeup looks is easy if you have the right tools. A few eyeshadow brushes you need in your collection are a flat eyeshadow brush – perfect for applying colour all over the lid. An eyeshadow crease brush helps blend products into the crease and along the lash line. A larger fluffy eyeshadow is the best for blending colour, while an angled eyeliner brush is ideal for creating a precise line and a winged effect.

How do you blend eyeshadow using a brush?

First make sure you apply a primer to help smooth your lids ready for makeup application. Then using a small eyeshadow blending brush start applying a light dusting of your base shadow. Use a sweeping motion going backwards and forwards to diffuse the colour. Next take a crease eyeshadow brush and apply a darker shade in the outer corner and swirl across your lid to blend in. Next take a flat eyeshadow brush to add a pop of colour or glitter to the centre of the lid.

To make sure everything is seamlessly blended, use a larger fluffy eyeshadow brush and sweep across the lids. The main aim is to blend all the eyeshadows together so there's no harsh lines or edges.

What brush should I use for cream eyeshadow?

Lots of beauty lovers like to apply cream products with their fingertips. However, to achieve a more controlled application and a more pigmented wash of colour, the pros recommend using a blending eyeshadow brush.

To maintain the intensity of the colour, apply with a flat, synthetic hair eyeshadow brush. For extra precision use a smudger brush along your upper and lower lash line. This brush is easy to use and helps pick up plenty of colour. For a sheer wash, blend the creamy eyeshadow out with fluffy blending brush.

Contour Brush

Jane Iredale Blending Contour Brush

£28.95 £43.50 (34% off)

What brush do you use to contour?

There's a variety of makeup brushes for you to choose from, but most beauty lovers prefer a slanted contour brush to sculpt and define the face. These brushes are specially designed to fit in the curves and grooves, making it super easy to add shadows and definition. Better still, contour blending brushes are versatile enough to apply a wide range of products, including powder, cream and liquid formulas.

How do you use a contour brush?

Dab your contour brush in your contour product, whether cream or liquid, and apply across your cheekbones, along your jawline, around the temples and down the sides of your nose. Start with less product on your brush to avoid heavy application – remember you can always gradually add more as you blend. Then to buff the contour product into the skin use your brush in either circular motions or pull the brush upwards on the cheekbones to avoid smudging your foundation base.

Blusher Brush

Lancôme Blush On No.6 Blush Brush

£31.20 £39.00 (20% off)

How do you use an angled blush brush?

An angled blush brush is great for applying your favourite pop of colour to your cheeks. To apply powders, take a soft, fluffy angled brush and dip the flat edge into the pan or pot. Then gently dust over the apples of the cheek and sweep in an upwards motion. This creates a beautiful, natural wash of colour over the skin. For more heavier coverage, use the blusher brush in circular motions across your complexion.

The angled brush head helps fit into the curves of your cheekbones. It is also easy to use across the entire face, with multiple products such as bronzer, contour and highlighter.

Can you use a blush brush with liquid blush?

Yes, of course! Using a blush brush to apply your liquid formulas helps you have better control over the placement of the colour on your cheeks. It also helps you diffuse the formula to give you a natural, flushed finish. Use a small, soft bristle brush and again apply in light circular motions to buff the liquid colour across the cheeks.

Highlighter Brush

ZOEVA 129 Luxe Fan Brush


What brushes do you need to apply highlighter?

To apply highlighter on your face you can use a number of different brushes. Just remember that the brush should be soft and fluffy, rather than hard and dense. This helps you easily apply a light dusting of your favourite shimmery products. Lots of beauty buffs love a fan shaped brush to apply highlighter, which can easily glide across your cheekbones and down the bridge of your nose. Whilst others prefer tapered bristles in a dome shape to dust the tops of the cupids bow and under the brow bone.

How do you use a fan brush to apply highlighter?

Fan makeup brushes are great for applying highlighter to your full face. The first step is finding the perfect highlighter product – powders work great with these types of brushes. To coat the bristles, press the brush flat against the pressed powder on both sides. Then using the side of the brush sweep along the tops of your cheekbones in an upwards motion.

Using a smaller fan brush repeat the process down the bridge of your nose, on your cupid's bow and below your brow bone. A smaller fan brush allows you to get more precise application on the smaller areas of the face.

Lip Brush

Jane Iredale Retractable Lip Brush

£15.95 £23.50 (33% off)

What is a lip brush for?

A lip brush is a makeup tool to help you achieve a smooth, long-lasting and smudge-free lipstick finish. With a thin wand and finely tipped, tapered bristles, a lip brush gives you full control over the application of lip products. It is perfect for applying everything from matte lipsticks, high-shine lip gloss and even lip liner.

How do you apply lip liner with a brush?

The most common way to line the lips is with a lip pencil, however you can also use a brush to buff and blend the colour. The first tip is applying the pencil to the natural lip line and then softening the harsh line using your brush in light strokes. For this look use a lip blending brush, which helps you achieve a natural finish without any product bleeding.

Another top tip is swiping your brush across your lipstick and lightly outlining your natural lip line with the lipstick formula. This ensures a smooth, flawless application and means you need less products in your makeup bag.

Is it better to apply lipstick with a brush?

It all depends on the finish and coverage you want to achieve. For a full coverage, sharp lip look, a lip brush is your best friend. They are also great at blending multiple lipstick shades and lip liners together to create your own unique look – perfect for the ombre lipstick trend. This helps your lip colour last longer and stops smudging and bleeding throughout the day.

However, if you prefer a natural wash of colour, swipe straight from the lipstick bullet or doe foot applicator. Glossy or sheer formulas require less effort, which means you can simply swipe across your lips without the use of any makeup tools.

Makeup Sponge

beautyblender Original

£17.04 £17.50 (3% off)

How do you use a makeup sponge?

The first step is taking your makeup blender sponge and running it under water or spritzing with your favourite setting mist (be sure to squeeze out the excess). This makes it easier to blend liquid makeup products across your face and achieve that natural-looking, dewy glow. Then to blend your foundation or concealer pat the sponge across your face in bouncing motions to achieve an all-over even coverage.

Using a makeup sponge is one of the most popular ways to apply makeup, because you can also use them dry to buff and blend your favourite setting powders and highlighters.

Are silicone makeup sponges better?

It all depends on your personal preference. Some prefer a silicone sponge as it doesn't absorb any excess product, which means less wastage of your favourite foundation. They are also easier to clean as they can be quickly wiped down. Not to mention, unlike foam sponges, you don't need to replace silicone sponges as often.

Makeup Brush Sets

Real Techniques Flawless Base Set

£19.99 £22.99 (14% off)

What should I look for in a good makeup brush set?

If you're a beauty newbie, we recommend looking for a full makeup brush set. This means you get all the main brushes in one swoop, rather than buying them individually. More often than not, they come in handy cases, which make them perfect for travelling or touch-ups on the go.

When searching for the best makeup brush set, look out for high-quality bristles and a set that features a selection of face, eye and lip brushes.

What brushes are in an eye makeup brush set?

Most eye makeup brush sets will include variations of a small shadow brush, a crease brush, a blending brush and a fine liner brush. Some may also contain lash separators.

How do you use a full makeup brush set?

With a full makeup brush set you have brushes to complete your entire makeup look. With a brush suited to each makeup product in your routine, you can paint your face step-by-step with a clean, quality tool. The result? Seamless, fuss-free application and a professional finish.

For specific instructions, check out individual brush sets which give you a low down on how to use each brush. In general, use sponges, kabuki brushes and dense foundation brushes to buff, bounce and blend any liquid face products including foundation and concealer. Fluffy brushes are ideal for swiping bronzer across your face, while highlighter brushes are great for dusting the highpoints with your favourite shimmering products.

Now that you're kitted out with a full set of makeup brushes, it's time to learn how to clean them! Check out our guide on How to Clean Makeup Brushes.

Carly Cochrane

Written by Carly Cochrane

As the Senior Content Editor for Cosmetify, Carly is the go-to for all the latest (and greatest) beauty tips, tricks and trends. With over six years of experience in the industry, she knows all the ins-and-outs when it comes to health, beauty and wellbeing. 

Rebecca Jenkinson

Written by Rebecca Jenkinson

Rebecca is a content writer with over three years’ experience and a keen interest in cosmetics. Cosmetify allows her to combine her blogging skills with her passion for beauty.

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