Makeup Brush Guide for Beginners

Brushes: they’re what I get asked about the most when it comes to beginners makeup. How do I use them? Which shapes are for which application techniques? HOW MANY DO I NEED? To be honest, there are only a handful of brushes that I would consider essentials, though my personal collection has taken over nearly three large brush holders from e.l.f. Cosmetics.

Even still, the brushes I reach for on a daily basis are pretty much your basic must-haves.

Overwhelmed by starting a makeup brush collection? Don't fret: I've rounded up your essential makeup brush guide for beginners so you know what you need. | Slashed Beauty

In this guide, I’ll go over the types of brushes you can start your collection with to cover all your bases, and suggestions for my personal favorites that are affordable to get you going.

Click on the picture of the brush to enlarge.

1Flat Eyeshadow Brush (aka Shader Brush)

Use this brush to pack color onto your lid. This is a very common brush that you’ll find in most brush sets or sold individually. You can also use the tip of this brush to apply shadow to your lower lash line. I typically like stiffer shader brushes that make it easy to pick up color.

My suggestion for beginners: NYX Pro All Over Shadow Brush

2Blending Brush

This is one of the most important eye brushes in my opinion! The blending brush will blend out harsh lines and help your colors integrate flawlessly. Smaller versions of blending brushes are often referred to as crease brushes, and sometimes have a more tapered shape to work color into the socket.

My suggestion for beginners: e.l.f. Studio Crease Brush

3Small Angled Brush

The small angled brush is a multi-use tool. I’ve used mine to line my eyes by packing eyeshadow close to the lashes, but most often use it to fill in my eyebrows.

My suggestion for beginners: BH Cosmetics Pro Angled Eyeliner/Spoolie Brush

4Stippling Brush

This is my favorite brush to use with liquid foundation. Stippling on your foundation, which basically consists of patting the product onto the skin using the thin bristles, creates a pixel-perfect look.

My suggestion for beginners: e.l.f. Studio Stippling Brush

5Angled Face Brush

You can use an angled face brush to apply bronzer, contour, and blush. Their shape lends itself to applying color precisely to your cheek bones and along the perimeters of your face.

My suggestion for beginners: EcoTools Skin Perfecting Brush

6Powder Brush

A round fluffy face brush is nice to have for applying powders or blending out face makeup. I often use a powder brush for applying translucent powder to set my look.. You could always use this for blush as well.

My suggestion for beginners: Real Techniques Blush Brush

7Lip/Concealer Brush

The great thing about a lip brush is that it doubles as a concealer brush, and vice versa. Use this brush for precise application of lipstick/lipgloss/concealer. When I’m sporting a dark or otherwise bold lip shade, I find applying with a brush a lot easier than using the stick itself because you can get right up to your lips’ outline.

My suggestion for beginners: NYX Cosmetics Pro Lip Brush

8Liner Brush

Eyeliner brushes are very thin and tapered so you can apply gel or cream eyeshadows with a lot of control. You can more commonly find them with normal bristles, but my favorite are actually made of silicone, since they give you a straight line every time and don’t fray after continued use (they’re also way easier to clean).

My suggestion for beginners: Real Techniques Silicone Liner Brush

9Fan Brush

This one is the most recent addition in my collection, but it’s seriously a goof-proof way to apply powder highlight. Its flat shape keeps your application precise while the typically fluffy and flexible bristles blend the product out for a smooth finish. You can also use it for translucent powder or subtle applications of other face products.

My suggestion for beginners: Ecotools Deluxe Fan Brush

10Smudge Brush

These come in a variety of shapes but are typically short and stiff with soft bristles to blend product. I use them most for blending shadow along my lash lines for a smoky look, but use the ones that have more of an edge to them for creating my cut crease eyeshadow looks.

My suggestion for beginners: e.l.f. Cosmetics Small Smudge Brush

11Blending Sponge

To get the most flawless foundation application, you’ll want to use a damp sponge for seamless blending. No, you don’t need the Original Beauty Blender to get the job done— there are plenty of affordable ones on the market which work just as well that are a better value, especially when you want to be replacing them every four months or so.

My suggestion for beginners: Real Techniques Miracle Complexion Sponge (Need something smaller for under the eye? Use the beautyblender micro.minis)

If you’re starting your brush collection from scratch, buying a set is a better value than buying brushes individually. Scroll below for my favorite sets that will give you the best bang for your buck:


What are your must have brushes? Leave any questions in the comments below!




  1. Very good post, Miranda. I wish I’d had a guide like this when I was starting out with makeup. Love the Real Techniques sponge. They’re coming out with a micro version of them.

  2. Great post! Most women including me are/were clueless about brushes. I’ve got a pretty good collection now, but there’s always room for more. In fact, I’ve got to finish my order on the realtechniques site during the sale. I admit that I haven’t tried a blending sponge yet. I apply my CC cream with a foundation brush, but maybe I’ll try the Soho beauty sponge.


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