9 Essential Makeup Brushes for Beginners

You may have heard the saying before: your makeup is only as good as your tools. It’s true: what you use to apply your makeup can make a big difference for your finished look. And yet, the sheer amount of makeup brush options can be super overwhelming.

Makeup Brush Guide for Beginners | What Makeup Brushes Do You Need | Makeup Brushes for Beginners | Slashed Beauty

Looking at my own brush collection— which is unnecessarily massive, I’ll admit— there are really only 10 types of brushes (and one sponge) I use regularly to create all of my looks.

Keep reading for my makeup brush guide, including the brushes you need and what each type can be used for. Plus, these are all affordable makeup brushes that work well, so you don’t need to break the bank to build your collection! At the end, I’ll share some links to brush set options that include most if not all the essentials.

Fluffy Powder Brush | e.l.f. Beautifully Precise Powder Brush | Makeup Brushes for Beginners | Slashed Beauty

Fluffy Powder Brush

When it comes to applying setting powder at the end of your foundation routine, a fluffy brush will help dust the product evenly on the skin. My absolute favorite is the e.l.f. Beautifully Precise Powder Brush. It’s great for light, diffused application. Feel free to use it with blush or bronzers well, though I believe the size is best for all-over face products.

Contour Brush | Sonia Kashuk Essential Contour Brush No. 179 | Makeup Brushes for Beginners | Slashed Beauty

Contour Brush

For adding definition to the face, an angled brush is a go-to for contouring. What makes the Sonia Kashuk Essential Contour Brush No. 179 can a great choice is that it can be used with both powder and cream. Not only can you get precise as the angled shape fits perfectly under the cheekbones, but the soft bristles help blend out for a seamless look.

Blush Brush | Real Techniques Blush Brush | Makeup Brushes for Beginners | Slashed Beauty

Blush Brush

Now, here’s the thing: you can actually use the same brush to add contour and blush, but you probably want to have separate ones so you don’t mix product. Also— just as a personal preference— I prefer a blush brush with more flexible bristles for a lighter application, so that i can build up to the color intensity I desire that day. The Real Techniques Blush Brush is great for a soft application.

Highlight Brush | Real Techniques Makeup Setting Brush | Makeup Brushes for Beginners | Slashed Beauty

Highlight Brush

As far as highlighting goes, you honestly don’t need a specific type of brush— even an eyeshadow brush can place highlight down exactly where you want it! However, the type of brush you pick will impact the strength of your highlight. My favorite middle-of-the-road highlight brush is the Real Techniques Makeup Setting Brush. It has a slight tapered shape so you can use it on various areas of your face with precision, and has soft bristles that blend product out nicely. Looser brushes, like fan brushes, are also popular when it comes to highlighting but will give you a much softer appearance.

Flat Eyeshadow Brush | M167 Oval Blending & Packing Shadow Brush | Makeup Brushes for Beginners | Slashed Beauty

Flat Eyeshadow Brush

This is what you probably think of first when I say the term “eyeshadow brush.” it’s a flat, rounded brush that will work best to put product on the lid and brow-bone. The truth is, it would be helpful to have more than one of these handy so that you can dip into different shades without mixing up the colors. At least two, I’d say! It’s hard to go wrong with this standard eyeshadow brush, just look for one with soft synthetic bristles for the best performance like the M167 Oval Blending & Packing Shadow Brush.

ALSO READ: The Best Budget Makeup Brush Brands

Fluffy Blending Brush for Eyeshadow | e.l.f. Fluffy Eye Blender Brush | Makeup Brushes for Beginners | Slashed Beauty

Fluffy Eyeshadow Blending Brush

For beautiful, softly blended eyeshadow, you need a fluffy blending brush! Your shadow game will never be the same . Look for a brush that has bristles in a dome shape that are flexible but not flimsy. The e.l.f. Fluffy Eye Blender Brush is fluffy and does a great job buffing color in your crease and diffusing edges.

Tapered Crease Eyeshadow Brush | e.l.f. Crease Brush | Makeup Brushes for Beginners | Slashed Beauty

Tapered Crease Brush

To apply product in the narrow eye crease area, you’ll want a smaller type of blending brush with a tapered point (I know this looks similar to the blending brush above, but I promise it’s smaller and more narrow and pointed!). The e.l.f. Crease Brush is the perfect size and shape for this purpose!

Best Eyebrow Brush | Wet n Wild Essential Brow & Liner Brush Duo | Makeup Brushes for Beginners | Slashed Beauty

Angled Brush/Brow Brush

Sometimes you’ll come across two brushes that look exactly the same, but may be labeled for different purposes. A small angled brush is often referred to as both a liner brush or a brow brush depending on if there is a spoolie on the opposite end. You can choose to buy individual ones for each purpose if you use brow powder regularly so as not to mix product. I do prefer to have a brush/spoolie duo like this one from Wet n Wild for the versatility.

Best Blending Sponge | Real Techniques Miracle Complexion Sponge | Makeup Brushes for Beginners | Slashed Beauty

Blending Sponge

It’s not technically a brush, but it can do the job of several at once! A blending sponge is my favorite tool for even foundation application, and can also help apply setting powder and cream products like concealer, liquid blush or contour. My all time favorite is the Real Techniques Miracle Complexion Sponge. The flat edge is perfect for all over application and getting into every corner. Remember to always dampen your sponge before using it, so that it blends softly and doesn’t absorb your product.

Is buying a makeup brush set a good idea?

You can find affordable makeup brush sets that give you everything you need to complete your face. Especially as a beginner, these can be a convenient and budget-friendly way to start your collection. Below you can find a roundup of some of my favorite all-encompassing brush sets, as well as face-only and eye-only sets so you can mix and match to your preference while still saving money.


  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. I have high end and some of these “beginner” brushes too, and I agree for smudging Sonia Kashuk is one of the best. Love it.

  3. 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.

  4. I really like Real techniques brushes too! And now that you have mentioned it, i am going to try the Soho beauty sponge.

    1. I’m definitely going to be purchasing more Real Technique brushes in the future, especially since they’re finally arriving at the Kohl’s near me! Also, they released a blending sponge themselves recently as well!

  5. I’m glad you mention the beauty blender. I didn’t realize how great they were until this year. They’re fantastic. Good post!

    1. Thank you! I was skeptical of the beauty blender at first but now I’ve got to use it to polish off my face makeup- it just doesn’t look as good without it.

    1. I’m glad! There are obviously so many other brushes but these are the ones I use regularly and would “take with me to a deserted island” 🙂

  6. Great job on this post – it’s so helpful to have a complete guide to brushes and what they’re used for.

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