The 6 Eye Shadow Brush Shapes, Explained

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If your eye shadow look just isn’t up to your standards no matter what new tutorial videos you’ve watched or how many shadows you’ve tried, you might want to check the brush you’re using. In fact, according to makeup artist Sarah Tanno, using a good brush is even more important than the makeup you’re applying. “Differently shaped brushes, as well as the densities, textures and materials used in a brush, will change the appearance of the product you are using and the outcome of the look,” she explains. And so, in light of the old expression every pot has its lid, every eye shadow effect has its brush, and it is important to keep it as so.

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Lid: Keep It Flat and Thick

When putting shadow on your lid, it’s all about coverage, so you want to go for a soft, but dense and wide brush to really pick up and pack on the pigment. Tanno suggests, “For a more natural blended look, apply lid color with a shadow brush like NYX Pro All Over Eyeshadow Brush ($10).” It will provide you with the perfect base for your eye shadow look.

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Crease: Go for Soft and Tapered

For Tanno, this brush shape is the most useful. “It’s very important to be able to blend your shadows and also have the right shape to be able to get into the crease to apply even color,” she shares. When choosing a crease brush, find one that is more loosely packed than the lid’s to allow for a light color application that can be added to in layers, but double as a blender in the crease. Ones to try: Sephora Collection PRO Tapered Crease #19 ($20), Laura Mercier Pony Tail Brush ($30) and Charlotte Tilbury Eye Blender Brush ($34).

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Blending: The Loosest of All

“Blending brushes are softer, less dense and tapered into a more rounded out shape,” Tanno says. Because they’re even looser than the crease brush, they are gentle, which makes for a smoother transition between shades. A good one to invest in is bareMinerals The Blender Brush ($18), which, aside from crease and color blending, can even be used to apply an allover soft wash of color.

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Smudging: It’s Different From Blending

Unlike a blending brush, a smudging brush, like e.l.f. Smudge Brush ($1), is on the short, compact side. Thanks to its shape, it works to smudge eye shadow to soften any harsh lines, and is even strong enough to smudge eyeliner. Say hello to the smoky eye’s righthand man. 

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Pencil or Precision: It Lives Up to Its Name

A precision brush is small, dense and pointed, much like the shape of (you guessed it) a pencil, and is great for creating that coveted V-shape in the outer corners of your eyes. More importantly, it is the other half to the smoky eye dynamic duo. To achieve this look, Tanno says, “I like to smudge liner or shadow with a pencil type brush like the MAC Cosmetics 219 Pencil Brush ($25) and soften with a blending brush for the lid and then crease with a tapered blending brush.”

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Angled: It’s Not Really for Shadow

Unless you’re planning on using eye shadow as eyeliner, this brush actually works best with gel liner. As a bonus, Tanno shares that it can even be used with eye shadow to fill in your eyebrows. So, no, this brush is not intended for eye shadow application per se, but it still sounds like a major triple threat in the eye makeup world. If you’re in the market for one, a solid recommendation is the Clinique Eye Definer Brush ($20).

Illustrations By Jami Rubin

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