The right eyeshadow brush can go a long way for getting the coverage and finish desired in less time, and the key is identifying your own preferences, eye shape and size, and considering how varied (or not) the colors you reach for.
Just because a brush works magic for me doesn’t mean it necessarily will for you, so it’s important to consider what type of bristles you prefer, how your application methods differ (or are similar) to mine, and so forth.
Best Brushes for Packing on Eyeshadow
Eyeshadow packing brushes are designed as they sound: to pack on eyeshadow all over the lid in a concentrated fashion. These brushes are for someone who wants stronger, more opaque color payoff from their eyeshadow onto their eyelid.
The most common shape is similar to MAC’s 239, which is a slight rectangle shape that’s moderately dense, flat but has a slightly dome-shaped edge that has subtle fluffiness that it can double for blending in a pinch.
A fluffier, more dome-shaped edge can also double as a blending brush in a pinch and can also lay down color into the crease (using the edge to place the color). Flatter, stiffer brushes are better for applying denser, firmer eyeshadow formulas while ultra-soft brushes are better for more buildable application.
Sonia G. Builder Three ($32.00)
It’s ideal to have a brush that’s soft enough not to feel pokey or sharp along the eye socket, but sometimes, “softest” doesn’t translate into “best” for a particular purpose.
Sonia G. Builder Three ($32.00)
If I could only pick one, this is the one. This denser, dome-shaped packing brush has become my current go-to and favorite because it picks up product well, holds it and helps minimize fallout, while delivering intense coverage in a single pass. The domed-edge works well for sweeping and gently blending colors together on the lid or to deposit intense color into the crease. Available at Beautylish.
Smith Cosmetics 253 Laydown Brush
Smith 253 Laydown Eyeshadow Brush Small ($22.00)
It is a small-to-medium sized brush with a tapered, arrow-shaped edge that makes applying color to the lid a cinch as the shape fits in well into the inner corner as well as the outer corner. I recommend this one for firmer, thicker eyeshadows in particular. Smith 256 Laydown Eyeshadow Brush Large ($24.00) is functionally similar but larger, so for those with larger features, this might be a better pick. Both are available at Beautylish.
Chikuhodo GSN-09 Eyeshadow Brush
Chikuhodo GSN-09 Eyeshadow Brush ($25.00)
I’d recommend this for someone who needs very soft bristles or often works with more powdery products or has a lighter hand. Available at Beautylish.
Hakuhodo J242 Eye Shadow Brush
Hakuhodo J242 Eye Shadow Brush ($18.00)
This brush works well for getting color onto the inner area of my lid and for someone with smaller features, as it is smaller, a bit firmer/flatter, but still offers the flexibility of the brushes listed above. Hakuhodo J004 Eye Shadow Brush ($20.00) is a lightly fluffed-up, dome-shaped brush with a flatter shape, but it has just enough spring and give to apply eyeshadow to the lid as well as to lightly blend edges or place color into the crease. For those who need ultra-soft bristles, consider Hakuhodo S133 Eye Shadow Brush ($35.00). Available at Hakuhodo.
Zoeva 234 Luxe Smoky Shader ($11.50)
For a brush that’s more affordable (relative to other recommendations), this is my pick; I still use it from time to time for firmer/stiffer eyeshadows. It’s very comparable shape and feel to the MAC 239. Available at Zoeva.
Best Crease Brushes
I love a good crease brush! There are so many to choose from that I think one really has to consider how they apply color into their crease. If you tend to go for a more defined crease, looking for a tapered crease brush that comes to a more noticeable point (rather than one that is wider, fluffier, or rounded) that is smaller rather than larger will be your best bet.
If you want a really diffused, blown out crease color, a fluffier, more rounded crease brush will get the job done. I warn those new to crease brushes to carefully consider the size of their crease and the brush you have your eye on. Too small can result in very precise color application that requires a lot of blending but too large can mean color that nearly goes up to the brow bone too quickly!
Wayne Goss Brush 20 ($22.00)
Wayne Goss Brush 20 ($22.00) / Hakuhodo J5529 ($17.00)
It’s a small, tapered crease brush with a more rounded edge, so it deposits intense color but also diffuses and blends in circular motions easily. I also use the Brush 19, which is more tapered at the tip, so the lay down of color can be a bit sharper and ideal for getting rich color deposit into the deeper areas of the crease. Available at Beautylish.
If you’re shopping Hakuhodo, I find that the Hakuhodo J5529 Brush ($17.00) is nearly identical and slightly cheaper (excluding shipping costs, hence if you’re already placing an order…). I use it interchangeably with the Brush 19.
Wayne Goss Brush 17
Wayne Goss Brush 17 ($28.00) / Hakuhodo J142 ($19.00)
For a more medium-sized, tapered crease brush, this slightly fluffy take on it works well to blow out color, like transition shades, and really buff the edges of eyeshadow above the crease. If you want a larger, tapered crease brush, try Brush 16, which is a larger version of the 17 (slightly fluffier, too). Available at Beautylish.
Best Eyeshadow Blending Brushes
The typical blending brush was made famous by MAC’s 217 brush (which is now discontinued and has been redone as fully synthetic but the shape did change a bit). It’s not so dense, fluffy, and has more surface area at the edge so it can buff and soften edges with ease. The goal for a blending brush is to be medium in size with less densely-packed bristles and a lot of fluffiness along the edges, which helps to spread and diffuse color without lifting it completely.
Sonia G. Worker Three Brush
Sonia G. Worker Three Brush ($32.00)
For really tough-to-blend formulas, this is the magic tool to use; it’s much, much denser than the typical blending brush but I feel like I have to use less pressure and can get more precision out of blending, so sometimes it helps avoid over-blending. It also works well for depositing color into the inner tear duct, especially when working with glittery shades! The Worker One and Worker Two are both larger, and I use all three, but I prefer the smaller size of Worker Three overall (more versatile). All three brushes are available at Beautylish.
The Worker Pro ($30.00) is most comparable to the original MAC 217 but has a more defined edge, so it offers more precision and less fluff in comparison.
Wayne Goss Brush 18 Eye Shadow Blending Brush
Wayne Goss Brush 18 ($27.00) / Hakuhodo J5523 Brush ($19.00)
It’s a medium-sized, fluffy blending brush with a domed edge and is really a softer, better version of the signature MAC 217. You can find it at Beautylish.
Alternatively, Hakuhodo J5523 Eye Shadow Brush ($19.00) is nearly identical and is slightly cheaper (excluding shipping). Its firmer, denser sister, S5523, may work better for someone with a lighter hand and has trouble using enough pressure to blend products together; it can also be used with cream and liquid products.
Smith Cosmetics 220 Eyeshadow Finishing Brush
Smith 220 Eyeshadow Finishing Brush ($24.00)
This unique shape works well for diffusing and pulling color outward from an area with greater precision than traditional, fluffy blending brushes (like the ones listed above). Available at Beautylish.