We often look to celebrities and magazine ads for inspiration and to keep up with current makeup trends. Of course one of the fun parts of being a celebrity is having an expert team of makeup artists and stylists at your disposal. But in reality, how can people who are not celebrities achieve makeup that looks like it was applied by a professional?
Your skin is your blank canvas.
It always starts with the quality of the skin. The skin is the canvas. A painter would not want to paint on a canvas that is not smooth, clean, and properly prepared. Getting regular facial treatments and following a proper daily skin care regimen for your particular skin type will help your skin be the best surface on which to apply makeup.
The right products…
Then you have to make sure you are using the right products. Choose high quality products that have strong pigments, and are easy to blend.
The right technique…
You also have to know the correct technique. As I have said before, there are countless makeup techniques, and very few of them are “rules” that are set in stone. Makeup is subjective, so what looks good to one person might not be appealing to another. The best way to learn technique is to experiment, and learn from the best. The Kevyn Aucoin books are my favorites, but there are others out there that will suffice. There are also plenty of blogs that focus only on makeup application techniques, videos on youtube, and tutorials offered by cosmetics manufacturers. You can also take makeup lessons from makeup artists at many salons and spas. Once you have learned some techniques you think really enhance your features both for daytime and nighttime wear…practice, practice, practice. And blend, blend, blend.
The final piece of the puzzle is that you have to have the right tools. I don’t care how good your products are, how great your skin is, or how good you think your technique is…you simply will not achieve the look you want using Q-tips, cotton balls, and those tiny sponge applicators and brushes that come in drugstore makeup (which you should not be using anyway). Even those wedge-shaped sponges…some artists love them and use them for almost everything, but truthfully I only use them for blending and fixing mistakes.
You need brushes. And not just any brushes…you need quality brushes that will apply the product properly. Quality brushes can be very expensive, but they don’t necessarily need to be. I have several brushes that I bought from art supply stores for very little money that have lasted me over a decade. I have bought my brushes individually, and have gotten many in makeup and brush kits.
There are probably thousands of different brushes out there. It’s hard to know which ones to buy. I’ll break it down for you. Here are the main categories of makeup brushes and some examples of each from my own collection. From now on, whenever I do a makeup application post, I will reference which brush I use for each step.
Foundation comes in many forms: liquid, cream, mousse, pressed powder, loose mineral, etc. I personally prefer loose mineral powder, but there are some pressed mineral formulas I also like. Ever since I started using mineral, I just cannot go back to liquid. Anyway, each type of foundation requires a different brush. If you still use liquid or cream, you would use a medium sized, flat, synthetic brush. This will give you the most even coverage, and use the least amount of product (sponges absorb, and thus waste product).
If you use mineral powders, the kind of brush depends on the particle size of the minerals. This determines how think the coverage will initially be. Some minerals will go on very sheer, others will provide a very full coverage. However, the brush you use also determines the coverage. The popular kabuki brushes generally provide a medium to full coverage with most products. A densely packed, flat-tipped buff brush will give you an even fuller coverage. A fluffy powder brush will give you the sheerest coverage. Here are some examples of different foundation brushes.
Concealer also comes in different forms: a thicker, more opaque cream or cake, a stick or fat pencil, a mineral powder (more opaque than foundation), and even a liquid that is applied with an applicator or squeezed from a tube. I prefer the thicker creams/cakes and mineral powders. Most concealers, unlike foundations, can be applied with the same types of brushes: very small to small, firm, flat synthetic brushes. Anytime you are using a wet or tacky product, you want a synthetic brush because the bristles are nonporous, and the product will glide on better than with a natural brush. I even use a synthetic with my powder concealer because it presses it into place, and blends it without removing it. Here are some examples of concealer brushes.
Please refer to my Contouring 101 and Neutral Does Not Mean Boring posts for a full explanation of contouring. The brushes I use really depend on where I am applying the product, and how definined I want the area to be. Smaller, more densely packed brushes will give more definition, but can be harder to blend. I really use all of these brushes in contouring.
I always apply a translucent powder to set my base (foundation, concealer, contouring). I like a product that offers some visual effect like a soft radiant glow. This will reflect and refract light away from shadows and imperfections. I like a large, natural fluffy powder brush, but I sometimes use a flat top duo fiber (natural and synthetic) brush. Here are my powder brushes.
I only use powder blush. I will use loose or pressed, but it has to be powder. I know there are other types, but I strongly dislike all of them so I will not even list them. Blush brushes range in size (medium to large) and shape (some are angled), and they will each give a different effect. I suggest experimenting with different ones to achieve the look you like. Here are some examples.
This is the largest category of brushes, because eyeshadow can be applied in so many ways. Again, I only use powder, although I will apply it wet at times. Different parts of the eyelid require different brushes to accent them. Larger, softer, fluffier brushes are good for applying soft color to the lids and brow bones, small to medium sized angled or pointier tipped brushes are best for applying color to the creases, and shorter, denser, firmer brushes are best for smudging and accenting with darker, smokier colors. Again, you have to experiment. Here are some eyeshadow brush examples.
|Lid, brow bone|
|Smudge, accent, smoky eye|
I love eyeliner. I use them all: pencil, liquid, and powder. Powders are the most versatile I think, because you can apply them wet (more dramatic, longer lasting, won’t smudge) or dry (more subtle), and you can often just use eyeshadow as a liner. My favorite eyeliner brushes are the dense flat-tipped synthetic and sharply-pointed calligraphy-type synthetic. The flat-tipped one is the most user friendly: just wet it, pick up some color, and press it into place. Repeat this until your entire lid is lined. So easy. Here are my eyeliner brushes.
I must admit that I do not often use brow powder and brow brushes. I really like tinted brow gels and mousses. It just saves time. However, if brows are sparse and need to be filled in, powders or cakes are a great option. The brushes should be small and firm, which will allow for precise application. All of my “brow brushes” are actually paintbrushes from the art store. One of them (the blue one) I cut and beveled into the shape I wanted. These brushes were very inexpensive. I highly recommend a trip to your local art supply store if you are going to use brow brushes. Here are mine:
I don’t use lip brushes on myself with my own personal products, but professionally, it is a must. It really is up to you if you want to use them for your own personal use. I don’t feel they offer anymore precision than any other lipstick or lipstick applicator, nor do I feel they offer anymore staying power. I’m sure some artists out there will disagree with me, and that’s fine. It’s just my opinion based on my experience. If you want to use them, they should be similar to brow brushes. Small, firm, and synthetic.
After my look is complete, I like to use the mascara fan brush to comb through my mascara to break up any clumps that may have occurred. I also use a small to medium soft and fluffy brush (kind of a mini powder brush) to go over my eyeshadow to make sure there are no loose particles and that everything is blended. I will also go over my face again with the large fluffy powder brush. Here are some finishing brushes.
Brushes can be quite an investment. But they will last you many years if you care for them properly. For personal use, you should wash them once a week. You can use warm water and a gentle liquid soap. A gel facial cleanser is fine. Wet the bristles, gently work some soap in, and massage the soapy bristles until all of the product comes out. Rinse, reshape, and lay flat to dry. Do not soak your brushes, and do not use alcohol. It will dry out the bristles and dissolve the adhesive holding the brush together.
So that’s it! Now you know what you need to learn, practice, and what to have in your toolbox to do your makeup like a pro. Have at it and have fun…you will see a difference in how your makeup looks.