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Top 10: Makeup Brushes

I’ve compiled a list of my top 10 brushes that I think every makeup geek should own! You do not have to have these exact brushes, just something similar so you can complete a wide variety of looks.  I hope this helps :)

  1. MAC 217 Blending Brush
    This is a multi-purpose brush that can be used to “feather” out the outer V, blend any harsh lines, highlight under the brow, apply a light coat of paintpots as a base, or even apply concealer under the eyes.This is the most versatile brush I have come across, and I haven’t found a cheaper alternative yet. This would be my first brush to buy if I was just starting out.Price:   $22.50Where to Buy:   MAC
  2. MAC 239 Brush
    This brush is perfect for packing on eyeshadow on the lid- it’s stiff so it picks up a decent
    amount of color.  The size is also perfect for fitting just on the lid.  I love this brush so much
    that I have 4 of them, and I reach for them every day!Price:   $24.50Where to Buy:   MAC
  3. Makeup Geek Deluxe Foundation Stippling Brush

    This is honestly my favorite brush ever!  I use this to apply my foundation for that airbrushed finish.  Just place your foundation on the back of your hand, dip the brush in, and stipple it all over your face starting at the center of your face working out towards the temples.Price:  $15.99Where to Buy:   Makeup Geek Store
  4. MAC  219 Pencil Brush or Makeup Geek Pencil Brush

    This brush is great for blending out harsh eyeliner, smudging shadow under the lower lashes, or creating a very defined outer V.Since the brushes are stiff, it picks up a good amount of color. I reach for this brush everyday as it works perfectly for any type of “smudged liner” look.Price:   $24.50 Where to Buy:   MAC

    Price: $7.99  Where to Buy Makeup Geek Store

  5. Makeup Geek Cheek Highlighter Brush

    Getting that Jennifer Lopez glow is super easy with this brush!  The soft duo fibre bristles apply just the right amount of highlighting powder or liquid.  The smaller size head prevents from applying too much product, while the wispy bristles give that almost airbrushed effect.Price:   $7.99Where to Buy:    Makeup Geek Store
  6. Makeup Geek Outer V Brush

    I realize this is an odd name for a brush, but I named it this as it is the perfect size for applying darker colors to the outer corner (outer V) of the eyes.  It also works really well for that rocker smudged liner under the lower lashline- the size of the head gives a wider smudged line (unlike the pencil brush which is a little bit smaller)Price:   $5.99Where to Buy:   Makeup Geek Store
  7. Smashbox Angle Brow Brush

    Now I realize there are TONS of angled brow brushes out there, but this one is the perfect size and stiffness for me.  It applies powder perfectly to the brows.  The stiff bristles pick up just the right amount of color.  I use this everyday for filling in my brows with either shadow or Tarte’s brow mousse.Price: $14.99Where to Buy:   Sephora or  Amazon
  8. Sonia Kashuk Angled Liner Brush

    This bent liner brush is perfect for applying gel liner or for creating that cat liner effect!  The bent handle allows you to easily drag the liner to get a perfectly straight line.  I reach for this brush almost everyday is its much easier than applying liquid liner.Price:   $5.99Where to Buy:   Target or Amazon
  9. Makeup Geek Blush Brush

    This angled blush brush is perfect for applying just the right amount of blush!  Its soft bristles do not apply too much color, yet it is stiff enough to pick up the color.  The angled shape follows the natural contour of your cheekbones, so it is pretty much foolproof on where to apply your blush.Price:   $8.99Where to Buy:    Makeup Geek Store
  10. Makeup Geek Soft Dome Brush

    This soft bristled dome brush is perfect for creating a super soft shadow in the crease or for blending out concealer under the eyes (it helps prevent your concealer from caking up and getting too thick).  I love how soft this feels on the skin!  This brush is not meant for packing on color, but for blending.Price:  $7.49Where to Buy:   Makeup Geek Store


I hope this helps all of you who are just starting your brush collection, or for those of you who are hoping to fill in those “missing gaps” in your brush set!

Profile photo of Marlena

CEO of Makeup Geek and Makeup Educator


Comments are now closed on this article.

Thank you for this very helpful article!! You can have the best products (MAC ;) ), it won’t work without good brushes!

Thank you so much for this website. I love all of the information and the tutorials are wonderful. I now have a more defined crease. thanks!

i know this sounds werid but Enkore on you tube did a tut on PAINT brushes that are comparable to MAC brushes and he also had one for the 219 pencil! im going to def go to my nearest michael’s and check it out to see how well the brushes are made. he said that you need to get leow carnell (sp) not to sure if i spelled it right but just go search on you tube for Enkore and MAC brushes vs. Paint brushes. you can pretty much find the ENTIRE colection of MAC in good Paint brushes!

I follow Enkore’s video on it- wash with a clean kitchen sponge and some baby shampoo. I would watch his video- it’s very helpful :)

HI Marlena,

I know this is totally off topic but have you ever heard of or used Medusa makeup eye shadows or perhaps nixie cosmetics eyeshadows?

Hi! thanks for another great tutorial!
Do you wash your brushes after every application? Or do you find its enough just to wipe them off?
How often do you think it should be done in order to be hygienic but not wear out the brushes too much?
Lol, many questions. Thanks again!!

I wipe them off everyday (just on a towel) and give them a good scrubbing once a week. If I use creamy products on my brushes, I have to clean them more often…

I have a friend who is a Mary-Kay consultant and she says that a lot of the time she uses actual paint brushes that you can buy at an art supply store. She says that depending on the type that you get they give the same if not better definition. I know brushes can get a bit out of hand price wise, so I thought that I’d share this money saving tip!!

Hi there, I find you very inspirational and love your looks and do copy many of them.

Your brown/pink bridal look I have used and adapted on many of my clients and they love it.

What is the best brush to use to apply pigments.

and do you have any tips for a more mature eye (creapy) mainly mother of the bride. I try to use some matts but I do find them a little dull sometimes and the pearls can be a bit too shimmery for them.

Would really appreciate your opinion on this.

Look forward to your reply

Dawn x

Hi Dawn,
I’m glad that look is working for you! The best brush for pigments is a flat shader brush like MAC’s 239- that way you don’t get too much fallout.

As for mature clients, matte/satin shadows are best. What I would do is put mattes on the lid (where most of the wrinkles are) then put a little shimmer under the brow so the eyes don’t look too flat.

I hope that helps :)

OMG your site is awesome. I just stumbled upon one of your tutorials on YouTube, first time ever on YouTube as well. I have been visiting your site regularly for about 2 weeks now. My boyfriend thinks I am silly cause I sit here and watch the tutorials. Men just don’t get it! Any hew… have you used NXY brushes? If so how are they? I am looking to beef up my brush supply and don’t want to waste my money on a brush that won’t do the trick.

Thanks for all of the awesome tutorials. You helped to re-invent my makeup addiction………

P.S. I live in the Bay Area and am awaiting the links from your trip. Great idea!!!! Can always use new shopping spots.

Awesome article. I totally need a kabuki brush and well with this review I know where I will be buying mine!

Thanks so much as always!

Hi Marlena,

I just received a kabuki brush that I bought on ebay. However, i realised that it’s smaller than the one you use, it’s more what they call “baby kabuki”, do you think it would work as well as yours or should I better get a bigger one?

And I have another question. Do you think the brushes sold on ebay work well? Because I have the feeling that many of them are not original, even if they say they are MAC or Bobbi Brown or some other brand. They look very good though, I think like originals, but do you think they would work well and give the same results?

I would love to hear your comments about it. Thanks a lot for everything!!!! xxxx


OMG…Someone who finally gets it!!! I am such a make-up girl…Sephora….MAC…CVS…Chanel….I LOVE LOVE LOVE MAKE-UP…It’s so cool to see someone who enjoys it as much as I do! Love the brush collection…Do your thing girl!

HI Marlena
i was looking at the Coastal Scents Duo Fiber Powder Stippler on the web and they have it in pink and silver
The pink one has somewhat of a shorter handle but does it work the same as the silver one that you have?!

i love your page! it is extremely helpful

thank you

Hi Maria,
There are several fake duplicates of MAC brushes on Ebay- to be safe, I would buy those at a MAC counter/store instead…

Hi Vickie,
I would get the silver- I’ve heard the pink one isn’t as good…

Hello Marlena,
I am from Canada-and i had went to go get the CVS 5.99 dou???? is this a website?? all I get is a drugstore…

and I went to the POSH website-which there is a coupon i have heard for 50% off-cc123 is the code.but the shipping to me is 15.00, a little steep for us canadians!!1 hahaha.lol, but free shipping after 35.00-is there anything on that website that you would recommend other than….

Anyways, thanks for your great reviews…


Hi Marlena,

I was just wondering if you could tell me anything about the entire Brush Kit that NYX is offering right now.
Is it worth me laying nearly 150 dollars dollars down on it, and getting all 18 brushes, because I obviously def. don’t want to do that if they don’t work well.

Thanks darlin’. <3

hi Marlena!
the mac store is very far from where i live, but the nyx store very near. I would like to buy some brushes to do my eye make up. wich NYX brushes would you reccommend to me?

thanx and greetings from SWITZERLAND

Hi Marlena!
I found your site 1 month ago and I became a fan of your tutorials.
But I have the same problem of Liana: It´s hard to find something about MAC in my country too, but NYX is easier and much cheaper than MAC.
So, which brushes are better to build a good collection?
Greetings from Brazil :)

Hey guys,
Im in toronto and rexall sells posh brushes @ a very good price.
for awhile in the summer they raised their prices but they are back down again.
I got the travel kits for $12.99 set of 5 brushes :)

Hey Marlena,
Great site. I just wanted to ask you what MAC Brushes would you compare the Posh Crease brush duo to? Also number 10, which MAC brush would you cmpare this one to?

Hi there. Thanks for the info – I was wondering have you ever used any crown brushes before? My god they have a large selection and they are a supplier to many companies – one of them which looks like Coastal Scents.


The brushes are dirt cheap, and there are 100’s of them.

G,day Marlena
From Down under Australia, I love the makeup geek site..l. Great beauty tips and advice, your very professional, keep up to good work..

Hi Marlena
I’m new to the world of makeup and I wanted to know if u have any advice on lining the waterline correctly. I can never seem to do it right. My eyes would water and I don’t have sensitive eyes or wear contacts etc
Also how to smudge color under the lower lashline…mines always get tangled in my lower lashes and look messy whether I use a brush or sponge tip aplicator…help..

Hi marlena…

Could you do a review on a Sonia Kashuk brush which looks like the MAC 219??

It’s called “Shaped blending brush”. I don’t own a 219 and would like to know how they compare.


Hey Marlena,

I just wanted to know if you know about that website blush? They sell MAC brushes for really cheap and i just wanted to know if its a legit website to buy from.

Maybe somebody already mentioned this, but I LOVE the RealTechniques brushes. Reasonably priced, but well-made. Every review I have read about them is quite positive. Have you tried them before? They’re only carried at Ulta.

I use paint brushes too! They work absolutely well and they do not cost a lot. I’m glad I’m not the only one who uses them!

What are your thoughts on the Sigma brushes? I’ve heard really great things about them but I very rarely hear you mention them and am wondering if there is a reason or something that I should know before buying from them…

All the cheaper alternatives for MAC can be found at Sephora. Their brushes are just as spectacular!


I have a question… My skin is very dry and I wanted to get some tips on foundation and concealers. What kind of foundation and concealer should I use? Please do let me know. I would appreciate it. Thanks Marlena. :)

I’ve had trouble deciding between the 217 and 222. What is the difference? And when you say you haven’t found a dupe for the Mac ones – does that mean you don’t like the sigma versions? Thanks so much for all you do!

Hey Marlena,

First of all I have to say that I absolutely love your work, I’ve discovered the site in december and since then i’m addicted to it :p.

About the MAC 217 brush, I’ve heard that the sigma E25 is very similar to it and cheaper. I live in Belgium so I don’t know if sigma brushes are sold in the US (in euros the mac brush is 17euros and the sigma 12euros, the difference is not huge but as a student it does matters:) ). Do you have any idea if it is indeed a good duplicate or that its not and i should better invest in a 217?


I have heard that the Sigma brush E25 is a great brush and does just as good as the MAC 217. I would say go for it if it is cheaper! :)

hi marlena i love your tutorials, this is such a helpful guide :) i just want to saw that you are a very inspirational and stunning woman I wish you all the best of luck for the future :) thanks for being an inspiration to me :)


Do you know which Sigma brushes correlate with each of these? I know they are more affordable than, especially, MAC, and this girl is BROKE!


Hi Kim!
Here is the list that we have for the duplicates for these brushes!
MAC 217 – Sigma Tapered Blending – E35
MAC 239 – Sigma Eye Shading – E55 ( The MAC Brush is a little longer, but this brush does the same :) )
MUG Deluxe Foundation Stippling – Sigma Flat Top Synthetic Kabuki – F80 (The Makeup geek one is a great buy though!)
MAC 219 – Sigma Pencil – E30
MUG Cheek Highlighter – Sigma Small Duo Fibre – F55
MUG Outer-v Brush – Sigma Small Tapered Blending – E45 (The sigma brush is a bit longer and may not produce the same amount of depth as the Makeup Geek Brush, blush the Makeup Geek brush is cheaper!)
Smashbox Angle Brow Brush – Sigma Small Angle – E65
Sonia Kashuk Angle Liner Brush – Sigma Small Eye Liner – E10
MUG Blush Brush – Large Angled Contour – F40
MUG Soft Dome Brush – Sigma Tapered Blending – E40

I hope this works for you! If you have any more questions feel free to contact me directly! alex@makeupgeek.com! :)

Hi marlena

please give me some advice, i’m in 2 makeup and i wish 2 become a makeup artist what wold u advice me to do from the start? am just learning about makeup from youtobe! please please i need ur help.. :'(

First off congrats on starting makeup! It’s a fun hobby and career! :) Of course you need to start with makeup, I would suggest palettes. Palettes are nice and a great buy because of all the colors you will get. Then after you realize which colors go together then you can widen your range of brands/colors/technique! Just try different things, and have fun!

Marlena, I received the stippling brush and the travel set this week and they are such great quality. I am so pleased that now I’ve added several more brushes from MUG to my wishlist. I want to congratulate you on being the absolute BEST person on giving makeup tutorials. I absolutely love watching all your videos. I thought I was pretty up to speed on makeup, but I’ve learned so much through your website. You truly seem to have a passion for what you do and you also seem to be a genuine and sweet person. Best of luck to you and don’t stop doing these videos. You are awesome!

I wish their is a Pencil Brush By MUG, & A good blending brush like the MAC 217 on the MUG site!

@ MakeupByDee: For the pencil brush, you can order the Essence of Beauty duo brush set she has in the MUG store. I use the smaller brush as a pencil brush and it works great. I actually got it at CVS before I saw it in Marlena’s store. I have the MAC 217 and it’s worth every penny. Think of it as a long term investment. Once you have it, it will last you a long time if you take good care of it. Hope that helps.

I recently got the MUG highlighting brush and I LOVE it. It’s great for applying blush as well. It’s small enough that I can put the blush exactly where I want it.

This was so helpful! I am just getting started with make-up and this made me realize how much importance is in the brushes alone!

I just purchased all the MUG brushes you listed; so reasonable priced. I will make a trip to MAC this weekend for the 239 and 217 brushes. I will also go to Target for Sonia Kashuk brush. I am excited about my purchases.

Hi Marlena,
I also have problem when I try to blend my with my brushes. When I run them back and forth across my eye to blend they leave very large eyeshadow “flakes”/”powder” on the inner and outer of my eye. How do I get this to stop happening? Is it my brush because I have used ALLLLL different kinds and it happens everytime. Thanksss

I recently came across your web site and I am very impressed with your tips, tutorials and passion. I have ordered some products that you recommended….and look forward to visiting your site often. Keep up the good work!!

Just wanted to add that if anyone in Canada is looking for a cheaper version of the MAC 219 pencil brush (which here will cost you over $30), there is a Lise Watier brush, I think just called the small crease brush? Something like that…I got it and there is almost no difference, but I paid $19 for it. Still a great brush, I use it every day! :)