May 6th, 2015
They are – literally – the tools of the trade. Brushes are a highly personal topic, with one artist favouring particular brushes which someone else might not rate as highly. It’s all about making things work for you and your style, so we at Warpaint decided to try and carve out some distinctions in the brush sector, and look at some of the brushes which have worked their way into the hands of some of the world’s best artists.
Brushes are a big investment, with individual tools costing as much as hundreds of pounds. As such, we thought we’d suggest some great starting options, for if you’re building up your kit or requiring multiples of single options. For example, everyone loves the famous MAC 217 for its versatility and fantastic shape – ideal for creams, powders, eyeshadows, concealers, you name it – but the £19 price tag can quickly add up. While we wholeheartedly recommend the original, the Zoeva 227 is very similar and at £6.95 you can afford to keep a couple of spares stashed.
Zoeva are becoming big news, thanks to their regular releases of new brushes and kits, and a successful introduction into the UK market. They’re fantastic value for money, with minimal shedding and a wide variety of styles – their latest launches are the Spot Liner (£5.95) and Fan Brush (£9.50). The Fan Brush is a lovely mix of synthetic and natural hair, light as a feather, and open enough without being so wide it spread powder where it’s not wanted. Pick them up at Love Make Up or through the brand’s own European shop.
Real Techniques and ECOTools provide excellent quality tools with high street prices and availability. The Core Collection from Real Techniques is a very well thought out quartet, with a good sized buffing brush, tiny flat detailer, petite flat foundation brush (although we prefer it for concealer) and a perfectly-sized contour brush. Foolproof, the kit costs just £20.99 – although we found it online for £11.50 here! We spoke about ECOTool’s latest Complexion Collection launch here, but we’re also fans of the Bamboo 5 Piece Brush Set (£19.99).
So what about the other end of the scale – where do you look for the best brushes in the business? Kumano, in Japan, is the home of the highest quality brushes, with Hakuhodo, Koyudo and Chikuhodo all originating from this town, with a centuries-long tradition of creating the finest handmade artisan brushes in the world. You may actually be using some of these brushes without realising, as they also manufacture for other brands. For example, if you’re lusting over a Chikuhodo brush you might already own one of their creations in the form of RMK, Shiseido or SUQQU brushes. These Japanese giants, along with other industry heavyweights including DaVinci, Raphael, Anisa International (who creates brushes for Estée Lauder, Sephora, MAC etc.) and Taiki Group, have also been known to create brushes for fine artists. As many bodypainters will tell you, be sure to check art supply shops which may stock similar brush styles to the ones you’re after for a cheaper price, as they come without a highly-priced name attached. My Brush Betty has some great interviews and further information if you’re interested in the making of brushes.
Let’s look at Chikuhodo brushes, which some artists swear to be the softest of the lot. Handpicked hairs of only the highest quality are used in a meticulous 60-step, week-long production process, thanks to the careful work of more than 100 individual artisans. For professionals such as yourselves, you should investigate the GSN series. Yutaro Takemori, a third-generation brush maker at Chikuhodo, suggests here that this 16-strong collection covers everything you could need – “We designed them to work seamlessly with a variety of makeup brands and products […] They’re easy to grip and use thanks to the extra-long handles, so both pros and novices have been really happy with them.” If you’d like to dip your toe in the Japanese brush pool, the Passion series would be a good choice to start with. Do your research and order online – but be prepared for a wait, as each one is hand-made when ordered.
Australian MUA Rae Morris has made waves all over the world, and we were particularly intrigued by her Magnetic Kabuki Range of brushes – each brush is created with a magnet in its base, meaning they can stand upright, or hang from a magnetic plate upside down to dry. Her signature Radiance Brush ($110 AUD) is the one she’s most proud of – “This brush has literally changed my life. I used to airbrush quite a bit, but the Radiance has changed all that. Whether it’s powder, liquid, cream or mineral foundation, this is the only brush I reach for.” Her site has useful videos detailing how to use the brushes, and you can find them stocked at Love Make Up if you want to see them in person.
Siân Richards’ London Brush Company celebrates its tenth birthday this year! Born out of chance and necessity, Siân was lamenting the existence of quality brushes to a friend, who told her to go away and make her own and he would retail them for her at The Makeup Show in LA. Struck by the challenge, Siân created a handful of brushes, which sold out on the first day of the show – and thus The London Brush Company was formed. Her brush quality is impeccable, and you know that her many years of on-set experience has been poured into each and every brush design. The Debut Collection ($98) is an excellent basis for any collection.
Paula Dorf and Louise Young are other MUA’s who have created their own eponymous ranges. Paula Dorf’s range has a vocal fan in the form of Lisa Eldridge, who often features her brushes in her blog videos, including this one. The Paula Dorf Smokie Lid brush ($28) is a particular favourite, with Lisa lavishing praise on its ideal density and tapering, making it very precise for crease and lashline work.
We were lucky enough to catch up with Louise Young at UMAe recently, and she told us all about her new colour cosmetics collection (the Lip Colour Trio is beautiful in both colour and formula), but her brushes were her first foray into creating products for other artists. Lovers of her brush range include Jenny Shircore, Sarah Monzani and Val Garland. Her LY34 Super Foundation brush (£24) has won fans for its speed and ease of working in cream and liquid bases – and her latest brush looks to build on that success. The LY48 Mini Super Foundation Brush (£19) shares the same rounded shape as its larger sibling, making it different to the traditional flat foundation brush, yet more directional than a flat-topped buffing brush. The Mini version is perfect for contouring, highlighting or concealing with cream products – check it out at PAM.
At the end of the day, brushes are always going to be a highly personal choice – Mike Spatola, in our interview, told us about a cheap brush which he has held onto since the 1970s, because its age and wear has created the perfect brush for character work. If it works for you, keep with it! We’d love to hear some of your favourite brushes – leave comments below, or tweet us with your suggestions @Warpaint_Mag.