If you’re a fan of using eye make-up, you’ll know having the right tools on hand makes all the difference in execution and the final result.
Whether you’re keen to go big and bold with a graphic liner or a bold cut crease, or keep things natural with a simple wash of colour across the lid, there’s a brush to help you perfect your preferred look.
Despite being confined to our homes for months on end with nowhere to go but a daily walk or to the supermarket, it seems lockdown hasn’t dampened down our love of make-up. According to market analysts NPD Group, eye make-up sales, led by mascara, eyeshadow and brow products, are on the rise, accounting for 25 per cent of total make-up sales.
Decorating your lids with colour and texture is a fun way to play with colour that won’t be affected by a face covering, now mandatory in most public places, and even if you’re just experimenting at home.
We’ve spent weeks testing brushes, examining them on how well they pick up product, apply onto skin, how easy it is to blend and how well they clean after use. From big-name brands to smaller, independent companies, we’ve narrowed our list down to cover all bases.
All worthy of a place in your make-up kit, these high-quality tools span across all budgets too, so whether you want something affordable or a luxurious treat, there’s something for everyone.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism acrossThe Independent.
Trish McEvoy brush 23 angled crease contour
This uniquely shaped brush is ideal if you gravitate towards paler colours such as pastels, that are often sheer in pigment and need to be built up to create an even wash of colour across the lid. The pointed tip and densely-packed flat, angled design is perfect for packing on product from the inner corner across to the outer corner in one quick sweep. We tried it with a lilac eyeshadow powder and it created a smooth colour payoff without patchy areas. It has a nice weighty handle too that feels secure in your hand and we were able to wash it clean even after using darker pink shades which typically stain.
Zoeva 315 fine liner brush
If you’re hoping to try your hand at graphic eyeliner looks dominating TikTok and Instagram, this ultra-precise tool is the best helping hand for your make-up arsenal. Shaped into a super fine point, it’s made from nylon bristles with an ergonomic handle that will help avoid smudging the rest of your make-up when you apply any cream, gel or liquid eyeliners. Whether you’re attempting to do a colourful floating crease, a double winged flick or add dots to accent under your brow or in the inner corner of your eye, it’s a cleverly designed brush that’s great for experimenting with more complex looks.
Nars #23 precision blending brush
This small tapered tool comes in handy when you’re working with bolder colours and want to exercise as much control over it as possible. It fits neatly into your eye socket to blend out darker shades such as blacks, burgundy and purples for a neat smokey eye. We loved how easily it blended out powder and cream eyeliner for a soft focus finish that wasn’t too harsh. The dainty size also makes it great for applying colour on the lower lash line to tie a look together, not to mention the chic, matte black handle is as elegant as the rest of Nars’s sleek product packaging.
Kohl Kreatives ei8ht brush
This colourful brush was designed to aid make-up wearers who are visually impaired or disabled. The brush handle is a square shape so you can stand it upright or lay it down without it rolling off your table, a feature you don’t realise you need until you’ve picked the same brush off the floor three times. The asymmetric bristles are similar to a stippling brush, which means it works wonders for cream textures as they allow you to buff out bolder pigments into softer shades. They also make quick work of sparkly liquid eyeshadow that can be tricky to apply without overdoing it.
Bobbi Brown eye sweep brush
Full-rounded and fluffy, this large brush is the perfect partner for powder products and we loved using it to apply base colours all over eyelids to even out skin tone and create a base on which to build deeper shades on top of. It’s versatile too, we found it worked really well for simpler make-up looks and if you want one tool to do every part of your eye make-up, this is perfect. It buffs in darker shades into the crease easily and picks up plenty of product from the eyeshadow pan to sweep all over the lid with little fallout. Soft and fuss-free, it delivers an even application and is lightweight to hold. You can’t go wrong with this.
Spectrum Collections B06 tall tapered blender
If you’re a complete eyeshadow novice, this fluffy brush is a must have. Simply blend powder back and forth in windscreen wiper motion to blend together shades in seconds. It works best with powder or loose pigment, it’s not densely packed enough to get on well with a cream or liquid product, but if you’re looking for a cheap and cheerful design that cleans well, maintains its shape and you’ll get use out of every day, this is a winner.
Morphe E29 angled brow/spoolie brush
No make-up kit is complete without this multi-purpose brush that can be used to brush up and shape brows, coat lower lashes, define brow hair and create sharp eyeliner in gel, powder or cream products. For just over a fiver you get two brushes in one, with the angled design on one end being a foolproof way to master a cat-eye flick in one simple sweep. There’s nothing not to love about this everyday essential. Despite its budget-friendly price tag, it isn’t flimsy nor are the bristles scratchy on the skin.
Edy London precision pencil/shader brush 13
Make-up artist and expert eyelash technician Edy Kurowska created her brush brand in lockdown, when beauty salons shut their doors for most of 2020. The 28-piece line up is vegan and budget-friendly, but it’s this firm, flat style tool that’s our favourite. It’s ideal for quickly blending in eyeshadow primer as a first step before you add any powder, cream or liquid pigment products. The brush handles come in four bright colours and the taklon bristles are lovely and soft but retain their shape well. It’s a brilliantly affordable way to update your kit if you like precise application of your eye make-up.
Hourglass no. 6 tapered blender brush
This is your classic fluffy eyeshadow brush designed for blending powder and cream products through the crease and socket. Made with taklon bristles that are PETA approved, it’s a luxury vegan option that doesn’t compromise on efficacy. The handle is weighted which we found helped control exactly where powder blended while keeping it looking tidy. The tapered shape makes it the perfect tool to bring your eyeshadow into a soft focus feline flick that when worn with lashes of mascara looks effortlessly elegant.
The verdict: Best eye make-up brushes
As we experiment more with eye make-up in lockdown and wearing face coverings on every outing, the Trish McEvoy brush 23 angled crease contour brush is one that you’re unlikely to have in your kit already and is brilliant for packing on colour. With one sweep it applies powder and cream products evenly across the eyelid and is well worth the investment if you want something simple but effective that takes little practice to master using.
For more eye, make-up saviours read how we put Anastasia Beverly Hills and West Barn Co to the test to work out which eyebrow wax is best for a long-lasting feathery effect?
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