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When it comes to mastering the art of the contour, there are several important steps involved. First, you’ll want to really nail the technique. (Spoiler alert: It’s not as hard as it seems, so don’t be intimated.) Then, you need to find the right product; not all contour formulas are created equal, and cream and powder can yield very different results. Next, it’s time to find your shade—another pivotal step, given that going too gray or too dark can quickly leave your skin looking muddy and streaky. And finally, once you’ve checked all those boxes, it’s time to find the right tool for the job.
Just like with makeup, not all contouring brushes are created equal, and it’s important to consider everything from the size to the shape to the types of bristles used. So, to make that final step in the process that much easier, we did the hard work for you.
Read on for the best contour brushes on the market now.
Best Overall: It Cosmetics You Sculpted! Contour & Highlight Brush
This brand consistently comes out with some of our favorite brushes, ever—including this one, which is designed for contouring. Everything from the unbelievably soft bristles to the ergonomic handles to the durability makes us reach for it time and time again. It’s also a great pick for both contour novices and pros, thanks to the hand-cut brush head that makes for flawless strokes and color placement every single time.
Best Budget: E.l.f. Cosmetics Contouring Brush
We’re all for saving your hard-earned cash by choosing inexpensive makeup brushes—particularly because these days, there’s a treasure trove of standouts to choose from. Here’s just one of those, a wallet-friendly choice with dense bristles and a short and structured shape that’s great at strategic and targeted color application, which is exactly what you want when you’re contouring.
Best Drugstore: EcoTools Wonder Color Finish Brush
One of the few drugstore brands that's really doing the eco-friendly thing right, this brush is vegan and PETA-certified with a handle made from renewable bamboo, one of the most sustainable options available. The bristles (there's more than 60,000 of them) impart beautiful coverage and color payoff and come in an oval shape perfect for placing contour. You can also use the brush wet or dry; just dampen the bristles to sheer out the color.
Best Splurge: Charlotte Tilbury Powder & Sculpt Brush
In our expert opinion, there’s truly nothing this legendary makeup artist can do wrong with her eponymous brand. Exhibit A: This ultra-luxe brush that’s worth the price given its versatility. With a tapered end, it can be used not only for contouring but also for blush or even to apply highlighter. To go back to the luxe aspect, it’s also worth pointing out that it’s hand-crafted by master brush makers in Europe, a beautiful and long-lasting addition to your vanity.
Best Angled Brush: MAC Synthetic Duo Fibre Curved Sculpting Brush
Fun fact: Angled brushes pick up more product than traditionally shaped brushes. This is a major win when it comes to contouring since it allows you to carve out the color more precisely. (Try using the pointed tip on smaller spots like around the eyes and nose.) This one also has the added benefit of a subtle curve that perfectly hugs the contours of your face.
Best for Powder Contour: Sephora Collection Pro Contour Brush #79
Soft, tapered, and perfectly fluffy, this pick is perfect for dusting on and blending powder formulas. It's equally effective at applying color as it is at buffing and blending the end result, with a versatile size that can be used pretty much anywhere on the face. Bonus points for the vegan bristles and sustainable wood used for the handle.
Best for Cream Contour: Real Techniques Sculpting Brush
Any type of cream formula is best paired with a brush that has synthetic bristles; they won’t absorb the product like natural hairs can. This one features high-quality synthetic bristles that rival many of those found in much pricier brushes (it’s another great cheapie), with that classic angled shape that’s so perfect for contouring.
Best Dual-Ended: Huda Beauty Tantour Brush
“I'm definitely not a pro when it comes to contouring, but this angled brush makes it that much easier to chisel your jaw or make your cheekbones pop,” says Byrdie associate editor Holly Rhue of her fave. It can be used with either powder or liquid formulas; the smaller size has more densely-packed bristles for precise application, while the larger end has fluffier ones, which are great for buffing away tell-tale lines.
Best Mini: Morphe E8 Detail Contour
The scaled-down size of this pick makes it the perfect choice for sculpting and shading smaller spots, like around the bridge of your nose or a particular part of your cheekbone. The bristles are slim yet dense, and while they work especially well with cream products, they can also be used to apply powder formulas.
Best Fan Brush: Sigma F42 Strobing Fan Brush
While fan brushes aren’t traditionally associated with contouring, they should be. They’re ideal for imparting sheer washes of color, perfect for someone who wants to use a contour product to create natural shading rather than dramatic sculpting. Plus, they’re also absolutely perfect for dusting complementary highlighter tones onto cheeks and browbones. This particular brush is super durable, boasting antimicrobial synthetic bristles, corrosion-resistant metal on the ferrule (the part that connects the bristles and handle), and a waterproof handle.
Best Densely Packed: Pat McGrath Labs Skin Fetish Sublime Perfection Concealer Brush
Pick up this concealer brush and use it for both concealing and contouring purposes. The brush head is angled and the bristles are nice and dense, giving you perfect control over how much product is picked up and laid down. Speaking of, those bristles also feature a patent-pending technology to make blending more seamless than ever. Try it and you’ll see what we mean.
Best Portable: Fenty Beauty Portable Contour & Concealer Brush 150
Okay, we know contouring isn't quite as easy to do on-the-go as, say, applying lipstick, but if you're doing it, you need this brush. And regardless, it’s a great pick for anyone looking to streamline their makeup bag and eliminate bulky brushes. The retractable contour and concealer brush has soft and tapered bristles that are specially cut for extra application. Also nice: The tube is magnetic, and attaches to the brand’s Matte Skinsticks, one of our favorite contouring products.