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Makeup application is an art form, and yet that doesn't mean only those born with artistic abilities should try their hand at it. Most people have dabbled with eyeshadow—it's been around since the dawn of cosmetics, after all—but if it's not part of your everyday getting-ready routine, applying it can be a little intimidating.
Applying eye makeup is all about technique, and getting it right takes practice—but anyone can do it. The first thing you'll need is the right set of tools. We're talking about eyeshadow brushes, of course. These instruments are crucial for defining, shading, and blending your way to pro-level glam.
Scroll down to find the best eyebrow brushes for every budget.
Best Overall: Bobbi Brown Eye Shadow Brush
If we could bring only one eyeshadow brush with us to a desert island, we'd grab this classic pick by makeup legend Bobbi Brown. With synthetic bristles and a round, perfectly sloped head, it's ideal for defining your lash line, smoothing color into your crease, and all-over blending. This brush is designed for powdered shadows, effortlessly picking up and holding pigment until you tap off the excess or swipe it onto your lids.
Best Budget: e.l.f. Cosmetics Eyeshadow "C" Brush
For something a little easier on your wallet, check out the medium-sized "C" brush. This ultra-soft and super-absorbent tool can be used with both powder and cream eyeshadows, making it easy to nail a flawless finish every time.
Best Drugstore: EcoTools Duo Eyeshadow Makeup Brush Set
EcoTools makes some of the best drugstore makeup brushes, and this two-pack is no exception. These dual-ended shadow brushes have everything you need to define, smudge, shade, and blend your heart out. Plus, they're made of recycled, sustainable materials, so you can feel good about the carbon footprint of your glam.
Best Splurge: Chanel Retractable Dual-Ended Eyeshadow Brush N°200
If you're going to splurge on an eyeshadow brush, it should be Chanel N°200. This dual-ended tool is retractable and has caps on both ends, so it's ideal for on-the-go makeup. And the high-quality bristles effortlessly glide over your eyelids with cream or powder formulas.
Best Set: Real Perfection Makeup Eye Brush Set
This set comes with seven eyeshadow brushes. While the oh-so-soft synthetic bristles are gentle against your skin, they pick up plenty of pigment. The wood handles come in pink, black, or a chic white marble design.
Best Value: Real Techniques Eyeshadow Makeup Brush Set
This two-pack from Real Techniques comes with two tapered brushes, one for shading and one for blending. They're incredibly plush and dense, which makes it easy to build color and get the shaded look you're going for.
Best for Beginners: NYX Professional Makeup Pro All Over Shadow Brush
If you're an eyeshadow novice, start with the NYX All Over Shadow Brush. With a medium-sized head and slightly fanned synthetic bristles, this easy-to-use tool is designed for creating sheer looks, layering colors, and blending.
Best for Blending: MAC #217S Synthetic Blending Brush
"My favorite ever blending eyeshadow brush is the #217 by Mac Cosmetics. "It's great for softening the edges of your eyeshadow," says makeup artist Caitlin Cullimore. "It's great for doing eyeshadow in your crease, too."
Best for Crease: Fenty Beauty Tapered Blending Brush 210
When you need to contour the crease of your eyelid, reach for this fluffy pink number. Fenty Beauty's 210 Brush is expertly tapered and custom-cut for blending eyeshadows into a flawlessly diffused finish.
Best Angled: Sigma Beauty E70 Medium Angled Shading Brush
With extra-soft, perfectly angled bristles and slightly beveled edges, the E70 is a go-to for sheer and medium eyeshadow application. You can use it to sweep shadows across your lower lids, shade your creases, and even highlight your brow bones.
Best Flat: Sacha Cosmetics Flat Eyeshadow Brush
If you're looking to add a flat brush to your collection, your best bet is this sleek little guy from Sacha Cosmetics. The small head and curved tip are ideal for defining your crease, applying shadows to your lash line, and pressing on glittery products. Made with high-quality synthetic bristles, it's gentle on your delicate eyelids and won't shed.
Best Precision: IT Brushes for ULTA Airbrush Precision Shadow Brush #112
We're also loving #112 from the IT Cosmetics and ULTA collab. The small rounded head is designed for precision, and the lightweight comfort-grip handle gives you added control while applying eyeshadow.
Best Small: Wet n Wild Small Eyeshadow Brush
It's always good to have a small brush on hand, and you can't go wrong with this petite tool by Wet n Wild. Thanks to a domed head with innovative bristles, it picks up an impressive amount of product. The short brush and ergonomic handle allow for better control around your lash line, brow bone, and inner corners.
Best for Lash Line: Morphe M432 Flat Liner Definer Brush
A small flat-tipped brush with a straight edge like the Morphe M432 is ideal for applying eyeshadow to your lash lines and buffing out the color. "It's firm, not flimsy, and has the sharpest tip," says Cullimore.
Best for Smoky Eye: Charlotte Tilbury Eye Smudger Brush
When it comes to smoky-eye makeup, the right brush is essential—and the Eye Smudger is up for the task. This eyeshadow brush has short and dense yet comfortably soft bristles, allowing you to smudge black, charcoal, and other dark colors in targeted areas to create a sultry, smoldering effect.
Best for Cream Shadow: Hourglass All-Over Shadow Brush
If you're working with a cream formula, you'll be glad to have this tool in your arsenal. The No. 3 Shadow Brush has a rounded tip with luxuriously soft Taklon bristles that mimic authentic boar hairs. You can apply and blend creamy eyeshadows and even seamlessly layer on powders for a stunning airbrushed look that lasts all day.
The best option overall is the Bobbi Brown Eye Shadow Brush. Its high-quality bristles and thoughtfully designed rounded head make for an all-around excellent applicator tool. But if you're looking for something a little more affordable or want a few more brush types, EcoTools Eye Enhancing Duo Set is a great option. You'll get two dual-ended brushes, which make for four brush heads—everything you need to create any eye look.
What to Look For in an Eyeshadow Brush
As you can see, eyeshadow brushes come in all shapes and sizes. Some have specific purposes, like defining your lash line or blending color, while others have multi-use designs.
If you're buying only one, your best bet is to get a medium-sized brush with a rounded tip that can be used on your lower lids, creases, and lash lines. But if you're building a brush collection, we recommend also getting a flat brush, a small brush, an angled brush, a short and dense smudger brush, and a slightly larger brush for blending.
Bristles are another important feature. Most eyeshadow brushes on the market today have synthetic bristles, which are gentle on most skin types and designed to pick up lots of pigment.
According to makeup artist Sophia Nawabi, higher-quality eyeshadow brushes will have sturdier bristles that don't fall out. "What I mean by fall out is that the hairs do not fall off while I sanitize my brushes and disinfect them regularly," she explains. "Durability and longevity are so important to me as an artist."
You'll also want to consider the handle. Some are ergonomic or otherwise designed to be easy to grip and fit comfortably in your hand. This is ideal for more complex eyeshadow techniques, as it reduces fatigue. Not only that, but it can give you more control as you position your hand at various angles.
Some people prefer lightweight handles, as they're a little easier to hold for long periods. However, others like weighted designs, as they can provide a bit more control for precision applications.
How do you use eyeshadow brushes?
First, sweep a neutral shade over your lids with a medium brush. Then take a darker color and apply it to the inner corners of your eyelids using a smaller brush. Next, apply a lighter shadow above the crease and up toward your brow bone. Finally, blend everything together with a soft medium-to-large brush.
How do you clean eyeshadow brushes?
Fill your sink or a large bowl with lukewarm water and add a few drops of dish soap or mild shampoo. Dip the brush heads into the soapy solution, gently massaging the bristles with your fingers.
Rinse your brushes with cold water, then squeeze out the moisture using a clean towel. Form the brush heads back into their original shape, and allow them to air dry.
What eyeshadow brushes do you use with cream shadow?
Brushes with synthetic bristles are best for cream eyeshadows, as natural hairs can be too absorbent. Also, creams can be a little trickier to wash off than powder, and synthetic fibers tend easier to clean. Additionally, options with denser bristles are better for blending cream formulas, as the product is less likely to get stuck in the fibers.
Why Trust Byrdie?
Byrdie contributor Theresa Holland is an experienced commerce writer specializing in cosmetics. She watched many hours of YouTube tutorials on eyeshadow application before doing her own wedding makeup and boasts an above-average amateur skill level. Theresa is a big fan of EcoTools and can personally vouch for the Eye Enhancing Duo Set. She also tends to like brushes from Real Techniques, e.l.f. Cosmetics, Morphe, and MAC.
According to our Diversity Pledge, 15% of products in our newly-published market roundups will feature Black-owned and/or Black-founded brands. At the time of publishing, we were not able to find enough eyeshadow brushes from a Black-owned and/or Black-founded business to meet this percentage. If you know of one we should consider, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will evaluate the product ASAP.