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The Best Brushes for Contouring, According to Makeup Artists

by Nicole M. Arcano | Nov 30, 2018

Mastering the art of contouring requires using the right tools for the job. We gathered makeup artist-approved brushes so you, too, can sculpt like a pro!

Let's face it—your contour can only be as good as how you choose to apply it. Even the best contour palette in the world can be useless when it's not used with the correct tool, which is why before you chisel those cheeks, you better be armed with the right stuff. Consider finding the perfect contour brush a nice place to start, because whether you contour with sticks or powders, you can always count on a brush to sculpt your face the way you want it. Your options are borderline endless, but because it's our job to make your shopping life easier, we broke it down to the essentials below. Not only that, we asked professional makeup artists for their top recommendations, too, narrowing your options down even more! Ready to talk brushes? Keep scrolling!

Angled Powder Brush

The simplest and most beginner-friendly, angled powder brushes work for both cream and powder contouring products. Celebrity makeup artist Rick Calderon explains that the angular cut on the MAC 168 and Hakuhodo J4003 brushes is perfect for reaching the hollows of the face compared to a rounded tip. Blending back and forth couldn't be easier as well, since the brush is already shaped similarly to the dip under your cheekbone. That said, if you plan to use it for cream contour, opt for one with synthetic bristles since they're less likely to be stained.

MAC 168 Synthetic Large Angled Contour Brush, P2750, SM Megamall

Curved Powder Brush

The unique shape of Laura Mercier's Glow Powder Brush allows it to be quite multi-purpose. It's angled but has a dip in the center that helps deposit product right on the cheekbone. While it was originally made to match their loose highlighting powder, makeup artist Anthea Bueno prefers it for contouring. "It was really designed to follow the contours of the face, [so it's] super easy to maneuver on the crevices," she says. 


LAURA MERCIER Glow Powder Brush, P2250, Rustan's

Soft Angled Sculpting Brush

If you're a fan of creams, a synthetic brush that's slightly angled will apply it directly over the essential areas. The more effective kinds resemble the density and texture of a classic foundation brush, which looks like a paint brush, since it smoothes the cream over the skin for better coverage.

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Makeup artist Jason delos Reyes' favorite is NARS' The Sculptor for how well it works with different textures. "I always start with cream contour before applying any powders, [and] this particular brush has an angled shape and synthetic but super soft bristles, so most of the creams or liquids that I use with this [become] easy to blend," says the makeup artist.


NARS The Sculptor, P4300, Rustan's

Tapered Sculpting Brush

Precise application is usually tricky for powder brushes, but the small and teardrop-shaped sculpting brush makes it possible. "It gives [more] control when applying product on the hollows of the face," says Jason. The shape is the reason it's Anton Patdu's favorite as well, particularly Charlotte Tilbury's Powder & Sculpt Brush. "Because of the shape, it matches any face shape, and it works as a blush brush, too, depending on [how you] swipe," he explains. Japonesque's Kumadori Contour & Highlighting Brush is another MUA favorite, recommended by Carell Garcia. "Aside from its dual functionality, the soft fibers won’t irritate my sensitive skin. As it lightly deposits products, using this brush makes it easier for me to do blending," she says.


NARS The Small Brightener, P2850, Rustan's 

Small Round Contour Brush

Although less precise than tapered brushes, round contour brushes are also well-loved by artists for a diffused contour. Real Techniques' Contour Brush from the Core Collection is a favorite of makeup artists Nicole Soliven and Sylvina Lopez for the way that it blends the product upon application. Meanwhile, Jyka Espinoza recommends the MAC 109, which has a similar shape, for its small enough size that easily sculpts the curves of the face. It's one of the best brushes for beginners since it basically blends your contour for you.


REAL TECHNIQUES Contour Brush from the Flawless Base Set, P1150, Freyja, Glorietta 2

Flat Kabuki

NARS' Ita brush is one of the most popular contour brushes out there—and for good reason. Its flat and almost rectangular tip can add precision to applying powders and creams, almost as if you contoured with a stick. Not to mention how the dense bristles allows you to blend it in directly after. Makeup artist Zidjian Floro agrees, saying it's his favorite as it makes cutting the hollows of the cheek easier.


NARS Ita Kabuki Brush, P2500, Rustan's

Oval/Paddle Brush

Oval brushes gained popularity for the densely-packed bristles on their flat edge that allows it to blend products like foundation, concealer, or even eyeshadow seamlessly. Bespoke brush brand Artis helped usher this brush type into the mainstream, coming in different shapes and sizes to cater to various blending needs. Now, many brands carry similar kinds.

According to makeup artist Xeng Zulueta, she uses two kinds of oval brushes to contour. First is the linear brush, or a thin, elongated oval. "Linear brushes deliver sharp angles and because of the way the handles are positioned, you can create perfect symmetry and balance," she explains. "[It's] what I use to contour the cheeks, forehead, and under the jawline." Similarly, she uses smaller linear brushes to contour the nose and eyes. She then blurs out all the harsh lines with a medium-sized oval brush. The result? A defined, yet invisible sculpt!


ARTIS BRUSH Elite Collection Gen 2 Smoke Finish Oval #6, P4100,; Elite Collection Gen 2 Smoke Finish Linear in #6, P3300,

Fan Brush

Fan brushes are not just effective for diffusing highlighter, makeup artist Chuchie Ledesma recommends it for contouring also. She says she prefers it over fluffy contour brushes because it gives her more control over how much product is applied. This is because of its fine edge that deposits product precisely, an effect similar to a contour stick, except more diffused thanks to the fine bristles.


Explaining how she uses it, Chuchie says, "I start off with sheer shading, more of wisps, then I always pack on color as needed. I can also create a sharp but subtle line to define the cheekbones with [it]."

URBAN DECAY UD Pro Contour Shapeshifter Brush, P1980,

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