Makeup brush sets can be so helpful. Many of us have started out applying our makeup with a mediocre makeup brush set that we slowly upgrade brush by brush until it’s relegated to the bottom of a drawer, to be forgotten forever. However, if you start out with an amazing brush set right off the bat, you can enjoy those makeup brushes forever!
You don’t have to be a makeup beginner to consider picking up a new brush set. Maybe you’ve been making do for too long with an insufficient set of makeup brushes or maybe you had a magnificent collection that you lost in a tragic accident.
We’ve collected the best makeup brush sets on the market, so you can feel like a true artist even if you’re a makeup newbie. We give some advice on what you should keep in mind when choosing the best makeup brush set for you. We’ve also included an explanation about the main types of makeup brush sets you’ll find, and we’ve also profiled the most important brushes you should have in your personal set of makeup brushes.
In this article:
- Our Picks of the Best Makeup Brush Sets
- What to Look for in the Perfect Makeup Brush Kit for You?
- Types of Makeup Brush Sets
- Must-Have Brushes in Your Makeup Brush Sets
Our Picks of the Best Makeup Brush Sets
These are the 13 best makeup brush sets you should check out, with a variety of amazing brushes to suit every need, technique, and budget. All of these makeup brush sets are vegan unless stated otherwise.
1. Sigma Beauty Essential Kit
This basic makeup brush set is a great place to start, since it includes all the must-haves for a full face. It includes 12 brushes for the face and eyes to apply and blend all manner of cream and powder products. These vegan brushes are soft and comfortable to use, with a sleek black handle and silver ferrule design. It’s a great choice for beginners, although some brushes are definitely made for old-school techniques. Buy the set from Nordstrom!
2. Sephora Collection Ready To Roll Brush Set
Sephora makeup brushes definitely deserve more hype than they get! This 10-brush set is heavy on the complexion items, and it was put together with modern techniques in mind. There is a foundation buffing brush, a few complexion powder brushes, and a few eye makeup brushes as well. You might find yourself needing a couple more shadow brushes for an eye-focused look, but your skin will be flawless. It comes with a faux-leather brush roll-up case included. It is available at Sephora.
3. Rae Morris Makeup Brush Set
For most makeup fans out there, a Rae Morris makeup brush is the dream. This is probably the best makeup brush set on this list, and the price reflects that. It’s a set of 8 pieces, with each brush handmade in Japan to the precise specifications of celebrity artist Rae Morris.
Unlike other makeup brush sets on this list, these brushes are not enough on their own – you’ll probably want a few more shadow brushes and some smaller complexion brushes. That being said, it’s a great way of upgrading your existing collection with some super high-quality brushes.
The bottom of each brush is magnetized, and they come with a plate to hold them upright. Note that this set is not vegan. Order it online from Net-a-Porter!
4. Morphe The James Charles Brush Set
James Charles isn’t getting a lot of love right now, but this brush set collaboration deserves some attention. First things first, it’s massive, with 34 brushes, a makeup sponge, and a carrying case. This set takes into account that for a full face you sometimes need doubles of a certain brush, so there are multiple eye blending brushes, shadow brushes, and more. Note that some of the brushes in the set are better than others, and that some users report shedding. Get it at Ulta!
5. Luxie Rose Gold Brush Collection
With this makeup brush set you can start your makeup journey on a cheerful foot. Each brush in here is an excellent item, and the 12-piece set has every brush you’ll need for a full beat. This set is definitely comparable to the Sigma kit, but with rose gold ferrules and frosty pink handles it’s just so much more girly and festive. It comes with a matching pink carrying case as well, to keep your brushes safe. Pick it up from Nordstrom!
6. BH Cosmetics Crystal Quartz – 12 Piece Brush Set with Cosmetic Bag
This is one of the best makeup brush sets for makeup fans on a tight budget. Sure, these lovely little brushes weren’t made by a long-bearded Japanese artisan, but they absolutely do the trick. This adorable set of 12 brushes is made with modern application techniques in mind, and no brush seems superfluous. The set comes with an iridescent carrying case that matches the metallic ferrule of each brush. It is sold at Ulta.
7. Kevyn Aucoin The Expert Brush Collection
This professional-level collection can be a nice upgrade. It features 5 brushes, although since they’re dual-ended it’s more like having 10 brushes. Dual-ended makeup brushes are not necessarily the most convenient for at-home use, but they definitely make the best makeup brush sets for travel, since they allow you to apply a full face by taking up a lot less space. This set comes with a fold-out carrying case. Note that this set features both animal-hair and synthetic brushes. You can find it online through Dermstore.
8. Smashbox The Essential Brush Collection
If you only need a small upgrade, then this collection is worth picking up. It’s a set of 5 brushes, and includes a buffing foundation brush, blush brush, angled liner/ brow brush, pencil brush, and eye blending/ crease brush. Each brush is useful and modern, but it’s a small set that won’t be enough on its own for most. It’s a great modern, pro-level supplement for old school brush kits. Purchase it from Nordstrom, but feel free to toss the silicone applicator.
9. Real Techniques Flawless Base Set
This is one of the best makeup brush sets for complexion makeup needs. If you’ve got your eye makeup all under control but are still working to perfect that base then pick up this 4-brush set. It has everything you need for applying foundation, powder, blush or contour, and very precise concealer, and it even comes with a brush cup for your counter! These makeup brushes are affordable, but super soft and durable. Grab the set from Ulta!
10. Artis Elite Mirror Ten Brush Set
The luxury of a an oval brush is undeniable, and this is the best makeup brush set in the oval category by far. This set of 10 will allow you to apply your entire makeup look with oval brushes, from complexion to eyes. These super soft makeup brushes are vegan but oh-so-comfy to use.
While I’m not convinced by them for detail work like applying eyeliner, I gotta admit it’s hard not to appreciate the sheer majesty of them. They are particularly great for those of you who favor cream-based products for most of your look. Order the set from Sephora!
11. Too Faced Mr. Right Eye Essential Brush Set
Is there anything cuter than the little bowtie decorating the ferrule of these makeup brushes? Too Faced brushes are adorable, super-soft, and well-constructed, so they’re never a bad idea, especially if you like your tools to have a playful aesthetic. This makeup brush set consists strictly of eye brushes, and each one of them can be useful. Buy it at Nordstrom!
12. IT Brushes For ULTA Your Beautiful Basics Airbrush 101 5 Pc
Getting Started Brush Set This Ulta-exclusive is an excellent set of basics for a flawless complexion along with some multi-use makeup brushes that could also work for the eyes. Each brush is ideal for both cream and powder products. The lightweight, chrome-colored handles are a striking choice, while the carrying case they come with is very convenient and well-structured. This makeup brush kit is available at Ulta.
13. e.l.f. Cosmetics 19 Piece Brush Collection
This full makeup brush set is a bargain, especially for beginners. While not every brush here is a winner, the value is such that it’s not a big deal if you don’t use each one. This starter set will allow you to learn what your brush preferences are, since you can always update your collection in the future.
This makeup brush kit was put together to suit a modern makeup application, with lots of buffing and blending brushes for different product textures. The black handles and ferrules are timeless and classic, so you can easily pass for a pro, and as a bonus this collection comes with a roll-up case. You can get it from Ulta.
What to Look for in the Perfect Makeup Brush Kit for You?
When choosing the right makeup brushes for you, it’s good to consider how you actually apply your makeup both on a casual basis and when you go all out. A makeup application is a very individualized thing, with different people favoring different techniques based on their products and personal style. Because of that, no makeup brush set is one size fits all.
When choosing which will be the best makeup brush set for you, start off by breaking down your makeup routine step by step. You might realize that some brushes are totally indispensable to your look, while others you could do without.
Unless you buy a set with over 19 brushes, you’re probably not going to find a makeup brush set where you will use every single brush and won’t require anything else, but that’s okay. Find a makeup brush kit that covers most of your needs, and then pick up two or three individual brushes that fill in any gaps. You can also be a makeup minimalist who can do a full face with just 5 brushes, and that’s okay too.
Types of Makeup Brush Sets
Not all makeup brush sets were created equal. There are a few different types of brush kits you will usually see, that differ in the amount of brush in them as well as the kinds of brushes they contain.
Basic Makeup Brush Sets
A basic brush set will have anywhere between 5-8 brushes, and will normally contain both complexion brushes and eye makeup brushes. These sets are rarely enough for applying a full face of makeup on their own, but they can be a great base set around which you can build a more comprehensive brush collection.
If you’re thinking of buying such a small, basic set, I think it’s important to choose carefully and make sure to select one where you know you will probably use every one of the brushes.
Full Makeup Brush Sets
A full makeup brush set will usually contain between 10-19 brushes that will cover complexion, eye makeup, and then some. If you’re a beginner that would like to jump feet first into the makeup work, then a set like this is the best way to start, since it will contain everything you could need.
Some full makeup brush sets can be a little dated, with brushes that fit application techniques that have gone out of style, but that’s often okay. As long as you believe you will use 85% of a set, it’s often a good investment that will be more affordable than buying each brush individually.
A great quality full makeup brush set can last you for decades, but it’s also okay to buy a cheaper full makeup brush kit when you’re still starting out. This is because when you’re first learning how to apply makeup and developing your own style, you may not know which brushes you actually like or want to use.
A full set will allow you to learn, but it won’t be a great loss if you discover that a lot of the brushes in it are not to your taste and need to be replaced.
Complexion Makeup Brush Sets
Complexion kits are makeup brush sets that only include face brushes. They usually contain between 3-5 brushes, and will usually include foundation, powder, concealer, and blush/ contour/ highlight brushes. Sometimes they may also include small blending brushes that can work both for the face and eyes.
Buying one of these makeup brush kits and one eye makeup brush set can give you a comprehensive makeup brush collection.
Eye Makeup Brush Sets
An eye makeup brush set can help complete your collection, but it can also be a dud. Most eye sets will include around 5 brushes and are intended to allow you to achieve a full eye makeup look.
However, eyeshadow makeup is very different from person to person, so you should definitely investigate carefully when choosing the right makeup brush kit for you. Eye brush sets can be a wonderful supplement to a basic or even full makeup brush set, because there are so many eye makeup brushes of which it is good to have doubles.
Mega Makeup Brush Sets
Though I’ve included a mega-sized makeup brush set in my recommendation list, I’ll be the first to admit that I find these excessive. Mega makeup brush sets will include anywhere from 20 brushes or more, and they may contain brush duplicates like the James Charles x Morphe set.
Unless you’re the kind of makeup fan who likes having a ton of brushes but you’ve lost all of your brushes in a fire, I think it’s much better to start with the essentials and then build your collection one by one.
Must-Have Brushes in Your Makeup Brush Sets
I’ve already covered all of the different types of makeup brushes that exist, but which brushes do you actually need to have in your personal collection? I cover the most common brushes you will find in the best makeup brush sets, which might help you figure out which set will be ideal for you.
A foundation brush may not be necessary for you if you prefer to use a makeup sponge or if you take inspiration from Pat McGrath and use your fingers. You certainly won’t need it if you don’t wear foundation at all or if you use a powder foundation.
However, if you’re not about that finger-painting life or find sponges alone don’t do the trick, then a foundation brush should definitely be part of your makeup brush kit. Consider whether you prefer applying foundation with a buffing brush, which is what I consider the modern technique, or if you’d rather find a set with a flat, old-school foundation brush.
You can find foundation brushes in all 10+ brush sets, as well as in complexion sets and some basic sets.
A fluffy face powder brush is a must for almost all of us, because it can do so much! It can be used to set your foundation, apply powder foundation, or blend out blush and contour. In a pinch, a fluffy powder brush will also work for applying blush, contour, and highlight.
A powder brush is usually dome-shaped, but it can also be flat-topped or tapered. You will find powder brushes in most basic makeup brush kits, full sets, and complexion sets.
Blush, Contour, and Highlight Brush
The finer work of applying complexion products like blush and contour is usually done with a smaller powder brush. Basic sets and complexion sets will usually include just one small powder brush to apply all three product categories, while full sets will include two or three small powder brushes usually in slightly different shapes.
These brushes are usually dome-shaped, angled, or tapered, though in some cases you will see makeup brush sets with flat-topped brushes for cream contour or blush or fan brushes for a lighter layer of powder highlighter.
Eye Blending Brush
An eye blending brush is a small, fluffy brush that can be dome-shaped or tapered. Blending brushes are a must for blending out darker eyeshadows, but they can also be very useful for setting the under-eye area with powder or for doing delicate contour work.
All makeup brush sets should include an eye blending brush, with the exception of complexion sets, and for most of us having multiple eye blending brushes (identical or of different styles) can be extremely useful.
A crease brush refers to a packed, dense brush that is either rounded or angled. These brushes are used to apply darker eyeshadow to the outer corner and crease of the eye. They are a must in every personal brush collection, but unfortunately, they don’t show up in ever makeup brush set you can buy. You will usually see them in full brush sets and eye makeup brush sets.
A lid eyeshadow brush can come in a lot of different styles, but it will almost be a little flatter and thinner. The flat side of the brush is used to pack eyeshadow on the lid quickly, thoroughly, and opaquely. Basic brush sets rarely include lid shadow brushes for some reason, but you will usually find them in full makeup brush kits and eye makeup brush sets.
Brow/ Eyeliner Brush
The angled brow and eyeliner brush are the most common eye makeup brushes you will find in basic, full, and eye makeup brush sets. The thin, angled brush is great for applying brow powder and pomade as well as for applying and smudging powder or gel eyeliner.
Unless you strictly use pencils for your brows and eyeliner, this brush is a must-have. In larger sets, in addition to a small angled brush, you will also have a thin, fine-tipped eyeliner brush.
A concealer brush can be a small, flat brush, a thin pencil brush, or a small buffing brush for a super modern application. It is not a must in every set, since a lot of concealers come with applicators nowadays, but you will usually find it in full sets and in some complexion sets.
I’ve covered the must-have brushes you will find in the best makeup brush sets, but it’s worth mentioning some other brushes you will often see in brush sets that may or may not be necessary depending on your preferences. They include small lip brushes, dedicated smudger brushes, mascara spoolies, and miniature shadow brushes for detailed work.
Photos via @courtneylynnthompson, Instagram, Sephora