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The Makeup Junkie: A Stellar Guide to the Tools of the Trade

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The materials used to apply the craft of a professional makeup artist is as important as the applications themselves. Having the right shade of color means nothing if you do not have the proper brush to create the look a client desires. A makeup artist's clientele can vary across a broad spectrum – from personal style to the color of the skin on which a makeup artist is working. An artist needs to be prepared for every situation, even the unpredictable ones. The following are some of the basic tools a makeup artist should have in their kit.


These are one of the most important sets of tools a professional makeup artist can have at their disposal. The styles and functions differ from brush to brush. It is important to learn the purpose of each and have it do the work for you. A brush can have multiple uses in an application but the utensil should do most of the heavy lifting. An artist should have two to three of each brush. A professional makeup artist's brush set should have a minimum of 30 brushes.

With makeup expenses, there are many places to cut cost, but a brush set is not one of them. Each brush does a very specific job. When brushes are of low quality, makeup artists are working around the brush instead of having the brush work for them. A bad brush can shed hair and disperse the makeup in unpredictable ways. This is why it is extremely important for professional makeup artists to invest in a nice set of brushes for their makeup kit. The cut, the design, the brush hair, and the overall quality really matter. Keep in mind when purchasing a brush set that there are different brush hairs to allow the client to blend in different ways and create a variety of looks and textures. It is important to have several options so that any look a client desires can be easily achieved.

Eye Brushes
Just like the clientele's style and skin color, eye shapes and creases vary tremendously. These are the features that makeup artists like to enhance the most in an application. In order to produce highly-stylized trends, it is vital to have a large variety of eye brushes. This is where the importance of bristle textures really comes into play. Soft bristles will do a light blend, while stiff bristles are used to blend deep pigments that require a stronger blend. Artists need to make sure that they have both small and large brushes to accommodate various eye sizes and shapes.

Liner Brushes
Makeup artists need to have the right eyeliner brush for every formula. For gel formulas, a small, thin, paintbrush-shaped brush works best. This helps apply gel to the finest points while still giving an even product dispersion. For powdered eyeliner, an artist will want to use a thin, angled brush. This helps the product melt into the skin while helping the powder keep a nice, pic 2even line.

Face Brushes
There are many different techniques to use on the face. The shape and design of a brush is what matters the most when choosing a face brush. Angle-shaped brushes are best for contouring the face with bronzer, blush, and highlighter. Foundation brushes come in many different forms. Stippled bristles give an airbrushed effect. A flat, stiff brush will give full coverage. Rounded powder brushes will give lighter coverage. Flat-headed powder brushes will give a fuller coverage.

Concealer Brushes
Concealers come in many formulas and may be used in multiple ways. Artists typically have a variety of concealer formulas in their kit and also need to have a few brush options for concealing. Softer concealer brushes will give an airbrushed effect and flat, stiff concealer brushes will give fuller coverage.

Lip Brushes
Lip brushes are pretty straightforward and can be kept to a minimum.


Once an artist has invested in a high-quality set of brushes, they will need to make sure the brushes are taken care of properly. To keep brushes intact, it is good to have two kinds of brush cleaners: a brush cleaning spray and a brush cleanser. Brush cleaning spray is used between applications. The best way to clean between clients is to spray the cleaner onto a paper towel or cotton towel and clean the head of the brush until all traces of makeup have been removed. It is important that a deep clean of all brushes be done once a week. To accomplish this, pour the brush cleanser into a small bowl and gently massage the brush while keeping it in its original shape until all the product is washed off the brush. Then it should be placed on a towel to dry. This will keep the brushes looking nice and prevent the bristles from fraying and being damaged. Never soak a brush in a cup to clean it. This will loosen the glue that holds the bristles in place and permanently damage them. Alcohol should never be used to clean brushes because it will dry and damage the hair over time. Proper cleaning will extend the life of brushes by years.

An artist should always have a small spray bottle of alcohol, paper towels, and hand sanitizer in their kit. Makeup grows bacteria and clients trust their makeup artist to properly clean and take care of their utensils. It is important to know the shelf life of the products when they expire. After each use, alcohol and paper towels can be used to wipe down the exterior of all the makeup used and the interiors of the containers in which they are stored. All other tools and containers should also be cleaned with alcohol regularly. On-location work spaces should always be wiped down with alcohol before setting up for an application. Makeup artists need to have hand sanitizer in their kit and apply it in front of their clients before each application.

A pencil sharpener is a tool to always have on-hand. Makeup artists should always sharpen eyeliners in front of their client so that they know good sanitization is being practiced.

Disposables save time and keep things sanitary. Mascara wands, lip brushes, cotton swabs, makeup remover wipes, and tissue are all necessary disposables for a makeup artist. pic 3

Disposable lip brushes are not always necessary, but most makeup artists prefer to use professional lip brushes because it lays lip color more evenly. However, they are great for quick touch-ups and one can even be left loaded with color so the client can touch up after
their appointment.

Clients do not always show up with clean skin. Many times they show up with a full face of makeup. Makeup remover wipes are great to have for those moments because they make the removal process fast and easy!

A few different kinds of cotton swabs can be convenient to have. Smaller, cosmetic cotton swabs are good for cleaning up small mistakes on eyes. Regular cotton swabs or pads are great for removing eye makeup.

Paper towels and tissue are important to have for wiping down surfaces and products with alcohol, as well as cleaning brushes between uses. Tissue is a must for clients with sensitive and watery eyes, runny noses,
or allergies.


All professional makeup artists should also have skin care products in their kit. Makeup looks its very best on healthy and hydrated skin. Unless the client has just applied moisturizer, a makeup remover wipe or facial cleanser should be used to remove any excess oil or makeup from the skin. Makeup wipes are great for removing most makeup but sometimes cannot remove all eye makeup. Having eye makeup remover is a great back-up option. Eye makeup remover is also necessary for making small corrections to occasional makeup mistakes. A light-weight moisturizer should be applied to the skin 10 minutes before an application. 

 A few other skin care items that are useful to have are eye cream and lip balm. The skin around the eyes is very thin and easily becomes dehydrated as a result. Dry skin under the eyes can really age a face. Having an eye cream will help prevent this problem from occurring. Dry or chapped lips can become very obvious when a lipstick is applied. Artists should have a lip balm on hand. Apply a lip balm to client's dry lips before applying makeup so it has time to absorb.


False eyelashes are not necessary for every application but they are an important part of most. They are a great add-on service that artists can recommend to their clients. This can generate a considerable increase in services for their clients. Makeup artists that serve weddings and photoshoots will use false eyelashes more often than not. Artists should keep a variety of eyelash styles, including natural, glamorous, and high-fashion eyelashes in their kit. Each style should range from thin and short eyelashes to thick and full. Keep a variety of eyelash pic 4shapes to further enhance different eye shapes. Not all eyes can wear the same eyelash shape. Some clients are sensitive to certain eyelash glues, so it is also important to keep a variety of eyelash glue. Artists should have a gentle eyelash glue and a strong one. It is also good to have eye drops for red eyes or to flush out anything that may get in them during the appointment.


Makeup artists should also keep a few clothing covers in their kit to protect their client's clothes and jewelry from spills and powder stains. Another useful tool is a director's chair. You never know what to expect at on-location appointments. There will not always be a chair tall enough for makeup applications. Most places will only have regular chairs which make the application process very uncomfortable for the artist, resulting in back pain and discomfort. A tall chair is great for positioning a client at the right height for an application. It can also save a makeup artist's back when makeup applications are back to back. Director's chairs are easy to take from place to place and prevent these problems from occurring.

Another problem that artists can encounter while on location is lighting. Good lighting is important as it may be too early in the morning or too late in the evening for natural light. Having a small lamp for on-location jobs will ensure that there is always adequate lighting.
Other useful tools an artist should have in their kit are hairspray, combs, bobby pins, ponytail bands, hair clips, tweezers, mints, and mouthwash. Tweezers are great to have in any kit for application of false eyelashes or to remove any stray eyebrow hairs before
filling them in.

Being a makeup artist goes beyond just doing makeup. You must be prepared to do some light styling of client's hair. Having simple hair tools will allow you to take care of a quick fix during a photoshoot or provide touch ups to hair that is already styled. Certain hairstyles can also leave bangs hanging in the face. Hair clips are great to use for pinning hair back for a makeup application.

Makeup artists should keep mints in their kits to keep both the client's and the artist's breath fresh. Providing a makeup application means getting very close to someone's face, so it is important to be mindful of things like breath and strong perfumes/colognes. This will help to keep both the client and the artist from having any offensive odors.

As makeup artists take on new jobs, they will discover tools and materials to add to their ever-growing arsenal. Thorough notes should be taken after every new experience. Even the best makeup artists can improve themselves through self-evaluations.

sadi brookeSadi Brooke is a makeup artist and photographer. Being raised in a family of artists across many artistic professions, she began her creative journey at age 15. She has eight years of experience in the beauty industry, alongside two years of collegiate study in fashion. She has decorated faces for a number of production and print jobs and is well-known for her work in local events, weddings, and destination weddings, notably with Todd Events. With a trademark passion and meticulous touch, Brooke's work promises a taste of wonderment that previous clients and employers have come to know and expect from her.

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