expensive makeup brushes are nice to have (and will sit pretty on your vanity), but they’re not a make-or-break when it comes to your makeup application. To be honest, some of the most skilled makeup artists rely on the power of their fingers more than any brush to get the perfect application. Don’t get us wrong. We’re all for splurging on nice things that will up your makeup game, but you don’t have to break the bank for a great brush. There are cheap makeup brush sets out there that work just as well as the most overpriced options on the market and will have your highlighter looking just as lit.
Makeup brush sets, of course, are convenient for a lot of reasons, not least of which being that they cover all your target areas (foundation, eyeshadow, etc.) in one purchase and make your vanity look well organized. If you’re always on the go, you can easily pop one of these sets in your purse or suitcase to have ready whenever you need a quick touch-up. We searched the web, read through reviews, and scrolled through beauty gurus’ Instagram pages for the cheapest cult makeup brush sets people can’t stop using.
Ahead, we’ve rounded up the best cheap makeup brush sets you’re going to want to cop ASAP.
Best Overall: E.l.f. Cosmetics Beautifully Precise Face Brush Collection
BUY ON ULTA
Who doesn’t want a few brushes that will give them an airbrushed finish? These three babies—powder brush, multi-blender massager, and airbrush blender—will have your base makeup looking like second skin. You can even perfect your contour with the multi-blender massager by using the sides of the brush. Arancibia gives E.l.f. brushes two thumbs up, too. She loves the Studio Complexion Brush and Eyeshadow Brush. “It’s super soft [and] perfect for around your eyes,” she says.
Best Eye Set: Sephora Collection Eyes Uncomplicated Brush Set
Mastering eye makeup is hard, which is why this set full of natural and synthetic fiber brushes will do the job. It’s equipped with five brushes that you can use to blend, accentuate, and define different parts of your eye area. This handy brush case is also easy to fold and toss in your bag when you’re in a rush.
Best Face Set: Real Techniques Prep + Prime Set
Celebrity makeup artist Fabiola Arancibia confirmed to Byrdie that she’s a Real Techniques fan. “These are really soft,” Arancibia says about the brand’s line of brushes. She loves the Blush Brush and the Travel Essentials Kit, but this new Prep + Prime Set is one of latest launches from the brand that offers innovative tools like this cooling under-eye reviver roller to use with your go-to eye cream.
Best Vegan: Tarte Minutes to Mermaid Bush Set
Not only does this beloved five-piece set look like it belongs in the ocean, but the vegan collection also applies so beautifully we’d bet you could make an actual siren jealous. Sure, it’s the most expensive set in the bunch, but it’s still under $50, which is a win where quality makeup brush sets are concerned.
You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who didn’t believe that makeup brushes are an integral part of any beauty routine. Sure there are blending sponges and even our own (clean) fingers that can do the job, but for a truly precise application of eyeshadow, bronzer, and more—and a finish that makes your skin looked like you just walked out of a professional makeup studio—you’ll need the right makeup brushes in your kit. Period. To that end, we rounded up best makeup brushes for novices and pros, for those on and off a budget, and for every conceivable thing you’d need them for.
Read on to discover the best makeup brushes you can buy now.
Best Overall: Artis Elite Mirror Oval 8 Brush
This makeup brush isn’t the most affordable out there, but its versatility and effectiveness make it well worth the price. Since it can blend liquid, cream, and powder makeup including foundation, bronzer, blush, and contour, it takes the place of multiple brushes in your routine. What’s more, the bristles feel like a pillow against the skin and reveal a flawless finish. One more benefit (for good measure): Even the handle has been specially designed for the ideal grip so you can glide the brush across your face, neck, and chest without getting a cramp.
Best Budget: e.l.f. Cosmetics 11-Piece Brush Collection
e.l.f. Cosmetics makeup brushes are easily accessible and affordable, making them a great option for makeup newbies. With this set, you get everything you need if you’re a beginner, on a budget, or both, all in a water-resistant zip-up case.
It’s a good mix of face and eye brushes, including the beloved “C” eyeshadow brush (which is perfect for packing on shadow), an angled brush for blush or contour, and a fluffy powder brush. If you need to build your makeup brush collection from scratch, this set is a great way to start without emptying your pockets.The 5 Drugstore Makeup Brushes That Will Never Let You Down
Best for Eyeshadow: Sigma E55 Eye Shading Brush
To properly lay down eyeshadow, you need a brush with a short, dense, rounded head. This Sigma brush features synthetic bristles that grab on to eyeshadow easily and gently pat on cream or powder pigment all over your lid without poking you in the eye.
Runner-Up, Best for Eyeshadow: MAC 242S Synthetic Shader Brush
Shimmer shadows can seem like a bait-and-switch without the right brush. They’ll glimmer in the pan, only to coat your finger and refuse to transfer to your lid or barely adhere to the brush at all. The painterly MAC 242S, on the other hand, coaxes tricky shimmer, duo-chrome, and foil shadows on to your eyes with its flat synthetic bristles. It also applies regular matte shadows with no problem.
Best for Blending Eyeshadow: Make Up For Ever 242 Large Blender Brush
If you need to blend out a transition shade or soften edges, a brush with longer bristles, like this one from Make Up For Ever, is your best bet. The large, flared synthetic brush head diffuses color all over the lid and blends shadow colors with ease. And since the bristles are on the longer end, go in with a gentle hand for better control—try holding the brush near the end as you blend.
Best for Liquid Foundation: Cover FX Liquid Foundation Brush
For liquid foundation, look for a dense, flat-topped brush. This Cover FX brush works with liquid, cream and powder formulas; its tightly-packed bristles can buff liquid foundation into the skin for an airbrushed finish. It also maneuvers the foundation along the hairline and makes a little product go a long way. The brush is more petite than traditional buffing brushes, but the smaller size allows for better control.
Best for Contouring: Real Techniques Bold Metals Collection Flat Contour Brush
This beautiful brush is rose gold eye candy, but that’s just one reason why we love it. The other? Its dense, soft bristles massage product in and resist shedding. You can use it to blend out both cream and powder contour while keeping the product exactly where you placed it.The 6 Best Makeup Brushes for Contouring
Best for Powder: Real Techniques Powder Brush
For a powder brush, you don’t have to go high-end. You do, however, need a brush with soft enough bristles to dust powder over your makeup without streaking. The synthetic bristles on this fluffy, rounded Real Techniques brush picks up powder and deposits it flawlessly on skin. No poky bristles, cakiness, or relentless shedding with this one.
Best Set: SHANY Masterpiece Signature Brush Set, 24 Pieces
If you’re after a brush set that you can lean on when applying your entire makeup look—from your eyeshadow to your foundation to your bronzer, blush, and highlighter—then this 24-piece set from SHANY is definitely the one for you. These professional-grade brushes are made with an expertly-curated blend of sable-, goat badger-, and pony hair and microfiber bristles that allow for the most seamless blend every single time.
Each and every single brush is soft, resilient, and long-lasting so you won’t have to worry about it falling apart after one use. This set in particular features oak and rosewood handles with a sleek, black finish. Each brush is hypoallergenic and anti-bacterial, so it won’t be the culprit of any break out in between washes. Plus, it comes in a vegan leather brush roll so it’s easy to stash away or take it with you when you’re traveling.
Best Cruelty Free: EcoTools 5-Piece Travel Collection Makeup Brush Set
When looking for makeup brushes you always want to select a high-quality option that makes any products you use—high-end or drugstore—apply seamlessly. While it’s easy to find these options, the same can’t be said when you’re only looking to invest in cruelty-free brushes that work really well. But EcoTools changed that in a big way with their all-star, cruelty-free makeup brushes.
The brand’s brushes are made with cruelty-free Taklon bristles, sustainable bamboo handles, and other natural and recyclable materials. This set of brushes lay down eyeshadow, buff in bronzer, and allow you to paint your face without any streaks or uneven application.
Best for Bronzer: Marc Jacobs The Bronze Bronzer Brush No. 12
This brush is an indulgence for sure, but an oversized, fluffy, reliable one at that. Aside from the actual functionality, the best part of this giant Marc Jacobs brush is how luxurious the bristles feel against the skin. The soft, synthetic bristles and slightly tapered dome shape diffuse bronzer without much work, which is a relief if you’ve ever tried to rescue patchy bronzer. The brush also lets you pick up and tap off product as you need.