5 Mar 2012

Real Techniques Makeup Brushes

The Real Techniques range is finally available in Ireland, through Boots, but I've had them since they were available online (via Love-Makeup.co.uk) for about a year, and I've been using them personally and professionally since then.

I'm not alone among makup artists in saying that I don't 100% love any particular full range of brushes, there are some brushes in every range that are great, and some that are downright awful (in my opinion, and according to my usage preferences).  The Real Techniques brushes are similar; the ones I like I really really love.  The ones I don't like I never ever use.

Read on for a rundown and my opinion of the range.  Please note that I purchased all of these brushes myself, and I haven't been asked for my opinion by anyone connected with the brand.

The Real Techniques brushes are all synthetic (taklon) bristles which are very soft on your skin, easy to clean, great with powder and cream products.  The handles are colour coded for their intended use;  purple = eyes, gold = base (foundation, concealer etc), pink = face (blusher, powder etc).  They're mainly well thought out from a design perspective, and come with flat based handles, so the larger brushes can stand upright if needed.

Panoramic Brush Case

The sets (but not the individual brushes) come with a particularly clever Panoramic Brush Case, which folds (and can be set in-place by means of a drawstring) one way for display, and then folds another way for travel.  This is essentially an artist (painter) brush easel (google image search for brush easels) and is quite handy for transporting a few brushes in your handbag (but would be a little too small for a full set of brushes).

Core Collection
Real Techniques Core Collection Set
5 Stars!!!  Highly recommended!  This set is essentially for use creating a base (foundation, corrector, concealer) and contains four brushes; a detailer brush, pointed foundation brush, buffing brush and contour brush.

Detailer brush
This brush is great for spot concealing (as in concealing small areas, not concealing spots :-)).  I also use it for some precise correcting and for lips.

Pointed foundation brush
This brush is a little too small for a standard foundation brush, and too big for a concealer brush.  I used to think it was pointless (despite the name!), however I have found a brilliant use for it: when I'm in a rush and doing a whole highlighting-contouring-correcting-foundation all-in-one (using dark and light cream foundation to highlight/contour), I use this brush to apply the cream foundation, and the buffing brush to blend together with some liquid foundation.  If you have a smaller face or only need to apply foundation to a small area, it's a good brush for this.

Buffing brush
Bar none, the best buffing brush I have, and I have about a dozen or more.  This is a really brilliant brush.

Contour brush
This is quite a handy, it is similar enough to the MAC 165 brush (sadly LE).  I love this for powder highlighter on top of the cheekbones.  Unlike the 165 which is not firm enough in my opinion for contouring, this brush can be used for contouring and blusher.  Also (as it's synthetic) it's great for cream as well as powder products.

Travel Essentials collection
Real Techniques Travel Essentials Set
This set contains three brushes that you could, at a push, use to create a base (foundation, concealer, powder, blusher, bronzer and a wash of eye colour).  It contains three brushes; the essential foundation brush, general all-purpose multi-task brush and a domed shadow brush.

Multi-task brush
This is good as a bronzer blush, or even a powder or blush brush.

Essential foundation brush
This is a flat (paddle) foundation brush.  It's good, but if you already have a foundation brush, it's nothing particularly special (check out this link for foundation brushes I recommend).  I do also like to use this for application of powder products (eg applying a beauty powder as a highlighter on cheekbones), as it's a little denser than a standard flat brush.

Domed shadow brush
I would buy a dozen of if I could buy them singly (but you can't).  It's absolutely brilliant for under-eye concealer, amazingly brilliant for this purpose (you can use something like the MAC 224 or the Inglot 4SS but this brush is particularly brilliant for buffing-in cream concealer).

The Starter Set
Real Techniques Starter Set
This set contains five brushes for use in the eye area;  a base shadow brush, deluxe crease brush, accent brush, pixel-point eyeliner brush and brow brush.  I don't recommend this set, at all.  I struggled to use these brushes for what they were intended.

Base shadow brush
Too dense and thick to apply a good eyeshadow base (I still haven't found a replacement for either the MAC 239 or MAC 252).  At a push, I use this for concealer, but really not very often.  Pretty much unused.

Deluxe crease brush
Similar-ish to the Domed shadow brush in the Essential Travel set, but with slightly longer bristles and not quite as dense.  It's way way way too big for its intended use; it's neither pointed enough to use in the crease, nor floppy enough to use as a mop brush;  it's too large to use as an eyeshadow blender brush and not dense enough to replace a bullet/pencil brush.  Again, this gets used as a cream concealer brush.

Accent brush
A small brush that is supposedly "designed for precision detailing, spotlighting, highlighting and smudging".  This is true.  In fairness to this brush, I have about a dozen of these type of brushes and I never ever reach for this one.  I find it a little too dense to work well with powder products (as the bristles are synthetic).

Pixel-point eyeliner brush
I have a bunch of eyeliner brush recommendations here.  I don't like this brush.  It's far too big, chunky, and not nearly tapered enough.  I don't use it for anything at all.

Brow brush
This is a very thick and chunky small angled brush, for use, theoretically, as an eyeliner or a brow brush.  For both uses I find it's just too dense, too fluffy, not pointed or firm enough for my liking.  I don't use it.

Individual brushes
Real Techniques Individual Brushes, in order as described below
The following brushes are available to purchase individually:

Powder brush
This is a "good enough" brush for powder or bronzer, but personally I find it a little too small for the former and too large for the latter.

Angled foundation brush
Not quite as dense as the flat foundation brush from the Travel Essentials collection, with slightly longer bristles cut at an angle.  It's a perfectly good brush, does what it's supposed to do, but it's not one I'll repurchase.

Shading brush
I didn't purchase this because the rest of the eye brushes didn't appeal to me, and from what I could see through the packaging, this one also seemed to fall into the "too thick, too dense, too big" category.  Again, I would probably wind up using this for creamy concealers if anything.  As I don't have this one I can't comment further.

Lash-brow groomer
This contains a metal tooth comb on one side and taklon bristle brush on the other.  I like the metal comb side (lash groomer) for when I want really really defined and long lashes with no clumping and very little volume.  I don't like the brush side (brow groomer); I don't find the bristles quite firm enough for brushing through brows.

Blush brush
Because of its shape, this is a great brush for blusher or contour, both cream and powder products.  It's essentially a "poofier" version of the Contour brush from the Core Collection, if that makes sense.  I do use this one, quite a bit.

Kabuki brush
I don't have this one, so I can't comment.  It is unusual in that you can open it out so it's a bit like a half-moon brush, or you can clip both sides together so it's a slanted (short handled) kabuki brush.  I didn't have much interest in it (and a bunch of existing Kabukis that I mostly don't use) so I didn't purchase.

Dual fibre stippling brush
This was... ok, or so I thought, but it fell apart on me.  Perhaps it was a bad batch, or perhaps a bad brush design, I don't know.  It shed, badly, the bristles came completely away from the ferrule and I had to throw it out.  So I definitely don't recommend this one.

My Recommendations

As I said at the start, I have yet to find one range of brushes that I think are brilliant across the board.  Here are the brushes I recommend, especially at the price:

  • Core Collection (all of it) - this will give brushes that you can use for foundation, concealer, highlight, blusher, contour, lips, and the best buffing brush available anywhere
  • Domed shadow brush is brilliant and worth getting but it can only be got as part of the Essential Travel collection;  if you have no powder brush or foundation brush, this collection is worth getting
If you're in the market for good but inexpensive makeup brushes, then the above brushes are absolutely worth the price.  I've been using them for over a year, washing, reusing... and they're still going strong (apart from one brush as mentioned above).  Together with these brushes that I recommend from Lauren Luke, and this brilliant and cheap duo eyeliner/brow brush, you could easily have all your makeup brushes sorted for a fraction of the cost of more expensive or professional level brushes, and frankly, every bit as good for home use.

The range is the brainchild of Samantha Chapman, one half of the YouTube Pixiwoo sisters, both are amazing Makeup Artists and I highly recommend their tutorials if you're interested in learning makeup.  The Real Techniques brand also has its own YouTube channel if you're interested in seeing looks that can be created with these brushes.


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