Good pencil brushes are dense but soft enough to apply product without moving the skin underneath too much (like all brushes, then, really!) Bad pencil brushes are made of scratchy fibres that are sore, and as this is usually quite a dense brush, using a bad pencil brush can really be quite sore!
|Some of the pencil brushes in my stash.|
Top-down: Lauren Luke, Make Up For Ever Pro 14S, Inglot 80HP, Fero Beauty (yuck), Louise Young LY13
- for smudging-out eyeshadow at the upper lashline (helping create a smokey eye)
- for applying/smudging-out eyeshadow at the lower lashline
- for applying shadow to the crease/socket (ie as a socket brush; see here for more information)
- for defining the crease/socket or the outer v (see this post for a description of the outer v)
|Pencil brushes: pointy but rounded/domed tips|
L -> R: Louise Young LY13, Fero Beauty, Inglot 80HP, Make Up For Ever Pro 14S, Lauren Luke
How to use them?
They're used quite simply - add product to the very tip of the brush, tap off the excess, then apply where you want it.
These are very specific brushes, a pencil brush is not a multi-task brush by any means. They can't really approximate a lay-down brush, it's difficult to do much more than as outlined above in the bullet points. You can't blend with these brushes, but you can smudge with them and you can use them as crease brushes.
Likes & Dislikes
My overall favourites are the Make Up For Ever 14S (quite a soft and rounded offering) and the Louise Young LY13 brushes (quite small, soft and pointed). Together these do most of what I want to do with pencil brushes.
I really don't like the Fero Beauty offering shown above, it's included here just for comparison sake. It's actually an example of a pencil brush that is just too dense; it's incredibly unyielding, and you wind up moving the skin back and forth underneath it too much, which is not what you want to do as it doesn't help with precise application of product where you want it).
Note also, in case relevant, that I don't have any MAC 219 pencil brushes - I had four, and they all shed like wet dogs and all died a death. I stopped replacing them when I realised that the Lauren Luke brush is almost identical (see here for a review) and at a fraction of the cost.