It occurred to me that I have not delved into this very important aspect of makeup application yet. Let me start off by saying that the key to good eye makeup application is the tools used, BUT you do not have to invest in expensive brushes to get the work done. No sponge-tip applicators, please, if you want professional-looking results. These waste precious product anyway, as opposed to brushes. All you need is a little research, a little trial and error to find out which brushes work with your style, and a little browsing down the aisles of cosmetic and craft (yes, craft) stores to score the perfect brushes. So on with the show.
One of the most important tools you will need when you apply your base (especially MAC shadesticks) cannot be bought at any store: your finger. I apply the shadestick directly on my lids, but I blend it with my pointer finger to achieve a smooth, even canvas for the pigments. I cannot stress enough on how important a good base is for your eye makeup. I have tried Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion (a cult favorite, but I am not a member of that cult), but gave it away a few tries later. I felt it wasn't tacky enough for the pigments to adhere to my skin, and I really like the way MAC shadesticks really make the colors pop so vividly, both in pictures and in real life.
L-R: Sonia Kashuk brushes in large shadow, medium shadow, fluff shadow, small shadow, smudge, concealer, contour/crease, and Japonesque contour/blending brush
I have found these gems of brushes (except the Japonesque one, which I got from Ulta) from good old Target. These Sonia Kashuk brushes (the white-handled ones) really give more bang for your buck. I think the most expensive one in this photo did not cost more than $6. That said, I usually buy one of each whenever I go to Target, and have thus amassed quite a bit. I rarely use my brush cleaner (the ones bought from stores to take out color residue from used brushes), because I am quite anal with my tools. I want a clean, fresh, shampoo-and-water-washed brush every time I apply makeup. That is why I use a clean one everytime and I make time to wash all my used brushes which is a ritual in itself.
The larger brushes are used to highlight or create an all-over pigment wash, the smaller ones are used to apply color either foiled or dry on the lid. Whatever my eye look is, one of the most important brushes is the contour/blending brush. I use this to apply darker color on the crease and outer V. I usually just use either the lengthy side of the brush or just the flowering tip for the very barely-there looks. This brush is perfect to prevent my eye makeup from looking like a bruised eye. It deposits the subtlest amount of pigment on the crease and outer V to create a multi-dimentional look with just the right amount of depth, without making me look like a battered woman. I use the Japonesque blending brush (rightmost, this is a little bit more expensive because it's made of the softest squirrel hairs) to blend everything together, using deliberate, careful motions in one direction, starting from the lightest to the darkest of colors.
L-R: MAC 219, Essence of Beauty dual-ended shader, Studio Tools medium shadow, Studio Tools large shadow, Loew Cornell American Painter 4300 taklon brushes as eyeliner brushes
I have found these brushes by browsing online and in actual cosmetic and craft shops. The MAC 219 is great as a smudge brush for smokey eyes, for precision-shading on the crease, and likewise to apply color on the lower and upper lashlines. I also use something similar to the 219, with the same rounded head but a lot fluffier hairs to apply wet pigments on my crease and outer V. That brush is from Essence of Beauty which can be found at any CVS drugstore (not in pic). The next brush is from Essence of Beauty as well, a fluffy, double-ended brush that is pretty significant in head size. I use this to apply my highlighter and to blend stark lines. The next two brushes from Studio Tools are my current favorite. I have discovered these from Target as well, and are dirt-cheap but work just as great as department store shader brushes. These are not more than $2-$3, never shed and have the fluffiest, softest heads ever. As always, I try to buy one or two whenever I pass by Target, and I now have a pretty significant collection. These work great both in applying and blending colors. I can do anything and everything with these and they just stand the test of wear and tear and all that washing. I use them both for foiling (wet-application) and applying pigments/shadows dry; blending them is a cinch with these precious tools.
Lastly, my favorite liner brushes ever, and they are priced as cheap as Studio Tools. My Loew Cornell American Painter 4300 taklon brushes are found not in cosmetic stores but along craft store aisles, and I really have a field day when I shop for these. Why craft store brushes, you say? They have the best balance of stiffness and pliability, and my lines don't come out sloppy or crooked when I used these. As I said in a previous entry, "These are actually art brushes, and you will not believe how effective these brushes are in applying the perfect line. These work so well with the gel liners, and I get a nice, not-so-thin-but-not-too-thick line each time. I have more control with these babies than those overpriced cosmetic liner brushes that have too soft, sparse hairs that draw smudged lines. If these amazing brushes are good enough for artists, they're good enough for me. Best of all, they are dirt-cheap compared to high-end makeup brushes that are too flimsy and have too-thin heads for my taste. These are less than 2 bucks each, as compared to the $20 or more eyeliner brushes of other brands. Blechh. I found a brush gold mine at Michael's!"
So there you have it, my eye makeup tools. These are all you need to create your own great looks; with a dollop of care and a dash of practice every day, and you're all set.