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They say an artist is only as good as their tools, and that's certainly true of makeup brushes. Use the wrong blush brush, for instance, and you just might wind up with clown cheeks. Grab too wide of an eyeshadow brush, on the other hand, and your perfect "smoky eye" will quickly become a smoky mess. The easiest way to ensure you've got all the proper equipment on hand to create a masterpiece from your canvas is with a great set of makeup brushes. Whether you're looking for your first grown-up makeup brush kit or you're getting some early holiday shopping done for a beauty-loving pal, the abundance of choices can be a little intimidating—which is exactly why we've "brushed up" on the best makeup brush sets around. Before you skip ahead to our fantastic list, here are some handy tips and tricks for choosing your perfect match.

Makeup Brush Materials

  • Bristles: Makeup brushes are made with either natural bristles, which come from animal hair, or, far more commonly, synthetic bristles, which can be made of anything from nylon to taklon and polyester. While some believe natural bristles offer more even application due to their natural ability to spread out when pressure is applied, they can be difficult to clean and may shed more than synthetic materials. They also have a coating on the hairs called a "cuticle" that lifts and absorbs skin oil, which can be helpful for application with powder-based products. Manufactured bristles, on the flip side, are ideal for liquid or cream makeup and are also more animal-friendly. Regardless of which type you prefer, brush bristles should always feel soft and smooth.

  • Handles: Brush handles can be made of many different materials, from wood to bamboo or even metal. As long as they're balanced and comfortable, they should work to get the job done. You'll also want to consider the length of the brushes's handles, as short ones can provide better control and precision, while longer handles force a lighter touch for a more natural look.

How Many Different Makeup Brushes Do You Need?

The next thing to consider when shopping for a makeup brush set is the size. Are you seeking a few basic brushes that will do most of your daily heavy lifting for you or an all-encompassing 12- to 24-piece collection that will enable you to experiment with lots of different looks? While the latter will have everything you need to handle anything from lined lips to full-coverage foundation, the former will offer a more limited selection of varying brushes, so you'll want to make sure the set you choose contains the types of makeup brushes that will best suit your needs.

Types of Makeup Brushes

  • Foundation brush: This brush is designed to apply your liquid or cream foundation evenly for a flawlessly smooth makeup base.

  • Stippling brush: For a more lightweight foundation application, you can try a stippling brush, which allows you to press the product into your skin instead of sweeping or buffing it.

  • Powder brush: Long and fluffy, this brush is ideal for loose powders.
  • Blush brush: As the name implies, you can use this one to get a more concentrated application of powder or cream blush, right where you want it.

  • Angled contour brush: For something like bronzer, which requires a more contoured application, you can try an angled brush, which is meant to deposit with minimal fallout.

  • Kabuki brush: With a flat top and tons of bristles, this versatile pick is great for blending everything from powder and blush to cream highlighter or bronzer—you name it!

  • Fan brush: This uniquely shaped design helps to distribute highlighter more evenly for an über-natural application.

  • Eyeshadow brush: There are different sizes and types of eyeshadow brushes, but for the most part, you'll want an all-over one for base hues and a blending eyeshadow brush for your crease.

  • Liner brush: For powder or gel liners, you can use this tool to get a finely defined line.

  • Concealer brush: Liquid or cream concealer will be applied with more pigment using one of these brushes than it would with your fingers alone.

  • Lip brush: When applying darker lipstick shades, a brush like this will help you get a more clearly defined line—and fill it in.

How to Clean Makeup Brushes

Taking good care of your makeup brushes will not only ensure that your cosmetic investment lasts longer, it will help to eliminate a natural build-up of dirt, germ and oils from your face that can cause irritated eyes or skin. Regular gentle cleaning (once a day for brushes that touch cream or liquid products, once a week for those that handle powders) with either hypoallergenic dish soap or facial cleanser and warm (not hot) water is all it takes to rid your tools of gunk and grime.

Make sure to hold them upside down as you wash them so as to avoid getting water on the handles (this is especially important if they're wood, since wood is porous and water can cause them to expand). In order to avoid shedding or thinning out of the soft bristles, you should also carefully squeeze out any excess water and let your brushes air dry overnight, so they'll be ready for their next use.

The Best Makeup Brush Sets at a Glance

RELATED: Every Type of Makeup Brush, Explained

Amazon

1. Zoreya 12-Piece Makeup Brush Set

Best Full Makeup Brush Set

This 12-piece set from Zoreya has all the makeup brushes you'll need to do a full face, from its large powder brushes to its brow and lash tools—you'll even get a blending sponge. Its synthetic bristles are completely cruelty-free, and its wooden handles have an ergonomic design that makes them more comfortable to hold—just ask the more than 2,000 5-star reviewers who adore this set, which fits neatly inside its included cylinder holder.

$33 $22 at Amazon

Dior

2. Dior Backstage 5-Piece Makeup Brush Set

Best Expensive Makeup Brush Set

When you're looking for the best of the best, you can't go wrong with these designer Backstage brushes, which are reportedly used by the pros backstage at Dior's runway shows. This set can easily be used by amateurs as well, however, for top-notch results. It includes five synthetic brushes: one for powder, foundation, eyeshadow, eyeliner and lipstick. The brushes themselves are fine for precise, effortless application, and one happy reviewer noted that they’re long-lasting and won't fall apart.

Buy It ($155)

Target

3. Sonia Kashuk Essential Collection Complete 10-Piece Makeup Brush Set

Best Makeup Brush Set Value

Not only does the two-tone design of these brushes give them an ultra-chic aesthetic, the nylon bristles allow for airbrush-quality blending for both liquid and powder products. The brushes themselves range from round, pointed, flat and fanned shapes, all of which have easy-grip metal handles. One reviewer also reported that this vegan set does a great job of not absorbing too much precious product.

Buy It ($40)

Amazon

4. BS-MALL 14-Piece Makeup Brush Set

Best Cheap Makeup Brush Set

This amazing kit is beloved by Amazon shoppers (seriously—it has more than 83,000 reviews!) for the name-brand quality at the affordable price point. There are 14 individually labeled brushes with wooden handles, and beginners will appreciate the included instruction book that details how to use all your new items. The bristles are synthetic, and there's also an included canister for storage.

$19 $13 at Amazon

Amazon

5. Docolor 15-Piece Eyeshadow Makeup Brush Set

Best Eyeshadow Makeup Brush Set

In order to get the beautifully defined look you want for your eye area, you'll want to choose a makeup brush set with slender grips, so that you're not fumbling around. This sleek neon-colored set has wonderfully slim aluminum-wooden handles that will allow you to focus on your makeup rather than your grip. With multiple brushes for shadow, blending, shading, defining and more, you can get as detailed as you want to be, and the vegan bristles reportedly hold up well, too, making for a set you can use for years to come.

$18 $14 at Amazon

Bobbi Brown

6. Bobbi Brown Artist-Approved 6-Piece Makeup Brush Kit

Prettiest Makeup Brush Set

Leave it to Bobbi Brown to take an everyday makeup basic next level. The makeup guru's travel-sized kit comes with a selection of five of the brand's "best in class" brushes that reviewers are loving, including a full coverage and angled face brush, eyeshadow, angled shadow and eyeliner brush, so as to guide you through your application beginning to end. The real star of the show, however, just might be that gorgeous gold case, which is perfect for your next vacay.

Buy It ($115)

Amazon

7. EmaxDesign 13-Piece Makeup Brush Set

Best Bamboo Makeup Brush Set

This makeup brush set is made of super-soft nylon fibers with a high-quality bamboo grip, and that's good news, since bamboo is highly sustainable (it can reportedly grow up to 3 feet in 24 hours if the conditions are right!), strong and durable and has naturally antibacterial properties in the wild. The bristles, meanwhile, are reportedly silky and luxurious. As an added bonus, you'll get a latex- and allergen-free blender sponge that will be gentle on sensitive skin.

$15 $12 at Amazon

Amazon

8. IT Cosmetics Your Superheroes 6-Piece Makeup Brush Set

Best Basic Makeup Brush Set

With this IT Cosmetics Your Superheroes set, the only brushes you'll need for a flawless face are the powder, foundation, crease, concealer and shadow ones found here. The bristles are wonderfully soft, say shoppers, and use synthetic materials that which won't irritate your skin. The one gripe about it? The case isn't super functional, so you may want to store these tools in a bag of your own.

Buy It ($50)

Amazon

9. Real Perfection 16-Piece Makeup Brush Set

Best Wood Makeup Brush Set

This impressive 16-piece makeup brush set includes five big kabuki makeup brushes for blending to your heart's content and 11 precision brushes, all of which come in an attractive rose gold color—it even includes a tool for applying face masks. All in all, it's one of the more diverse collections on this list. We also love the sturdy wooden handles.

$13 at Amazon

Blue Mercury

10. Laura Mercier 5-Piece Holiday Makeup Brush Set

Best Holiday Makeup Brush Set

This limited-edition collection from the one and only Laura Mercier is ideal for traveling, thanks to the smaller size of the brushes. The five included options will help create controlled looks for the eyes and cheeks, making them ideal for even serious contouring and highlighting aficionados. The classy gold leather case, meanwhile, makes it a perfect holiday gift for the makeup artist (although there’s no shame in treating yourself, either!).

Buy It ($78)

Amazon

11. DUcare Duo 5-Piece Makeup Brush Set

Best Dual-Ended Makeup Brush Set

If simplicity is the name of your game, this makeup brush five-piece might just be tailor-made for you. In this package, you'll get five double-sided brushes that will have you blending, buffing and contouring, all without the hassle of too many items overrunning your space.

$18 at Amazon

Amazon

12. Nevsetpo Professional 18-Piece Makeup Brush Set

Best Makeup Brush Selection

This quality collection comes with all that you would expect from a makeup brush kit but also has some bonuses that will be a welcome addition to your cosmetics routine. Along with five regular kabuki style brushes, you'll be treated to both a large and small fan brush, an eyelash and eyebrow spoolie and multiple smudge brushes to help create a your most detailed, eye-catching looks. They're made so as not to shed and have nice, solid wood handles.

$14 at Amazon

Amazon

13. Docolor 15-Piece Rainbow Makeup Brush Set

Most Colorful Makeup Brush Set

For a colorful makeup set that's just as vivid as you, feast your eyes on this vibrant 15-piece kit from Docolor. Backed with durable handles and soft bristles, these come with bright, cheerful splashes of bold colors that Andy Warhol fans will no doubt appreciate. It's got aluminum ferrules (that's the part of the brush that connects the handle to the bristles) that won't easily deform, and a medium-sized handle that won't be too tough to grip.

$25 $24 at Amazon

Charlotte Tilbury

14. Charlotte Tilbury Limited Edition Magic Mini 4-Piece Makeup Brush Set

Best Mini Makeup Brush Set

You won’t want to miss out on the Magic Mini brush set from Miss Charlotte Tilbury herself. Also a travel-sized limited edition, this set comes with four mini brushes. More specifically? One for powders, blush and bronzer, one for supremely smooth eyeshadow application, a smudger brush with densely packed bristles for that sexy smoky eye and a precision brush for expert lipstick and eyeliner application. Even the case is pure glamour, with a luxurious ruby velvet exterior and a bright pink satin interior. There aren't enough heart eye emojis!

Buy It ($65)

Amazon

15. EcoTools 5-Piece Makeup Brush Set

Best Cruelty-Free Makeup Brush Set

For a fantastic animal-friendly alternative to natural options on the market, there's this five-piece brush set that's made with 100 percent cruelty-free, vegan materials. The brand has been backed by even famous eco warriors, such as Alicia Silverstone, and every piece of this kit, from the angled foundation and blurring brush to the angled liner brush, has been PETA-approved.

$10 at Amazon

Amazon

16. Real Techniques 5-Piece Makeup Brush Set

Best Makeup Brush Set for Beginners

With four brushes and one sponge, Real Techniques gives you a nice starter set that will be perfect for your basic makeup and blending needs without being overwhelming. You'll get a bronzer and highlighter brush, a blush brush, a concealer brush, an eyeshadow brush and a makeup sponge. Each one is labeled so that you know exactly what to use it for, and buyers say they're surprisingly sturdy, too.

$20 $16 at Amazon

Amazon

17. Shany Artisan’s Easel 18-Piece Makeup Brush Set

Best Large Makeup Brush Set

The next time you're in a rush to put on your makeup, you'll be thankful for the conveniently laid out design of this large professional kit. Each of its 18 brushes have their own designated spot in the carrying case and are held in place with specially designed elastics. More impressively, the water- and dust-resistant case can be made to stand upright like an artist's easel, so your brushes will be at the ready. The bristles are a blend of synthetic and natural materials, too, so you'll get the best of both worlds.

$30 at Amazon

Amazon

18. Eigshow Professional 12-Piece Makeup Brush Set

Best Eco-Friendly Makeup Brush Set

If you want to turn out stunning looks without harming the environment, then this makeup brush set could be the ideal option. The handles are made from coffee and tea-based plant material that forms a delightful water-wave pattern, while the bristles have been created from soft, synthetic hairs that render the entire collection vegan and cruelty-free. Even the carrying case adds to its sustainability, as it's designed from recyclable materials.

$36 $32 at Amazon

RELATED: How Often Should You Wash Your Makeup Brushes? (Psst: It's More Than You Think)

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