Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Brushes 101

Brushes 101


As a makeup artist I’ve always been intrigued by brushes, but there are so many out there. Every class I attended the artist had different recommendations. Every distributor has different recommendation. Each of my friends loves different brushes.  This leads to major confusion and spending a lot of money trying to decide what is right for me.  So, for this issue, let’s explore some brush basics.

Brushes should be selected with the following considerations:
  • What are the properties of the product to be applied (liquid, cream, powder.)?
  • What are the properties of the surface – rough, smooth, dry, moist, oily?
  • What is your personal technique or style?
  • What is the desired final effect?
There are three parts to every brush the hair, the ferrule and the handle.  The hair is the brush part made from natural or synthetic fibers.  In larger brushes the fiber may be squirrel, pony, goat or blends.  These brushes include powder, blush, contour and large eye.  In smaller brushes sable, weasel, kolinsky, capra, badger and others are used.
The ferrule is the metal part of the brush.  It is most often made from brass, copper or aluminum.  The handle is the third part and it may be made from acrylic, metal or wood. Wood is often preferred for its long term reliability.  Short handles are preferred for client use as it allows them to get closer to a mirror to work.  Long handles allow the makeup artist to work farther away from the client and enhance their ability to see the big picture.
It is best if the hairs are fused (glued) rather than stapled for any cosmetic use to avoid the creation of a germ reservoir in the ferrule.  Fused bristles are easier to clean.

Cost and material
Brushes can vary from very inexpensive to highly expensive.  The variance in price will depend on if the brushes are machine made or hand made, the type of ferrule, the fiber the bristles are made of and the handle choice.  The same hair fibers are used in both hand made and machine made brushes.  The difference will be how they are placed into the ferrule.  Commonly brush kits will be machine made and hand made brushes will only be sold individually. A kit can be a nice way to start as it is less expensive, but professionals wanting to specialize in makeup artistry will want to add quality hand made brushes as they do a superior job in product application and last longer. 

Synthetic verses Natural
Brushes should be selected based on their purpose not on their origin for the best application result.  However synthetics do come in a full range of brushes for the client who wants non-animal sources for all brushes.  This comes at a cost however as these brushes are polymer filaments commonly made of taklon or nylon.  These brushes have their place and definite use, but require more manufacturing. 

Synthetic fibers vary in price, durability and performance. Nylon is a common inexpensive utility brush.  The mix of fibers and whether they are hand or machine made will affect the price and life of these brushes. The best of these brushes have a mix of at least 3 diameter filaments of varying thicknesses.  The fibers may be white or dyed to reflect animal hair toning or a fun color. Common examples are fan brushes, lip brushes and camouflage brushes.  These brushes are easy to clean although less soft than natural fibers.  Sometimes they are dyed and then baked to make the hair softer. They are less prone to damage from detergents and solvents.  They are excellent for layering makeup or applying cream or camouflage products.

Synthetic bristle brushes are stiff and do not have the flags or curve of the natural bristle brushes preferred for hair-brushing.  Synthetic bristle brushes are most commonly used for stencil work and fabric painting.

Nylon or taklon
These synthetic fibers are the preferred fiber for applying cream type cosmetics.  Nylon includes nylon, plastic or rubber.  They come in a variety of textures, qualities and control. Nylon is less expensive than taklon. Taklon is softer and more absorbent. They are excellent for applying cream or camouflage bases lip color and eyeliner.

Natural fibers refer to those derived from animal hair across the globe.  It also refers to a specific type of brush.  Natural fibers include sable, kolinsky, badger, goat, pony, squirrel, ox, camel, hog, mongoose, sabelina, and natural bristle.

Badger is a rather stiff fiber.  This stiffness makes it good for brow color application.  The stiff tips will help create a soft feathered brow.  The hairs are thickest at the tip and thinnest at the root.  They will appear bushier and are used for paintbrushes or body mask applicators.

Goat has numerous uses including luxurious powder applicators.  The finest goat is called Capra and this is a great powder applier.  It creates a medium to full application, has good absorbency and a soft feel. They can be configured in many cosmetic application styles.  Natural goat is creamy in color but sometimes blended with pony or other fibers it is referred to as Capra.  Good for applying a variety of powders it is found in many configurations.

This is the king of all brushes.  Kolinsky is known for its excellent porosity and the most intensive color application.  It comes from the tail of a mink – part of the weasel family found in Siberia and northern parts of China where the weather is very cold.  Kolinsky is known for its strength, ability to hold fine points and ability to snap back.  The hairs are finally pointed and very absorbent.  The finest brushes are made from all male animals but it is more common to find 60% female, 40% male blends due to the abundance of females to males available.  Preferred by makeup artists, kolinsky brushes are also popular for those doing nail extensions and fine art. Avoid reoccurring exposure to oils as this will degrade them.

The best sable is red.  This means it comes from any Marten (member of the weasel family) with red hair.  There are many qualities available.  Some consider it a less expensive alternative to kolinsky as it runs between 40-50% of the cost of the fine kolinsky brush.  It has similar properties and abilities and may be blended with ox to make it even less expensive.  This will be done at the sacrifice of the fine point. Sable is often used for blush, powder and medium brushes.

Not derived from sable it resembles red sable in appearance only.  It is made from ox hair dyed reddish.  The tip is blunt not pointed.  It is common in art brushes and is sold under a variety of pseudonyms.

Pony hair is soft and strong.  The animals should be young but at least 2 years old. The hair is harvested from the mane, tail, hock, and belly but is predominantly from the mane in which grows profusely and continuously.  Pony hair is preferred for blush and eye-shadow brushes. It has good strength and strong snap but does not have good ability to hold shape and no point.  It can be used with other fibers to bring down the cost of a brush but with some sacrifices.  If you wish more opacity, dampen the hairs or use it dry for a soft effect.  Often pony will be blended with goat.

Squirrel is sued to create a soft effect. It is good for used on aged or scarred skin.  The grey or blue is more highly prized as it applies a soft wash of color. This hair comes from Canada or Russia and is usually in short supply.  The brown colors are more available and are used in medium quality brushes. Sometimes these will be passed of as Kolinsky but they do not have the snap back ability although they are equivalent to kolinsky for the point.  Their lack of snap back means they bend out of shape easily.  They are good for contouring and shadows or detail work in the crease. Cut properly they give more definition in their compact head and are superior for crease enhancement.  They are generally best for powders.

Ox hair comes from the ears of cattle or oxen.  It is strong and has good snap with a silky feel.  It lacks the fine tip found with red sable or kolinsky.  These brushes are moderately priced and have a more rigid feel than sable but less than natural bristle.  The best ones are from South America or European oxen.

Camel is a general term for a variety of hair none of which is from a camel.  Instead it was named for the inventor, Mr. Camel, or so the story goes.  It may be a blend of pony, bear, sheep, ox, goat, or squirrel.  It has a soft feel, is very common and inexpensive.  Artists like this blend for its ability to hold fluid.

Natural bristle aka Hog or Boar
This is a coarse, strong fiber with a natural curve and a flagged tip.  Think treatment or fan brush.  White versions have many grades. Black varieties are inexpensive and stiffer for economically priced brushes.  This is used for hairbrushes, shaving and for oil painting.

Mongoose is used for a brush between sable and bristle in stiffness.  It has dark brown tips, light middle and dark roots.  Common uses are as a shaving brush, hair brush or for art work.

Whatever the brush you are evaluating keep in mind what it is needed for, what type of surface it is for, and is there a particular style or finish effect desired.  Construction and quality, and performance life from your investment are also key to factor in.

#makeup brushes  #brushes  #selecting makeup brushes

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