The Photographer’s Quest: Considerations For Studio Friendly Makeup Brushes

Reading this post will save you lots of days and nights poring through endless makeup forums and blog posts figuring out what brushes to buy for your shoots.

If you’re into themed photography instead of the dime a dozen photos of bikinied women at the beach, at the cafe with the same look, same clothes, same blah, there’s a high chance you might need to learn a fair bit about how to do props, costumes and even makeup which suit the theme you have in mind.

But what does a photographer who can barely keep up with photo technology know about studio makeup?  Well for starters you could spend an average of $3-5K excluding materials to enroll yourself in a professional makeup artist course (the basic personal grooming courses would never suffice) and then get a certificate in a field which you never intended to pursue.

Alternatively, you could hire a makeup artist.  But in Singapore where photographers barely earn enough to call it a career, I’m hard pressed to imagine the artist would be willing to produce props and top notch paintwork for a pithy farthing.

Or, you could simply do your own research.  Sure it might never be enough to replace a professional course or the certified artist, but it might just be enough to do up the theme for one shoot and you can save your thousands plus pithy farthing for a new lens or soft box.

Interview Questions for Every Brush

Just like how you have to deal with nasty questions during an interview, so should you also subject a potential purchase with nasty questions before handing over your money.  Whatever brand you are dealing with, here are some basic brush questions you must STILL ask yourself:

  • What is it made of?  I’m surprised at how reticent some of the bigger brands are when I ask them what their brushes are made of.  Even more surprisingly, they almost never list the full materials on their website.  Find out what each part of the brush is made of including the bristles, the ferrule (the part which holds the bristles) and the handle.  Hakuhodo lists down the materials for each part of the brush.  They even let you sort according to bristle type.
  • Bristles: Is it suitable for the medium that you are intending to use?  Is it aqua paints?  Is it HD makeup?  Is it mineral makeup?  Are you going to use creams?  Synthetic hairs are generally better for creams while natural bristles are better at picking up powder.  But at the rate at which animals keep dying for beauty, you can find good quality synthetic brushes which perform quite closely to natural bristles.  Some brands claim to use natural hair and yet be cruelty free.  How much of this is true… remains to be seen.  To read in depth into the different types of animal hairs, click here:
  • Ferrule: So you think you need 24K gold plated ferrules?  Really? Why?  Are you going to wear your brush?  Actually I would not mind one of those gorgeous Hakuhodo vermillion handles as a brooch or perhaps I should stick it in my hair.  Perhaps I can just buy the handle and ferrule without the animal hair.  Test a brush by tugging lightly on the brushes.  There should not be minimal/if any fallout.  Ferrules are equally as important as bristles.  You may have Grade A blue squirrel hairs… falling out of a loosely made ferrule.
  • Handle: Is it wood?  Is it plastic?  Can it stand up to frequent washing?  Is it balanced in your hand?  Portables tend to be overweighted at the bristles making the application heavier.  Hakuhodo goes on to claim that they have manufactured their vermillion brushes to ensure that they are perfectly balanced.  I don’t know whether anybody’s tested this claim.
  • Real experiences: Find out from friends and non-paid/non-sponsored users how they find the brushes.
  • Do you really need this brush?  Sure we would all like 1001 brushes of every shape and size.  But unless they are beautiful to the point of being ornamental and you just want to show them off like very small and expensive samurai swords in your living room, consider whether you really should be buying a crease brush in large, medium and small.
  • How is it made?  Just as important as what goes into the brush.  If the workmanship is poor, there is plenty of fallout, the ferrules are loose and there is no assurance that the brushes are cruelty-free, you may not wish to buy these.
  • Price is not everything.  A very expensive brush does not mean that it’s good.  A very cheap brush that claims to be top grade blue squirrel hair, cruelty-free and hand-made is probably lying.

    Photo courtesy of

    Photo courtesy of