October 31, 2013

Make Up For Ever Brushes - Artisan Collection

One of the coolest moments of my makeup-loving life was getting to chat with Dany Sanz at The Makeup Show NYC in 2011. It was an impromptu chat during break between workshops, and couldn't have lasted more than five minutes - yet it left me awestruck and tongue-tied like few other encounters have. Dany is a makeup legend after all, both as a pro artist and as the creative and visionary force behind one of the premier makeup brands in the world. So when I heard that Make Up For Ever was coming out with its Artisan Brush Collection, I knew it would be extraordinary.

And so it is.

Five years in the making, the brushes was perfected by Dany herself. Each one was hand-crafted by no less than 30 people, with the fibbers specifically selected to mimic natural hair as closely as possible. What differentiates these from a lot of other synthetic brushes on the market is the two types of hair used - one straight, for greater intensity, and one wavy, for more diffused application. The mix of these hairs means that each brush can be calibrated for a particular effect.

I have to say that the brushes feel incredible. The fibers are incredibly soft and silky, the ferrule solid, and the beech wood handle is beautiful and graceful, with an organic yet ergonomic design. As soon as I had a chance to ogle inspect them at the MUFE boutique, I had to pick up a few to try out. I was also fortunate enough to receive a few more for testing, which has given me a fair indication of their performance.

Overall? I think these are excellent.

The 75 brushes (!!) in this collection are numbered according to general function: 100s are for the complexion, 200s are for the eyes, 300s are for the lips, and 400s are for specialty/professional purposes.

These are the 100 series I tried out:

Make Up For Ever brushes Artisan Brush Collection 160 Blush Brush, 152 Medium Highlighter Brush, 106 Medium Foundation Brush
Top to bottom: 160 Blush Brush, 152 Medium Highlighter Brush, 106 Medium Foundation Brush

Make Up For Ever brushes Artisan Brush Collection 160 Blush Brush, 152 Medium Highlighter Brush, 106 Medium Foundation Brush
Top to bottom: 160 Blush Brush, 152 Medium Highlighter Brush, 106 Medium Foundation Brush
160 Blush Brush (51$ CAD) - This one seems a little odd for blush application, with its elongated shape. I initially used it more for applying bronzer and contour powder and it's fantastic for loose or finishing powder, particularly in the recessed areas of the face like around the nose and under the eyes. I eventually tried it with blush and it actually works beautifully when used to gently sweep the blush up along the cheekbones, rather than using it to buff out a more rounded application.

This has a mix of wavy and straight fibres, and I was able to vary the application from very subtle to medium intensity quite easily. It worked well for picking up both loose and pressed powders, and was terrific for applying deeply pigmented blush that require a softer hand.

It's a finer, more precise and infinitely softer version of the 138 Tapered Face Brush from MAC, which - until recently - was one of my favourite multi-tasking powder brushes.

Make Up For Ever 160 Blush Brush MAC 138 Tapered Face Brush
MUFE 160 Blush Brush
MAC 138 Tapered Face Brush
152 Medium Highlighter Brush (43$ CAD) - This is marketed as a highlighter brush, but I think it works really well for a variety of products. The wavy fibres mean it tends to give a softer application, which is nice for both highlighting powders and intensely pigmented blushes, but amazing for cream-based blushes, bronzers and foundations. It makes blending easy as pie, and gives cream foundations in particular a nice, airbrushed finish.

In terms of shape and size, it's similar to the smaller blush/buffer brushes I currently own from OCC and Real Techniques. The shape is more domed, so it's a little easier to create depth under the cheekbone.

OCC #011 Small Powder/Blush Brush, Make Up For Ever 152 Medium Highlighter Brush,  Real Techniques Buffer Brush
Top to bottom: OCC #011 Small Powder/Blush Brush, MUFE 152 Medium Highlighter Brush,
Real Techniques Buffer Brush
 106 Medium Foundation Brush (41$ CAD) - This a slightly paddle-shaped foundation brush, a touch wider and shorter than other foundation brushes I've owned. It's a little bit softer, thicker and fluffier as well, which allows it to provide a smoother application of foundation. Some flat foundation brushes can leave streak marks behind that then need to be blended away, but that's not the case here at all. The blend was easy and seamless, even with full coverage foundations. Because of its wider profile, it also applies the product more quickly. I tend to prefer buffing-style brushes for foundation, but I found myself reaching for this just as often - perhaps because of the way it delivered on the flawless finish, while still giving me a lot of control.

This is a comparison with the Cover FX Liquid Foundation Brush (which appears to have been discontinued *sadface*), where the wider, shorter and fluffier profile is obvious. The Cover FX brush, by the way, was probably my favourite flat foundation brush, as it has a very smooth profile and the exact right amount of give. The 106 nudges ahead, mainly because of how quickly it allows me to slap the foundation on.

Make Up For Ever 106 Medium Foundation Brush Cover FX Foundation Brush
MUFE 106 Medium Foundation Brush
Cover FX Foundation Brush
And now onto the 200 series eye brushes!

Make Up For Ever Artisan Brush Collection 216 Medium Precision Eye Blender Brush, 214 Small Precision Crease Brush
Top to bottom: 216 Medium Precision Eye Blender Brush, 214 Small Precision Crease Brush
216 Medium Precision Eye Blender Brush (29$ CAD) - This brush has a rounded bullet head, with straight fibres for more intense application. I liked this for applying powder eyeshadow to the crease or outer corner of the eye, and I also had good results using it to smudge out pencil or cream liner (though the 212 is my HG smudger, see below) The brush is dense but still very soft, so it didn't irritate my lash line.

The closest comparison brush I have is the Inglot 80 HP (which has been discontinued). It's a natural-hair brush, and as such the fibres are a little more rigid and not as silky soft as the MUFE 216.

Inglot 80 HP Make Up For Ever 216 Precision Eye Blender Brush
Inglot 80 HP
MUFE 216 Precision Eye Blender Brush
214 Small Precision Crease Brush (29$ CAD) - SUCH an awesome brush! I've been looking for a very small crease brush to achieve ultimate control, but something that would also give me enough flexibility for good blending. The brush fits the bill perfectly. The straight fibres and pointed tip can create the most defined crease, and work equally well for shading the outer corner. I even use this to apply soft shading under the lower lash line. It does all the work when it comes to blending in whatever line you've applied (though if you want to blend over a larger area this would not be your guy). In general I find myself leaning towards smaller brushes now for more precise work.

The most comparable brush I own is the Cozette S175 Eye Contour Brush, which is still a fair bit larger, and works a little bit better as a blender for me.

Cozette S175 Eye Contour Brush Make Up For Ever 214 Small Precision Crease Brush
Cozette S175 Eye Contour Brush
MUFE 214 Small Precision Crease Brush
 212 Medium Precision Smudger Brush (29$ CAD) - This is my Holy Grail brush for smudging eyeliner. It is precise, ultra-soft in terms of how it feels against my lash line, but still firm enough to offer a controlled smudge. It's almost too soft to smudge some powder eyeshadows effectively, as it can encourage fall-out, but it's a dream for powder eyeshadows that have that "creamy" texture. It's really fantastic for blending cream eyeliner up on the lid for an easy smoky look, and the fine tapered head gives great control for work around the corners of the eye.

The Mini Contour brush from Glamcor is the closest equivalent, though it's bigger and a little stiffer - which can make all the difference when it comes to working around the lashline. (For reference, I actually ADORE the Glamcor Mini Contour as a lip brush.)

Glamcor Mini Contour Make Up For Ever 212 Medium Precision Smudger Brush
Glamcor Mini Contour
MUFE 212 Medium Precision Smudger Brush
 258 Large Precision Eyeliner Brush (28$ CAD) - I have to admit this one stumped me for a bit. I tend to favour extremely fine eyeliner brushes for better control. Using the tip I was able to draw a fairly fine line, though I wasn't sure it was any better than what I could achieve with my ultra-fine liners. I don't generally do thicker liner, which is certainly what's achievable using this brush flat against the lid.

Then I recently did a makeup on someone who was a little uneasy about tight lining with a pencil directly, so I tried using this brush instead. I applied the liner to the lash line, and used the 258 to both smudge it into and beneath the lash line. I then brushed it over the tip of the pencil to load it, and then gently pushed it on the edge of the inner rim of the eye. The result was a beautifully lined eye, and a super gentle, non-scary application method.

The MAC 231 Small Shader Brush is my closest equivalent, though it is wider and thicker, with more rounded tapering.

MAC 231 Small Shader Brush Make Up For Ever 258 Large Precision Eyeliner Brush
MAC 231 Small Shader Brush
MUFE 258 Large Precision Eyeliner Brush
Overall, I am incredibly pleased with these brushes. I think the design and construction is top-notch, and the array of choices is faultless. If you're looking for a particular brush type - whatever size or shape - I daresay you will find it in this collection. The price point is not cheap, but for the quality of the product, I do think it's worth the investment.

I initially had some confusion about the cleaning process for these. I was told in the MUFE boutique to NEVER use an alcohol-based cleaner on these, as it would irrevocably damage the bristles within one or two uses. I haven't had a problem using alcohol on my other synthetic brushes (alcohol in a spray bottle is my preferred spot cleaner, actually), so I was a little taken aback. My contact at MUFE Canada confirmed that alcohol will damage any synthetic brushes over time. They do sell an alcohol-free Instant Brush Cleanser to go along with the brushes, which is an oil-based cleanser. For the moment I am using my Shu Uemura Cleansing Oils to clean these, until I can try the MUFE version.

So what about you guys? Have you given these new brushes a try? Are you coveting any in particular?

(Some of the items were provided by the brand/PR to be considered for review. I purchased the others. This post is not sponsored or compensated. All opinions are my own.)


  1. I love the look of the 160 Blush brush - the MAC counterpart seems so wonky next to it! Even just in your photos, these brushes look very soft and well made!

    1. They really are incredibly well-constructed, and just so soft on the face. I love synthetic bristles when they are this kind of quality - you just can't beat them for how they feel against the skin.

  2. they are perfection! I also prefer syntetic hair rather than natural hair.
    Have a lovely weekend and visit me when you can,

    1. Hi! I can't say I have a strong preference between one or the other, but I do love these a whole heck of a lot! :)

  3. I only had one quick look at this new collection as I was in the store for something else but now I'll pay more attention to 258 since I need fine liner brush and this one it could probably do what I want it to. Great review. :)

    1. It's definitely worth a few looks! Are you near the Montreal Sephora? I believe they have the full line-up there.

      And thank you! :)

  4. The two brushes I received have been excellent additions to my stash - I have the highlighter one too and it really is AMAZING for blending just about everything! One of the best brushes I have. I definitely would like to pick up a few more - they're so function and chic-looking as well!

    1. Right??? The highlighter brush is one of my favourites as well. I may need to get a second one, because you're right - it's such a great multi-tasker.


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