Paint Brushes Instead of Makeup Brushes?

Paint Brushes Instead of Makeup Brushes?

If you’re a serious beauty junkie, you know that good makeup brushes can really take a toll on your paycheck.

For a very reasonable $450 you can get the Artis Fluenta set with brushes that feel like cashmere & apply makeup like a dream. I’ll never argue that these couture brushes aren’t worth it. These are gorgeous! But few can afford brushes like these.

Even more reasonably priced makeup brushes add up. My favorite drugstore brand is EcoTools & their single brushes can go for as much as $10 a pop.

Why use makeup brushes instead of just using your hands? I think it’s easier to get even coverage and make the most out of your makeup pigments if you use brushes. I also generally have acidic, oily skin so using my hands can oxidize my makeup & change the color of each product. The color payoff is far better with brushes too. With brushes vs the little included sponge tip applicators in lots of makeup palettes, I like the length of brush handles & how that allows me to get better application at a better angle. In general, I would highly, highly recommend good brushes over any included brushes or using your hands.

A little while ago, I decided to try to hack beauty industry prices & try paint brushes for makeup application. Paint brushes are far more reasonable brush by the brush & most arts & crafts stores have a large selection to work with.

As a former oil painter, I know that paint brushes have a huge range of textures, bristles, sizes, & uses. Watercolor brushes tend toward softer, finer textures. Oil brushes can be firmer and are the best way to give a sculptural quality to oil paintings. You can buy natural bristles or synthetic so if you like to avoid animal products, it’s easy to find vegan brushes.

I decided to head to my local Michaels to try out my little experiment. The first thing I did was pack up my ragtag collection of decaying and fraying makeup brushes (the reason for the project in the first place) so I could find the right replacement sizes & shapes. Once I found the paintbrush aisle, I spent probably 30 minutes comparing sizes, shapes, & textures. This was a time intensive process for sure! I’m also very picky so it probably took longer than most people would take.

I considered some paintbrush sets. The prices are insanely cheap! 10 brushes for between $5-10 for the entire set! One off high quality brushes were about $2-3 a brush. I wanted very specific brushes so I decided to buy brush by brush.



At the time, I was using a paint pot for my liquid liner cat eye. I love a brush on the stiffer side with a short, square tip. I also need a long handle to get the right angle. I was able to find the perfect brush (I’m still in love with it!) for $4. I also picked up a fan brush for highlighter, blush brush, bronzer brush, a few different eyeshadow brushes, a foundation brush and a soft concealer brush. Grand total? $16!

Ok, cost is obviously a huge advantage. How did they perform with makeup? Surprisingly well! For shadows, the brushes were comparable to makeup brushes. The liner & fine brushes were great. Depending on how you apply liner, you can get the finest of fine points in a paint brush. There’s more selection in fine points than most makeup brush brands out there.

For more blunt or larger brushes, I found the savings weren’t really worth it. Paint brushes are created for a medium that make it tricky to collect pigment. Oil paints and acrylic paints need to have stiffer bristles to really get the right color payoff. Those same brushes can destroy a blush or bronzer powder palette in seconds. Blushes and bronzers have very finely milled powders that don’t require a lot of work to extract. Even with just your fingertips, you can get pretty accurate coverage. I found the coarse texture of even the softest large brushes made a mess of these face powders.

A big downside for me was the length of the brush handles. In general, the larger the paint brush the longer the handle. That’s fine in an art studio. In a pretty jar on a vanity, that can be unstable & they’re really inconvenient for travel. I also found that with a tiny canvas like my face, the brushes were just too broad for fine placement.

All in all, I would say it was a pretty inexpensive experiment and a lot of fun. I kept a handful of the brushes for some time, and I still use that holy grail square eyeliner brush every day. This project also really helped when I was on a strict budget during grad school. I got to have fun makeup brushes at a time when I had very very little disposable income for luxuries like that. Now I can afford a good quality makeup brush or two each pay period & after a little while, I’ve amassed a nice collection of brushes.



After this experiment, I would recommend asking for gift cards or brushes for gifts or buying a nice collection slowly when you can afford it. $10-20 a brush is a nice birthday or holiday gift most friends & family can afford. And $10-20 per brush every other pay period is a luxury many frugal women can fit into a household budget. Although you can get some pretty good dupes at a craft or art store, I think there’s no way to beat a good set of makeup brushes.


Let me know what makeup hacks and budget experiments you have tried! I’m always looking for new ideas. Comment below!


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