Type below and hit enter...

Want to purchase some Japanese brushes but don’t know where to start? You’ve come to the right place, today we’re talking eye brush basics! I’ve broken it down to 6(ish) brush shapes so you can customise your own ‘eye brush kit’ 🙂

If you’re new to high end or Japanese brushes, you might wanna read the Why Pay More For Makeup Brushes post.

NB: Brush preferences are largely dependant on eye shape and I’ll try to cover the popular options with emphasis on my favourites (which tend to be Japanese made, hence the title). I’ve also listed some more affordable/widely available options that might not be my first pick, but not everyone wants to order online or shell out the big bucks and I get that 🙂 In chronological order or rather, the order in which I would use them…

1. Large Tapered Brush

A large, fluffy domed brush that is often used for a transition shade above the socket (refer to eye diagram below) and blending edges between steps. The large crease brush is often overlooked but is crucial (in my opinion) for attaining a perfect gradient, especially if you’re going for a complex or smokey look.

Japanese Brush Starter Kit – Eye Brushes

Some favourites: Hakuhodo J5522, Wayne Goss 03, Suqqu Eyeshadow L, Hakuhodo G5522, Rae Morris 7.5 Deluxe Round Shader

Widely Available Options: Mac 224

2. Medium Tapered Brush

The MAC 217 of the brush world; ideal for everyday, stock-standard socket shading. Typically a bit smaller and denser than the large crease brush – if you have smaller eyes, you might be able to skip the large option and simply go for two medium tapered brushes (one for application of colour and another to blend).

Japanese Brush Starter Kit – Eye Brushes

Some Favourites: Wayne Goss 06, Hakuhodo J142, Hakuhodo J5523, Chikuhodo GSN 10, Tom Ford 13, Charlotte Tilbury Eye Blender (not as dense as previous listed)

Widely Available Options: Mac 217 (one old, one new), Zoeva 227

3. Small Tapered Brush

The small crease brush is ideal for precision shading in the outer V area or if you’re seeking a soft cut crease effect. Also handy for gentle shading across the lower lash line. Note that some are more pointed and others more rounded, a matter of preference.

Japanese Brush Starter Kit – Eye Brushes

Some Favourites: Rae Morris 8 Medium Point Shader, Hakuhodo J146, Wayne Goss 04

Widely Available Options: Zoeva 224, Mac 226 (apparently discontinued, soz!)

4. Flat Shader Brush

Dense, flat brushes are used to pack eyeshadow or pigment onto the mobile lid. For me, softness is not as important here because typically, you’d be using a patting motion as opposed to a buffing motion. In a pinch, the point can be used for lower lash line shading.

Japanese Brush Starter Kit – Eye Brushes

NB: In this category, I actually favour the MAC 239 over the Japanese options as it’s stiffer.

Some Favourites: Hakuhodo J004G, Hakuhodo J242G, Rae Morris Lash Line Smudger 12

Widely Available Options: MAC 239, Zoeva 234Bare Minerals Wet/Dry Eyeshadow Brush

Dat diagram doe…

A lovely commenter pointed out that an eye diagram may be a helpful tool for this post. I gave it my best shot…

Japanese Brush Starter Kit – Eye Brushes

An oversimplified explanation (use your brushes in whatever area you see fit!) but a visual is always nice 🙂

5. Pointed Pencil Brush

Handy for heavier lower lash line shading (using a back and forth buffing motion), diffusing eyeliner or even tear duct highlight placement. Softness is absolutely crucial here, because the lash line is very delicate and watery eyes ruin everything.

Japanese Brush Starter Kit – Eye Brushes

Some Favourites: Hakuhodo G5526, Chikuhodo T8, Hakuhodo Kokutan Eyeshadow T, Chikuhodo Z10 (not pictured, where is that cheeky bugger?!)

Widely Available Options: Mac 219, Sigma Pencil E30

6. Eye Liner Brushes

I find that this is the category where preferences vary so vastly that you really have to investigate via your own trial and error. From a broad perspective, eyeliner brushes can be categorised into three basic shapes: fine liner, smoky liner and angled.

For gel liners, I tend to opt for fine liner brushes…

Japanese Brush Starter Kit – Eye Brushes

Some Favourites: Rae Morris Deluxe Eyeliner 13, Rae Morris Precision Eyeliner 14, Hakuhodo B007

Widely Available Options: Most brands make fine liner brushes

If I’m using ‘Karima’s Easiest Winged Liner’ technique and smudging pencil liner into a wing, I’ll use an angled or smoky liner brush (the latter being less sharp and thicker in profile which provides a more diffused effect). I would classify the first two as smoky liner brushes, the final four are standard angled brushes (which many also use for the brows).

Japanese Brush Starter Kit – Eye Brushes

Some Favourites: SUQQU Eyeliner D, Smith 302, Hakuhodo J163H

Widely Available Options: MAC 263, Anastasia Beverly Hills 7, Zoeva 317

7. Miscellaneous Favourites

These brushes don’t necessarily fit the above categories but I love them all the same.

Japanese Brush Starter Kit – Eye Brushes

Hakuhodo J521 D1 or Wayne Goss 08: Teeny tiny push brushes. Perfect for tightlining the upper lash line with cake or gel eyeliner. Also handy for creating very fine eyeliner across the lash line. Hakuhodo J521-D1 can be purchased here, Wayne Goss 08 here.

Make Up Store 112 Smudge Brush: A favourite for pushing eyeshadow onto the lower lash line – uber soft! I think it has been discontinued, please let me know if you know of a dupe!

Synthetic Crease Brushes: Not Japanese made but a must-have for blending cream eyeshadows. I actually favour more affordable brands here, Ecotools synthetics are the bomb! Some other favourites: Real Techniques Base Shadow Brush (sold as part of a kit UGH), It Cosmetics All Over Shadow Smudger, Zoeva 227, Ecotools Highlighting Brush (part of this set).

So with these… 10ish brushes, I could create any complex eye look. If you favour simple shading, you may only use two or three shapes so feel free to pick and choose. If you’re not keen on selecting individual brushes and would prefer a ready-made kit, I highly recommend the Wayne Goss Collection Set (reviewed here).

Did you enjoy this post? Shall we progress to a Face Brush Starter Kit? Let me know in the comments and leave any questions down there, too 🙂


Disclaimer: Some of the brushes mentioned have been sent for consideration, I couldn’t even tell you which because I don’t keep no spreadsheet. This post is not sponsored, some links are affiliate links and many are not.

Leave your comment (73 comments)

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Love this post! Really appreciate the detail and thought you put in your post.

    Was wondering how you wash your brushes?

  2. Great post Karima! Thank you for outlining your top picks. Sometimes Japanese brush sites can get so overwhelming with the range of brushes they offer. Also, the addition of a diagram is quite helpful so thanks for that.

    I’d love to see a similar post about your fave Japanese face brushes 🙂

    Ps. In point 7, I think there’s a typo where it says “Perfect for tightlining the upper lash line cake”. Thought I’d point it out in case you didn’t realise (although it has made me wanna have cake now lol ) xxx

  3. Thanks for this, Karima — such a useful post. I’m slowly building up my brush collection and picked up the Hakuhodo 142 (both the J and the S, J is more versatile but the S is gentler on my easily-irritated outer corners) and 146 after reading your reviews; they are both great. I’m headed to Japan in May so will probably pick up a few more then — would love to see a breakdown of your favourite face brushes, too!

  4. Love love this, thank you for the work and recommendations you put into this. I have most of the Hakuhodo ones and I love them so much since my eye lids became sensitive due to hormonal changes during pregnancy. Yes, please do a Face brush post too!

  5. Yes, love this post. SO helpful! Thank you for putting in the work and organizing this post into something manageable! It will be a wonderful resource for many. Please do a face brush post as well!

  6. Fantastic! So helpful to have all your eye picks in one post. The diagram is perfect too. Are Rae Morris brushes made in Japan? I thought they were made in China. I’m not sure though.

  7. A lot of work must have gone into writing this! This is super useful and can’t wait for future brush posts. I also watched the video you did with Michelle recently on adulting and being an introvert. That definitely struck a nerve with me. I had always felt there was nothing wrong with being introverted, but I definitely noticed when I started an internship a few years ago how hard that was. Everyone was expected to be extraverted and super confident, while I had always valued my own modesty more. Also making friends as an adult is super hard indeed! All my friends live in diferent countries and I’m looking for a job atthe moment, so it sucks.

    Have you tried anything from the Tom Ford Spring collection? I bought three cream eye shadows and I really love them so much. Why don’t they make any of them permanent? Maybe the whole exclusivity thing makes them sell more? I don’t know.


      And I’m so pleased the introverted video resonated with you! That’s comforting for me, also 🙂 It’s only recently that I’ve come to accept who I am.

      ALSO! Are you the same Sarah that send me a beautiful package to a PO Box? If so, thank you so so much <3 You really brightened my day, I see your little profile picture a lot on my blog and I really appreciate your support 🙂

      PS: I think they did make some of the cream eyeshadow permanent, if I hear correctly 😉


  8. Yeeeesssss please do a post on Face Brushes. I am soooo happy, going to Japan in June and these posts are absolutely priceless! I don’t think I trust any other blogger’s recommendations as much as yours.

  9. I would love a face brush starter kit! Thanks so much for this post; it’s most helpful. I plan on investing in some nicer brushes. Another good post would be on how to keep your high end brushes clean.

  10. bless your heart for taking the time to do this! such a great eye brush reference.

    what do you use to wash the expensive brushes? my wayne goss and chikuhodo are in desperate need of a deep clean. thanks!

  11. Ermergerd yes, we want face brushed too!

    I’m looking into the Zorva brushed, in particula the luxe face and eye brushed. Ya tried the face brushes?


  12. Top post as usual. I love my Japanese brushes and they really are sooo different once you try them. Plase a post for face brushes! X

  13. Karima help me please !
    I trust your recommendation
    I want second skin finish foundation suitable for very oily skin
    I love my MAC F&B in C5 but I find it too glowy I have to blot all the time

  14. Hi Karima – great post!! I was wondering how you clean your brushes? You have a lot of beautiful, delicate and expensive brushes… How you you take care of them? Love your blog and your youtube-tutorials 😀 #favoriteyoutube’er

  15. Hi Karima, I’m looking at investing in a good quality eye brush set and have been looking at the Wayne Goss Anniversary set. How do you think this compares to say, Rae Morris or Chikuhodo? I am looking for softness as my eyes are very sensitive. Thanks!

    1. Hey Erin,
      Highly recommend the Wayne Goss Anniversary set. They are a similar softness to the Rae Morris and Chikuhodo (in terms of eye brushes, for face brushes Chikuhodo are softer).

  16. As a huge Japanese brush fan, this post is so satisfying. This is very helpful to determine the best brush shapes for my slightly-hooded Asian eyes w/ limited space and shallow lids.

    I’m curious, have you ever tried other brands like Koyudo, Mizuho, Houkodo, etc? I have never personally tried them, but I would assume the quality would be just as comparable to the ones mentioned in the post.

  17. Hi Karima!! I’ve just purchased some of the brushes you’ve recommended (thanks so much for that by the way) and I’m loving them. The only question I have is, how do you go about washing them? I’m very weary about damaging these (as they cost more and are less accessible here in the states), and I don’t know that my normal cleansing technique is going to cut it. Can you detail how you care for yours?

    1. I hope to do a video about this soon but until then: I wash with beauty blender liquid soap (carefully, only getting the bristles wet), pat dry onto a towel and lay them in brush guards while they dry.

  18. Wow – thanks for doing this post it must have been So. Much. Work.
    I am so desperate to find some dupes for my scratchy Mac 116 and 129 that if you could find it in your heart to do a post on face brushes I may actually have kittens xx

  19. Hi Karima! Great post and sooooo helpful! Out of each of the categories you listed, what would you say your absolute favorites are? Like your favorite large tapered, medium tapered, small tapered, and pointed pencil brush. I really want to make myself a nice kit but get a bit confused when it comes to picking eye brushes. Thanks!

  20. Hi Karima, I find this post really helpful, I can see how detailed you were in writing this blog post. Can’t wait for your face brush starter post, would love to see which Japanese brush you’d recommend for highlighting. XX

  21. Hi Karima

    I noticed in one of your videos you used a Chikuhodo G6 for your cut crease. I am purchasing a few brushes from Hakuhodo and was hoping to get a few in one go so as to make the shipping costs worth it. Was wondering the best Hakuhodo equivalent for creating the cut crease line? Many thanks!