After the perfect tool to contour your face? We can tell you which make-up brush to use

Did you know that contouring is a timeless make-up technique that’s sculpted the cheeks of beauty lovers for generations? In fact, historians have claimed it was first invented right back in the 1500s. But the difference between then and now? Contour products have transformed from tough bits of chalk to luxury creams, liquids and powders, and we now have the perfect tools to help us achieve a chiselled finish.

Contouring 101 – why is contouring important?

Contouring helps create the illusion of shadows on your face to enhance your features (think carved out cheekbones or a sharp jawline) or to subtly change their shape (we love a bit of nose contour). This is achieved by using contour and highlight products that are slightly darker and lighter than your skin tone.

You want your contour to look as natural as possible, so blending is your best friend when you're applying it. Keep going until you can even trick yourself into thinking those are your natural cheekbones – no harsh lines here!

The best way to contour will be different for everyone, as our face shapes are all unique. The general rule is to follow the hollows of your face – that's underneath your cheekbones, around the sides of your forehead and along your jawline. These are the areas of the face where a shadow would naturally form. If you’re struggling, you can use the top of your ear as a guide for your cheekbones.

Then, the highlight shade is applied to any areas of the face that light naturally hits – on top of your cheekbone, your forehead, brow bone and chin.

Normally, contour is added after you've applied your foundation and concealer.

How to use a contour brush

There are three main types of brush you can apply contour with:

• Angled contour brush – these brushes have shorter, more densely-packed bristles and may be cut into a slanted or flat shape. They’re great at creating defined lines or for a fuller-coverage look

• Domed contour brush – these are great for precision and are just the right size for fitting into the hollows of your cheeks. Thanks to longer bristles, they make blending a quick and easy task, too

• Rounded contour brush – if you’re after a more soft, diffused effect, a rounded brush is for you. They’re a great shout for anyone who’s new to the world of contouring

No matter which style of contour brush you choose, each one will help you apply product to the face and blend it seamlessly into your skin. Try a mixture of back-and-forth and circular motions to help you blend.

Which contour brush do I need?

The type of contour brush and product you choose will differ depending on the desired finish you’re after.

Want a striking, sculpted look? Go for a cream contour product, applied directly to the face and blended out with an angled brush. Just looking for a slight lift to the face? Try dipping a domed or rounded brush into a powder palette before lightly dusting across the cheek.

Want a little more guidance? Here's our pick of 10 of the best contour brushes available at Boots.

Best multi-tasking brush

Try: No7 Contour and Highlighter Brush

• Double ended
• Dome shaped end and angled end

Sculpting has been made fuss-free and easy thanks to this dual-ended tool. The angled end helps you add definition with your shadow shade, loading up the brush with product before you sweep it across your hairline, jawline and under the cheekbones. The dome-shaped end quickly blends out any excess product, or can add a dusting of highlighter as a finishing touch.

Best for beginners

Try: MAC 168S Large Angled Contour Brush

• Angled brush

• 100% synthetic

Looking for something that’ll give you that ‘expert’ finish when you’ve got zero experience? Made of firmly-bundled fibres that form a buffed edge, this brush can be used with contour powder and creams to create a soft, more diffused contour. This is great for someone who prefers a ‘no make-up make-up’ look or wants a natural contour effect.

Best for precision powder

Try: Laura Mercier Angled Cheek Contour Brush

• Slanted angle brush

• Perfect for powder

The slanted shape of this fluffy brush mimics the angles of your cheekbones, making for a highly precise yet effortless application. To apply your contour like a pro, hold the brush at the centre of the handle, pinch it between your thumb and finger and glide it across the cheek. If you’ve gone in too heavy handed, loosely grip the end of the handle and softly diffuse the excess product.

Best for liquid & cream contour

Try: Morphe V108 Dense Blending Contour Brush

• Dense domed tip

• 100% vegan*

If you prefer a cream or liquid contour, choose a brush with densely-packed bristles for even distribution of your product and a seamless finish on the skin. This one has a domed shape for targeted laydown, and makes it easy for you to build up layers of product, too. Another great multi-tasker, you can also use this brush for bronzer, blush or foundation!

Best for travel

 Fenty Beauty Portable Contour & Concealer Brush 150

• Retractable domed brush

• Attaches to your favourite Fenty Beauty Match Stix

This one is a handy tool for your handbag, or a space saver in your suitcase! This retractable contour and concealer brush gives you some quick and easy sculpting action before shrinking right back down into its tiny yet tough container. For dramatic impact, apply a cream contour product straight to your face before blending it in with the brush, or for a softer look, stroke the brush over your product and buff into your face. 

Best for eye & nose contour

Try: No7 Eye Contour Brush

• Angled brush

• Compact bristles

We know what you’re thinking… eye contouring? But stick with us, as this little tool is capable of giving you some seriously sculpted eye make-up. The compact bristles allow for detailed application of eyeshadows, while the angled shape helps you to contour and blend around the crease of the lids and corner of the eyes. It’s a handy little tool for nose contouring, too.

Best for bronzer

 Bobbi Brown Bronzer Brush

• Rounded fluffy brush

• Made from super soft goat hair

Some people prefer to do their sculpting with a warmer bronzer shade for a more sun-kissed, natural look. This luxuriously soft bronzer brush will give you an even application of bronzer and is a dab hand at blending, too. It’s best to go in with a lighter hand when contouring with bronzer – think a gentle dusting over the cheeks, jawline and forehead.

Best for highlight

Try: bareMinerals Diffused Highlighter Brush

• Tapered brush

• Vegan*

No contour look is complete without a touch of highlighter! The soft bristles of this tapered brush hug your face for precise application, giving a diffused finish to any liquid, cream or powder highlighter. If it’s a natural-looking glow you’re after, look no further.

Best for sculpting

 Revolution Create Defining Contour Brush

• Tapered brush

• Short, dense bristles

With short, dense bristles, it’s hard to find a brush that’ll give a sharper finish to your contour. Ideal for cream or powder products, create definition by building your shadow at the outer edges of your face and blending inwards to create the ultimate sculpted look. Plus, have you noticed the stunning rose gold finish? We’re big fans.

Best for quick blending

Try: Sculpted By Aimee Connolly Double Ended Sculpting Brush

• Double-ended brush

• Fluffy rounded bristles

Extra fluffy with a slimline style, this brush is designed to give you chiselled cheeks in seconds – no matter if you’re a beginner or a pro! The more rounded side is for bronzing, specially shaped to seamlessly blend contour into the hollows of your face. The smaller tapered side gives precise placement for your highlight.

*Vegan formulas do not contain any animal-derived ingredients or by-products.