Real Techniques has released its Artists Essential Set of synthetic bristle brushes for application of cosmetics products and the set impresses with the ongoing brush design innovation displayed by the brand and its owner Paris Presents Incorporated and most especially by the Chapman sisters, Nicola and Samantha.
The brand’s most recent brushes appear to no longer suffer from the problems of its first generation where the black rubber coating on the lower part of the brushes would suddenly deplasticize, making them difficult to impossible to use due to the coating turning sticky and even flowing onto other items stored with them.
Brushes with this problem can be rendered usable by soaking and rubbing the black part of their handles with methylated spirits or rubbing alcohol until it is completely removed.
I am still a newcomer to the realm of quality makeup brushes but am impressed by the Real Techniques brushes I currently have in my collection and am intrigued by the shapes and synthetic bristles of the brushes comprising this new set, the 420 Spotlight Fan Brush in particular.
217 Expert Edge Large Brush
421 Soft Accent Brush
420 Spotlight Fan Brush
317 Smudge Liner Brush
425 Lip Smudge Brush
I had a so-called natural bristle fan brush in my collection when at art school years ago, but never found a use for it and, sadly unused for so long, it eventually disappeared.
During recent online research I would come across fan brushes in other brands of cosmetics brushes but their design was essentially the same as that long-lost brush as well as more contemporary versions for painters such as those made by Escoda.
The Chapman sisters’ 420 Spotlight Fan Brush for Real Techniques takes a different approach to the humble and so often forgotten fan brush, one that makes it far more useful to the art of makeup as well as the art of painting.
Just as artists’ brush design has evolved hand over fist in recent years as demonstrated by Escoda’s ÚLTIMO brushes made from Tendo synthetic fibres, reportedly imitating the qualities of squirrel hair to a remarkable degree, so has the design of cosmetics brushes.
It is inspiring to see Nicola and Samantha Chapman at the forefront of this revolution, and I look forward to seeing their Artists Essentials set for Real Techniques appear in the stores where I live.
We need to see more success stories like theirs, where women prove their creativity and ability to innovate over and over again in fields too often dominated by men but where women offer unique insights and advantages.
Real Techniques Artist Essentials Set
Real Techniques Artist Essentials Set.
The 425 Lip Smudger brush in the Real Techniques Artist Essentials Set.
The 317 Smudge Liner brush in the Real Techniques Artist Essentials Set.
The 420 Spotlight Fan brush in the Real Techniques Artist Essentials Set.
The 420 Spotlight Fan brush in the Real Techniques Artist Essentials Set.
First, that there is an ever-growing list of Australia-based beauty companies making cosmetics, haircare and skincare products that are world-class and that are sold not only in this country but around the world.
Second, that a number of Australia-based and expatriate makeup artists have made their mark in the world of fashion around the world, foremost being Val Garland and Rae Morris with a number of others steadily climbing up the ranks here and abroad.
Third, that Rae Morris has not only produced a series of textbook-quality tomes about makeup, with Amazon Australia listing six of them, but she has also designed what might possibly be the very best makeup brushes ever, the Rae Morris™ Magnetic Range aka Jishaku Range that is made by one of the best traditional brush-makers in Japan.
Fourth, British-born and sometime Sydney-resident Val Garland, now based out of London since 1994, released her own book about how she did it and does it, ‘Validated: The Makeup of Val Garland’, in late 2018.
Fifth, that if Rae Morris’ Jishaku Range makeup brushes are beyond your reach then a number of other Australian cosmetics companies have their own more affordable makeup brushes, with Nude by Nature’s brushes and brush sets, for example, easily available in pharmacies, online retailers and chain stores around the country.
Sixth, many if not most Australian cosmetics companies include or exclusively concentrate on making products from ingredients that are cruelty-free, organic or vegan, though there are the odd exceptions.
“Donkey milk” and “snail mucus”, for goodness sakes.
I think I will pass on products containing those.
When attending a somewhat dodgy art school at a rather dodgy university in another state of Australia, the necessity of good brushes quickly became obvious to me and I still have two from that time in my possession, one a Winsor & Newton Series 7 size 4 Kolinsky Sable watercolour brush used for spotting photographic prints, and an Escoda size 12 Chungking Bristle Domed brush that I bought as a reminder of what traditional European artists’ brush making can be.
These two “natural” hair brushes entered my collection many years ago when synthetic brush-making was still in its infancy, and I am pleased that synthetic brushes are rapidly becoming the standard.
I will never buy another “natural” fibre brush again.
As to Australian cosmetics and other beauty products companies, I have been steadily compiling a handwritten list of them as I come across them online and in stores, and may well share that list with links here soon.
One very pleasing thing to note: almost all of these companies have been founded and are run by Australian women and are surely success stories worthy of my basing documentary photography and video projects on them and their achievements.
If Australian women continue to be kept out of the boardrooms of big corporations, subjected to lower pay than Australian men and given far fewer opportunities for learning and advancement, then some Australian women are clearly making their own way in the beauty industry here and abroad, and that is something well worth understanding and celebrating.
Amazon.com.au – Rae Morris – “Internationally renowned for her flawless work and unique approach to makeup, Makeup Masterclass is the sixth book by this number one bestselling author, and shares all the makeup secrets of her amazing twenty-five year career.”
Crown Brush Australia – “With over 30 years of brush making tradition in the USA and world wide markets, Crown Brush Australia can offer you the largest range of professional makeup brushes with over 700 different styles.”
Escoda – “In a small town outside of Barcelona in the fall of 1933, Josep Escoda Roig (1902-1982) envisioned and created a brush factory to produce artist brushes for decorative and Fine Art. It would be the first of its kind in Spain and despite a Civil War and difficulty in obtaining raw materials, the company developed and grew. Today, the company has produced nearly 75 million brushes with close to a million brushes being produced each year. Josep Escoda’s vision and passion for producing the best brushes in the world continues to this day with his sons Josep Jr. and Ricard.“
Nude by Nature – “Nude by Nature is committed to delivering natural, cruelty-free make-up, made with 100% natural ingredients and formulated without unnecessary chemicals, synthetic ingredients or preservatives often found in cosmetics.”
The Memo – THE CALLIGRAPHY-CRAFTED MAKEUP BRUSHES ABOUT TO CHANGE EVERYTHING – “Speak the name Rae Morris to anyone inside the global makeup game and you’ll get a knowing nod. Even if you don’t have instant recall, you’ve definitely seen Morris’s brushstrokes on A-listers like Miranda Kerr, Cate Blanchett, Pink and Jessica Biel. She’s one of the most influential face-makers Australia’s ever produced.”
Rae Morris – Brushes – “Rae is also the designer behind the Rae Morris Magnetic Brush Range – the first magnetic makeup brush range in the world – which has been acclaimed as not only the most innovative, but one of the best makeup brush ranges in the world.”
Rae Morris – My Brushes – “Over time I became more passionate about brushes than anything else in my kit – over years I tested different designs and textures and in the process, almost without realising it, I came up with my own range of brushes. My brushes are the secret behind many of my most famous creations.”
The most important lesson that I learned in art school was buy the very best brushes that you can afford, and the second most important was to clean them carefully, thoroughly and regularly.
I preferred the relatively new acrylic paints over traditional alternatives such as watercolour, gouache, tempera and oil paints, and applied my acrylics with hog bristle, sable and synthetic fibre brushes as well as palette and painting knives for more vigorous effects.
Synthetic fibre brushes were somewhat primitive in those days and so I reserved them for less exacting tasks, hoping that they would improve and perhaps someday surpass in quality the pricey and often fragile brushes made from natural fibres.
Besides being cruelty-free, those synthetic fibre brushes handled acrylic paint better than natural fibre alternatives though synthetic fibre brushes lacked the handling finesse of so-called natural fibre brushes.
Some Real Techniques brush sets and accessories from which to build your collection
Start at the upper leftmost image and click rightwards to see how thorough the Chapman sisters and the Real Techniques product developers have been in creating a rational cosmetics application system, filling every gap in a way I have not seen in any other brand.
Real Techniques Prep + Prime Set: “The prep + prime set has 4 skin prep tools for your pre-makeup routine. These tools help create a smoother skin surface for better makeup application.”
Real Techniques Complexion Blender Brush: “MIX MAKEUP WITH SKIN CARE PRODUCTS. The complexion blender brush has a unique swirled cut for blending skin care products with your favorite makeup for a smooth, natural complexion.” Use in conjunction with the Real Techniques Prep + Prime Set when preparing skin before applying makeup.
Real Techniques Color Correcting Set: “EVENLY APPLY + BLEND COLOR CORRECTING CONCEALERS. Make color correcting easier with the color correcting set. Apply, buff, and blend color correcting concealers for an even tone complexion before makeup application. Each brush corresponds to a key correcting concealer color to avoid color mixing.” A brilliant idea for keeping colour correcting cosmetics separate and clean by allocating one brush for each correction colour. Some faces need correcting in several different colours and I gave seen makeup artists use the same brush for different colours, needlessly diluting them and making extra work for themselves.
Sephora Collection Must-Have Face Palette: “Curated colour sets to demystify contouring, colour correction, strobing, and blush sculpting.” Almost a perfect match for Real Techniques Color Correcting Set.
Real Techniques Expert Face Brush: “OUR #1 BEST-SELLING BRUSH. Our expert face brush is ultra firm and broad for perfectly buffed foundation and an airbrushed finish. Ideal for cream and liquid foundations.”
Real Techniques Flawless Base Set comprising contour brush, detailer brush, buffing brush, square foundation brush and brush cup.
Real Techniques Sculpting Set: “NATURAL CONTOURING. Accentuate favorite features, create defined contours for added depth, or simply enhance your natural bone structure with our sculpting set. With the use of light and dark makeup this set gives you the flexibility to take your look to the next level.”
Real Techniques Brow Set: “Create the perfect arch with our brow set. We have included all of the tools you need to clean up, fill in, define, shape, and highlight your brows.”
Real Techniques Enhanced Eye Set comprising medium shadow brush, essential crease brush, fine liner brush, shading brush, lash separator and brush cup.
Real Techniques Perfect Crease Duo: “FOR A DEFINED CREASE. The perfect crease duo brushes are designed for an easy to achieve defined crease. Use with eye shadows.”
Real Techniques Instapop Eye Duo: “HIGH IMPACT COLOR WITHOUT THE MESS. The instapop eye brush duo is designed for full coverage shadow application. Use to sweep on loose pigment shadows.”
Real Techniques Eye Detail + Define: “PAIRED FOR EXPERT EYELINER APPLICATION. The eye detail + define brushes are designed for precision eyeliner looks…. Bonus Liner Guide For steady liner application.”
Real Techniques Eye Shade + Blend: “EASY APPLICATION. The eye shade + blend brushes are designed for easy two-color shadow application.”
Real Techniques Eye Smudge + Diffuse: “FROM SUBTLE TO DRAMATIC, OUR EYE SMUDGE + DIFFUSE TWO PACK IS PAIRED FOR EASY EYE LINER BLURRING. The eye smudge + diffuse brushes are designed for expert smudging and blurring of eye makeup. “
Real Techniques Lip Color + Blur: “The lip color + blur brushes are designed for easy application of on trend lip looks and effects.”
Real Techniques Instapop Cheek Brush: “HIGH IMPACT COLOR WITHOUT THE MESS. The Instapop Cheek Brush is designed for one-sweep application of bold cheek color.”
Real Techniques Blush Brush: “FOR A FLAWLESS FINISH. Preferred 2-to-1 over a leading department store brand. Our blush brush is custom-cut to contour and define cheeks for flawlessly blended, high definition results.”
Real Techniques PowderBlue Collection: “FauxBleu™ Technology engineered to layer powders evenly for a soft, flawless finish. Known for its fine filaments, luxurious softness, and flawless powder application, blue squirrel hair is the one of the rarest and softest bristles used in prestige makeup brushes. Our FauxBleu™ Technology uses synthetic bristles engineered to perform as well as blue squirrel hair.” These sound amazing, cruelty-free and of the same high quality as the legendary Russian Blue Squirrel brushes used by top watercolour and gouache painters in preference to sable.
Real Techniques Blend + Blur Brushes: Look perfect for short-sighted spectacle wearers like me who must get up close to the mirror or apply makeup between spectacles and eye lids.
Real Techniques Rebel Edge Trio: “Cropped head puts you in control to define + blend powders your way.”
Real Techniques Foundation Blender: “FOR FOUNDATION. Small, dense bristles blend + buff for flawless foundation coverage. Blend. Press. Buff.”
Real Techniques Face + Body Blender: “FOR FOUNDATION + BRONZER. Large, dense bristles blend + buff for even full body coverage. Blend. Press. Buff.”
Real Techniques Brush Cleansing Palette: “Great makeup application starts with a clean brush. The brush cleansing palette helps sweep away makeup, oil, and impurities from bristles to give you truer, more consistent color application.” I have used this palette with a range of brushes and M·A·C Brush Cleanser fluid and it works better than any other brush cleaning method. I have yet to try Real Techniques Brush Cleansing Gel.
Real Techniques Brush Cleansing Gel: “Designed for deep cleaning, with the cleansing power of a concentrate, this formula is laboratory proven to effectively remove nearly all makeup residue*. It removes what you see…and even impurities you can’t see for a new brush clean.”
Real Techniques Stick & Store Organizer: “Tame your counter clutter – keep everyday essentials clean and within reach!… Sturdy silicone with Miracle Cling™ technology sticks instantly and adheres strongly to glossy surfaces yet peels off easily so you can remove and reposition.” Excellent idea! In my experience most bathrooms are small with inadequate bench top space and inadequate storage via drawers and closets making it way too hard to be organized and lay out your cosmetics and tools for easy use. These storage containers can apparently stick to mirrors or tiled walls.
Real Techniques Stick & Dry Brush Drying Rack: “Tame your counter clutter! Sturdy silicone with Miracle Cling™ technology sticks instantly and adheres strongly to glossy surfaces yet peels off easily so you can remove and reposition.” A brilliant idea for drying brushes without laying them down flat on a bench top or towel and risking them drying out of shape.
Real Techniques 3 Pocket Organizer: “CLINGS TO MIRRORS + MORE! MIRACLE CLING™ giving any space instant beauty storage”
Real Techniques 6 Miracle Sponges: “3 STEPS: COVER. CORRECT. COLOR. These essential 6 miracle sponges are the key to well-blended, airbrushed looks.”
Real Techniques Everyday Essentials: “FOR FOUNDATION + CONCEALER + BLUSH + HIGHLIGHTER + SHADOW. Your one and done set to master pro-styled looks! Cover. Color. Blend.” A good starter set for basic looks?
A while back I was preparing for a personal portrait photography project aimed at depicting female creatives in their workspaces.
During my Australian magazine editorial portrait career, photographers rarely had the time or the budgets for assistants, hair and makeup artists or high-end lighting equipment.
I had experienced something very different in my time working on the other side of the fence at magazines and in advertising agencies in the United Kingdom, and the necessity for a creative team and adequate time was proven again and again.
It helped that the photographers I was commissioning and production-managing were often at the top of the profession, were accustomed to being treated well and I was paying them ample fees and costs to do their job to the very best of their and their teams’ abilities.
In other words, the very opposite to what I and my fellow magazine photographers had experienced over the years in our own country.
I was determined to do it differently in my personal portrait photography projects and, with the help of a little knowledge gleaned from watching my former partner at work as a UK-based MAC makeup artist, decided to build a collection of cosmetics and makeup brushes and accessories to carry with me.
I am no makeup artist, have no high-end training in the profession like my ex-partner, but quickly learned the necessity of providing for skilled hair and makeup professionals when commissioning photographs of female and male subjects for magazine and advertising shoots.
Now I would have to stand in as one for my own projects or at the very least provide a well-rounded kit for my subjects to use as needed.
Discovering Real Techniques
When I came across several Real Techniques brushes in a Sydney city Priceline store, I was gobsmacked.
Here were synthetic fibre brushes miles ahead of the early ones I had used and found so frustrating during my art school days and beyond.
I bought one and found it was made to a standard I had not seen in the synthetic fibre brushes I often perused in the high end art supply stores I sometimes dropped into while working on urban documentary projects in the city.
The late photographer and fashion stylist Karl Lagerfeld apparently used top quality makeup brushes when creating his fashion designs, fashion illustrations and caricatures, and I could see myself using Real Techniques brushes for applications in photography and design as well as in applying makeup.
As more Real Techniques brushes began showing up in a couple of CBD Priceline stores, I added more to my collection and hoped that the Real Techniques might organize their brushes into sets for specific tasks.
Watching my former partner doing makeup at model test shoots confirmed that line of work was as skilled and as creative as any other creative profession and as reliant on possessing the best tools and consumables money could buy.
My project is set aside
Ill health and other factors over which I had no control meant I had to put off my documentary portrait photography project, but recently I began assembling the kit needed to resume it when health and other conditions improve.
My Real Techniques brush collection, still not as complete as I would have liked, had been carefully stored in a dedicated closet well away from each other and any volatile substances or fluids, and went unused for several years.
Then moving day came and I discovered to my horror that my Real Techniques brush collection had succumbed to the same fate as some other treasured objects.
All of my Real Techniques brushes have black rubberized lower handles, all the better for good grip in the same way as our collection of full-size Esprit umbrellas, LensPen screen and sensor cleaning tools and even some control buttons and dials on our Mercedes sports car (secondhand but well-loved and cared-for by previous owner).
All these items have succumbed to their black rubber coating deplasticizing often to the point of liquidizing, becoming sticky and unusable to various degrees, picking up detritus that becomes embedded in their surfaces and then transfers to the fingers and other items of equipment.
I dropped into a couple of Priceline pharmacy stores not far from where I live to see if Real Techniques products were still being sold here, and found that the company’s product range had expanded considerably since I bought my brushes.
Going online to the Real Techniques website revealed even more new and more specialized products than appeared in-store.
Although some of the brushes on sale appear to be made with a rubber-looking black coating on their lower handles, many others looked as if they were made with plastic down there rather than rubber.
Has Real Techniques replaced the deplasticizing black rubber of its earlier generation brushes with a material less prone to the same break-down?
So far my enquiries have not drawn definitive conclusions but I certainly hope they will soon.
My initial tests with the brushes several years ago were so encouraging that I was prepared to invest hard-earned readies in a collection of them.
The black rubber’s liquefaction on all brushes in my collection is disappointing, to say the least, just as the same degradation in my LensPen items, Esprit umbrellas and Mercedes control surfaces was disappointing.
Have these coatings not been tested properly before applying them to product runs?
Were they simply a fashionable gimmick at the time and were they withdrawn when purchasers began complaining?
The makers of those other items did not have any useful advice as to what could be done to render them usable again, but I am hoping for something better with my Real Techniques brushes.
Meanwhile I have been looking at those brush and accessories sets in the photo gallery further up this page, pondering how they might help contribute to a well-rounded hair and makeup location kit like the rather larger one my ex used to carry around all over the UK, Europe and the Middle East.
I need something I can transport around Sydney in a backpack, containing enough tools and cosmetics to at least subtly groom my subjects if not do a full hair and makeup job if needed before photographing them.
Time to get into practise on myself?
Meanwhile, I have provided a number of links below if you wish to read up on Real Techniques and the inspirational sisters who front the brand and teach makeup techniques on their online channels, one sister being a former MAC professional makeup artist.
I am still in dialogue with the customer support representatives at the Real Techniques brand’s parent company Paris Presents Incorporated but so far there has been no useful resolution nor any suggestions from them as to how to make my Real Techniques brushes usable or whether the company will take responsibility for its products and replace them.
The latest email from Real Techniques appears to be a deflection, in fact.
Here is the first reply:
Thanks so much for your email, we really appreciate the feedback. Many customers have found that sometimes brush cleaner can make the rubber handle peel or bubble. Try not to put any wet brushes next to the handles of other brushes, or get them wet in any way. This often happens when customers clean on the go and then throw the brushes in a case to transport them.
Here is the second:
Thanks for reaching out. Can you please give us an approximate purchase date, the name of the retailer, and the name printed on the side of the brush?
And here is the latest:
Were so sorry to hear what happened! Please contact the retailer where your product was purchased for a solution according to their return policy. Unfortunately, we cant accept returns for products purchased from retailers, but we trust that all our retailers have fair return policies.
Australian retailers often have a seven or sometimes fourteen day returns policy on products that are clearly defective when purchased, and I seem to recall that under Australian law the return and replacement period may be longer, possibly thirty days.
Retailers always ask for the cash register receipts as proof of purchase but the ink on cash register receipts rapidly fades to the point of invisibility, so keeping old and ancient cash register receipts just in case a product later proves unfit for purpose is a pointless exercise.
I do not have the receipts from when I purchased all my Real Techniques brushes, so fronting up to the various Priceline stores in the city from whence they came may well also prove to be a pointless exercise.
Some manufacturers take full responsibility for their products whether they prove defective at purchase or unfit for purpose over time, and offer full replacements.
For example, LensPen replaced one of their lens cleaning pens after the cleaning surface suddenly popped off of its own volition while sitting in a storage box.
I have followed up my initial enquiry about the defective LensPen Lap Top-Pro screen and keyboard cleaners and LensPen SensorKlear Loupe Kit with the LensPen folks and am hoping for a similarly positive outcome.
The Esprit umbrella situation is unresolved as the company closed its stores here and I have yet to make contact with the company’s head office.
Again, I no longer have the faded-to-blank cash register receipts from the long-closed Esprit store Pitt Street Mall store.
I would love to know the true story behind this black rubber coating that seems to have been popular amongst product manufacturers but that turned out to be such an abject failure.
Hopefully it is no longer in use.
I wish to see the original developer of this coating take full responsibility for it as well as the manufacturers that were duped into using it.
Whatever you do, do not ask anyone who has never had this problem for suggestions and solutions as they can be widely off the mark.
A friend just came by, looked at the computer stand that I currently have soaking in a bowl of methylated spirits and told me I would be better off spraying it in layers of epoxy resin to seal in the liquified rubber compound.
Stick with soaking in and rubbing with methylated spirits and you will be okay.
Avoid vicious solvents like full strength acetone, lacquer thinners, petrol, kerosene and anything else helpful friends suggest.
Especially avoid making the problem exponentially worse by spraying or dipping thew affected object with paints, lacquers, resins and all sorts of nasties.
After discovering the problem with my Real Techniques brushes, I did a thorough search throughout all my possessions and found that this nasty black substance has been used on all manner of items including automobile interiors and control surfaces, mirrors, photographic equipment, television sets, radios, hi-fi equipment, computer accessories, pens, and plenty of other items whether cheap or expensive, old or new.
EcoTools– website – “Armed with a mission to make women look beautiful on the outside and feel just as good on the inside, sisters Jen and Stacey set out to create a brush collection that was not only environmentally friendly, but chic, high-quality, and affordable too. After sourcing recycled materials, renewable bamboo and better manufacturing processes, in 2007, EcoTools® was born.”
Kryolan – “There is only one real professional make-up maker. There is only one Kryolan. Kryolan have been supplying the film, theater and television industries for over 70 years, which makes us one of the world’s first professional make-up brands. We’re still the number one choice for make-up artists today, thanks to our extensive range of over 16,000 high-quality make-up products and accessories.”
M·A·C – “Make-Up Art Cosmetics started life in Toronto, Canada. Makeup artist and photographer Frank Toskan and salon owner Frank Angelo became frustrated by the lack of makeup that photographed well, so they decided to create their own.”