Real Techniques Releases Artist Essentials Set of Synthetic Fibre Brushes for Cosmetics Application, Designed by Nicola and Samantha Chapman

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. 

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Real Techniques Artist Essentials Set.

Commentary

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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 that can be supplemented with the Real Techniques Artist Essentials for more sophisticated effects.

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

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Real Techniques Makeup Brushes Have Excellent Handmade Synthetic Bristles, Though Black Rubber on Mine Has Deplasticized, Handles Too Sticky to Use – UPDATED

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. 

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Real Techniques and EcoTools makeup brushes and accessories at one of the closest Priceline stores to where I live.

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.

Until now.

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.

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.

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Some Real Techniques brush and accessories sets at the closet Priceline store to where we live. Sets like these are a great idea in my humble opinion, especially when assembling your own kit and not befitting from years of experience as to which brushes are most appropriate for what you wish to do.

Discovering Real Techniques

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Some of my Real Techniques makeup brushes, in close-up. The black rubber on the handles of all Real Techniques brushes in my collection has deplasticized to the point where the brushes themselves are almost unusable. The black liquified polymer transfers to users’ skin as well as other surfaces and is hard to get off.

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

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The same kind of black rubber coating was applied by Esprit to its full-size umbrellas and it, too, has deplasticized and liquified to the point where they are too sticky to use. These umbrellas are, otherwise, the best-made mechanically and in terms of their fabric covering. We continue to look for some way of making them usable again.

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.

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LensPen Lap Top-Pro screen and keyboard cleaners, from our collection of five of them. All suffered from varying degrees of deplasticization aka surface liquidization of the black rubber coating as has my LensPen SensorKlear Loupe Kit. They are all unusable as a result. As with all my professional equipment, these cleaners and sensor cleaning loupe kit were stored in Sistema storage boxes with rubber grommets to ensure that no undue substance made their way into the boxes and onto the items inside them.

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.

Postscript

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:

We’re 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 can’t 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.

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The LensPen folks kindly replaced this defective lens cleaning pen without complaint and without deflecting my enquiry. The retailer is no longer in business and I do not have the faded-to-blank cash register receipts.

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.

Post-Postcript

Success! Amazing what a great deal of gentle but forceful rubbing with methylated spirits aka methanol can do.

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.

Right.

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.

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The Panasonic Lumix DC-G9, 80 Megapixel High Resolution Mode and Portraiture Old and New

Inspiration can come from anywhere, but my first source of it after choosing to become a portrait photographer was the great portrait painters, foremost London-based German, Hans Holbein. Two Holbein portraits were key, Portrait of Christina of Denmark and The Ambassadors.

The Ambassadors, by Hans Holbein the Younger.

The Ambassadors teaches us how to use light, location and objects to tell a story in one frame.

Portrait of Christina of Denmark shows us how to depict someone so it feels like we are standing in their presence, as if in Holbein’s shoes, forever.

Environmental and full-figure portraiture are two of my favourite photographic genres that quickly became specialities during my magazine editorial days, creating them with tripod-mounted sheet film or 120 roll film cameras, with or without flash or continuous lights supplementing the lighting I found on location.

The medium format option

Christina of Denmark, Duchess of Milan, by Hans Holbein the Younger.

Although relatively affordable digital medium format cameras and lenses are here with the arrival of Fujifilm’s GFX 50S and its reportedly excellent lenses, medium format photography remains relatively unaffordable for me right now and for the foreseeable future.

I have learned to bypass version 1.0 of most new moviemaking or photography hardware unless there is a truly compelling reason to be an early adopter, another reason why I have passed on the GFX 50S.

I do look forward to seeing what comes of the GFX 100S and wonder whether a rangefinder-style GFX camera might be in the works some day, one drawing on Fujifilm’s remarkable 120 roll film rangefinder camera heritage.

Meanwhile Panasonic may already have their own solution to my high resolution, high image quality portrait photography needs in the Lumix DC-G9’s 80-megapixel high res mode.

All that I have seen so far in Panasonic’s marketing web pages is a low res landscape, the genre in which I am least likely to ever want to photograph.

Panasonic’s image to illustrate the Lumix G9’s 80 megapixel high resolution mode, leaving much to be desired and the technology unexplained.

Hard facts about how the G9 performs in high resolution mode and precisely how it does so are thin on the ground, but a reasonable surmise is that it does so by pixel shift, a technology also appearing in other mirrorless cameras including Sony’s a7R III and Olympus’ OM-D E-M1 Mark II, OM-D E-M5 Mark II and Pen-F cameras, and the Pentax K-1.

What is pixel shift?

Imaging Resource has explored high resolution modes via pixel shift in several Olympus and Pentax cameras, links below, so I won’t reiterate their findings.

Quite how Panasonic does it in the G9, whether shifting by half or full pixels, remains to be seen and Imaging Resource will no doubt produce a similar article on it soon.

How pixel shift works, by piezosystemjena.

Meanwhile, according to Imaging Resource’s Mike Tomkins and William Brawley:

“The G9 takes eight separate frames in quick succession and composites the individual frames together in-camera. Like other pixel-shift high-res modes from other camera makers, the G9’s comes with similar limitations, or rather, appropriate use-cases. The high-res mode on the G9 is best suited for still life, architecture or certain landscape subjects without any moving subject matter.”

What is it good for?

I beg to differ on their list of subjects best-suited to the G9’s 80.6 megapixel  pixel shifting high resolution mode, and so, it appears, do Panasonic UK’s Carol Hartfree and UK-based Lumix Ambassador Ross Grieve.

Both have just begun exploring the G9’s high res mode for portraiture and both report their first impressions in glowing terms.

“… my first test is impressive.”

“We have just had a go and it works like an absolute dream as long as you and the model is very still. It works particularly well with a good prime…. Stupid excited!”

“We were discussing formal portraiture earlier and the fact that people don’t really do it any more. Using the G9 in this way, on a tripod with slowish exposures might really lend itself.”

Formal, casual and all forms in between may be more popular than meets the eye judging by the slew of portrait photography award, books, competitions, Instagram accounts and websites I came across in the course of researching this article.

Formal portraiture for a myriad of uses and whether environmental or of the figure or face alone, has endured from the birth of photography onwards with such notable practitioners as Arnold Newman, August Sander, David Bailey, Richard Avedon and others too many to mention here.

Three approaches to portraiture

I have long wanted to find affordable digital analogues for the way I successfully made casual and formal portraits in sheet and 120 roll film during my magazine photography career, affordable being the key word.

I had three distinct approaches – documentary-style with a Rolleiflex twin lens reflex camera, environmental or full figure or face close-up with 4″x5″ view cameras, and less frequently a casual medium format rangefinder approach.

Fujifilm’s X-Pro2 does an impressive job of matching if not surpassing the image and handling qualities of its many generations and variations of 120 roll film rangefinder cameras under the Fujica brand name.

Panasonic’s GX8 provides a rare digital equivalent to Rolleiflex twin lens reflex cameras with its magnifying waist-level viewfinder-emulating tilting EVF, a unique feature I hope will continue in the Panasonic Lumix GX9.

Linhof view camera with Graflok stitching adapter for Phase One digital back.

While the only exact digital equivalent of a multifaceted sheet film view camera like the Linhof 4×5 Master Technika Classic is a Linhof 4×5 Master Technika Classic with Phase One digital back, I suspect that the Panasonic Lumix G9 may provide good enough emulation of its high resolution image qualities, minus the camera movements.

“Good enough” being enough high resolution to produce large exhibition prints with more detail and more sense of the sitter’s presence than I can achieve right now with 20 megapixel and 24 megapixel mirrorless cameras.

Some portraits as evidence?

A couple of photographers with access to pre-production G9s have agreed to shoot and send me some portraits made in 80 megapixel high res mode, and I will share them here when they arrive.

Meanwhile, what would be my ideal stable yet portable set-up for creating the sort of portraits for the web and exhibition that I have long planned for ‘Untitled: Stories of Creativity, Innovation, Success’?

  • Panasonic Lumix DC-G9 – until I learned about its high resolution mode, I might have passed over this camera and defaulted to relying on the GH5 for stills as well as video.
  • Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 17mm f/1.2 PRO Lens – moderately wide prime lens for environmental portraiture for a sense of a figure enclosed within a space. I prefer lenses with manual clutch focus mechanisms for focussing accuracy especially when using wide open apertures.
  • Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm f/1.2 PRO Lens – standard or normal prime lenses have been used for portrait photography in many different camera systems and are a good compromise between medium wide and medium long lenses.
  • Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 45mm f/1.2 PRO Lens – medium long telephoto lens often seen as one of the default portrait photography focal lengths along with 42.5mm in Micro Four Thirds.
  • 3 Legged Thing Albert or Winston tripods – their unique construction makes them more stable for their size and weight than any other tripod I have used.
  • 3 Legged Thing QR11-LC Universal L-Bracket – fast and easy flipping the camera from landscape to portrait orientation from switching from environmental to full-figure mode.
  • Rotolight NEO 2 LED Light with barndoors, softbox, handle or light stand– small enough to easily fit in a backpack yet powerful enough to be a prime light supplemented by available light.
  • Rotolight AEOS 2-Light LED Kit – an excellent self-contained two LED light kit for continuous light or flash, with high output for its colour accuracy, versatility, weight and size, that can be used with optional barndoors.

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Image Credits

Header image concept and hack by Carmel D. Morris.

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  • Fujifilm X-Pro2 Mirrorless Digital CameraB&H
  • Linhof 4×5 Master Technika “Classic” Rangefinder Metal Field CameraB&H
  • Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO LensB&H
  • Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II Mirrorless Micro Four Thirds Digital CameraB&H
  • Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II Mirrorless Micro Four Thirds Digital CameraB&H
  • Olympus PEN-F Mirrorless Micro Four Thirds Digital CameraB&H
  • Panasonic Lumix DC-G9 Mirrorless Micro Four Thirds Digital Camera – B&H
  • Pentax K-1 DSLR CameraB&H
  • Sony Alpha a7R III Mirrorless Digital CameraB&H