I bought Tom Ford's #13 Eyeshadow Blend Brush (£42) during the Look Good Feel Better event at Harvey Nichols last November, and it's shown up in my end of the week "to be washed" brush pile every week since then. Because it is the perfect blender brush. End of.
Okay, not really....of course I'm going to drivel on a
Firstly, I bought this because I noticed a distinct gap in my brush collection -- a good selection of small blenders and a sufficiency of large ones (considering how small my eyes are), and one lonely Suqqu Eyeshadow M brush in between -- which is so dense it is really more of a laydown-brush-that-doesn't-leave-harsh-edges than a blender per se....
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Medium: Suqqu Eyeshadow M
Large: Suqqu Eyeshadow L, Stila #9 (old, blue squirrel version)
Besides, what to do when I want to blend out what I've laid down with another colour? Or if I need a totally clean brush to grade out a bold/bright shade or to pull out the pigment into a different shape?
Before acquiring the Tom Ford #13, I would reach for one of my selection of medium-sized brushes which are often marketed as 'blenders' but which I actually find better suited to other jobs:
Cream/Liquid Eyeshadow: MAC 217
Laydown/Stronger Crease: Suqqu M
Outer V/Softer Crease: Hakuhodo G515
All of these work just about adequately for blending, but none of them particularly excels. (From MAC, the 224 is a better blending brush than the 217 in terms of density/shape, but it's far too scratchy for my tastes.)
After much pleasurable research, in search of the ideal combination of fluff and bounce in a tapered head and round ferrule, I asked some US friends to help me acquire the Paula Dorf Perfect Sheer Crease Brush (top, $30) and Trish McEvoy #29 Tapered Blending Brush (bottom, $32) against which to pit the Tom Ford #13 (middle).
This turned out to be a contest between the Paula Dorf and Tom Ford offerings, as I found the Trish McEvoy #29 hairs too coarse (patchy eyeshadow appearance sadface) and scratchy (actual physical pain rly dnw) to be usable -- my guess is that it is made from horse hair, as the components of their brushes are apparently shrouded in multiple-attempts-to-contact-the-company-failed mystery :P Tom Ford #13 and Paula Dorf Sheer Crease are both goat hair brushes.
These go neatly from the least tapered (Paula Dorf) to most (Trish McEvoy); notice also how 'contained' and tight the hairs on the Tom Ford brush look in comparison to those on the others, despite its longer head; all three brushes have round ferrules which are pretty similar in size, which also flags up this difference -- the Tom Ford brush has about twice the number of hairs as the Trish McEvoy one packed into the same space.
The greater density of the Tom Ford brush is even clearer at a head-on angle -- not only does it contain more hairs, but the hairs are more uniform in length -- most of the brush's core hairs are the full length, and there is gentle tapering only at the very outer ring. This also means that the Tom Ford brush keeps its shape better (the hairs 'support' each other) and offers better resistance.
This greater density and resistance adds up to more versatility, and that is why I prefer the Tom Ford over the Paula Dorf (though I'm also very glad to have the latter too). The Paula Dorf Sheer Crease, while equally soft, really only works to soften harsh edges and sheer out pigment -- those traditional 'blending' tasks. The Tom Ford Blend Brush can do these things too, but it also moves pigment around more efficiently (without creating uneven patches or 'skip' marks) -- literally making eyeshadow go further -- enabling me to make many more shapes. [For examples, compare the looks I've posted from November 2012 onwards with the earlier ones -- more variety in blended shapes, no?]
As always, your priorities may vary. I think many would prefer the Paula Dorf brush -- those with a tendency to heavy handedness or those who just prefer soft looks, those who often experience problems with overblending into invisibility or muddiness.... The Sheer Crease brush makes it a snap to create a very polished 'well-blended' look with a few traditional windshield wiper motions. The Tom Ford Blend Brush requires a lighter hand, and a bit more experimentation with which edge of the brush you use, and at what angle; it can be more versatile, but it also requires more work.
Pics to supplement the THOUSANDS OF WORDS, anyone? Adding the Suqqu Eyeshadow M brush and MAC 217 to the mix. Swatch subject is Fyrinnae Daemon's Tail pressed eyeshadow, which I chose precisely because it tends to go annoyingly patchy upon blending.
One dab with the tip, held at at 90º to skin:
Pigment packed onto brushes then swept on twice, back and forth:
The Tom Ford almost rivals it [though comparing grey squirrel with goat is highly unscientific :P], showing a little patchiness in the middle of the swatch and looking a little wobbly on the edges; it is testament to this brush's impressive control and smooth distribution of pigment, even for a problematic formula, despite its longer hair length.
When I use the MAC 217 for creams I employ circular patting and buffing motions, rather than this kind of sweeping -- this lacklustre swatch shows why it fails for me as blender.
Paula Dorf Sheer Crease's softness and more diffuse hair makes it impractical as a laydown/wash brush, but the soft-yet-even edges of this stripe (sheerer but less wobbly than Tom Ford's) suggest how well it works as a pure blender.
Oy, Trish. I'll let the shameful swatch speak for itself.