This post features a variety of eyeshadow brushes for use on small areas of the eye. It includes pencil brushes and various smudge brushes.
The most common and used of detail brushes, I believe. The first on the left, which is an Essence of Beauty Fine Crease Brush, notwithstanding, a lot of pencil brushes are goat, like the MAC 219, Hakuhodo G5514BkSl, and Hakuhodo G5515BkSl here. This picture makes them all look so big, but the Hakuhodo G5515 is about an eighth of an inch long. These brushes are great for blending out eyeliner, applying shadow to the upper or lower lash lines, precise crease shadow placement, detail in the outer corner (like the dreaded "outer v") and highlighting the inner corner or the brow bone--basically anywhere you want focused or intense placement of eyeshadow. Goat is a good fibre for this sort of brush, because it provides a good amount of stiffness and softness and holds up to cream eyeliners, but the white hairs get stained so badly (as evidenced by the faint pinkness of my 219. The Hakuhodos are so pristine because they came straight out of the package before this picture. The smaller one is now a lovely shade of blue. The stains do respond usually to oil cleansing, but since oil cleans best when used dry, if you're halfway through cleaning when you realize that pigment is not coming out with cleanser, then you have to wait for it to dry. At that point, the "Eh, it's clean, and I gotta do ma face" instinct kicks in and next thing you know, you're justifying a pink brush on the internet. Uh, yeah. These brushes do their job well, and as detail brushes go they're the most common and most used.
Pointed Smudge Brushes
A variation on the pencil brush, pointed smudge brushes are most commonly found as "Smoky Eyeliner Brushes", like the one on the right from Sephora, which is synthetic. The one on the left, also by Sephora is a discontinued point smudge brush. Both these brushes, though they have different shapes, serve the same purpose, which is to apply or smudge eyeliner and apply eyeshadow to a small area. I think they're more precise than pencil brushes, especially the point smudge, though it's scratchy. The smoky version of the brush is great if you're looking for a synthetic detail brush, and it is quite good for smoking out liner. It's less useful for applying powder, unless you want a subtle effect.
Mini Smudge Brushes
These brushes are like tiny flat shader brushes. Often they're proportionately shorter as compared to width of a shader brush, but neither of these examples really are, which are a Real Techniques synthetic Accent brush, and a Paula Dorf Smudge brush. These are amazing for applying shadow around the eye, and I love them for smudging the edge of liner. They provide more control than the previous two styles of detail brush and can be used to smudge or finesse the edges of liner. Interestingly enough, they often make for excellent gel liner or tightline brushes. While they do offer more control than a pencil brush, that makes them a little harder to use.
Domed Smudge Brush
Similar to a pencil brush, but with a dome instead of a point, this Make Up For Ever smudge brush, is useful for most of the same effects, such as smudging and highlighting, only it will provide a softer less focused or intense effect. I think this is especially useful for a smoky eye, where you want a smooth gradation of shading.
Pointed Detail Brush
This one (a Hakuhodo 5529, blue squirrel hair) is like a long thin pencil brush. It's less useful for smudging liner ( especially this one's soft squirrel hair), but more useful for crease work. It provides a soft, diffused line, but with exacting detail. Perfect when you want delicacy and precision at the same time.
Round Detail Brushes
Similar, but sturdier, to the pointed detail brush, and obviously featuring a round end rather than a pointed end, these brushes (Kevyn Aucoin Small Eyeshadow Soft Round Tip, and Royal and Langnickel Smudger) are super precise crease brushes and are great for smudging around the eye and applying eyeshadow under the eye, in the outer corner, or along the top lash line.
Pros and Cons
Pros: These brushes do what none of the other featured brushes can do. They are like an eyeliner brush crossed with a blending brush. Tiny, but capable of blending small areas. If you have small eyes, you may prefer to use one of these brushes for your crease instead of a classic crease brush. These brushes' versatility means that you will probably want one in your brush collection.
Cons: They're tiny. That's pretty much it. If you don't want a small brush, or if you like to keep your brushes to a minimum (something which I obviously have no idea about), then you don't need one. They're tiny brushes; that's the point, but that means they can't do the things a bigger brush does.
The brushes featured in this post are: Essence of Beauty Fine Crease Brush, MAC 219 Hakuhodo G5514BkSl, Hakuhodo G5515BkSl, Sephora Point Smudge 16 (discontinued), Sephora Smokey Eye Brush 24 (from the discontinued platinum line, but the shape and number are still in the current Pro Line), Real Techniques Accent Brush (form the Starter Set), Paula Dorf Smudge brush, Make Up For Ever Smudge Brush 14S, Hakuhodo G5529BkSl, Kevyn Aucoin Small Eyeshadow Brush Soft Round Tip, Royal and Langnickel Smudger Brush. All brushes were purchased and I received no compensation for featuring them.