Makeup Brush Lust – Billy B Paint Brushes Rawk!

Published in: Makeup Tools, Product Reviews

For years, the only brushes in my life were toothbrushes, hairbrushes and random brushes with destiny. I was content using the sad lil’ sponge applicators and teeny standard issue brushes that came with eyeshadows and blush. When I look back at my pictures from high school and college (aka, “the brush drought years”) my makeup didn’t look bad … but it definitely didn’t look good, either. My application was splotchy, and there was no blending to be had within a three-mile radius. *Cringes*

Fast forward a few years: it was 2002; I bought a few basic MAC brushes (252, 266, 217, 224, 129, 190) on a whim and my makeup life changed forever. ‘Twas a whole new world for your girl. Now, I love brushes so much that I’ve looked beyond MAC into other brush lines as well, and there are a lot of great brushes out there!


Product: Billy B’s Master Paint Brush Collection
Price: $249
Use: To apply makeup on eyes, face and lips
Makeup and Beauty Blog Rating: A-


Makeup artist Billy B’s Master Paint Brush Collection is one such line of fantastic brushes. It offers excellent quality at an affordable price. With all the brushes you need for eyes, face and lips, at $249, Billy’s set of 13 brushes is one of the best values around. I know that $249 seems like a lot of duckets, but it breaks down to about $20 per brush, comparable to MAC eye brushes averaging $25 dollars each.

I know it; you know it too. Yes, brushes can get expensive, but the right makeup brush can mean the difference between looking hella broke or looking super hot.


Why a new line of brushes?

Billy created the set when he got tired of tweaking brushes to suit his needs. “I would find them [brushes] in the oddest places,” says Billy, “like a drugstore in Paris or some out-of-the-way beauty supply in Mississippi. I’d modify them with little cuticle scissors and stuff. And when I lost them I’d be so frustrated.” So he decided to make his own brushes from scratch.

What makes Billy’s brushes different?

The quality of the brush heads (the actual brush part of the brush) is what make this set outstanding. The bristles are so soft to the touch, not scratchy at all. The eye brushes feel great against my lids, and they’re actually softer than some of the MAC eye brushes that I own.

Billy gave a lot of thought to the design of each brush, and it shows in their performance. Take the eye brushes, for example. They are the standout performers in the set. With their domed shape and full brush heads, each applies color smoothly and evenly, making it so easy for me to layer and blend eyeshadows. Whether I’m doing a simple eye look with two eye shadows, or a complicated one with five, I find myself constantly reaching for numbers six, eight, 12 and 13.


I love number 12 for smudging eye liner at the lash line (a job previously given to my MAC 219 pencil brush). Number 12 and the MAC 219 look nothing alike. The 12 is angled and thin, and the MAC 219 is stubby and pointed, but Billy’s number 12 does the job better. When I use the MAC 219 to smudge liner, the brush head feels rough and scratchy and so big and bulky that I often just end up smudging the liner completely away. Billy’s number 12 is smaller, thinner and softer than the 219, giving me more control and making it easier to create subtle fades and transitions of color, even with thin lines.

One last eye brush side note: Ya’ll know I’ve got a borderline scary obsession with the MAC flat angled 266 brush (BOW DOWN!). Billy’s equivalent to MAC’s 266 is his 11. While it does a decent job of filling in my brows, I am not giving up my 266 any time soon. Score one for MAC.

A unique brush head design…

What I appreciate most about Billy’s brushes are their smaller brush heads, a concept quite different than most of the brushes currently on the market. Billy believes that many of the brushes out there are just too big for a woman’s small face. He’s well known in the industry for being a master of fine detail, and he wanted to create smaller brush heads that would be able to handle finer detail work, especially around the nose and eyes. “If you’re really doing beautiful makeup,” says Billy, “then obviously detail is important. A gigantic brush isn’t going to fit into the corners by your nostrils. It’s getting powder into your hairline and on your hair and on your clothes and on your lashes.”

Light, short handles…


While I’m not crazy about the short birchwood handles, I do appreciate the reason behind their design. Billy spends a lot of time flying between New York and LA (celeb clients he services include Mary J. Blige — Holla! — and Paula Abdul), so he needed brushes that wouldn’t add extra weight to his makeup kit.

Billy’s Paint Brushes are available online at

Do you have a brush obsession? What can’t you live without?

Your friendly neighborhood beauty addict,



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So far, 44 people have commented on this article. How cool is that?

  1. Mrs. Lynne says:

    Good find Karen. Don’t think I can abandon my newborn MACs (November only!) just yet though. But if I can break it down, it’s all for my 222, 239, and 208. I think once I’ve raised these brushes to be on their own, then I’ll have brush fever. Then BB, I’m knocking at your door πŸ™‚

  2. AshB says:

    ::gasps and covers the ears of 219 brush:: I’m going to pretend you didn’t just call my baby “stubby”!! πŸ˜€

  3. Breezy says:

    Ooh I’m about to stock up on some MAC brushes this weekend, I’ve also heard that its worth it to check out some paint brushes from artist stores. I recently got one at Michaels for under $5 that looks like a great shading brush. I’m gonna hit up an artist store for more variety though, I hear they’re extremely similar, we’ll see how it goes yaay

  4. Karen says:

    Hi Mrs. Lynne,

    Hmmmmm, you know, I’ve never tried the 222! Another one for the brush lust list (sigh, it keeps getting longer)!

    Yeah, these brushes are rad. OH! I just remembered, you can buy ’em seperately, so if you want to try just one then fo sho try the eye brushes. They are so soft, like fluffy pillows.

    BTW, I’m watching a show on Animal Planet right now about Hawaiian reefs and animals :0

  5. Karen says:

    LOL, AshB! I mean stubby in the cutest way possible!! πŸ™‚

  6. Karen says:

    Hi Breezy,

    I’ve read that some people really like getting their brushes from the art store. (Some of those are expensive though, wow.) How’s the one you got from Michael’s? Is it soft against your skin?

  7. Oh, YES, I’m so buying these new makeup brushes when they come out!!!!

    Makeup brushes are essential to proper makeup application and it’s so sad how many women don’t understand that.


  8. angela says:

    hey my lady πŸ˜€ lovely entry about brushes! but haha i don’t own that many brushes, i love love looking at them, checking em out on beauty counters n outlets at the mall
    but i don’t find the necessity to buy that many brushes, i only buy blush brushes, eyebrow, and some for eyeshadow.. those pads

    ah sorry it took a while to get back at your reply to my comment

    (i’m the one down here from indonesia! haha)

    i love MAC, anna sui, and any japanese brands πŸ˜€
    i used to love lancome though, but they’re so pricey, i have to leave them for my mom πŸ˜€ heehehee

  9. Karen says:

    Hi Gisele,

    You can buy ’em online right now! They’re awesome, and a great deal.

  10. Karen says:

    Hi Angela,

    ANNA SUI! So they used to sell the entire line at Sephora stores but alas, no more. I am really bummed because I loved her quirky style. Have you ever smelled her perfume (the one in the purple bottle)? It’s divine – a really great scent for winter.

    I have a bunch of Lancome to swatch and review sitting on my desk as I type this. A quad, some lipglosses … I’ll try not to tempt you! You can always have mom hook it up too, LOL. My mom buys me Chanel, I can’t lie!

  11. Mrs. Lynne says:

    I definitely love my 222 over a 224. It’s denser so I really like that I can control the blending and unlike a 224, color doesn’t get all over the place.

    Oh, I’ll looking into the singles ones. I’m curious about that “better than 219 brush” one, hah. Kind of looks like it could resemble a 272 (a wuh?? hardly anyone ever talks about this one, lol) but I’m assuming BB is smaller. Do you know if they sell BB in stores anywhere? Like can I check them out in person?

    I love the Animal Planet. That and National Geographics. I don’t watch them all the time, but I am the type to find those shows interesting. Is it talking about our turtles and geckos? Ew,.. have you ever seen a cane spider? They are hideous AND HUGE!! *shivers*

  12. Tekoa says:

    Ah, slowly jumping on the brush love wagon. Of course I understand a well designed brush is essential…but…when comparing a $30 brush beside makeup, its honestly hard to pick the brush. Thirty bucks can get me two lipsticks! The eyeshadows are colourful and sparkly! Le sigh.

  13. Jane says:

    Wow those are some mighty expensive brushes though… I have quite a few MAC stuff, but I also have a lot of other brands’ brushes, and I’m getting one set from A’Squirrel soon! I’m so excited!

  14. Evil Charity says:

    I’m sure these brushes are nice…but I can tell just by looking at them that they won’t work for me. That handle is too light and waaaaay too short. I need a little extra weight to balance things out and steady my hand. That foundation brush might be worth a try though as I have yet to find a really good one.

    My brushes of choice, hands down, are Laura Mercier. Yeah, they ain’t cheap but they are great quality and will last forever with proper care. I also like Smashbox brushes, they are slightly more economical. I know I’m in the minority here, but Mac brushes just don’t do it for me.

  15. Vanessa says:

    Oh Karen! You are such an enabler haha, now I want to go grab some of the eye brushes they DO look amazing…*Checks balance in bank account*, hmmm maybe I can afford to nab a couple, LOL!

  16. Lea says:

    Hello ladies,

    Great review Karen. Wowza, the price is a tad steep. I’ve been on a hunt for a brush similar to his “two”, depending on how much is shipping I might give it try. How odd that I just purchased a set of 10 brushes and it’s coming in the mail today =).

    I value your opinion (and Billy’s), but for the most part I think it’s finding what is right for you. I believe the matter of preference depends on one’s make-up application flair. Like most gals, I tend to horde…constantly picking up things I probably don’t need but buy them anyways. I too have a collection of different brushes ranging from pricey to bargain-cheap, and I don’t always find that the expensive ones are great for my make-up technique. I noticed that more often I use brushes I got from Target, over the ones I got from Sephora or MAC. Then again, I’m no-pro, perhaps it’s my lack of proper make-up talent?

  17. Stephanie says:

    You know I keep on seeing his name pop up and much talk about the paint brushes (TheMakeupGirl raved about it too). Now I really want to go try it out myself.

    I didn’t start using brushes until I started using BE. The brushes it came in the set was really hard, but what did I know back then? But now, I can’t live without my Bobbi Brown Fine Line brush (the thin tip eye liner, don’t know if I remember the right name). But it’s a total no brainer when used with Fluidline or any gel liner for that matter. Also I use a Clinique Blush Brush. It’s one of those year when Clinique started offering the brushes in clear handles. I always hated how expensive brushes are, so I went for the set of 6 for $65. It was a great buy. I still use them. Softer than a lot of the expensive brushes I’ve seen.

    I’ve got my eyes on Space NK’s powder brush. I need a loose powder brush that’s not “stiff”, I like the lightly dusting feeling. But everything out there is stiff enough to scratch the foundation off. Any suggestions Karen?

  18. Melissa says:

    The brushes sound great…but I think we’re missing the real point.

    Billy B is freakin’ hawt!!!

  19. Karen says:

    Hi Mrs. Lynne,

    I’ve never heard of the 272 – it sounds almost mythical, like the unicorn. Not that I need more brushes (seriously) but I’m gonna give the 222 a peep. The only thing the 224 does for me really is get eyeshadow all over the frickin’ place. I do like it for blending and for applying a dense spot of color on the bottom apples of the cheek though, so I can’t hate on it entirely.

    The only place I know you can check out Billy B brushes in person are when he does talks/presentations. The last time I went to see him they had all of the brushes on display and you better believe I molested all of them.

    I’ve never heard of a cane spider but I suspect that’s the spider that bit El Hub when he was a wee boy and led him down a path of spider phobia (I like spiders, btw, since I was a kid and read Charlotte’s Web). The show all sorts of animals – fish, dolphins and the ever so cute green sea turtle! I’ve seen them while surfing and they are SO CUTE!

  20. Karen says:

    I hear that, Tekoa. But getting good brushes is kinda like getting a good haircut. You wear your hair every day, right? So it’s worth spending a lil money on. Same with brushes. Once you get them you’ll end up utilizing them a lot. I must admit the first time I bought the MAC brushes I nearly had a heart attack at the cash register. Good brushes will last you forever, though, plus, if you get cold you can stroke the brush heads across your face for warmth, LOL.

    If you don’t wanna spend the $ then try the Sonia Kashuck (sp) brush line. Do ya’ll have Target up in Alberta?

  21. Karen says:

    Hi Jane,

    I saw that pic on your site! Those brushes look really great. Can’t wait to read your review – I hope that they are soft!

    What MAC brushes do you have?

  22. Karen says:

    Hi Evil Charity,

    I know you aren’t crazy about MAC, but one super great brush for foundation is their 182 buffer brush:

    I find that traditional foundation brushes leave me with a streaky, painted finish, and the 182 distributes liquid and tinted moisturizers so evenly. I get an “airbrush” finish!

    I bought one Laura Mercier brush about a year ago. The minute I opened it at home the brush head came unglued from the handle. πŸ™

    Like you, I like heavier, longer handles too. The BB brushes do take some getting use to, but once ya get the handle of it they’re pretty amazing.

  23. Karen says:

    Hi Vanessa,

    I know, I know. We should all go on a reality tv show on VH1 – MAKEUP REHAB! We’d all start to shake as Dr. Drew would take us by the cosmetics counters, LOL.

  24. Karen says:

    Hi Lea,

    I love brushes from Target too – do you have the Sonia Kashuk ones? I have a fluffy face powder brush. They are a fantastic option for budget minded brush lovers.

    I’m excited for your new brushes. What kind did you get?

  25. Karen says:

    Hi Stephanie,

    One of the best powder brushes that I’ve tried is the Sonia Kashuk powder brush from Target (tar-ghay). I bought mine years ago – it has a long, white handle and a fluffy head that lightly distributes loose powder. It was about 10 bucks. The bristles are soft, but not as soft as some other brushes like Shu Uemura. However they won’t scratch you up or anything like that. πŸ™‚

  26. Karen says:

    LOL, Melissa! And you know what? He’s also really nice in person, too! πŸ™‚

    How’s your Thursday been so far?

  27. Mrs. Lynne says:

    It is mythical, huh?! The only reason I know was because when I was getting my brush list ready I heard the 272 come up once in a blue moon, hah. Guess it’s not a favorite amongst the cult because there’s hardly any hype and I when you mentioned the brush in comparison to the 219, I just glanced at it to see if MAC has something similar in terms of that.

    I’ll have to see if BB will be presenting here. I’m sure he’ll have to vacation some time in which I will seize the opportunity to calm my lustful brush haze, at least somewhat.

    Cane spiders are hideous girl! I’m am TERRIFIED of spiders. Bad case of arachnophobia. I cannot stand them especially when they’re all BOLD looking. *shivers* Guess me and El Hub will be stashed in the corner while SuperKaren comes to the rescue, lol.

  28. Karen says:

    LOL, Mrs. Lynne – you’re right, MAC is kind of like a cult. Hey, at least everyone in our cult looks cute!

    If he doesn’t go to Hawaii maybe next time you come back to the Bay you can time it so you can see him do a presentation. Homebody does a fierce smokey eye. We could go together, how fun.

    You know what I’m afraid of? EARTHWORMS. SOOO GROSS! I hate how they’re all slimy and their gross little ringlets and I really hate their nasty turtlenecks, BLECH!

  29. Sandy says:

    I’ve heard good reviews about his brushes. But damn it’s not in Sydney. LOL. My picture got stolen and got advertised on some dating site =(

  30. Karen says:

    Oh no Sandy, that’s terrible. πŸ™ Did you email/call the site owners?

  31. Sandy says:

    I can’t do much about it =(

  32. Melissa says:

    “MAC is kind of like a cult. Hey, at least everyone in our cult looks cute!”

    I love this. I’m saving it to quote you later!

    My days been good so far…about to be over though:)Thanks for asking! And yours?

  33. Anne says:

    I’ve seen the BB brush mentioned at other sites… aaaaah still sooo expensive. MAC brushes too. It’s sooo hard for me to shell out that much for a tiny thing. hahaha. Esp. since one is prolly not enough. But yea good quality brushes do make a difference in the world.

    Anyways, i checked out the website again and i found the ONE store that carries it in CA is close by where i live! haha so I’ll prolly drop by one day and go see what the hype is all about.

    What other brushes are in your fave list?

  34. Glosslizard says:

    I’ve been lusting after these brushes, but I have so many already I really can’t justify buying another set right now (plus, let’s face it, that’s a bit of a cash outlay right there)! I just got the Smashbox Rodeo and Brighton set on E-Bay (came highly recommended by a Nars MA at Neiman)!

    The brush I’m really coveting right now is the MAC 138 and the Sculpt and Shape powder to go with!

  35. Mrs. Lynne says:

    LOL. You too funny girl, but it’s true πŸ™‚

    That would be fun. I’d love to see his presentation. I already know the kind of sucker I am though. I ain’t walking out empty-handed, hah.

    Ewwww… honestly, I can’t stand anything ‘buggy’ outdoors. And with the FLYING cockroaches here! Since you don’t like earthworms, have you seen our centipedes here? The are sooo DISGUSTING!! I think that is worse than an earthworm. They’re huge with red turtlenecks *shiver again*. And when you piss them off, they up their walking speed to freaking RUNNING! I swear the bugs here aren’t prissy bugs because they turn and look you in the eyes and are ready for a face off.

  36. Cindy says:

    I showed you my Shu Uemura eyeliner brush – I think it’s No 4 or 5E or something – straight, flat, ~2mm across and 3mm long. Gets into the eye lash root really well. I don’t like harsh lines, so this gives me a fine but not stark/harsh line.
    My new favorite brush.

    I’m liking the shorter handles on these Billy B brushes though – I have a small mirror that I’m right up close to, and stupid handles are always in the way.

  37. Karen says:

    Hi Melissa,

    You can totes quote me on that, lol! Another prerequisite of the MAC cult is that you wear head to toe black…

  38. Karen says:

    Hi Anne,

    I got a few MAC ones that I can’t live without: the 266, 217, 182. I have a few new Shu ones and they are pretty great too – two cheek brushes and a fan brush made from goat hair (LOL). Are you looking for a brush that does a specific job? Just let me know what you want the brush to do and I will think of the ones that prefer for it πŸ™‚

  39. Karen says:

    Hi Glosslizard!

    That 138 brush looks pretty cool. You will have to tell me what you think of it and the Sculpt and Shape Powder once you get it. If you find it worthy I’ll have to check it out πŸ™‚

    I have one smashbox brush and I love it. However, I had a really good friend who had a disastrous episode with buying a MAC brush on ebay and so I’m very wary about purchasing brushes on the site. Do you do it often?

  40. Karen says:

    OMG, Mrs. Lynne, I hate those centipedes too. And I totes agree, they sense when you’re speeding up and they go even faster.

    I don’t like the cockroaches either, belch! And a big fat no to mosquitoes.

  41. Karen says:

    Hey Cindy,

    I’m still kinda reeling over the fact that you have a favorite Shu brush! I recently got two of them – two cheek brushes (made from pony hair) and a fan brush (goat). I like em. Next up is your eyeliner brush, ha!

  42. Mrs. Lynne says:

    Ewww.. bugs just make me shiver. I don’t know if it’s the same for you, but mosquitoes LOVE LOVE LOVE me! I’ll be out to toss the clothes from the washer to the dryer and come in with 1-2 bites. Grrr, those things. I’m currently sporting 4 bites as we speak πŸ™‚

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