Top 4 MAC Eyeshadow Brushes + Cheaper Comparables

Just as an artist cannot paint a masterpiece without the right tools, great-looking makeup cannot be achieved without the right makeup brushes.

I really only use about four eye brushes and they work perfectly for my daily routine and this blog; I’ll list them in “must-have” order of purchase; also below will be cheaper alternatives of comparable quality that I have tested, tried and loved just as well.

1. MAC #239: Eye Shader Brush, $25.00

A great brush for packing color onto the lid. When you first use it, it doesn’t appear to pick up color at all, but one swipe on the lid and you see how much color was actually grabbed by this brush! It’s also a superb choice for packing pigments on the lid; it does help to eliminate fallout. This is usually my “go-to” brush when I apply any color onto my lids.

2. MAC #286: Tapered Blending Brush, $32.00

(NOTE: I use the discontinued #222, but this is essentially the same brush.)

I use this brush for applying color to the crease when I want a softer look. You can also use the #224 for this look, but if you have smaller eyes (like me), this is definitely better at keeping the color more contained to the crease. This brush really helps build the color and makes the final product look professionally blended. I’d be lost without this brush!

3. MAC #217: Blending Brush, $24.00

As with many makeup lovers, the 217 is an indispensable tool. I use this for blending and also applying color to the crease when I want a softer look. This is especially great for smaller eyes.Β  I have three of these in my brush collection since first publishing this post. I am madly in love with it.

4. MAC #224: Tapered Blending Brush, $32.00

I like to use this brush for blending everything after application and I LOVE it. If you’re trying to decide between this one and the 217, this one is better for larger eyes or if you have a lot of lid space. Running this brush over the crease in a windshield wiper motion instantly blends out the harsh lines and makes the colors seamless. This is also a great tool for stubborn eyeshadows that may be harder to blend out. I also use this when I want to dust color onto the lid lightly. It creates a beautifully soft wash of color when you want to have a more natural look.

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And if you don’t want to spend a lot of money on eyeshadow brushes (trust me, I had to save up for a little while to get the MAC brushes!), I also own quite a few brushes from Sigma and MakeupGeek. Their brushes are of comparable quality, but at a MUCH better price point. Below I’ll list the MAC comparables for these brushes.

1. MAC #239 = No MUG Comparable
2. MAC #222/286 = MakeupGeek’s Soft Dome Brush for $7.99 ea.
3. MAC #217 = MakeupGeek’s Stiff Dome Brush for $7.99 ea.
4. MAC #224 = No MUG Comparable

To view all of MakeupGeek’s brushes, you can click here:


1. MAC #239 = Sigma’s E55 for $14.00 ea.
2. MAC #222/286 = Sigma’s E45 for $14.00 ea.
3. MAC #217 = Sigma’s E25 for $14.00 ea.
4. MAC #224 = Sigma’s E35 for $16.00 ea.

To view all of Sigma’s brushes, you can click here:

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44 thoughts on “Top 4 MAC Eyeshadow Brushes + Cheaper Comparables

  1. Hi πŸ™‚ I just bought the 217 and 224. Gotta say I loveee the 224, blends everything in so well. Probably sounds sillly but i’m still getting the hang of the whole winsdshield wiper motion :p il get there πŸ™‚

    1. Hi! Yes, you will! It takes practice, practice, practice! It also helps to apply as little eyeshadow as possible in the beginning stages – that ultimately helps with blending later on. You can always apply more later, but it’s better to have less than more. πŸ™‚

  2. #217 has made a wonderful difference for me. Since I’ve been using this, even my husband has commented how good my eyeshadow looks.

  3. I must get the 224. I have the pencil brush and the lid brush which I absolutely adore but I really need a good blender. Thanks for the suggestions, per usual!!

  4. I was so ticked that they discontinued the 222 JUST BEFORE I WENT TO BUY IT!!! I have the 224 and use it mainly for applying Pro Longwear concealer (it’s amazing for that) but wanted something with just a wee bit more body, with the 222 had, for blending. Oh well… I wonder why they discontinued it, as it was a pretty popular brush.

  5. I would like to buy 239 and of course 217 because I have smaller eyes. And 217 I could use for both blending and applying color to the crease πŸ™‚ What brush do you use for filling in your eyebrows?

    1. Great picks, Roxi! You will love those two brushes; they are my most used and definite favorites! I don’t use a brush on myself for filling in my brows because I use the drugstore pencils. However, when I fill in brows on models and brides, I LOVE the 266 – it’s an awesome one for the brows and for lining the lower lashes with eyeshadow too. Very versatile!

    1. I don’t personally use MAC for my face brushes, aside from the 190, 130 and 187. I have a lot of Sigma brushes for the face; they are really high in quality and half the price of MAC. I use the 130 for liquid foundation application (I prefer it over the 187 because I like that it’s smaller).

      Sigma makes a Kabuki flat top brush that works just as well and is about $16 compared to MAC’s at $49. (Ouch!)

      The Sigma brushes I LOVE are: F80 (liquid foundation), F70 (under the eyes/concealer), F30 (powder) and F40 (blush/contour).

      1. Yes! I would like to have Sigma F80 because I have read so many people saying it’s the best brush for liquid foundation. I still don’t know about blush brush. I would like one that is super soft and not too big and that makes applying powder blush super easy πŸ˜€

  6. Hi! I am looking to purchase new eye brushes and I have a few questions. First of all, I am an amateur, and I know the MAC brushes would be a good investment but do you think that the Sigma brushes are suitable since I am just a novice? Also, I am interested in a pencil brush like MAC’s 219, any recommendations for a cheaper alternative or again, is MAC worth the splurge? Thanks!

    1. My Eyeshadow Consultant


      Hi Lori!
      Absolutely! I would definitely recommend Sigma brushes; they are just as good as MAC without the price tag!
      You may find this funny but I actually HATE the 219 pencil brush from MAC. It’s too tightly packed and VERY scratchy against the lid. I use Sigma’s E30 – it’s not as tightly packed, VERY soft, does a MUCH better job and is VERY inexpensive at $9.00. The only brush here from MAC that I honestly believe is worth every penny if you only get one is the 217. It can be used to blend out colors from the crease AND apply colors to the crease. Very versatile brush. πŸ˜‰ Hope some of this helps you and thanks for asking!

        1. Sorry, two more questions. Are there any brush must haves outside of your top four (eye or otherwise) and if you are going to splurge on one brush, which one should it be?

  7. What about Sedona Lace? I wanted to get a full set, and Sigma was a bit beyond my price range. I’m loving the Sedona lace brushes so far. I already own a 217 brush. But I couldn’t get myself to invest the 30 bucks in the 224 brush.

    1. My Eyeshadow Consultant


      I felt the same about the 224 brush – it was painful letting go of that $30!
      I don’t own any brushes from Sedona Lace so I can’t speak to their quality, but thank you for mentioning them in this post! πŸ™‚

  8. I just love this post! Very clear info.
    I am wondering how to use the smudge brush? I have a Sephora one and it is really very tight. What do you use it for and how? Also what do you use the pencil brush for? As I mentioned in my previous post I would love to see a Eye make up 101 with all the different uses and applications of the types of brushes and how to? what shades go where for what purpose. Where did you learn all this stuff? You are so good!!!!! πŸ™‚

    1. Hi!
      I use the smudging brush to soften my eyes when I line the lower lashline with eyeshadow.
      Typically, after you apply eyeshadow as a liner (on the top or bottom lashline), it can look very harsh. So taking a smudging brush and going over the line delicately helps to soften it. πŸ™‚

      Ha! Well, I grew up with my Dad and he was so absolutely generous to send me to a few makeup classes as a teenager where I learned many of the basics.
      I’m sure it wasn’t cheap and we always had to drive an hour out of our way; I’ll never be able to thank him enough for that experience! πŸ™‚

  9. I am thinking of putting in an order to Sigma (easier to get from USA and ship across) I was thinking of getting the e25, e30, e35, e45, e55 & f80.

    Do you think that’s a good mix and would you add or remove any of them?

    1. Hi Paula! Great selection! πŸ™‚
      I’d remove the E35, you may find it too be too big for your eyes. It was a monster for me and I ended up getting rid of it.
      The e25 is perfect in its place as a blending brush and is much better for those of us with less lid space.
      The F80 is an excellent choice as a foundation brush; I know you’ll love that one. Hope this helps!! πŸ˜‰ XOXO!

  10. Coastal Scents has a brush that is supposed to be a dupe of the MAC 217 too & it’s only $4.95. I own several CS & MAC brushes & I gotta say that CS gives MAC a run for their money! lol πŸ™‚

  11. I have started to collect MAC brushes even though I’m very satify with the UD and Too Faced I have.
    I already have the 217 for blending. It’s ok. I now plan to buy 239 for lid and 214 for lash line. I still think MAC lack of a good small crease brush. Therefor I plan to by the E45 from Sigma instead.
    Does this sound as a good start?

  12. Hi Zabrena! πŸ™‚

    Do you have any recommendations for synthetic brushes that would compare to the quality of these MAC brushes? I have 217 and will not get rid of it (I LOVE it), but I want to move to more animal-free brushes if possible.

    Thanks so much πŸ™‚

  13. Hi Zabrena,

    first of all, thanks for your recommendations!

    I recently fell in love with Zoeva brushes. They have dupes for MAC and Sigma and they are sooooo fluffy and soft! I am obsessed with the natural-synthetic hair brush line. And they are incredibly affordable!

    Since I have purchased some (ok – a lot) of their brushes, I rarely use my other brushes. I even find my original 217 scratchy in comparison to the Zoeva one. They also have a vegan version, I love it for blending out cream shadow because it is so easy to clean afterwards.

      1. Hi Selina,

        IΒ΄ve created an account on their website and have ordered several times already. You can create a new account on the bottom under “My Account”. The login on top is only for already registered customers. ItΒ΄s a bit confusing…

        If you still have problems, I would write an e-mail and ask them for their support. I didnΒ΄t have any issues, though.

        I hope, my answer helped.

  14. Hi Z-you may want to update the Sigma prices on the above brushes, still cheaper than Mac, but not $10 anymore-they are $14 and up.

  15. Have you ever tried any of Coastal Scents brushes? I was just curious if they had any equivalents to any of the Mac brushes

  16. I recently bought 2 pcs Sedona Lace EB 15, but I found them very harsh. They also looked different in shape from one another. Cheep feeling.

    My favorite pointed (small) crease brush is the Too Faced crease brush that comes in their 3 pcs set. Have never bumped into such a soft brush.
    The other two brushes are great too.

  17. Hi! I’m from Philippines and I’m a beginner. What advice can you give me because it’s my first time to buy brushes for my make up. Thanks!

  18. Hello Gorgeous!!! I wanted to see if you could give the matches for these Mac brushes to the Morphe line of brushes… I’ve heard these are really good brushes and they’re affordable!!! Thanks so much and I loooooove your channel!!!!

  19. Lovely post hun! I was fooled into purchasing the 286 and believe me I havent used it once also! Honestly not sure what to use it for. I was told that it would be great for applyinh my concealer but nahh didnt work for it.

    Im comfortable with synthetic brushes than natural ones. All my brushes are from Sigma. I have the E25 but sadly its rather hurtful on my eyes. Would the mac 217 be a soft better version hun?

  20. Great Job here on BBT. you know what?

    I read a lot blog posts and I never heard of a topic like this .I Love this topic you made a about the bloggers bucket list.very ingenious.

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