Kumano Brushes (Kumanofude): Premium Japanese Makeup Brushes


Updated: September 7th, 2018

From pro beauty artists to the casual makeup wearer, many people put special thought and care into the quality and appearance of their makeup. However, a surprising number of people overlook the most important part of their makeup kit—brushes. A high-quality makeup brush makes a significant difference, not only for smooth and even control when applying makeup, but also for preserving makeup, and preventing acne and other skin problems. For example, applying liquid foundation with a sponge can lead to blackheads from pore-clogging bacteria, while applying it with one’s fingers can create an unpleasantly shiny finish from the oil glands in fingertips.

makeup brush set in velvet case

Kumano makeup brushes are produced by Japanese artisans with a long history of expertise in crafting handmade calligraphy tools, and are ideal for solving any makeup trouble and ensuring the best application possible.

Kumano Brushes Represent a Dedication to Quality through the Ages

Japan is home to high-quality artisanal calligraphy and makeup brushes known as Kumanofude (Kumano brushes), traditional handmade brushes from the Kumano region in Hiroshima prefecture. Historically, the penmanship tools were sold by local farmers who had traveled away looking for work after the rice harvest ended, and brought back with them calligraphy brushes and ink from larger towns to sell at home in Kumano. During the Edo period, the brushes became so popular that they began to be produced locally, and the Kumano region’s brush making industry was born.

Today, Kumano is home to a number of artisan manufacturers who craft around 80% of all domestically made brushes. The Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has officially recognized Kumanofude brush-making as a traditional craft of Japan.

Quality of Craftsmanship

The quality of craftsmanship by Japanese Kumanofude manufacturers is extremely high, and can require up to 10 years of training. Over those years of training, Kumanofude artisans to gain the knowledge required to be able to handle animal hairs for the bristles proficiently, as well as judge quality. Kumano Japanese makeup brushes require around 30 steps to create, and most of these steps are still done by hand. Great attention is paid especially to the most essential part of the brush—the tip—which are always handmade using traditional Kumano artisan techniques. Given the great care and precision used to make Kumano brushes, they are known to be more durable than other makeup brushes.

names of makeup brushes

Quality of Materials

The Bristlesmakeup brush bristle

The bristles are the most important feature of a brush, and the key factor that sets a good makeup brush apart from a poor one, as well as a handmade brush from a synthetic one. Like Kumano calligraphy brushes, makeup brushes produced in Kumano use natural animal hair such as goat, squirrel, and horse. The natural animal fibers used in Kumanofude brushes tend to hold powder and color pigment better for a more even application and natural look, blending out beautifully. They are also extremely soft to the touch.

Inferior hairs are sorted out by hand using a special combing tool to prevent any rough hairs or stray, crooked bristles. Because the bristles of Kumano brushes are always handmade, the tip of the brush has a very slight natural unevenness to it, which allows the brush to make lighter contact with the face, ensuring a more even makeup application. The end of every bristle gently tapers into its own fine point, unlike synthetic brushes where the end of the bristles is machine-cut, which can irritate the skin due to the prickly exposed cross-section of the bristles.

While synthetic fibers have some benefits in the application, such as being useful for liquid and cream cosmetics, they are less effective at catching powder and can result in wasted makeup or poor blending.

The Handle

Kumano brush handles are typically made with Japanese wood or brass. The size and the thickness of a handle determine the brush’s use. Long, thin handles provide precise control for detail work such as applying eyeshadow and eyeliner, whereas fat, shorter handles provide excellent coverage and blending for powder and blush brushes.

The Ferrule

The ferrule is the part of the brush that keeps the bristles at the tip attached to the handle. Usually made of metals such as brass, copper, or aluminum, the ferrule is stamped into a shape that controls how the bristles splay or fan out from the brush. High-quality brushes are made with a seamless metal tube, as a seamed ferrule may come apart over time causing the bristles to fall off of the brush handle. Glue is applied at the bottom of the ferrule, so when washing brushes are sure not to wet the ferrule, and brushes should never be left in the water.

ferrule of Make up Brush
Various design of Kumano fude Makeup brush ferrule

The Preferred Brushes of the World’s Leading Makeup Artists and Brands

Kumano brushes are popular with a wide range of people and esteemed makeup brands in and outside of Japan. After receiving the National Honor Award back in 2011 from the Japanese government for winning the FIFA World Cup, the Nadeshiko Japan women’s soccer team were presented with a limited soccer-ball-shaped makeup brush. In Hollywood, Japanese makeup artists like Tamami Mihara (http://www.tamami.us/) use Kumano brushes to create looks highly prized by celebrities and actors including Jennifer Lopez and Oscar winner Al Pacino. Kumanofude is used by internationally renowned makeup companies like Chanel, Dior, and M.A.C, who seek only the highest-quality brushes to support their premium brand status.

Kumano Brush collection by Tamami Mihara

Kumano Brush collection of Tamami Mihara.
Kumano Brush collection of Tamami Mihara, which took an astonishing 3 years to design and develop.

Update 2018/09/07: We were very honored when Tamami Mihara san, (Tamami Mihara official website), the makeup artist we’ve written above contact us herself recently. She kindly offered to write a comment on Kumano brushes below:

“Good brushes are part of the charming souvenirs of my own career.

Through the brush a valuable communication and trust is created wherein the client/model enjoys their make up time becoming more beautiful. In turn, the artist is open to inspiration.

I began designing this brush line wishing to guide my students along a path of realizing their own professional potential. From experience I learned to

Kumano makeup Brushes by Tamami Mihara
Kumano makeup Brushes by Tamami Mihara

teach the value of a good tool as inherently vital to, and inseparable from an artist’s “technique”. My company is called, It’s a Story, LLC and I believe that everyone has their own beautiful story to tell about their own personal beauty. I hope my brushes will be part of everyone’s beauty story in their lives with all my best wishes.”


Chikuhodo Kumano BrushesCHIKUHODO brushes

Chikuhodo is one of the Kumano region’s brush manufacturing companies, and have been applying their expertise to handmade calligraphy brushes since 1952. Recognizing the market need for high-quality makeup brushes, in late 1950’s, Chikuhodo started developing the Makeup brush manufacturing process. By the mid 70’s, Chikuhodo expanded their repertoire to include the production of premium makeup brushes, applying their expertise in Kumanofude handcrafting.

Choose Kumanofude for High-Quality Japanese Makeup Brushes

Anyone looking purchase their first set of makeup brushes or to upgrade their existing makeup kit should consider high-quality Kumanofude artisan makeup brushes. The ability to improve makeup application and skin health, as well as maximize the longevity of makeup, makes Kumano brushes an excellent choice for anyone seeking high-quality artisan makeup brushes.

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