A while ago I purchased the original Sigma Brush set, and I thought it was a great deal, especially for those that didn't want to spend the money to get a set of brushes, if they were just starting out with makeup. Honestly, if you aren't a makeup artist, I don't think it's necessary for you to have a whole set of Mac, Louise Young, Laura Mercier or any of the higher end brand's brushes. It just seems sort of silly for a girl between the ages of 15-24 with at least one (and many times more than 1) of every brush Mac makes. Honestly... do you really need a $60 contouring brush? With just $40, not including shipping, (which is easily just 1 Mac face brush) you could purchase 11 more brushes and a faux leather brush roll. You'd also get the chance to try out all these different types of brushes, and really practice with them and figure out their functions without paying a fortune for it.
That's where I thought Sigma came up with a great product line and concept of products because truthfully, the answer is no, you don't need a $60 contouring brush. Even if you're a professional... you may need a lot of brushes but I think these will substitute well for the budding professionals that haven't quite reached a place in their career to spend that much money on a brush.
When Sigma released a new set of brushes, the Premium kit, I was really excited because it came with 15 different brushes, 3 more than the original, and most of them were ones I had been eyeing from Mac. This brush roll, since it came with more brushes, is $149 (on sale I think it cuts down to close to $100, like during the holidays and such) which isn't bad at all considering you get 15 brushes and a nice looking roll for it. You also get a free travel sized blending brush (which I also got with my first kit) so really, you get 16 brushes. That's about a little more than $10/brush when including shipping and tax. Great deal.
Unfortunately, my experience with Sigma wasn't as positive this time around as the first time.
The brushes were packaged very nicely, like the other set. In the box, everything came inside a sheer black bag, then wrapped in a sheath, then wrapped in a thin Sigma tissue paper. It was very... clean. Professional looking. Inside all of that was the leather like (because it's definitely not real leather) roll. It just magnets shut.
Inside of the brush roll is a flap that protects the bristles of the brushes from outside things. Unfortunately the tops of some of the brushes hit the top and the flap bent down some of the brushes. So, some of my brushes came bent. Not cool.
Next, each of the brushes come with a plastic protector over the bristles as well:
Because of this plastic proector, some of the brustles on one of my brushes in particular were bent out of shape. Honestly, it was unsettling and disappointing because I paid $150 for a set of brushes, and to see some of them being shipped and sent haphazardly and without care is just disappointing. The plastic covering my small tapered highlighting brush was pushing some of the bristles out to the side and it was just... kind of sad.
Next thing was some of my brushes themselves were just off. There were rogue hairs (hairs that were just not supposed to be that long for the brush itself) sticking out of a lot of them, a lot of them shed, even before washing them the first time. The worst was the flat eyeliner brush that came in the set. It was obviously slanted, as in the bristles weren't cut straight. I'm 99% positive that they were supposed to be cut straight. Mine just wasn't. I photographed it completely straight, and you can see the obvious angle that the bristles are cut in:
After I washed them for the first time, a lot of dye came out of them, particularly the black bristled ones. The water was quite gray as I was rinsing them. What was really unsettling about cleaning them was when I was using my quick brush cleaner for spot cleaning, I guess the alcohol base in it made the dye run in all of my black bristled brushes, even my original batch of brushes, and the dye didn't go away. After I deep cleaned them a couple of more times, the dye problem went away. In both the deep and spot cleaning.
What I do love about the brushes is that they're very high quality (at least the ones that come without flaws) for the price they are set. The brushes are all very soft, and become even softer after washing them with baby shampoo. A Mac face brush can run from $20-$60, where as the most expensive brushes at sigma just barely hit $20. You can buy all of these brushes individually, in a pre made set, or in a customized set. The brushes run from $9-$19. You can also buy the brush roll individually as well as mirrors and some makeup on Sigma.
All of their products are available here: Sigma's Website.
I also really love that when you purchase the brush rolls, you get the mini 217s for free (at least you did both times I ordered... I don't know why they would take that away...). It's such a good deal, and unlike the Mac mini brushes being different in quality from their regular brushes, the mini Sigma ones are exactly like the original Sigma brushes, just the handle is shorter.
In terms of what brushes to buy and are must haves from Sigma, I think the 217 (white bristled blending brushes, which are now called E25) are a great deal because the original Mac 217 are about $20 when you can get single ones from Sigma for $9.
One of my favorite brushes from the premium kit is the E45 (used to be called the 226). It's just a short, more stiff version of the 224, and is also much more precise. It's great for applying color and blending at the same time.
Another great buy from Sigma is the 222, which is now called the E35 Tapered Blending brush. It's great for placing color in the crease. It's not as good at blending as the previous brush but it's great for cut crease looks as well as just precisely placing color in the crease. I think it's another great alternative for a Mac brush because it's only $9.
I think my experience with this set of brushes greatly decreased the quality that I had placed on them. In truth, the quality is great, but because I had such a negative experience it still makes me uneasy to tell people to go out and buy their products. Yes, I use the brushes everyday and yes they make applying makeup so much easier but the experience was just bad. Like when you go to a restaurant and the food is good but it just takes.... way worse because of the experience you had. That's what happened to me.
They're not dead on dupes for Mac... I think Mac's brushes will last longer because the care is much higher with them. From them and from me as well, because they cost so much more.