The bare bones of any brush collection should be a blending or crease brush, a flat brush, and a small brush for more precise application. If you wear a lot of gel liner, you should also add a bent liner brush to your arsenal. Last but not least don't forget your brows and lashes! Add a double sided brow and lash comb and you'll be all set to really start experimenting with eye shadow.
I highly recommend the brushes from Makeup Geek. I use the Outer V ($5.99) everyday for applying shadow to the crease. I recently picked up the Crease Brush ($4.89) and it's quickly becoming a go to brush. It works well for blending the crease. It is very similar to the MAC 217 but is a little smaller (which I like) and is about a quarter of the price. These are natural fiber brushes and have held up well for me.
|Bottom to Top: MUG Outer V, MUG Crease Brush|
|Bottom to Top: MAC 217, MAC 219SE, MAC 239SE|
Perhaps the most bang for your buck can be found in the e.l.f. Studio 11 Piece Brush Collection ($30). I just recently purchased this set and I'm in love. It's a nice mix of eye and face brushes and it comes in in a soft case for storage or travel. I'm really impressed with the Eye shadow "C" Brush. It blends like a dream. The Contour Brush is similar to the Outer V and the MAC 217 but is probably the most stiff of the three. I use the Small Precision Brush and the Small Smudge Brush frequently. They are a great size for applying or smudging eyeliner. The face brushes are super soft. I've really started to use the Fan brush quite a bit. I need to explore using the other face brushes a bit more. If you forget what a brush is for or how to use it, there's also a cheat sheet. e.l.f. products can also be found at Target. These brushes are fully synthethic so that means they are vegan friendly. If you shop soon, you can use the code: SAVE50 to get $7.50 off. That's like $2 a brush. Go do it now. Open a new tab. ;)
|e.l.f. 11 Piece Studio Brush Set|
Finally, if you use a lot of gel liner or are thinking about buying some gel liners, pick up the Sonia Kashuk Bent Eyeliner Brush ($5.79 at Target). The angle makes it a lot easier to apply eyeliner comfortably and precisely.
Don't forget to pick up a brush cleaner to clean and condition your brushes. I will post a review of different brush cleaners soon.