I'd wanted to write this post for a while now, and figured the upcoming Holiday season would be the perfect fit! I don't know about you, but I am always on the lookout for Christmas sales and new art material, as well as little creative gifts for fellow artists.
As an artist, you can never have too many art supplies!
I collected gift ideas for both hobby artists and professionals based on my personal favorites and my wishlist.
I do go through a lot of paper, erasers, and pens each year and am always happy to have backup supplies.
Sometimes, it's the simple art supplies that make for the best gifts: A friend got me some nice cardboard a year ago that I still use when mounting and shipping original art. And my collection of random pens and pencils is as useful as it is varied.
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If you've read other posts on my blog, you can probably guess my very favorite medium:
Watercolor! All the watercolor!
I actually have two different watercolor sets and love both for different reasons.
My Shinhan colors are brighter, more vibrant, cheap, and they come in tubes so I can squeeze them into travel palettes.
Shinhan is a Korean brand that offers a variety of art materials from their Touch Twin Markers to acrylics and watercolors.
I use them to get saturated, vibrant colors for my sticker illustrations and more graphic, simple illustrations like my tiger music album cover. They also come with a white opaque pigment which, while not strictly watercolor, is a great addition when it comes to correcting mistakes or creating quick pastel hues.
My Winsor & Newton set previously belonged to my Grandmother. She gave me the palette as a gift once I started painting seriously, preparing for art school and publishing comics (good old times) - and I'm forever grateful! These are such great quality despite, by now, being about 20 years old.
Compared to the Shinhan colors, the Winsor Newton ones are less searingly bright and therefore look more natural. I prefer to use them for botanical illustrations, nature studies, or larger paintings where I want to be in full control of the colors. I know how these apply and mix inside-out so they're the safest material for me.
Despite that, I'm always eager to get my hands on new shades so that I can mix things up (literally) and single half-pans of watercolor in obscurer shades are a perfect little gift. I don't stay with just one brand for that, but mix it up with the occasional Rembrandt or Schmincke since the available colors are different.
Artist Masking Tape and Washi Tape
Two similar yet entirely different things - and you can't have too many of either!
Masking tape is that yellow plain tape that is a multi-tool for paintings and drawings of any kind. It's available in different sizes and essential when it comes to flattening watercolor paper, or when you try to get a straight border around a painting. I use thin masking tape to get crisp borders in my sketchbook, too.
Washi tape is more decorative and experimental, and perfect for both artists decorating art journals or sketch diaries, or just creatives of any kind that want to decorate their journals, letters, or notes. The creative and gorgeous Washi tapes you can find on Etsy have no limit!
I also use these to decorate my own Etsy shipments.
If you shop on Etsy (or Amazon, or Society6 - or anywhere online, really) consider signing up for Ebates to get cashback on your order. I use them for my own online shopping (recently for my Midori notebook haul on Rakuten!) and if you sign up via my referral link, you get a bonus 10$ when you shop through them.
Palettes for Watercolor, Oil, Acryl...
While a random plate will do fine, having an actual palette with compartments just makes working easier. Colors don't mix with each other by accident, and some palettes come with covers for the individual compartments so that you can prevent oil colors, for example, from drying out.
I use random pieces of porcelain as palettes - a real one (preferably a big, pretty one like this!) is on my ever-growing art supply wishlist since I broke the round one you can see in my sketch...
Sketchbooks and Art Journals for EVERY Occasion
Another art supply category I can't get enough of... sketchbooks! I fill these at a rapid rate.
Some are just for simple pencil drafts and can therefore be cheap and made with flimsy paper. Others, I want to play around in to discover new creative techniques: Colored papers, kraft paper, scrapbooks, journals - I've got a use for them all!
Then, of course, there are the classic sketchbooks that I use with mixed media. I like for my sketchbooks to be flexible - with paper smooth enough for detailed pencil studies while at the same time heavy enough for watercolors and the occasional marker or ink.
Journals and notebooks are also a great gift idea. No matter if for planning, bullet journaling, as a diary, for doodles, for collecting ideas...
- Bullet Journal Ideas: Creative Doodles
- Travel Sketchbook Ideas & Coloring Practice
- My Bullet Journal & Planning Journey
I've got a Midori MD Notebook set ready to go for the new year, with a re-usable cover and notebook inserts both with and without a grid, so they can serve as a sketchbook and bullet journal respectively.
If you want a safe gift for any artsy or creative friend, no matter if they paint and draw as a hobby or professionally, sketchbooks and journals are a great choice!
Try a small, soft-cover sketchbook or journal, with fewer pages - those are great for creative experiments or a personal art challenge.
The useful and always appreciated artist gift staples...
Somehow, I always seem to need these: Kneaded erasers, eraser pens, and multiliner pens. Kneaded erasers, especially, get dirty really quickly, so I often stock up on several at a time. I like these by Faber-Castell best!
Pens, too, are quickly used up - there can only be so much ink in a cartridge, after all. A mixed set like this will make a great staple gift for any artist.
Luxurious art supply gifts...
Now we're talking!
I'd like to say, though, that if you're looking for a gift for an artist - maybe just ask them what they want! Especially if someone has been painting or drawing for a while, they might have very specific wishes. They might be saving for a new set of oil colors. They might be out of high-quality fixative spray. They might have been eyeing Copic ink refill cartridges for the longest time - and even if a gift looks plain or boring to you, it might be perfect for them. I recently teared up because I got a set of half a dozen plain Muji pens. Seriously.
So before investing in a large gift, keep in mind that every artist - no matter if hobby artist or professional - has different preferences, and different art styles create different needs.
My current, very specific art supply quest:
I use a drawing board like this for bigger pieces and it works wonders when it comes to both getting the perspective of the drawing right and avoiding neck cramps. But since it takes up so much space that I can rarely use it on my cramped desk (especially when I try and film a speed drawing video at the same time...) I'm looking for a smaller, sturdier version. Maybe I'll go for a board like this, or DIY something.
Then, of course, there would be pricey art supply gifts like colored pencil sets or the watercolors mentioned above... but personally, paper makes me happiest!
I only need so many watercolors - I can mix and match, and they last forever. Colored pencils, too, last for a few years before I've used them up. (Except for black. There can never be enough black color pencils!)
The one art material I always run out of is paper.
Especially good quality watercolor paper... those can be quite expensive and I always feel that pinch of regret when I use another sheet.
I've got my favorite staple papers like Canson Watercolor Paper and Fabriano Hot-Pressed, but if you ever want to make a watercolor artist truly happy, get them some Arches paper! I'd used sheets of those during my art school years and oh, it's glorious and impossibly smooth, and lets the colors shine.
For Planners and DIY Sticker Lovers...
Another luxury that I'm eyeing (and have been eyeing for a year now) is a sticker machine. While I love the process of making handmade sticker flakes for my Etsy shop, I'd love to have a cutting machine to create kiss-cut sticker sheets. If you're also a bit of a planner and DIY lover, then you know how much fun it is to create your own journaling and planner stickers at home, be it from your own art or others' printables.
A sticker cutting machine would really come in handy for the long-term, so it's on my wish list for 2018!
Another simple artist gift: Art!
Seriously. Nothing makes me happier than art books, prints, concept art collections, posters, postcard sets, stickers - it's those things that, as an artist, you kind of never buy for yourself, because art supplies go first on the priority list.
But art books and prints are a great source of inspiration and motivation, so they make for wonderful gifts, no matter how big or small.
I personally love making-of concept art books for movies (I can't wait to get my hands on The Art of the Last Jedi!), and zine or postcard sets by my favorite artists.
Since you're on my art blog, I'll add a couple of my own stuff, too. ;)
I've recently made a 2018 calendar out of my Cat Advice illustrations from 2017 (with new paintings made exclusively for this calendar) and it's still available in insert sizes for planners and notebooks, or larger ones for desks and walls.
And of course, I've got lots of small stocking stuffers on Etsy - from stickers to pocket mirrors.
If you're looking for art prints that arrive in a matter of days (last-minute gifts, anyone!), check out Society6 for phone cases, large and small prints, and pouches. Ebates works there, too, and they have lots of sales leading up to the holidays.
I hope this blog post about my favorite and most coveted art materials was helpful with getting ideas for unique and useful gifts for your artist friends - or to put on your own wishlist. Happy shopping and gifting!