20 Interesting Gift Ideas for Artists

Give your artist friend a gift she'll really enjoy

Looking for a gift for the artist in your life or an artist friend? Here's a collection of ideas at various price points for art and painting-related gifts.

A Set of High Flow Acrylics

Product testing and review Flow Acrylic
Photo ©2013 Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc.

Golden's High Flow Acrylics are, as the name suggests, extremely fluid. They're also a high pigment loading paint, so they offer strong saturated colors. They lend themselves to all sorts of techniques, starting with working wet-into-wet and pouring. They will also make it easy to thinly spread paint for glazing, as you don't have to dilute 'normal' paint to get it to spread. As an added treat for a friend, why not get a bottle of one of the fluorescent colors?

A Portable Creativity Kit

figure painting art supplies
Photo © Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc.

With a travel set of watercolor paints, a waterbrush, a pencil or pen, and pocket sketchbook, the artist in your life can be creative anywhere and everywhere.

A Remedy for Artistic Insecurity: "Art and Fear"

Gift ideas for Artists -- Art and Fear Book
Photo © 2009 Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc.

There are lots of self-help books out there, lots fill with wordy psychobabble that doesn't get to the point if any kind of a hurry, nevermind actually help. But Art and Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Art making isn't one of these. It's a small, short book (only 134 pages) without any photos or artwork in it, just words. But those powerful words go straight to the doubts and fears we experience. I think it's something not just for those days when you doubt what you're doing is worthwhile, but as a regular way to boost motivation and confidence.

A New Brush or Three

Sennelier Raphael Mixacryl Brushes
Raphael Mixacryl brushes contain a mixture of synthetic and natural bristle hair, and are suitable for both oils and acrylics. Photo © 2009 Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc.

Buying an artist a new brush as a present make seem like the equivalent of buying a pair of socks: practical but unoriginal. However, if it's for someone who doesn't deduct their art materials as tax expenses, then it's an extremely useful present.

If you're not sure whether they're painting with oils or acrylics, buy a brush that's suitable for both. Sneak a peek at what shape brush they tend to use, and buy something different. (The main options are round, flat, and filbert.)

If they use watercolor, a mop brush is a fun choice.

An Alternative to a Brush: A Painting Knife

Gift Ideas for Artists and Painters - Painting Knife
Photo courtesy of Blick.com

Painting with a knife is quite a different experience from painting with a brush. Not only can you produce a range of different marks, but it feels distinctly different in your hand too, a bit like spreading jam with a really springy knife. For a first-time user, choose a mid-size painting knife with a flat top and a sharp point on a corner because this enables you to create large areas of color and small details.

If the artist you're wanting to buy a gift for already has a painting knife, consider getting them one of RGM's strangely shaped painting knives, which open up all sorts of new possibilities.

 

An Out-of-the-Ordinary Painting Knife

RGM Painting Knives
RGM Painting Knives. Photo © 2009 Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc.

The New Age Painting Knives from RGM come in all sorts of weird and unexpected shapes, perfect for creating texture and pattern in paint. Whether you're spreading paint, scratching into wet paint, or printing with a shape, the possibilities are many.

Mediums to Change Watercolor

Watercolour mediums from Winsor and Newton
Photo © 2009 Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc.

Make watercolor paints do more by adding a watercolor medium. Granulation medium changes watercolor from smooth color to grainy color (think "granules"). Iridescent medium adds sparkle or glitter and can be mixed in or painted over the top. Texture medium, of course, adds texture and can be used straight on the paper or mixed with watercolor paint.

Slow-Drying Acrylics

Open acrylic paints from Golden Artist Colors
Image: © Golden Artist Colors

Golden's Open Acrylics are unlike any other acrylic on the market. Yes, many brands have made a claim to "uniqueness" but what is special about this range of acrylics is that they dry slowly... really slowly. This means you have a working time akin to oil paints, without the downsides of dealing with turps and oil mediums.

For a set of basic colors, select cadmium yellow medium, cadmium red medium, phthalo blue (green shade), nickel azo yellow, and titanium white. If you want to avoid cadmium pigments, substitute Hansa yellow light, and pyrrole red.) For special colors as a treat, consider green gold (a gloriously transparent green) or manganese blue hue (a recreated historical color).

Colour Shapers

Gift Ideas for Artists and Painters
Image © Marion Boddy-Evans

A Colour Shaper looks like a brush with a flexible tip instead of bristles, but you use it more like you would a painting knife, for pushing and smearing paint around. They're great for texture effects, and for sgraffito. Colour Shapers come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and degrees of flexibility.

 

Paints Organizing Box

Gift ideas for artists -- storage containers
Photo Courtesy of Blick.com

If your artist friend​prefers a storage container that allows you to organize and sort your paints and art materials, go for one that folds out with multiple trays. Just remember that when it's full, they'll need to be able to pick it up!

Travel Brush Set

Gift Ideas for Artists and Painters
Photo Courtesy of Blick.com

Travel brushes make taking your brushes anywhere much easier as they don't take up so much space! The 'handle' comes apart and slips over the brush bristles to protect ​them while in transit (or even in your pocket). They're ideal for taking to workshops, on holidays, and for painting on location.

Moleskine Notebook

Storyboard Moleskine
Image © Marion Boddy-Evans

Pocket-sized Moleskine sketchbooks are a wonderful gift for any artist. Choose from the blank sketchbook (which doesn't really like watercolor paint), the storyboard one (perfect for thumbnail sketches), or the one with watercolor paper in it (the individual sheets are perforated so you can tear them out easily).

The rounded corners mean that if you shove one in a trouser pocket, you don't get sharp corners digging into you. With a Moleskine and a pen (or even better a brush pen), art can be made anywhere. (Be warned though, while Moleskines don't have covers made from mole leather, they do have leather covers so may not be appreciated by a strict vegetarian.)

Paints Storage Box

Gift ideas for artists -- storage containers
Photo Courtesy of Blick.com

There are few things handier than a "holds almost everything" container for keeping all your art materials together for workshops or on holiday. 

A Superior Surface for Pastels

Sennelier pastel card
Sennelier pastel card. Photo ©2010 Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc.

Painting with pastels on Sennelier Pastel Card ​is completely different from working on ordinary pastel paper. The surface is like fine sandpaper, and grips onto the pastel, layer upon layer. Every pastel painter ought to have some to try!

Painting Coat

Gifts for artist -- smock or coat
Photo Courtesy of DickBlick.com

Say goodbye to worries about getting paint on your clothes with a lab coat. In fact, in its pristine state a lab coat is rather ugly, so getting some paint on it can only make it look better.

Art Journal/Sketchbook Light

Gifts for Artist -- Book light
Photo Courtesy of PriceGrabber

A small book light is perfect for working in your art journal or sketchbook at night when you don't want the light to disturb someone else, or if you want focused illumination on the page only. Depending on the model, a book light either clips or slides into the pages. Most run on penlight batteries, some are rechargeable.

A Book of Artistic Lists

Artist's Lists from the Smithsonian by Liza Kirwin
Photo © Marion Boddy-Evans

If your artistic imagination means you tend to enjoy the quirky, the trivial-yet-once-meaningful, and the opportunity to peep into other artists' lives, then your loved one will probably enjoy the list book with a title that's a list itself. Or to give it its proper title, Lists, To-dos, Illustrated Inventories, Collected Thoughts, and Other Artists' Enumerations from the Smithsonian's Archives of American Art.

An Endless Piece of Paper: A Buddha Board

Review of Buddha Board
Photo © M Boddy-Evans

A Buddha Board is a bit like an Etch A Sketch except you use a brush and water to create the image. Leave it to dry, and it disappears so your artist friend will have a 'new' sheet of 'paper' to 'paint' on again, and again, and again.

Painting DVD: Watch Over an Artist's Shoulder

Painting DVDs
Photo © 2009 Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc.

Watching the Pastel Painting with Margaret Evans DVD is like standing next to this experienced landscape artist as she wields her pastels with inspiring expertise. You can see what she's looking at, see what's she's putting down on her paper and how she wields her pastels, and hear her talk about why/what she's doing. The same is true for going plein air painting with Herman Pekel around Melbourne in Australia. 

Buy a Painting

Buy a painting
Image © Arthur S Aubry /Getty Images

Have you thought about buying a painting by your artist friend? If not for yourself, then as a gift for someone else? It's a wonderful way to say "I love both you and your work!" (And, whatever you do, don't ask for a discount, nor expect a freebie because you're family or a longstanding friend.)