The holidays are coming up and it's gift-giving time! Do you have an artist in the family or an artist friend? Are you stuck looking for a gift for them but have no idea what you should get? On one hand you don't want to get them cheap stuff they'll hate, but on the other hand you don't want to spend a ton of money - and artist supplies can get pretty expensive! Well, here are my top ten items you can purchase for artists that can range from relatively cheap (but still nice be products!) to moderately expensive depending on the size and brand you purchase. I also recommend reading reviews on the products you decide to get just to see what other artists have said about that particular brand. That way you can ensure that it's something that a majority of people actually like and not just a cheaply made version of said item. (I should mention these are not paid endorsements for any item on this list. These are just my personal picks from things I've bought and used myself.)
Fresh Water Rinse Well Brush Cleaner
If your artist is a painter who uses water-based paints, having this rinse well cleaner for brushes is a fantastic gift! It works by storing the water in the bottle and drips down into the little well so you can clean your brush. Then when the water is dirty there's a little button you can push that allows the dirty water to drain in the bottom reservoir and fresh water to drip into the well again from the bottom. It saves having to change out dirty water as frequently when you're in the middle of a project.
2. Sta-Wet Palette
This is another helpful tool for painters that use water-based paints. The sponge in the tray keeps the palette paper wet enough that the paint doesn't dry out in between uses. It lasts about a week before drying out without refreshing the water in the sponge. This item does require special palette paper that needs to be prepped before using but it can be reused so you don't have to spend a ton of money refreshing the paper for every project. The Sta-wet palette can be a little pricey at first, especially depending on the size and brand you buy, but I would say it's worth the cost if you paint frequently - especially if you use gouache paints.
3. Pink Soap
Keeping in with the painting theme, Pink Soap is a great brush cleaner. It both cleans your brushes and conditions them so that they last longer. I clean both brushes used with water-based paints and oil-based paints with Pink Soap. When washing oil paint brushes, however, I do make sure to remove most of the paint with oil-based paint cleaners like Turpenoid before doing a final cleanse with the Pink Soap. Unless you are purchasing a large gallon of the stuff, this is on the cheaper end of the price spectrum.
4. Paint Tube Wringers
These little items, in their most basic forms, look like keys that clip onto the end of a paint tube. This allows you to turn the 'key' part and squeeze the last little bits of paint out of the tube so that nothing is wasted. With paint being so expensive sometimes, this is a great money-saver for an artist! There is a wide range of prices on these simply because there are so many different types and designs. However, for my money, I find that the simple key-style wringers work just fine and don't cost very much. Metal ones are obviously more sturdy than plastic, but the plastic ones still do the trick!
5. Prismacolor Pencils and Markers
I frequently get asked about what types of materials are best to get artists, especially when it comes to things like colored pencils and markers. Obviously Crayola is the most prevalent and reasonably priced, and for children's projects I'd definitely give them my endorsement. Brands like Rose Art are the really cheap brands that are terrible quality and not good for even that. However, if you really want to invest in a brand that is more for professional artists, without breaking the bank, I would recommend Prismacolor. They're nicely pigmented pencils that come in a wide variety of colors. The price for these would be in the moderate range, especially depending on the size of the set you get. I have some Prismacolor markers too and I really like using those as well, although I am not an illustrator so I can't speak as to how they compare to other marker brands for that type of drawing.
6. Artist Gloves
This is another product I've reviewed before. Artist gloves are typically used for graphic design to prevent errant strokes and marks from being made on the screen while a digital artist is working on their tablet. However, I love using these for regular drawings because it prevents me from getting streaks of graphite or marker all over the side of my hand and then smudging it on the rest of my work. Typically coming with two gloves in a pack, this is a great, inexpensive stocking stuffer for sure!
7. Heavy-duty Craft Knife/Box Cutter
Using an X-Acto knife is often required for art projects. Sometimes the regular knives work just fine, but sometimes you need something a little more heavy-duty to get the job done. I just needed to use a box cutter on a project I was making out of wood. Again, there are a wide variety of styles and prices out there for stuff like this so I would recommend looking at reviews to see what people like and don't like about the brand of knife you're getting and what they use it for. I prefer the style that has a bit of a heftier handle so that I get a good grip on the knife. Remember - safety first! No one wants a knife slipping out of their hands while cutting!
8. Self-Healing Mats
Along that same line, having a great self-healing mat to use while cutting is essential. No one wants to cut into their table top while working on a project. Sizes vary, so therefore so do the prices, but this isn't a terribly expensive purchase and definitely worth the money. These kinds of mats can last a very long time (longer if you don't have paint and hot glue stuck to them like I do...) so I feel they're worth every penny!
9. Light Box
This is a purchase that I would consider a luxury rather than a must-have, but still a useful tool! Light boxes light up from the bottom so that when you draw on top of them you can see through your paper and have an easier time tracing the image below. Some other artists may use this frequently and would deem it a necessity, but for the kind of work I do, it's not an essential - just really nice to have when you need it. This is also the priciest item on the list, no matter what the brand. So if you really want to splurge and give a really nice gift, this is a great, practical item to choose.
10. Gift Cards
I know you probably don't like the suggestion of a gift card because they can seem so impersonal, but honestly, if you really don't know what to get the artist in your life a nice gift card to their favorite art store (like Dick Blick or Jerry's Artarama) is always appreciated. I love getting art gift cards because it's like receiving the gift of a free shopping spree. I typically use gift cards for expensive items I wouldn't normally spend money on myself. Even if they don't cover the full cost of the item I want to purchase, just knowing that's that much less I have to spend myself is really nice. Just be sure to read the terms of the cards before you purchase - occasionally some may deplete over time if they are not used within a certain time frame and that can be pretty frustrating if you get to the register and realize you don't have as much to spend as you thought!
So those are my picks - what are yours? Do you agree with my choices or do you have items you think would be better to get for someone who loves to create? Leave a comment below!