shopping for the perfect gift for a colored pencil lover can be tricky
Especially if you don't color yourself. And especially, especially now that the market has been flooded with bargain priced coloring books printed on unsuitable paper and poor quality pencils.
How can a non-crafty person who has never colored buy a valued gift for their favorite colored pencil lover? How can a newbie spot the difference between a quality supply and the onslaught of products that have been rushed out of the factory to take advantage of a recent trend?
Relax. Sometimes all you need is a little advice from an experienced colored pencil person.
I've been a colored pencil artist since I picked up my first Prismacolor pencil back in 1985. I've taught art classes and coloring classes for a decade and even when the subject isn't colored pencils, I still find ways to work colored pencils into the curriculum.
I've seen a lot of colored pencils and drawing accessories come and go. I'm also a brutally frank person, so if I think something is overpriced, useless, or downright stupid, I'll tell you not to buy it.
here are 10 (well loved, not useless) gift ideas for your colored Pencil lover:
(warning: the following article contains affiliate links out the wazoo...)
#1 - Prismacolor Premier Pencils
When you get a chance, sneak into your special someone's craft room and have a look at the brand of pencil they're currently using. Are they marked:
- Prismacolor Premier?
- Caran d'Ache Luminance?
- Faber Castel Polychromos?
If you're seeing any other brand and I do mean ANY OTHER BRAND, please do that poor soul a favor and upgrade them to an artist quality colored pencil.
There's a lot of horse puckey floating around on the internet right now about how great cheapo brands like Crayola pencils are.
If that were true, you'd see artists using them every day.
But they don't. You will never walk into any artist studio and find them doing serious work with dime store pencils.
Student grade pencils are for coloring maps in geography class. Not for doing colored pencil art on regular basis.
Show your person that you love them by getting them some decent pencils. Even if they never do more than color in coloring books, your colored pencil lover will feel the quality difference as they color. There simply is no substitution for decent pencils.
Of the three brands I mentioned above, I think Prismacolor Premier pencils are the best for beginners. The Premier Soft Core style is a professional grade pencil but they're not going to break your budget.
I worked with a set of 24 pencils for years (in fact, my art school admissions portfolio was created with that small set) and while I replaced the colors as they ran out, I simply didn't have access at the time to a larger color selection. And guess what? It didn't kill me and I never felt stuck or trapped by the 24 color limitation. Now-a-days the pencils are a little cheaper and a lot of colorers think they need to own all 150 colors before they start. That's a bunch of hooey. This set of 72 isn't every color Prismacolor makes but it's a great selection and contains all of my most used colors.
Warning if you're about to do more research on the internet: Prismacolor has detractors who seem rather vocal lately. And I won't lie, I do think there is a valid quality control issue with Prismas. As a result, I have moved to a pencil brand that has a more consistent quality- but that's because I use colored pencils every single day for professional purposes.
But for beginners? I never, never, never start anyone on anything but Prismacolors. Quality issues aside, they're still a better than average pencil and the price isn't painful. Let your person get the feel of Prismas before spending more on to a more expensive brand.
#2 - a colored pencil Case
I always cringe when I see a student dump out a box full of loose colored pencils in class.
Art pencils, no matter what brand, are always slightly fragile. It's not just the sharpened tips that can get knocked off. The unsharpened lead that is hidden down deep inside the wooden body can also break and crack.
Shattered pencils can not be properly sharpened. Even a cheap pencil gets expensive if you waste half of it trying to maintain a decent point.
Colored pencil wallet style cases protect pencils from damage. What you spend on a wallet will save your pencil lover double that cost over the long term.
Plus, you can't beat the thrill of opening a wallet to gaze at all the pretty colors! I'm not kidding, it's a great feeling to have an entire rainbow at your fingertips.
I own three leather Global Art pencil cases. My oldest case is about 10 years old and it still looks great. This case also comes in a canvas or denim looking fabric which several of my students own. Their cases look far more worn. Get the leather version; it's worth it.
#3 - hake brush + mod-podge brush
Most people think colored pencils are the least messy way to color and to a large extent, that's true. They're not drippy like paint and no one ever spills colored pencil on their clothing.
But good quality colored pencils are not mess-free. The better grades of pencils are softer than student pencils. Softer is good for blending but it also means that the pencils will shed a small amount of colorful dust along with the occasional shard of pencil lead.
The biggest mistake you can make is to brush the shedded color off with the side of your hand because that makes a streak (or lots of little color streaks). It's a head slapping moment when it happens. "Why did I do that....... again???"
Hake brushes (ha-kay) are super soft and fit nicely into the hand. They're perfect for dusting off projects cleanly without transferring color.
If your person uses colored pencils on the go, this Mod Podge brush is super compact and just as soft. This is my classroom brush as it fits neatly into my eraser kit.
#4 - Mid Tone Papers
When people think paper, everyone thinks white.
Mid-tone paper is a great alternative to white paper and it's perfect training for the brain.
With white paper, the colorer is always adding color. But if he or she starts with paper that's gray, beige, or light brown, their brain is forced to think about adding AND subtracting color. White and pastel colored pencils look beautiful on mid toned paper. It's the hidden secret for many portrait artists.
And yet your colored pencil lover has likely never considered coloring on anything other than white paper.
Give them a pack of great paper in beautiful mid tones. Stonehenge paper is one of my absolute favorites and the pearl grey colored paper is to-die-for. Please bury me with a pad of Pearl. I love it, love it, love it!!!
#5 - the best pencil sharpener ever (not kidding)
How often do you get a chance to give someone the absolute best, most wonderful thing in the world for under $10?
Yes, I truly love this pencil sharpener. A super sharp and tiny point on my colored pencil is essential to getting the look I prefer and the vast majority of pencil sharpeners give off a short, stubby, fat lead.
The KUM Long Point Pencil Sharpener is a two stage process. Blade number one removes the wood in a very long taper. Blade number two sharpens the lead. Extra blades are included so this sharpener will last a long time.
But here's the cool part, I think this sharpener saves me money in the long run. Normally, I have to resharpen my pencils frequently to keep a sharp point and with every sharpen, I loose a little more wood as my pencil gets shorter. With the KUM Long Point, I can skip blade number one about 2/3 of the time and simply use blade two to repoint my existing lead. I've already noticed a decline in my pencil consumption rate due to repointing rather than resharpening.
This KUM sharpener makes a great stocking stuffer but honestly, you could present me one in a jewelry box and I woudn't bat an eye. It's a great tool!
#6 - Artist Glove
I used to think it was because I'm a lefty but I see a lot of righty students with the same problem... smudgy hands.
It's not just a pencil problem- lots of different media can be picked up and dragged along by the side of one's hand. Many artists and crafters actually tape off their paper margins to keep them crisp and white.
Paper is pretty sensitive. The natural oils on skin can transfer to colored pencil paper, leaving a slightly greasy area that can discolor or resist colored pencil pigment.
Artist's drawing gloves solve that problem by forming a buffer between skin and paper.
Drawing gloves are not a new invention but I've noticed that recently, it's hard to find one not labeled for use with computer tablets. They're essentially the same thing, so don't worry if the glove comes from the electronics section.
Two finger gloves are more comfortable and keep the palm open to the air to prevent uncomfortable heat buildup.
Oh, and you'll hear about people wearing fingerless winter gloves as a cheaper alternative to a real artist glove... be warned. Inexpensive, stretchy, 3 to a pack style gloves are almost always knit polyester. You can drag colored pencil with a synthetic knit just as easily as with a bare hand.
#7 - assorted erasers
Don't discount this idea before you hear me out...
Erasers are not glamorous but I can guarantee that every colored pencil lover's ears perk up when they hear someone mention "Hey, I found this great eraser the other day..."
Pencil geeks are always looking for a better eraser and if you pop an assortment of the best erasers into a fun bag, pouch, or tin box...
Dang. Now I'm wishing someone would gift me with something like this!
Here's a list of erasers that I'd include:
#8 - the colored pencil painting bible
I'm usually torn about art books.
The most useful and instructive art books are usually pretty dry, favoring technique descriptions at the expense of quality photography. Meanwhile the most inspirational and beautiful books are pretty scanty on the process details.
Alyona Nickelsen straddles both worlds pretty well with her Colored Pencil Painting Bible. If all your person wants to do is drool over pencil paintings, this book is a feast for the eyes. If your person wants to learn new techniques, she's includes plenty of written process detail.
Nickelsen's work is photo realistic so the projects and techniques are art driven and not suitable for beginning level card crafters... but again, we're looking at inspirational mind stretching colored pencil potential here.
#9 - a drawing board & drafting tape
If your colored pencil lover is looking to move from coloring books to digital stamps or even drawing, the first thing they need to invest in is a good drawing board.
Invest? Well, I mean that in the sense that although drawing boards are not all that expensive, most colored pencil people skip them in favor of working on whatever is handy... like the back of a book or directly on the table surface.
And that leads to tears. Any irregularity in the coloring surface can show up as unwanted texture in the project. Think about how you used to do crayon rubbings in grade school, placing a leaf or paperclip below a sheet of paper. Now imagine coloring something for over an hour only to get the image of crud, dirt, or the wood grain of the table showing through the project. Ack!
The other thing your person may not have considered is that when he/she colors on the back of a book, they'll get a softer line stroke than when coloring on slightly harder wood or even harder glass. It's really tragic when I see a project that was colored on several surfaces during the process, each surface lending a different look to the coloring willy-nilly.
So yes, investing in a drawing board is a good thing. Investing in several is even better. I recommend that my students get the laminate coated or waterproof masonite boards instead of the more common raw masonite variety. The raw surface can absorb wet media like marker, paint, or oil/grease and transfer that to project paper. The coated versions can be easily kept pristinely clean with soap & water, lotion free diaper wipes, or rubbing alcohol.
Oh, and just because it comes with a clip at the top doesn't mean they should use the clip to hold the project down. That clip is to hold a protective cover sheet and if used on the project, will crimp or damage good art paper. Instead, give them a roll of drafting tape to mount the project safely with. Drafting tape is less sticky than masking tape or painter's tape, so make sure it's labeled as such.
#10 - Ott Light
You don't need to live in a dimly lit cave to require a good desk lamp.
But not just any old lamp will do. The color of the light waves matters a great deal when one colors.
It used to be that most household light bulbs gave off a slightly yellow light. Now with CFLs and LEDs, we're dealing with bluish lights. Neither gives you the full spectrum kind of light we get during full natural daylight.
A coloring project that was colored at noon by a window is going to look odd at 8pm under your lamp due to the change in the light qualities. This is why I always color under a full spectrum Ott light, even at high noon on a sunny day in August. If I'm coloring, the light is on. Consistency of light source as you complete a project is one of those little keys to excellence that many crafters fail to consider.
I've had three different style Ott lights and the Tulip Desk Lamp has been my favorite. In the position shown at right, it's an atmospheric up-light. But that silver band in the middle hides an 8 inch goose neck which allows you to point the light cone in a wide variety of positions.
Affordable and versatile, you can't ask for much more!
#11 - Online coloring lessons
Okay, I know I was supposed to stop at 10 Gifts.
... but you stayed with me for this long so I might as well throw in a little shameless self promotion...
I teach online Copic coloring classes that combine marker with COLORED PENCIL and are perfect for any level colorer. Marker Painting Basics teaches art based painting techniques using markers with colored pencil texture, detail, and accents.
Because my classes cover art techniques, they're perfect for any level colorer from beginner on up to advanced marker mavens. This isn't a copy-cat style craft level class!
M.P.B. is a membership style class and new lessons debut every month. Each lesson is available for 60 days. The monthly staggering means that TWO classes are always available for students to watch and download.
Marker Painting Basics classes include:
- 60-90 minutes of guided coloring video featuring informative and fun time outs and technique breakdowns
- 15 minute Technique of the Month video provides a deep-dive look at one technique, method, or mindset
- original digital stamp in three formats
- full color printable project sample
- full color prinatable color map + recipe
- full color printable guide to shade & shadow
- class discussion board with full instructor Q&A access
so there you have it!
Ten, no make that ELEVEN awesome and battle tested gift suggestions for the colored pencil lover in your life.
Be sure to check out my other helpful gift suggestion lists:
10 (more!) Gift Ideas for a Colored Pencil Lover (coming soon)
10 Gift Ideas for a Watercolor Lover (coming soon)
10 Gift Ideas for an Art Journal Lover (coming soon)
Questions? Suggestions? I'd love feedback in the comment section!
CURRENT AMAZON PRICES on products mentioned above: