Christmas Presents

Ten (MORE!) Gifts: Great Gifts for Watercolor Lovers (presents they'll actually use!)

 
10 Gift Ideas for a Watercolor Lover- presents they'll actually use! | VanillaArts.com
 
 

shopping for the perfect gift for a watercolor lover is a humbling experience...

If you're not a painter or a crafter, this isn't the kind of stuff you're used to buying.

And art stores? That's beyond intimidating! Shelves full of mystery goo and brushes and paper and well, who knows what all it's used for.

And forget about shopping online, because again- if you don't know what you're looking at in an art store, how are you supposed to weed through even more stuff on the internet?

Relax. Sometimes all you need is a little advice from another watercolor lover.

I started watercoloring around the time my first child was born (he's in college now). I started it as a stress reduction thing (yes son, you drove me to paint). Later, I started getting more serious about it when I realized that loose watercolor painting was helping to improve my artistry in other mediums. I love watercolor and I love sharing it with my students.

I'm also brutally frank, so if I think something is overpriced, useless, or downright stupid, I'll tell you not to buy it.

updated for 2019!

I regularly use these products and highly recommend them. For more information on recommended supplies, see our page dedicated to Amy’s Favorite Things here:

 

here are 10 (well loved, not useless) gift ideas for your watercolor lover:

(Warning: the following article contains Amazon Affiliate where applicable. Links to other stores or websites are not part of any affiliate program)

And hey, don't miss my other great Gift Suggestion Lists here... Copic, colored pencil and mixed media.

#1 - Black Velvet Brushes

In the first Watercolor Gift list, I suggested a set of kolinsky brushes made by Rosemary and Company.

Here's my suggestion for a mid-grade set. I teach with Black Velvet brushes made by the Silver Brush Company. They're not kolinsky but they sure come close!

These brushes feel great in the hand, they're not too long nor too short.

The bristles are a blend of squirrel and a synthetic. The squirrel helps hold water, the synthetic keeps its shape and provides a springy feel. Best of all, the point on these brushes is rather durable. With brushes, they all come nice and pointy but very few keep that point beyond a few uses. Kolinsky brushes stay pointed for a long time and you pay a premium price for that. Black Velvets come pretty darned close.

Beginner watercolorists tend to be hard on their brushes, especially when they use dry cake pan watercolor. Black Velvets can withstand quite a bit of abuse before they splay and get feathery.

This is a good assortment of useful sizes. The 12 for backgrounds, the 8 for general duty, and the 4 for detail. 

 

#2 - Tube Sets

Very few watercolorists today use only one brand of paint. We all hunt for the best versions of our favorite colors over several brands.

Watercolor sets are a good way to explore a group of colors that all have  similar characteristics.

A Quinacridone assortments allows you to play with quin based reds and golds, learning how they behave. A Cobalt assortment helps you learn the features of cobalt colors. A Primatek set lets you play with sediment naturals. This kind of compare/contrast learning doesn't happen when you usually work with just your one favorite red or blue.

If you’re looking for an introductory set, I highly recommend the QoR set of 12 or 24. QoR is synthetic and formulated to be both vibrant and easy.

(Click to view product on Amazon)

 

#3 - Lamy Safari Fountain Pen & Noodler's Waterproof Ink

I enjoy laying down an illustration in pen and ink before I add watercolor. This is a method that's growing in popularity, there are lots of journal sketchers who use pen first and watercolor to add small pops of color.

But even if your watercolor lover doesn't draw, maybe working from digital stamps or traced images, adding ink can spark new creative channels.

I've tried dip pens (I have them for calligraphy) but I actually prefer fountain inks for watercolor. That meant finding a fountain pen that was durable enough to rattle around in my backpack and one that didn't cost a fortune.

Enter the Lamy Safari Pen. I use a converter cartridge inside so that I can customize the ink I use.

I have two favorite waterproof inks, one for general sketching and one for botanicals.

Black ink is fine but I often feel like it overwhelms delicate watercolor colors. Noodler's Lexington Gray is my compromise for general purpose sketches.

When I draw botanicals, I switch to Noodler's La Reine Mauve. It's a lovely warm violet which looks great around flower petals but it really sings underneath green watercolor leaves.

Click the link to see the Safari Pen but also run a search. Safaris come in lots of different body colors! I have a purple Safari Pen that's loaded with La Reine and a charcoal Safari Pen for the Lexington. That eliminates the "awww, darn it!" moments.

 

#4 - Inktense Pencils

Many watercolor lovers either start out with watercolor pencils or they quickly buy a set just for fun.

Inktense are something different. I use them in conjunction with my tube watercolors.

Inktense are not watercolor pencils (even though they look like them). Inktense are watersoluable ink in pencil form. The difference is that they're permanent; once they dry, the color will not rehydrate or lift.

That's why I use them in many of my botanicals. If I have an area like a twig or branch that I don't want to lighten or lift, I paint it on a base of Inktense.

This is the set of 24 but they go up to sets of 75. I have the set of 36 and I've never felt myself lacking. Bigger sets aren't always better and most artists find themselves using a core of about a dozen colors. Collecting them all doesn't improve the quality of one's work.

I'd stick to the set of 24 unless your special person intends to work in Inktense exclusively.

 

#5 - Watercolor Notebook

There are lots of watercolor notebooks on the market but you can't tell when they're sitting in the store whether they'll be any good to paint on.

Note: there are a lot of BAD watercolor notebooks on the market.

Journal paper quality issues are so bad that I used to make my own notebooks. By hand. Then a friend showed me this notebook from Global Art Materials and I was fairly impressed.

The paper is pretty good quality and it doesn't wrinkle or buckle much. I've ironed a few pages but that's normal with 140 pound paper.

Best of all (for me at least) is the wire binding. Most watercolor journals are book bound. Glued or sewn binding books like to close on their own, so painters tend to hold them open with binder clips. That eventually breaks the spine and the signatures or individual sheets can fall like rain from a broken spine.

Book bindings are also hard on left handed painters, we essentially have to flip the book upside down and start working from the back of the book towards the front in order to paint ergonomically. Wire binding looks less glamorous but the ability to flip the front pages over and behind the current page is a godsend. Wire binding allows lefties a freedom usually reserved for the right handed world.

 
 

#6 Sphere Easel

If there's ever a house fire, this will be my Dolly Madison moment:

Damn the kids and dog, I'm grabbing my sphere easel.

(Just kidding kids. Well, kinda kidding...)

I love my sphere easel. I use it for watercolor and colored pencil projects, but especially watercolor.

A desk easel gets the project up and off the table surface. That elevated feel is important, it keeps you from developing hunch back by leaning over and into the project.

The reason I went with a sphere easel over a standard desk easel is the range of adjustments possible on a sphere. I don't usually work with more than a tiny tilt to my project. The sphere allows infinite micro adjustments.

This is one of those hidden gems in the art world, many people don't even know they exist. You'll get extra street cred by gifting someone with something totally new and incredibly useful!

 

#7- Aquabord

Chances are, your watercolor lover paints on paper.

Because it's watercolor and watercolor only sticks to paper, right?

Wrong.

Ampersand Aquabord is quickly becoming one of my favorite surfaces to paint on. It's particle board that has been given a fine coating of... well... I'm not sure what the coating is. It looks like paper but acts a little like clay. I'm sure it's not totally clay though because Ampersand also makes something called Claybord and this is slightly different.

Anyway, Aquabord has a magical coating made from real fairy dust which absorbs watercolor quite nicely. The colors stay slightly more vibrant on Aquabord, plus the hard backing means absolutely no buckling or warping. Ever.

I love using the 6" x 6" panels, they make a nice Goldilocks sized painting - not big enough to be overwhelming but not small enough to be called tiny.

 

#8 - Ruling Pen

So here's one of those old-school tools that only crones like me know about. 

A Ruling Pen is how we make super straight lines using watercolor paint. And it's how we sign our names legibly.

Lots of youngsters try making straight lines with brushes... ha! You can't do that, nor can you write very well with a brush! Newbies!

I deliberately showed you the pen from the side view. You dip the Ruling Pen into a small puddle of watercolor paint and the paint is held in the space between the two blades by the magical force of physics called adhesion (Yes, I paid attention in science class).

If you want a thin line you twist the screw to move the blades closer. A fatter line means twisting to separate the blades. From there on out, the pen works exactly like the quill dip pens that Thomas Jefferson once used. Dip and draw, dip and draw, dip and draw.

Shoot. I just gave away one of my top secrets. Now they're going to kick me out of the Grand Society of Ruling Pen Rulers. The things I do for you people...

 

#9 - Modern Flower Painter

If you've ever got a spare year or two, try searching for a good watercolor book on Amazon.

There are thousands of watercolor books on the market. It's a pretty popular subject.

Anna Mason has written a good one. The Modern Flower Painter is a must read for botanical enthusiasts but her methods also work for anyone into painting detailed watercolors.

Mason works large scale with tiny brushes. If your watercolor lover comes from the world of colored pencil and markers, they'll immediately appreciate her technique.

The other nice thing about the Modern Flower Painter is the work in progress shots. Actually, I should be praising Anna Mason just for including step-out photographs. It's amazing how many instructional books include only photos of finished work. Mason's book is very generous with process photos, her "Viola" project has 17 photographs!

 

#10 - Finetec metallics

I'll rank this as a "want" rather than a "need" but not all gifts have to be practical or useful, right?

Finetec Metallic watercolors are a collection of metallic and opalescent paints (think shimmer eyeshadow for painters).

Calligraphers use Finetec for gilded look lettering but they're perfect for adding a bit of gold or silver to a watercolor painting. They can also be mixed into paint blends to create custom watercolor colors.

This set gives your watercolor lover a chance to play and maybe even discover a new style or technique. 

 

#11 - Digital Stamps... by me!

Okay, I know I was supposed to stop at 10 Gifts but I can't resist throwing in a bit of obvious self promotion...

I teach online Copic coloring classes for lovers of Copic marker, colored pencils, and watercolor.

Those three media types all have something unique in common, you can't use just any digital stamp. The coloring spaces need to be wide open with no texture marks and that's a rarity in the digital stamp world.

So because I got sick of searching for good stamps, I decided to start drawing them myself.

I designed my digital stamps with all three media in mind. They can be used for your special watercolor artist, marker artists and colored pencil artists alike!

Take a stroll over to my Digital Stamp Shop and get your special someone a few files to color. They'll love 'em!

 

so there you have it!

Ten, no make that ELEVEN awesome and battle tested gift suggestions for the watercolor lover in your life.

Be sure to check out my other helpful gift suggestion lists for Copic, colored pencil, watercolor, and mixed media fans.

Questions? Suggestions? I'd love feedback in the comment section!

Happy Shopping!

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for use to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com.

Ten Gifts: Great Gifts for Colored Pencil Lovers (presents they'll actually use!)

 
 

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.

updated for 2019!

I regularly use these products and highly recommend them. For more information on recommended supplies, see our page dedicated to Amy’s Favorite Things here:

 

here are 10 (well loved, not useless) gift ideas for your colored Pencil lover:

(Warning: the following article contains Amazon Affiliate where applicable. Links to other stores or websites are not part of any affiliate program)

And hey, don't miss my other great Gift Suggestion Lists here... Copic, watercolor and mixed media.

#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-Castell 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 - 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:

 

Don’t forget to grab something to carry all of these erasers in. This zipper pouch is a good choice, and it’s cute too!

 

#8 - 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 - 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 - OttLight Slimline Task Lamp

You don't need to live in a deep dark cave to make good use of a desk lamp.

But not just any old lamp will do. The color of the light waves emitted matters a great deal when coloring.

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 OttLight, even at high noon on a sunny day in August. If I'm coloring, the light is on. Consistency of light color as you work through a project is one of those little keys to excellence that many crafters fail to consider.

OttLight Slimline Lamp is space saving as it folds down when not in use and it has two points of adjustment – a rotating shade and articulating shaft that allows for easy positioning.

Affordable and versatile, you can't ask for much more!

 

#11 - Online Workshops

Okay, I know I was supposed to stop at 10 Gifts but I can't resist throwing in a bit of obvious self promotion...

I teach online Copic coloring classes that are perfect for intermediate to advanced level colorers. Marker Painting Workshops teach art based painting techniques using markers with colored pencil accents.

This isn't a copy-cat style craft level class!

Marker Painting Workshops are forever access & always open enrollment classes, sold individually. A new MPW debuts each month!

Marker Painting Workshop classes include:

  • 15-20 minute technique video that provides a deep-dive look at one technique, method, or mindset

  • 60-240 minutes of guided coloring video (depending upon the project). Videos feature informative fun time-outs and technique breakdowns

  • original digital stamp in three formats

  • full color printable project sample

  • full color printable 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 for Copic, colored pencil, watercolor, and mixed media fans.

Questions? Suggestions? I'd love feedback in the comment section!

Happy Shopping!

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for use to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com.