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 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...

Because even if you have no art or craft experience, you still know that one can't find quality watercolor supplies at a normal store.

You have to go to an art store and those places are full of all kinds of weird bottles with strange labels and teeny tiny tubes of mystery goo that can cost more than dinner and a movie.

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 - Tiny Travel Kit

If you want to go cute, you can't beat miniature supplies!

Whiskey Palette Boxes have a long history of being top-of-the-line in the world of travel palettes. They're enamel coated, magnetic pans are removable, and you can choose to fill the center section with pans/half pans or leave it empty for a paintbrush.

Yes, it comes empty. I know that sounds strange to non-painters. Your watercolor lover can fill this box with paint from their favorite tubes or they can slide their preferred pans into the box. Very few watercolorists use just one brand of paint and of those who do, they hardly ever use the same exact selection that comes in the travel palettes sold by paint manufacturers. Trust me, an empty Whiskey box is not a let down. They'll love it!

The Escoda Travel Brush in a size 8 would be my bet for the most versatile size amongst the travel brushes. Escoda brushes have really sharp points on the tip which makes the brush more versatile and capable of painting small by using just the tip.

And to top off the tiny collection, a super cool wash bucket that I picked up from Hobby Lobby. It's made of brushed stainless steel so it won't stain or discolor. The rubber gasket and double clip closure means I've never had a leak- ever. Best of all, the handle is a nice length and it hangs quite nicely from a carabiner clip outside my supply bag and can be hooked over a travel easel or can be attached to a lap board with a binder clip.

And wait until you see this trio in person... they're so darned cute!

 

#2 - Artists Bridge

There's nothing worse than dragging your arm though wet paint but with watercolor, it's especially tragic. Some smears you can't recover from.

That's why I use an artists bridge with every single watercolor project.

Every time.

For years, I used a crummy mahl stick I made in art school, made from a wooden dowel with a raquet ball stuck on the end and wrapped in a chamois cloth. It was all held together with rubberbands and hot glue. Not glamorous.

But mahl sticks are really for upright easel painting and not great for watercolorists who work on more level surfaces. So I broke down and ordered a nice acrylic bridge.

I swear, it was like the heavens opened up and a choir of haloed guys started yodeling. I'm smacking myself for living this long without a bridge.

I'm an idiot. But I'm not the only one. It's entirely possible that your watercolor lover doesn't even know that acrylic bridges and mahl sticks even exist. They're an old-school tool and only us geezers remember them.

They come in many lengths. Buy one that's slightly longer than the size they usually work. In other words, if they paint miniatures, they don't need a 24 incher. And if they work large, make sure the bridge is long enough to straddle the paper. A bridge doesn't sit on the paper, it straddles it.

Be a hero. Buy 'em a bridge. I love this bridge and I'm sure your watercolor person will too.

 

#3 - Tom Lynch Ceramic Palette

I used a plastic palette for years.

And my cat used to come along and swipe my palette off her favorite seat (my desk)... at least twice a week.

That doesn't happen anymore because I bought a 900 pound palette.

Even without a demonic cat, your watercolorist will love this beautiful Tom Lynch Ceramic Palette.

Ceramic palettes are cherished. They don't stain and the surface is ideal for mixing. They're sturdy and heavy (maybe not 900 pounds but it's close). This particular palette is set up in the Tom Lynch style (palette styles are often named after artists who ask for a particular layout) and has 19 wells and a long brush well. The single mixing surface is level and large. It also comes with a plastic lid.

I love this palette and I'm sure your watercolor person will too.

 

 

#4 - Winsor & Newton Watercolor Markers

Watercolor is pretty trendy in the craft world right now, so there's a glut of watery-colorish craft supplies out on the craft store shelves.

And the vast majority of them are absolutely, positively, not-not-not watercolor.

I know it says watercolor marker on the label but if they make it with dye or ink, it ain't really watercolor.

The Winsor & Newton Watercolor Markers are an exception. There's real watercolor pigment in these markers.

I think they're a great travel supply, perfect for plein aire sketching but because it's paint in a non-traditional format, W&N WC markers are a way to play and experiment at home or to make a quick card.

Some folks use them straight to paper, I prefer to swish them on a tile and pick the color up with a wet brush. Either way works fine. This set is a great way for your watercolorist to dive into watercolor markers!

 
 

#5 - Rosemary Brush Kolinsky Set

Kolinsky watercolor brushes are not a brand, they're a style of brush.

A Kolinsky is a mink from northern asia and their super soft hairs make amazing watercolor paintbrushes. The bristles hold a great point and they have a great springy quality, which means they don't get limp when wet. They're also nice and thirsty (they hold water well- both the amount of water and they're not excessively drippy).

Kolinsky brushes are investments- they're a luxury to work with but they're also an investment because they really do last longer.

That's why they make a great gift. If your watercolor lover works on a budget, they either covet the Kolinskys they own or they wish they had one. Either way, you're a hero for giving them a beautiful set of brushes.

WARNING: you will find lots of brushes that are mixes of kolinsky with cheaper hair (like squirrel); you'll also find 100% fake kolinsky brushes. And I don't have all day to describe the hair + nylon blends. 

Rosemary & Co makes the absolute best brushes I've ever used. They're a reputable company with stringent quality standards.

Bonus points for this set being put together by one of my favorite watercolor artists, Shirley Trevena. I own the 8 and 6 so I can attest to how much I love them.

#6 Air Tight Palette

Okay, I know I just recommended a mondo sized porcelain palette just a few seconds ago. No, I didn't forget.

I think your special person needs two kinds of palettes. One for home and one for going anywhere beyond their craft room door.

I teach classes, I take classes, so I travel with my palette. It took me years to find a decent travel palette. And what kills me is that it sat under my nose at a craft store the whole entire time. Yeah, sometimes I'm an idiot.

This is the Mijello Air Tight Watercolor Palette and it'll save someone's car seat upholstery someday.

The problem with portable palettes is that they fold like books and 99.99% of the folding palettes have paint wells on both sides of the fold. That doesn't sound like a bad thing until you get the paint on both sides wet and full of water... and you can't fold it to go home without making a gigantic mess.

Of the few folding palettes that do have the paint all on one side, this is rare in that it has a rubber gasket around the lip. Frankly, I don't care two figs that the palette is "air tight", I want it to be WATER TIGHT so that I don't have Opera Rose leaking out all over my car seat as I drive home.

This palette fits the bill.

Oh, and Mijello makes a similar palette to this, one with all wells on one side and the mixing tray on the other. The only difference is that this one sacrifices a few wells for more mixing area. I'd much rather have the mixing space.

 

#7- Creative Girl

I don't usually appreciate lifestyle project books... you know the ones that are more like recipe books than informational?

But Creative Girl by Danielle Donaldson was a pleasant surprise. I bought it for my daughter but the book now sits in my studio.

Donaldson does a great job getting paper crafters to think about drawing on their own. That's a tough sell to many crafters who rely on stamps and printables. They want professional looking results and they think they can't draw...

I know from classroom experience, whenever I say "pull out a pencil and let's draw a quick little doodle here..." that I get a ton of groans.

The projects in this book are sneaky. Donaldson is teaching good solid techniques disguised underneath fluffy candy colors and cute character faces.

If your watercolorist is just starting out or if they're a long time papercrafter moving to art, this is a good book to own and refer back to. It's inspiration at a very accessible level. It's not "stuff I can paint some day", this is "stuff I can paint right now!"

 

#8 - Huion Light Box

Tracing is part of the watercolor process.

Few watercolorists draw their original drawings directly onto watercolor paper. It's hard to draw an object correctly the first time, every time (not to mention getting the composition right) and erasers can damage the sizing on watercolor paper.

Even if your person can draw perfectly on the first shot, the pencil itself damages the tooth of the paper.

So artists work out the drawing first on regular paper and then transfer the art to watercolor paper by tracing through a light box.

If your watercolorist doesn't draw well and prefers to use digital stamps or to trace photographs, they have no other option. A light box is essential because watercolor paper is too thick to feed through a home office printer/copy machine.

This Huion Light Box is my favorite light box of all time. (Hat tip to Lynne, a student who first brought this box to a class.)

It's super thin and very light weight so it stores very efficiently. The light is very bright and potent and because it's on a dimmer switch rather than a settings button, I can make micro adjustments at any level.

It's also LED lit so the light is cool in color and the box never heats up. My old light box had to be switched off every 10 minutes when it would begin to be uncomfortable to work on.

The Huion pad comes in several sizes so be sure to check them all out. If your colored pencil person makes cards, they'll prefer the smaller box. I have a larger size to accommodate my bigger scale projects. 

 

#9 - Watercolor Artist Magazine

If you've read my colored pencil lists, you'll see that I think a magazine subscription is a much better gift than a book.

A subscription to a good artist's magazine provides multiple techniques from many diverse sources over the span of a year. I can breeze through a book in just a few hours and a month later, I've forgotten that it even exists.

Watercolor Artist is my choice for watercolor magazines, it's the only subscription I never bat an eye over renewing.

You can't beat regular delivery of bite sized bits of technique, inspiration, and advertisements. Yes, advertisements are useful. You won't see ads for new art supplies on television- the only way to find out that some new products exist is to see them in magazines.

I wish this WCA magazine came in a digital or app version but until it does, I look forward to Mr. Mailman delivering my every-other-month issue of Watercolor Artist.

 

#10 - ArtBin Brush Box

When you see an artist's studio in the movies, they usually show a table or rolling cart covered in miscellaneous jars and vases all stuffed to the gills with paintbrushes.

Yeah, all artists wear berets and store their brushes in jars.

But back here in real life, artists love and treasure their paint brushes. They're not cheap and you can't work without 'em, so we tend to store them in boxes or drawers where they can't be damaged or gather dust.

Or have the bristles chewed down by a cat. True story.

The ArtBin Brush Box is nice for those just starting out. I have too many brushes to store here but I use this box for classes, so even if your watercolor lover is a brush hoarder, they'll still find a travel use for the box.

Unlike most travel brush holders, this one really protects the bristles. Tube carriers and roll up brush wallets all suffer from allowing the brushes to bang around or be smushed. The foam inserts in the ArtBin box keep the brushes away from the box and away from each other.

An ArtBin Brush Box plus a gift card for buying the brush of my choice? That's an awesome gift!

 

#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.

Ten Gifts: Great Gifts for Copic Marker Lovers (presents they'll actually use!)

 
Looking for the perfect Christmas or Birthday gift for someone who loves Copic Markers? Here's a list of 10 presents they'll actually use! | VanillaArts.com
 
 

Shopping for the perfect Copic gift is hard

Especially if you don't have the foggiest clue what your special someone does in the craft room with all those fancy markers!

After all, who really needs more markers? Isn't 100 of 'em enough?

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

I've taught coloring classes for almost a decade now and I've seen a lot of marker products and marker 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 Copic 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... colored pencil, watercolor and mixed media.

#1 - Help complete their marker collection

I know it looks like your special person already has too many markers...

But here's the thing- Copic makes 358 different colors and it's highly unlikely that he or she owns them all.

I've never met a colorer who didn't have a list of at least 20 markers that they would buy today if their Fairy Godmother handed them $100. Even the rare person who owns all 358 has lots of other Copic products to lust over.

The problem is that YOU don't know what colors your person is missing. Play it safe by going the gift card route and let them order items off their mental wish list.

What dollar value is reasonable? That depends upon how generous you want to be. Here's a clue to setting your budget: Copic prices fluctuate greatly based on who is running a sale. A single Copic Sketch marker can be priced anywhere from $5 to $10 depending upon the retailer. Amazon usually isn't the cheapest source but an Amazon card is the least likely to go unused. Other Copic retailers which also offer gift cards/certificates include: Dick Blick, Cheap Joes, Jerry's Artarama, Oozak, or Carpe Diem.

 

#2 - Multiliner SP

Most Copic colorers also use fine line technical pens in their work. Copic makes thin pens called Multiliners that are totally compatible with their coloring markers. Chances are your person owns a few non-compatible pens that they're really careful about using (a non-compatible pen can ruin a Copic marker nib), or they own the cheaper, disposable version of a Copic Multiliner.

This SP version of the Copic Multiliner is the Rolls Royce of fineliner pens. I think they're the finest technical pen on the market and I use them on all my art, even the non-Copic stuff. The stainless steel body feels great in the hands; the weight is just right and the grip area is comfortable to hold. SP Multiliners are refillable (via pre-filled cartridge) and the nibs are replaceable if they accidentally become damaged. Over the long term, I think the SP version is a better value than the cheaper disposables.

Because few brick & mortar craft shops carry SP pens, it is likely that your person doesn't own any SP pens.

SP sets come in an A version and a B version the Multiliner 10A version combines both sets at a reasonable price. This set includes all 10 sizes of Black Multiliner SP pens, including 0.03, 0.05, 0.1, 0.2, 0.25, 0.3, 0.35, 0.5, 0.7, and Brush.

 
10 Gift Ideas for a Copic Marker lover. The Copic Collection App is the best inventory system I've tried. | VanillaArts.com

#3 - The Copic Collection App

Okay, I'll admit that this idea is cheating BECAUSE IT'S A FREE APP, but seriously, I can't write a list of Copic ideas and leave off my most used tool!

Most Copic colorers have little checkbook sized booklets like this where they keep track of which markers and refills they own. While booklets are fine, I'm cursed in that my book is always sitting on my desk at home when I'm standing in front of the Copic display in my local art store.

With this phone app, I have my list with me where ever I go... well, maybe not in the shower but certainly everywhere else.

I've tried several different apps and I like this one the best by a long-shot. It's easy to read, easy to modify, and from an artistic point of view, the graphics are so much cooler than a text based list app.

Shown at left is my collection of reds. Now you know which 6 red markers I'd love to receive this Christmas (hint, hint).

See, I told you, even those of us who own a ton of markers still have holes in their collection!

The Copic Collection app is by the Too Corporation (that's the Copic parent company) and is available on iTunes and on GooglePlay.

 
red ribbon.jpg
10 Gift Ideas for a Copic Marker lover. The Hex Chart is complete genius and Sandy Allnock deserves a Nobel Prize for it. | VanillaArts.com

#4 - The Hex Chart

Speaking of inventories, even if your Copic lover owns a swatch booklet or app, Sandy Allnock's Hex Chart is still an essential tool that every Copic colorer should own.

I have no sway with the Nobel Committee over in Stockholm, but I still cross my fingers every year in the hopes that Sandy receives the Peace Prize. Boy, did she earn it for this piece of genius!

It's wrong to call this thing an inventory list. It's actually a relationship chart that demonstrates how marker colors are related. Want to know which colors can form blends with other colors? Which markers can substitute for others? Check the chart!

Best of all, filling out the blank chart shows where the real holes in your collection lie. Big blank areas of no color help a Copic lover decide which areas of their collection to build up next.

The Allnock Hex Chart is an online, digital download which includes a two page blank chart and a two page fully colored chart. Users record their own collection while the pre-colored version provides full-collection information.

I pretty much force my students at gunpoint to purchase this chart. They learn sooooo much from it!

Purchase the Hex Chart at SandyAllnock.com here.

 

#5 - The Copic Neutral Gray set

Colorers tend to purchase pretty colored markers first. Personally, I use my gray markers far more than any other color family and I teach more classes with them too.

Grays can actually save money when you're building your collection because you can use a gray UNDERNEATH another color to darken it. So if you're missing a dark red or a dark blue, ONE gray marker can help you replicate many colors you may be missing.

Chances are that your special person owns a few grays but not an entire set.

Copic grays come in four versions. I'll rank them here in order of how often I use them:

  1. Neutral (N)

  2. Cool (C)

  3. Warm (W)

  4. Toner (T) ... uhhhhh... actually, I don't even own any Ts

So I'd advise starting with an N set and gift them later with the C set on a different occasion.

The W warms can wait. I know a lot of colorers buy the warms right away but that's because they see so many projects online using them (note: "used most" is different than "featured on the internet the most"). But the W’s are far less versatile and thus should be a lower priority purchase. Give me an N neutral marker and I can rule the world!

 
 
blue ribbon.jpg

#6 - Uniball Signo Pens

Copics are beautiful but they don't make a white marker, nor do they make metallics.

I call for the Uniball Signo white on about 60% of my class projects and it's part of the required kit for my beginner classes. It's a flat, dense white that releases in a very generous and wet line. It's perfect for adding details and accents to coloring projects and especially excels for eye highlights.

The silver and gold are basically liquid metal. Most metallic pens are actually glitter or sparkle pens. Not the Uniball version. You could color gold bars and silver coins with these pens, they add the look of metal leaf to projects. They're an absolute must-have for Christmas cards.

 

#7 - Coloring Mat

Yes, I know this is technically a cutting mat, not a coloring mat. Read on, cowboy.

There's nothing sadder than to see a student happily coloring along when suddenly the texture of the table starts showing through on their project.

If you've ever done crayon rubbings with leaves or on tombstones, you know what I mean. A bump on the table can quickly turn into a bump in your coloring project. It happens a lot with colored pencils but I've also seen it happen with markers. Yes, with markers. Not kidding.

Coloring on a smooth surface is important. Coloring on a clean surface is important. Coloring on the same hardness of surface for every project is important too.

All of these things are solved by using a small cutting mat as a coloring board. They're inexpensive, lightweight, and easily cleaned. I use one for every class I teach and I have several for use in my studio. the 8.5x11" size is great, so are the 9x12". Both sizes can easily tuck into a folder or bag for transport.

Note: I do not use my coloring boards for cutting. No sense buying a smooth surface and then unsmoothing it!

 

#8 - Travel Tote

I have several supply totes, some good and some bad. This bag is the best of the best and it's the one I almost always grab for carting supplies to class.

The Everything Mary Deluxe Papercraft Organizer holds an amazing amount of stuff and it's been an incredibly durable bag. I've been dragging mine around for almost 5 years now and it still looks new.

The handles are what makes it perfect. They're longer than average which means that you can fill the center section with tall items and still clasp the handles together in one hand for easy toting. That's pretty unique. The center section dividers are smartly placed and the side pockets offer both open pockets and secure pockets with magnetic snaps or velcro.

Even if you're special person is only toting items from the craft room to the living room, this bag will be appreciated and well loved.

 

#9 - Various Ink Case

Copic sells markers in sets and most of sets arrive in an acrylic box. These boxes are treasured by colorers because they not only store the markers securely but they also display the markers like pretty little gemstones.

Having said that, I'm not a fan of the acrylic boxes and mine are gathering dust on a shelf in my closet.

The Wide Marker box is my one exception. I love these boxes, but not for wide markers!

Various Inks are small bottles of refill ink. Every colorer has at least a few bottles bouncing around their craft room right now. Ink bottles are a challenge to store because they're a different shape and the I.D. caps are set at a different angle than the markers.

But Various Ink bottles fit beautifully into the Wide Marker box! One box holds 24 colors and the boxes themselves slide nicely into several different sized storage tubs. The gridded bottoms allows one to organize the colors (hooray for Obsessive Compulsive Rainbow Disorder!) and they'll remain in order rather than knocking around. I absolutely love these boxes!

 

#10 - Most Incredible Stamp Tool Invented (Misti)

Most of my projects use my original Vanilla Arts Co. digital stamps but I do use a few commercial rubber or silicone stamps each month.

One of the reasons why I began working digitally is my high failure rate stamping rubber stamp images. Clean images with no smudges or missing parts are something I simply can't get the knack of... at least not on a consistent basis. And I hate wasting paper stamping something out two or three times, praying for a usable image.

The MISTI tool from My Sweet Petunia is perfect for all-thumbs stampers like me. It lines up the stamp and stamps exactly where you want it to, every single time.

Best of all, if part of the image doesn't stamp well, you can re-ink the stamp and try again. Believe me, I take advantage of that feature a lot! I've even successfully re-re-re-stamped a stamp with this tool.

Not kidding.

If your special person has seen the MISTI, I can guarantee they want one. Badly. If they already have one, I'll bet they've also lusted over the newest Mini MISTI. 

 

#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...

Marker Painting Workshops- Art lessons using Copic Markers and Colored Pencils. Learn to adapt your adult coloring skills to realistic or expressive art. | VanillaArts.com | #copic #coloredpencil #realisticcoloring

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 Copic Marker 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 your 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.