2020 Gift Guide- Best Artist Gifts
If you have a watercolor artist or wannabe watercolor artist in your life, here are some awesome ideas for gifts. I have divided it into easy to find categories to fit any level.
I have recorded my recommendations in this video on my YouTube channel for your viewing pleasure, or you can scroll down and read the written version, which is more straight forward and to the point.
I tried to include in each category one set of watercolors, one brush set and paper/sketchbook, so depending on your budget you can grab the entire bundle or pick and choose. Also, this year, with the exception of the budget watercolor sets, all products mentioned are vegan.
Best gifts for beginners
These items are top of the line artist grade materials that will last years (except the paper...). They will be a wonderful gift for anyone starting with watercolors who loves to use the best, or upgrading an artist's student grade materials.
As I talk about in my watercolor shopping guide for beginners, my personal recommendation for a starter set is 24 half pans in a metal tin. Almost all artist grade brands offer such option, so shop around for the best deal. For more tips on how to save money and grow your watercolor collection, sign up for my mailing list and receive a comprehensive watercolors shopping guide immediately.
Daniel Smith has finally treated us to pan paints and sets in the traditional metal tins, and they are lovely. The basic 24 set has a traditional and very versatile selection of colors. Daniel Smith also decided to include another empty tin, very wise choice! That means you can grow your collection or squeeze existing paint tubes into it.
If your budget is a little tighter, you can grab the 12 half pans in the 24 half pans box. Your giftee can then add more colors in time as budget allows and personal style develops.
A beginner's brush set is harder than paint, in my opinion. There are many brush shapes and every brush does something different. However, I think this Princeton Neptune set is lovely and very versatile.
Paper is probably more neglected than other watercolor supplies, but it can sometimes be the key to success or failure. Most watercolor artists swear by and recommend the industry gold standard, 100% cotton paper, at least 300GSM. That is a wonderful choice, no doubt. However, I have found there are other papers that can work really well for some artists, and the only way to know which one works for you is to try as many as possible. Jackson's Art Supplies offers samples of papers, and I highly recommend those, but for a present, this paper pad by Hahnemühle is a lovely idea. It contais a selection of most of their watercolor papers. I wish all paper brands came up with such a pad!
Traditional watercolor artist gifts
These items would be a lovely gift for the watercolor artist in your life that already has basic supplies.
Daniel Smith cleverly created another 12 pans set, the Inspiration set, that includes paints not usually found in traditional basic sets. This is a great way of trying out some of their head spinning 250+ watercolor range.
The next item is just beautiful, and sadly harder to purchase. It is found on the A.Gallo (Italian shop selling handmade watercolor paint, sketchbooks and brush sets) website. Restocks are every one of two months and they sell out quickly. Follow them on social media, join their mailing list and keep an eye open.
The set I want to recommend is their variety set, it has a wonderful selection of Tintoretto brushes in various shapes and they are just beautiful. It's the one in the blue canvas brush holder.
Every artist needs a sketchbook, and this year I'd like to recommend the Hahnemühle ones. They are a great traditional and reliable option.
Handmade gifts for the watercolor artist
If you have a friend or relative that enjoys the quality and uniqueness of handmade items, these would be lovely gifts.
For paint, you can find on Etsy a huge selectio of handmade watercolor paint. I suggest choosing a local artisan, and make sure you search for online reviews and recommendations first. Quality and consistency vary greatly.
For brushes, this was an easy pick. I was recently sent a selection of Tracy Lebenzon's handmade watercolor brushes, and they are not only beautiful but lovely to paint with. These would be a wonderful gift. Make sure you use the code Irit for 20% off.
I think handmade watercolor palettes have become very trendy in the last year, and I can only agree they are lovely to look at and use. Again, I encourage you to look for local artisans, you can even order or design a custom palette. I am in Austria, and ordered my super adorable Panda palette from an Italian artisan. Search Etsy for artisans, make sure you enter in the filters your shipping country and shop location (I usually search for shops in Europe to support local artists and also avoid hefty shipping and custom charges).
My sketchbook pick is one of my big discoveries this year, it is the Fabriano Vergatone sketchbook. The paper is light, perfect for sketchbooks and whatever Fabriano did here, it works like magic with watercolors. Try it and see what I mean. It looks beautiful and has that handmade feel to it, in the best most polished way.
Watercolor gifts for the vintage items lover
I wish I had more items for this category. It was inspired by Her Billowing Heart on YouTube, check her out.
I admit I haven't tried this sketchbook yet, it has drawing paper, so probably works well for light washes only, but it looks so pretty, I can't wait to use it. It is the L.Cornelissen & Son sketchbook, and can be found on their website. There is also a little virtual shop tour, and I would love to visit it one day!
The next item is just fun. Again, search on Etsy for local stockists. These are called writing gloves, reader's gloves, fingerless gloves and come in many styles and materials, so choose a style that works for you. I think they can also be called painter's gloves. Lacy and Jane Austen reminiscent, or colorful Carebears wooly ones, they can keep some parts of your hands warmer this winter! Check out these cute Alice in Wonderland ones that popped on my IG feed-
Gifts for the traveling artist
This is a bad time for us travelers, as I am writing this blog post during the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic. However, we can and should go out and explore the world around us when possible, and here are some items that would work well for the traveling artist.
This Art Tool Kit palette was gifted to me and I was blown away by how easy it is to use, and actually holds a surprising amount of paint. These are credit card size magnetic palettes. Since launch the brand has been adding more and more options to customise them, so to save you confusion, I recommend starting with the basic palette, and if budget allows add a mixing palette. Your giftee can go back and purchase any additional pans or palettes that fit their exact needs.
I had to include another palette that I bought for myself this year on a whim, and was surprised to see how enjoyable the experience of using it was.
It is the Etchr ceramic 19 wells palette. Nothing compares to the experience of mixing watercolor on ceramic or porcelain palettes. However, it is a heavy material and therefore not ideal for travel, when weight is usually a main issue and deciding factor on which supplies come with you. This palette is indeed heavy, but it is well packaged and offers the experience of a travel friendly ceramic palette. It is a bit of a gimmick, but one I found to enjoy.
This Hahnemuhle sketchbook is perfect for traveling, but it's also just cute. It's the zigzag sketchbook which allows one to sketch on a large sheet of paper, in a compact format. Perfect for traveling and capturing a panoramic view.
I am a big fan of travel brushes, but they can be sometimes expensive. The Escoda ones are surprisingly affordable, and can be used on the go or in the studio. I have a large selection of them but my most recent love is their Ultimo syntetico range. Soft and beautiful. The 3 round brush travel set would be a wonderful gift. Escoda offers a wide range of travel brush sets, I hightly recommend checking them out.
Mixed Media gifts
These items would work well for the mixed media artist in your life.
The first one is the pastel pencil sets from Holbein. I've had the 12 set for years but was reluctant to praise it, as it was only available in Japan. However Jackson's has recently started stocking Holbein pencils and now I can talk about it! The 12 set is wonderful, but for even more beauty, you can grab the 50 set. The colors selection is really unique and the quality is superb. These are water resistant.
For a sketchbook I had to choose the Hahnemuhle watercolor tan sketchbook. It has lovely thick paper and works well for mixed media, pencils, inks, gouache, paint, you name it. There is also a grey version but the tan is my favorite.
Great affordable artist gifts
If you're on a tight budget or just looking for a pretty gift that won't set you back too much, here are a few recommendations.
This Meiliang 36 Colors watercolor set is not artist grade, but it is my favorite to paint with my kids, it is affordable, has a great color selection and the colors are lovely and bright. This would be perfect for a child, student or crafter.
If you only want artist grade paint but don't want to break the bank, you won't find better value than White Nights 12 full pans set. The 24 full pan set if even greated value, but doesn't come with a palette.
If you want a vegan option, the Van Gogh brand is widely available, especially in Europe, and while I am not a fan of plastic palettes, this is a great budget option. Grab the 12+3 set from their range.
The small Hahnmuhle sketchbooks are very affordable but still high quality.
That is it for 2020 gift guide!
If you want even more great ideas, make sure you watch previous years' guides:
I'd love to know which gifts you're going to get, or if you have more gift idea, please share with us in the comments!
Have a lovely day and happy holidays!