The mind of an artist works a little differently from, say, your great uncle Ralph the plumber or cousin Liz the accountant with her collection of dog sweaters. It’s not always obvious what to buy them, and a general use gift just isn’t likely to cut it. Luckily for you, we’ve compiled a list of great gifts for artists, from tools of the trade to inspiration generators, so you can look like the one who “really gets” them.
Digital Color Sensor
This color sensor scans any surface and translates real world colors into digital color data (RGB, CMYK, XYZ) which can be imported into Photoshop and Illustrator, or matched with paints at Benjamin Moore, Sherwin Williams, and Behr. This handy device has a million possible uses for artists, from capturing colors in the real world for use in digital artwork, to redecorating their home. A great gift for painters, designers, digital artists and illustrators.
Adobe Creative Cloud Subscription
Artists often have their head in the clouds, which is also where they should be accessing their new suite of creative tools from Adobe. A subscription to Adobe’s Creative Cloud gives artists a powerful set of applications to make everything from graphic art, to videos and websites.
The iPad Paintbrush
Why bother with messy paints and long drying times when there’s a perfectly good computer to paint on? The digital paintbrush mimics the flexibility and feel of the real thing, and even leaves brush stokes. It can simulate painting in oil, acrylic, watercolor or charcoal and is compatible with most touchscreen devices.
Camera Lucida Drawing Tool
It’s rumored that the real reason great Renaissance artists like Ingres, Van Eyck, and Caravaggio were able to draw so accurately is very simple – they cheated. The Camera Lucida is an ingenious tool that superimposes the subject’s image on the artist’s canvas. From there, all the artist needs to do is trace the projected image and, voila, another masterpiece accurate down to the last detail.
Digital Art Museum
If there’s one thing that every artist ought to appreciate, it’s art. This virtual art museum will be an endless source of inspiration, and great way for the artist to display their original work or choose from an extensive library of more than 20,000 classics like “The Scream” or “Starry Night”.
Stop Motion Claymation Kit
Know an artist who has lots and lots of time on their hands? This stop motion animation kit may be the perfect thing to fill up those hours. It’s actually a really fun process, but it is slow – there’s no way around that. This kit will certainly help speed things up and they’ll be making short films before they can say Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis.
Automatic Sand Drawing Machine
This Zen sand drawing machine is the perfect toy to fiddle with while waiting for the next big inspiration. A magnetically controlled steel ball traces patterns and doodles in the sand. The ball can be controlled manually or you can just let it do its thing automatically. When you’re finished just give it a little shake and your design is erased like an Etch A Sketch.
Smartphone Camera Lenses
The camera phone has become an indispensable tool for many artists. Always having a camera with them means they can capture inspiration and beauty wherever they discover it. A set of specialty lenses enables them to get extreme close-ups, fisheye effects, and wide angle views, and the image quality is good enough to hang on any gallery wall.
Pointillist Artist’s Electronic Pen
The greatest innovation in stippling since…well maybe the only innovation in stippling. It’s a fun process and the results are beautiful, there’s just one big problem – making all those damn dots. If the artist you know happens to have shaky hands (or a serious coffee addiction), then they may already be a stippling machine, but for the rest of us there is the Pointillist Electronic Pen.
3D Printer Pen
In the 80s there was a popular kids’ show called Simon, and as the theme song explained, the things that Simon drew came true. Well that whimsical story has become reality with the arrival of 3D pens. These amazing devices have advanced a lot since they were introduced, and the price has come down enough to make them an affordable gift for the artist you know.
LED Light Box For Tracing
Looking for a really bright idea? A light box is a great gift for artists who draw and sketch. If you’ve ever seen them trace an image by taping it up on a window, then you’ve found the perfect gift. These LED light boxes are thin and portable, can last more than 50,000 hours, and stay cool to the touch.
The Digital Artist’s Sketch Pad
Drawing on a computer has its advantages but will never have the feel of drawing with pencil and paper. This thingamajig bridges the gap between the physical and virtual worlds and enables artists to digitally edit and enhance their traditionally hand-drawn artwork. The “smartpad” captures drawings from actual paper, converts them to data, and sends them by bluetooth to any computer. The pad also works well with iOS and Android tablets or mobile devices.
Rocketbook Wave Smart Notebook
Artists and writers often keep notebooks filled with ideas and doodles. If you know one that has boxes and boxes full of old notebooks, then this smart digital notebook may be the perfect gift. It feels like paper but can transfer what’s scribbled inside to their computer for saving and editing. Once the notebook pages are full, they just erase the physical copies, by putting the Pocketbook into the microwave. After being nuked the pages are blank again and they can fill it back up.
Hang-O-Matic Picture Hanging Tool
If the artist you know has a show at a gallery coming up, this handy picture hanging tool is just what they need. Hanging lots of pictures of varying sizes on a wall and having it look neat and evenly spaced is a challenge. This tool includes 6 feet of tape measure, a built-in level, and will mark the wall to tell them exactly where the nails should go.
The Artist’s Digital Canvas
Creating art on the computer as opposed to the canvas opens up a new range of creative possibilities. This digital canvas and stylus gives artists the feel of traditional drawing and painting combined with the power of modern technology. The cost of this thingamajig is minimal compared to buying paints, brushes and canvases for each new work of art.
For centuries artistes have toiled away, diligently refining their skills until becoming masters, so that they can create exquisitely detailed artwork of the highest craftsmanship. Well, there’s a much easier way. Just print it. This is a game changer for artists, and if they’re lucky enough to get this as a gift from you, they will be beside themselves. And you will be the recipient of printed thingamajigs for the rest of your time on Earth.
Artist’s Color Wheel
In the right hands, a color wheel is like a recipe book for beautiful design. There are actually a lot of cool tricks that can be achieved by placing certain colors beside each other, as Jasper Johns explored in his work in the 1950s. For example, did you know that you can make one color look like two different colors? Or make two different colors appear as if they were exactly the same? There is a science behind it all, about how your brain interprets sensory input, but let the artist worry about that. Just know that this is an item that should be included with every painter’s toolkit, that can help them mix colors and understand the effects colors have on one another.
Molecular Gastronomy Kit
Artist thrive on creative challenges, and everyone needs to eat. Why not bring the whole picture into focus with this kit full of culinary experiments? Their food will be as beautiful as their artwork, and you may just get invited over to try some chocolate spaghetti noodles, exploding caviar beads, solid spheres of yogurt, or salmon topped with lemon foam.
The Eternal Zen Water Canvas
Inspiration is fleeting, and art trends come and go. Help the artist you know embrace the impermanence of their creations with this Zen water canvas. Water is brushed on the absorbent canvas, leaving beautiful gray marks that evaporate and completely disappear within minutes, reminding the artist that their best ideas are yet to come.
If they do any 3D modeling or already have a 3D printer, then a 3D scanner is the obvious gift they need. Any small object can be scanned and rendered as a digital 3D textured mesh in full color. This is the closest thing we’ve got to the Replicator technology we’ve all seen on Star Trek, and it’s a tool that will open up a new world of possibilities for the artist you know.
Metal Balloon Dog Sculpture
While it may look like a party favor from a 10 year old’s birthday party to the uncultured eye, any artist will recognize these replicas of Jeff Koons’ iconic large scale Balloon Dog sculptures. In 2013 he sold one of his dogs at Christie’s for $58,400,000. Perhaps looking at this piece will be inspiring for its owner, or maybe completely depressing if they’re the typical starving artist type.
It can be tough to shop for artists, but one thing you know for sure is – they’re into art. Commission an original work by a local artist or find a starving artist online who is hungry for a sale. The gift will be sincerely appreciated by everyone involved. Make sure you pick something that suits your friend’s aesthetic and not your own!
Instant Photo Printer For Phone
If you know an artist that likes to draw or paint from photographs, this instant printer may be just the thing they need. Sure they could use their desktop computer, but this is a whole lot easier and they can take it anywhere. If you’ve ever played with an old Polaroid camera you know the joy of snapping a photo and instantly seeing a print. It’s also a quick way to produce small scale art – snap a picture with the phone, print, sign, and sell.
Sensory Depravation Session
Artists are always searching the world for inspiration, but the most amazing discoveries are really inside their creative minds. Treat them to a sensory depravation experience and let their minds wander the Cosmos in search of beauty and truth. Or maybe they just take a nap, either way they’ll get something out of it.
A 3D pancake printer gives artists another medium to express their creativity, and gives patrons a new way to appreciate art – by consuming it. Support the arts by commissioning an edible museum-quality masterpiece that even the toughest art critic will find tasteful.
Coolbox Smart Toolbox
If the artist you know is a maker or builder, they surely already have a toolbox. What they need though, is a Coolbox. This modern evolution of the toolbox has come a long way from being just a place to store tools. It has built-in power strips and an internal battery, a clock, wheels, bluetooth audio, an LED lamp, a whiteboard, and even a bottle opener.
Monthly Art Project Subscription
Smart Art is an art project in a box, delivered monthly to their door. It’s designed to inspire creative thinking and may be the perfect thing to help get them over a creative block. Each box will contain everything they need to create a new project. They’ll explore a new technique each month and experiment with encaustic painting, mixed media, impasto painting, street art, and much more.
Adjustable Circular Ruler
Any artist will want need this circular ruler as soon as they see it. Why did it take so long for someone to invent this? All that time spent multiplying the diameter by Pi to find the circumference of a circle, wasted. This is a no-brainer. Buy this thing now.
Edible Spray Paint
Yes, it is possible to actually have green eggs and ham, and your artist friend may just be zany enough to try it. This edible spray paint is commonly used in cake decorating but any true artist will find several more creative uses for it.
For the artist, art is about expressing themselves and their individuality. What better tribute to their uniqueness than a work of art depicting their actual one-of-a-kind DNA? You can give them the DNA sampling kit as the gift and let them choose the style and color of print they want, or if you’re really clever you can find a way to get that cheek swab ahead of time and present them with the finished work of art.
Mini Photo Studio
If the artist you know is of the starving variety, they probably can’t afford to take professional photos of what they make. Yet having high quality images is important if they ever want to sell any of their work. Until they save up enough to get that fancy camera, you can get them started with this table top photo studio perfect for documenting small artwork.
Shapescapes is a toy designed to inspire creativity in three dimensions. Once you start playing with it you can’t keep your hands off. It’s like a combination of legos and trying to see shapes in clouds. It’s described as a product for kids but there’s no reason this wouldn’t be fun for adults too, and after all, artists are often kids at heart.
1000 Colors Puzzle
It’s about time someone put a new spin on the jigsaw puzzle. Test an artist’s visual palette by making them assemble this bear of a puzzle using only their color instincts. Its reliance on color over line stimulates the brain in a different way from standard puzzles, presumably making an artist even more artisty.
Despite what you might think, inspiration doesn’t just flow freely through an artist like electricity from an accidentally urinated-on electric fence (don’t ask). There are many extended periods of frustration, unbroken cursing, and soul-darkening self-flagellation. Is that what you want for them? These dice can help provide much needed random inspiration in the worst moments.
Graffiti Sketch Book
It’s hard to visualize your next public defacing when your sketch book contains nothing but blank white pages. Provide them with better inspiration in the form of realistic-looking wall surfaces. Or perhaps you’re trying to give them an alternative to real-world graffiti, for which this works equally well. In that case, good for you. That probably makes you a better role model, but nobody’s judging.
3D Modeling Software
Unless you use this kind of thing yourself, you’re probably not going to know what the hell you’re buying them. Don’t worry about that. If they’ve said they need “3D modeling software,” then yes, this is what they’re talking about. Their inner super-dork will fall in love with you forever for this.
Salvador Dali Melting Clock
Philosophers have long argued over the appropriate verb to attach to the concept of time. Does it pass? Flow? Fly? Disappear? In the landscapes of the world’s most famous surrealist, it melts. Yeah, we’re not sure what to make of that either. But every artist loves this clock.
Life Size Artist’s Manikin
Artists are known for having strange requests for the people around them. So you can’t be too surprised when a painter you know says, “Bend over and don’t move.” But the fact is, it gets tiring holding unnatural poses. It’s probably worth investing in a manikin or two so you can have your physical autonomy back.
Drafting and Crafting Table
Everyone knows artists can’t afford furniture. Yet for many of them, a drafting/craft table is a basic necessity. This makes you, the gift giver, more or less the master of their universe. This could be the difference between a rich and rewarding career on the one hand, and ending up homeless and babbling under a nearby overpass on the other.
Folding French Easel
This folding french easel gives an artist the portability and practicality they need, all in a beautiful, classically styled piece of genuine craftsmanship. Whether on the bank of a European river, atop a snowcapped mountain, or in their mother’s basement, this classic french easel will be all they will need for years to come. Oh, and maybe a loan every once in a while.