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.
If left to their own devices, most artists will end up going one of a few sad routes: homeless, pyramid scheme, or Hitler. The truth is, it doesn’t have to be that way. With a little guidance by someone who specializes in the kind of thinking that artists aren’t too gifted at, there can be a much happier ending.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 thousands of classics like “The Scream” or “Starry Night”.
Though history may now be fixed and unalterable (until we invent time travel), its artifacts don’t have to be. Now you can finally make The Thinker throw his hands up in surrender to the unknowable. Now you can see the Vitruvian Man do the Macarena. With these models, history finally comes alive.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
When you’re an artist, you have to know your stuff. And the stuff you need to know, well, some of it’s in this book. In fact, this is like the bottom layer of the pyramid. Skip this stuff and the top layers won’t make as much sense. And the whole pyramid will fall on your head. Ouch.
There are lots of methods of heat engraving. But most of them involve plugging something in, and that just seems like you’re trying too hard. Thanks to a little bit of ingenuity and some centuries old technology, now they can harness the earth’s very own power source for their wood doodling. Works almost instantly, like magic.
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.
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’s not cheap being an artist. Along with the emotional toll of being driven forth by ravenous, insatiable demons, you’ve got all those supplies to buy. It’s enough to drive anyone over the edge. Offer them respite from their financial trials in the form of a gift card.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Inspiration is infinite, but it’s not always infinitely available. A good art magazine will give them the kind of insight and depth you can’t find anywhere else. In fact, folk wisdom has it that a weird magazine and a bottle of whiskey is all it takes to make a genius.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Artists are visual people. Well, some of them work with words or sounds, but we’re not worried about them. We’re talking about artists who make stuff. For these people, the history of art will never make more sense than when they’re looking at this beautiful, concise visual rendering. And fear not for loneliness: they can always draw themselves in at the end of the timeline.
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.
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.
Legos are a staple in many people’s childhood. But one of the very distressing things about Lego sets is that none of the Lego men look like Bob Ross. This cost many of us countless sleepless nights through adolescence and even, for some of us, straight into adulthood. Thankfully someone has finally rectified this.
Some would argue that the greatest masterpiece is not inside Manhattan’s Guggenheim Museum, but the museum itself. But most of these people haven’t seen this sublime Lego rendering, which is even better, because it is made of Legos, whereas the real Guggenheim is made of unwieldy materials like concrete and metamorphic rock and filled with people who are equal parts profoundly confused and unbearably pretentious. Legos for the win.
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.
For over 120 years, the figure captured in Edvard Munch’s painting commonly known as “The Scream” has been stuck in a single compromising pose that has been seen by hundreds of millions of people. Talk about being typecast. But this mysterious character has a lot of personality that nobody ever gets to see. This action figure proves that at long last.
Vases make for a classic gift choice, but let’s face it, sometimes you just pick one that’s butt ugly and it makes everyone uncomfortable. This one is elegant, customizable, and interactive, kind of like a primitive i-thing. It even contains a removable glass tube for water, so nobody has to kill their flowers in the name of art.
Children are naturally creative and expressive. Then at some point they start watching reality TV and voting, an they’re not interesting anymore. It’s important to bridge the gap between childhood and whatever comes after by showing them how their creative impulses can evolve over time into art. This book does just that.
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.