Unusual gifts for artists & tips for buying artists' gifts - because we can all do better than blindly buying beginner sets or how-to books!
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I like unusual gifts for artists – things that can raise a smile while saying, “I know what you’re into.”
It’s hard to find just the right gift for the artist in your life, isn’t it? If you buy art supplies, you’ve got to make sure it’s something they either need or are interested in, and that it isn’t going to be insulting because it’s below their skill level, and that can be hard to gauge. Here are some weird gifts for artists, picked by me, with tips for buying the right gift.
I have this t-shirt in grey and I love it so much that it’s basically a shadow of its former self… time to get a new one! Every list of unusual gifts for artists summons up some Bob Ross merchandise, but it’s well deserved.
Tip: most adult artists already have the tools of their trade, so don’t buy one of those complete starter kits unless you know it’s exactly what they want, or it’s for a child or young teen.
All I can say is that I absolutely love this and I want it so much… and it’s a good fun gift that you can actually enjoy together and still keep as a valuable reference. After all, the colour wheel is at the heart of art school training, so this should be one to appeal to most 2D artists.
Oh, and there’s a 3D version available* if your artist favours working in the round.
Tip: Don’t buy them another artist’s work unless you know it’s a piece they really want!
Ok, so there are an amazing amount of paint water/not paint water mugs out there, so you’re not going to be breaking boundaries with this gift, but it’s still going to raise a smile with every single painter out there!
Trust me, we’ve all either had a swig of the wrong one or dunked our brushes in our tea… or come very close.
Tip: if you can’t find the exact font and picture combination for your mugs, you can design your own with a print-on-demand service like Snapfish.
Instead of buying a physical object, how about buying a year of opportunities? When you think of an annual Skillshare membership as a present for an artist, you may think of courses for learning how to paint or draw, but there are so many more courses related to professional practice skills for artists and creatives that anyone can find something to enhance their existing work or take them off into a new direction.
I personally benefited from courses on publishing notebooks on Amazon KDP, as well as setting up an Etsy shop.
One for the photographers out there – but beware, this clever lens travel mug is a riff on a Canon lens, and you don’t want to put off the Nikon-crazed bunch! Seriously though, I’m not even a photographer and I would love this myself.
Tip: Art books are a reliable gift, but steer clear of generic “how to draw” titles and choose something tailored to their interests.
These phone cases are just gorgeous – I don’t have a swish new phone but I’d definitely get one of these for my ancient phone if I could. It’s not a huge financial commitment, and almost everyone’s got a smartphone, so this idea is a winner even if it’s not one of the most unusual gifts for an artist.
Tip: Consider making a print of an old or long-lost artwork if you have a photograph (and permission).
7 – Pantone mug*
The Pantone mugs have been around for a long time, and there are plenty of derivative versions that you could pick up, but this is the original from the Pantone store.
Graphic designers and creative types everywhere know and love Pantone, and while my own Pantone mug (7535 C) is now chipped, I love it as much as the day I bought it from Dulwich Picture Gallery.
Tip: Unique gifts for artists don’t always have to be objects. Try to find out if there’s an exhibition coming up that they would like to see – tickets would make for a great present.
The camera-shaped tin was one of the things that caught my eye early on – vintage cameras are just so cool, no matter whether you’re a collector, photographer, or just a generally cool dude.
Tip: gift cards might not be exciting, but they’re a good way to let the artist in your life get exactly what they need. Include them in a “day out package” if you can, to make them into a big deal.
9 – Studio storage*
Every single artist I know – myself included – struggles on some level with storing art materials and finished artworks, and we’re always waiting for that magical solution to fix our storage problem. It might not be out there (magic, I mean) but there are lots of clever storage solutions at a range of prices. Just don’t start lecturing us about art material hoarding.
If you live together and want to splash out on something substantial, you might consider a plan chest (search for one on eBay*) or artist’s desk.
Maybe this is the most unusual gift for an artist, but a website is an absolute necessity and if they don’t already have one, then they need one straight away!
A website is an ongoing commitment, of course, but you can snap up a domain and set up a single page without having to get too complicated or spending much.
I use Namecheap – (check here for a free domain when you buy shared hosting*) or:
I don’t really wear much jewellery at all, but one of the reasons I started casting pendants in the shape of paint tubes and pencils was that I felt they represented something I loved, and I was delighted to wear something that meant a lot to me.
You can have a look at my own pendants, or check out some of these talented jewellers on Etsy.
This silver pencil necklace by RockRoseJewellery* is one of my absolute favourites, because it’s just so elegant.
Hopefully you’ve found some new ideas for unusual gifts for artists, and tips for buying artists’ gifts.
It’s impossible to cover every good idea for artists’ gifts, but I really hope I’ve given you some new ideas beyond the boxed starter set of materials, and that you’ve found these tips useful…. and of course, I’d love to hear about the best gifts you artists have received!