Robie is an artist who loves sharing what she's learned about art and painting in the hope that it might help other creatives.
Choosing Gifts for Artists
Art supplies make a great present for any artist.
I've compiled a list of the things that any acrylic artist would enjoy. I picked gift ideas that are both very useful and won’t break your wallet.
Here it is, with more details further on:
- Quality paint tubes
- Specific colors
- Canvas, boards
- Brushes and painting knives
- Silicone color shapers
- Textured palette knives
- Brush holder case
- Disposable paper palette
- Water sprayer
- Value finder
- Paper towels
- Notebook or sketchbook
- Brush cleaner soap
Each item can make a great thoughtful present on its own, or you can put several together, on many occasions: birthdays, celebrations, holidays, you name it.
Since the tricky part is knowing what the artist actually uses and needs, I also included some tips on how to find out what specific items your friend needs at the moment.
Let's get started!
Buying Paint for an Acrylic Painter
For an acrylic artist, one of the first things that could be useful is, of course, paint.
Which kind should you buy? Two important things to consider when buying acrylic paint as a gift are:
- Paint quality
- Paint color
1. Quality: Acrylic Paint Comes in Different Qualities
The paint quality is crucial. There are student quality paints and professional ones. The main difference between the two is the quantity of pigment there is in it compared to filler. It’s hard to see the difference until you start painting with it, then it becomes quite clear.
Student quality has a smaller percentage of pigment in the acrylic binder, and the additions of fillers. The paint behaves in a less efficient and more challenging way. When in doubt go for the professional quality, you can’t go wrong with a better product.
The rule of thumbs is: get the best paint quality you can afford. Golden is a great brand, and so is Liquitex. Pay attention to the labels, avoid paints that say "student" or "studio". Go for "artist" quality (as long as you can afford it, that is).
2. Colors: Each Painter Has a Favorite Palette of Colors
Every artist has some preferred colors that he or she tend to use more often than not. Some painters like to mix all the colors starting from a limited palette of about 5 colors, some others like to have a tube for each main hue.
Take a peek at your friend’s artwork. What colors appear most often? Ask some questions before you buy tubes of paint. Paint is quite expensive, and you don’t want to get colors that even if beautiful, are not going to be used.
You may want to ask questions like “What’s your favorite paint color?” or “Which color do you use the most?” Since you are at it, try to find out what his or her favorite brand of paint is.
Even if paint color names are the same, different brands can make slightly different colors. Some artists are very picky about this, they might a favorite brand for specific colors.
Visit Your Friend's Art Studio for Clues
Canvas, Boards, and Other Painting Supports for Acrylics
A surface to paint is definitely essential to any painter.
The most popular painting surface for an acrylic painter is probably canvas. Canvas can be stretched on wood or glued to a wooden board. There are more expensive and cheaper versions of both.
Some artists prefer one kind over the other. Personally, I like stretched canvas or gesso boards.
Whatever kind you get, make sure it’s primed with acrylic gesso. It should say on the packaging that it’s suitable for acrylic paint. Most say it’s primed for acrylic and oil paint. Don’t get those primes for oil paint only, it wouldn’t work with acrylics.
Brushes and Painting Knives for Acrylic Artists
Artists can use all kinds of tools to apply the paint to the canvas, from a comb to a sponge, to an old credit card. However, traditional tools are brushes and painting knives.
Brushes are the most widely used and good quality ones can get quite pricey, so they are usually a welcome gift. Who doesn't need new brushes every once in a while?
If you get the chance, find out what size brushes are your friend’s favorites, or which ones need replacement. If you don’t know, you can get an assorted set of decent quality brushes.
If you go to an art store, you could get overwhelmed by the brush shelves, there are so many options, which one should you get?
To learn more about how to choose brushes you can read my article Guide to Choosing the Best Paint Brushes.
Silicone Color Shapers
Another great creative tool for acrylic painters are the color shapers, built like brushes, but with rubbery and flexible ends that allow smearing and texturing of the paint.
These shapers can actually be used for a wide array of artistic expression: to apply or wipe off paint, as well as precious tools to shape in clay sculpture or scrubbing in pastel painting.
Acrylics can be treated as an exercise in thoughtful accumulation – building color upon color, stroke on top of stroke.
— Brad Faegre
Textured Palette Knives
Acrylic paint is very a versatile medium and you can really get creative and have fun trying out textures and painterly effects.
Inspire your artist friend to get creative giving some fun and creative, out of the ordinary, palette knives. These knives, instead of having straight edges, are uniquely shaped and create a painted surface with grooves and textures.
There are some very groovy and interesting ones available, check them out online by searching "special effect palette knives".
Brush Holder Case
Brushes can get ruined easily if you don’t store them right.
A nice brush holder case designed to protect brushes and bristles is just what an artist needs, especially for traveling and painting outdoors.
I have a roll-up bamboo case holder for my oil paintbrushes and a zipper case for my acrylics. Great for traveling to different studios or classes.
Disposable Paper Palette
Cleaning dry acrylic paint from painting palettes is no fun. Paper palettes make life much easier, no cleanup needed.
They come in many sizes, and some have light gray pages, which are meant to let you see better the value relationships of the paint you are mixing.
Disposable palettes can be quite inexpensive, and the quality is fairly good.
Water Sprayer to Keep Paint Moist
When you work with acrylic paint it’s important to keep the paint moist, or it will dry pretty quickly. For this purpose, I vaporize water often on my palette with a water sprayer.
Whether you carry a big spray bottle around or get the more specific, smaller sprayers from the art store, the point is: every acrylic painter needs a sprayer, so this is a useful and inexpensive gift.
I use a small watercolor spray bottle. It's probably meant to spray colored water, but it works great for nebulizing clear water on my paint and keeps them from drying.
A precious tool for any painter, every beginner should have a grayscale or value finder. It helps to evaluate and compare the relative lightness and darkness of the colors. Mastering value is a long journey, and this simple tool helps a lot.
I go through quite a bit of paper towels when I paint. Though this is not a very artistic item, a few paper towel rolls are surely useful to any painter and serve as a nice filler for a gift bag.
You can't do sketches enough. Sketch everything and keep your curiosity fresh.
— John Singer Sargent
Every Artist Can Use a Notebook or Sketchbook
You can never do too much drawing, and one way to get inspired to draw more is to carry a sketchbook with you at all times.
Provide the inspiration be giving a nice and handy notebook to your artist friend, maybe paired with a pencil or marker.
Brush Cleaner Soap
It’s very important to clean painting brushes promptly and thoroughly, using water and a mild soap.
There are on the market some good brush cleaner soaps that efficiently clean brushes.
The Master Brush Cleaner makes some low cost and very effective brush soaps.
There are so many types of acrylic medium, each has a slightly different purpose or can create a unique effect like crackling, sandpaper, transparency, etc. They all could make great gifts, especially to a painter that enjoys exploring new techniques and create interesting textures.
Personally, I love mediums that create texture, like thickening gels or molding paste. If you can, talk to the artist and find out if there is an acrylic medium he or she uses or has on the “really-wanna-try-that” list.
I love to create mixed media, collage, and texture and this acrylic medium set provides a great sample of acrylic mediums to experiment with. I use the soft gel for gluing down my collages, the light molding paste to create texture, the heavy gel to thicken up paint, the coarse pumice to create some grainy and rough texture, and the tar gel for stringy effects. They are all great to experiment with.
Maybe You Can Get Your Artist Friend a New Easel
Who doesn’t need an easel, right? Every acrylic painter needs a support for the artwork while working on it, only a minority paints horizontally, with the support lying flat on a table, everyone else keeps it tilted up, and to do that you need an easel.
If your artist friend has been painting for a while, he or she will probably already have one or more easels, but chances are there is still one that they wish they had.
There are many types of easel:
- French Easel: very popular, it’s loved for its versatility, because it can be used for traveling and it stores smaller, folding into a drawer-shaped case.
- Studio Easel: perfect for painting indoors and can hold bigger canvasses; they come at many prices. Usually, they don’t have wheels so it’s not so easy to move around, so this is an easel that takes up some space when not in use. H-Frame and A-Frame Easels are two examples of studio easels that allow angle adjustment. My most-used easel is an H-Frame, I love it because it holds bigger canvases and it's sturdier. I also have an A-Frame easel, this is great for space issues because it can be folded and leaned against a wall, but there is less back support for canvasses while painting standing up, they tend to move when painting on the edges. It's great for painting big while sitting.
- Table-top Easel, a great choice for those that like to sit while painting. There are many formats and price tags. I have a light one that costs less than $10 and it doubles as display easel during exhibits or sales.
- Plein Air Easel: is your friend a fan of painting on location? Then get a light, foldable, and portable plein air easel. Though acrylic painters usually don't like painting outdoors for the paint dries too quickly, some are brave and do. Just make sure you get the kind of easel your friend likes, I've heard many picky comments from plein air artists about easels they despise. This is worth asking some questions even risking to spoil the surprise.
What to Get? When in Doubt, Go for the Practical and Useful Stuff
Any of the painting supplies and tools on the list would make great gifts.
If you want to be more specific to your friend's needs, create the occasion to talk about supplies used and needed: visit the studio or ask to see the paintings, get the conversation started, ask some questions, and you can get lots of clues.
When in doubt, go for the practical and useful stuff like supports, paint tubes, brushes, and other tools that are essential for art-making.
Ask for a Wish List
If you want to really make sure your money is well-spent and your gift will be used, you may want to abandon the idea of a total surprise gift and ask your friend for a wist list.
What things would be wonderful to receive, and would make that painter super-happy? No one knows better than the artists themselves.
Ask for a list including more items than you can buy, as specific as possible.
A text message, a piece of paper, an amazon wish list, it does not matter the format, as long as you get the info.
Once you have the wish list, you can pick and choose from it, leaving some things out and creating a combination of gifts that suits your budget.
If your friend acts like they have no idea what to ask for, feel free to share the link to this article with them, it might help trigger some ideas.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
Question: My mom uses arcrylic paint to paint rocks & terra-cotta pots what kind of gift with lots of supplies can I find for her ?
Answer: That's so much fun, painting rocks and terracotta pots! There are not a lot of supplies needed, but here are some ideas.
In short, five thongs are needed:
1. The object to paint on (rocks and pots)
2. Drawing tools
5. Probably a sealer or varnish, or both
Going into specific ideas for a gift basket with different supplies, maybe the list below can be of inspiration:
- Rocks found by you, washed and cleaned. Make sure they are smooth.
- Different sizes of terracotta pots.
Drawing tools, especially fine point markers, or try to find out what she uses to sketch her design in.
- An assortment of acrylic paints. At the craft store, look for acrylics suitable for outdoor painting, they have better moisture resistance. They usually come in small bottles and are not very expensive, around $2 per bottle.
- An assortment of brushes. Small bristle brushes and larger foam brushes.
- A spray primer to be applied before starting painting (optional)
- Stencils to create patterns on the pots
- Painter's tape for blocking off areas and shapes
- A clear acrylic sealant to protect the design from scratches. Make sure it says water-resistant on it.
- Acrylic varnish for the final touch.
© 2014 Robie Benve
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on December 10, 2018:
I love that, Susan! Using creative ways to frame the paintings can be both visually interesting and frugal. Rope-framing for nautical scenes sounds just like the perfect fit. Kudos to your husband for the artsy craftsmanship.
susan on December 09, 2018:
to save on frames my husband uses old rope &small nails to frame my paintings.
especially on Nautical scenes or seascapes....
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on September 05, 2014:
Hi CherylsArt. I agree, you can't go wrong with paints and brushes, sooner or later they'll be needed. Thanks! :)
CherylsArt on September 01, 2014:
Paints and brushes would be at the top of my list.
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on April 15, 2014:
Hi Janesix, you know, I have a wishlist with some art supply sites that I created for my own benefit, to be ready in case they have a sale going on, then it hit me that it's a great way to let family members and friends know what you need for your birthday or holidays, all I have to do is share the wish list with them! :) Thanks for stopping by! :)
janesix on April 14, 2014:
I never thought of giving (or asking for) art supplies for gifts. Great idea.
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on March 04, 2014:
Hi Ann1Az2, I agree: frames can be very expensive, your mom was lucky that your dad could custom make them for her. :) I may add them to the list, though it's a hard gift to choose because as you said a good frame can bring a painting to life, but I guess that also means that the wrong one could kill it. lol
Thanks a lot for your feedback and vote up. :)
Ann1Az2 from Orange, Texas on March 04, 2014:
This is very good and interesting. My mother used to paint with oil paints and was always using some of these things. Another thing to consider as a gift might be a frame or two for certain sized canvases. My mother was fortunate because my dad always made the frames for her paintings. They can get quite expensive, but a good frame can really bring a painting out in the light.