12 Gifts To Empower The Artist In Your Life

This holiday season, don’t give an artist a kitschy thoughtless trinket – it will only reflect badly on you. If the person you’re seeking a gift for is of the artistic variety, they’ll appreciate something that shows you understand how important their art is to them, and even more so if your gift empowers them to do create in a way they haven’t before. That’s what the items on this list are all about – and some of them are under $20 too, so there’s no need to break the bank.

Smart Pens

Wacom Inkling ($70)

This Christmas if you give your gift-ee the Wacom Inkling, available on Amazon for less than $70, you’ll be giving them the power to draw on any kind of paper and have their work be digitized instantly. It’s a pressure-sensitive electronic pen they can draw with, and a device that clips onto the paper to save the drawing, create new layers, and transfer the work to their computer. No need to scan, and the work will be editable in a variety of formats including vector, in programs like Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator (CS3+) or Autodesk SketchBook Pro (2011+). If your gift-recipient practices sketchnoting to record notes from lectures, it’s a great way to make their notes accessible digitally too.

If you’re looking for a different kind of digitizing pen to give, you might consider the Livescribe 3 Smartpen we reviewed earlier this year. It’s more for digitizing notes than drawings. It includes a built-in stylus for interacting with an iOS device – so only get it if your intended recipient is an iOS user.

Wacom Intuos Pen & Tablet ($85)

For a different Wacom art-experience, this device is great for the digital artist to edit photos or draw directly on their computer, but with the feeling of pen-on-paper instead of mouse-on-mousepad. It gives the artist far more precision than drawing with a mouse. This particular tablet also has multi-touch gestures enabled, and is pressure-sensitive, which means the artist can press harder for thicker or darker lines, or press lighter for thinner or lighter lines.

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Other Options

For a cheaper pen & tablet device, you could give the Monoprice Graphics Tablet for about $50. It lacks the multi-touch features of the Wacom version, but it’s a decent graphics tablet for the price, that I own myself.

Not-So-Old-Fashioned Pen & Paper

Bullet Pen ($18)


What’s so great about the Fisher Space Bullet Pen, available on Amazon for less than $20? It can write anywhere. Write upside down, or in zero-gravity. Write in -30F to 250F. Even write underwater. Giving the Fisher Space Pen is a great way to signal to your artist friend that you know that self-expression through writing or drawing is crucial to their fulfillment. Sure, they probably won’t need to write in outer space in oven-temperatures underwater any time soon, but hey–it’s the thought that counts.

More realistically, it would be useful for anyone going on a trip to any kind of harsh environment. All the engineering that goes into the very compact Fisher Space Pen means a great writing or drawing experience. Your gift-recipient will be unlikely to have common pen-troubles of getting the ink flowing, or having it smudge, or having the pen break due to low-quality materials or poor construction. Those are the last things any artist wants to deal with in a moment of inspiration.

All-Weather Paper ($7)


To go with a special pen, you should pair with equally special paper. The Rite-in-the-Rain paper notebook, available on Amazon for about $7, is a notebook filled with about 48 pages of paper that water will just roll right off. Your gift-ee could write or draw anywhere, in any weather, and know that their work won’t get wrecked. It’s great for anyone who feels creative in the great outdoors, or for researchers who need to take notes about wildlife or the environment.

Artsnacks Artists Subscription Box ($20/month)


Looking for a gift that keeps on giving all year long? For $20 a month (and free shipping within the United States), ArtSnacks will deliver 4 to 5 full-size premium art supplies to the doorstep of the person you choose. It’s a great way to show your support for artistic endeavours. You’ll also be allowing your recipient to experiment with art supplies they might not be prepared to buy for themselves. They may discover a new medium they love – and even if they don’t, it’s always fun to get a surprise package in the mail.

Unfortunately, at this point it’s too late to make a new order that will arrive in time for Christmas. For your recipient to get the January box, you’ll have to make your order before December 23rd. A fun way to make sure that your recipient has something to open on Christmas morning would be to hand him or her a card with a note that their gift is a subscription package, and to expect the first one during January.

3D Printer


For the more high-tech artist who enjoys 3D modelling, one way to add a whole new level to their work is to give them the power to hold their digital creations in real life. 3D printers are great for lots of different activities, from rapid prototyping for product development, to replacing broken parts of favourite gadgets, to making your own figurines that you can’t purchase in stores, and more. There are 3D printers emerging that can even print food. We reviewed the Cubify Cube 3D printer in 2013, and we have a roundup of affordable 3D printers you can give, since they can be expensive.

Arts & Design Magazine Subscriptions

Magazines aren’t dead – in fact, lots of magazines deliver online to subscribers, saving on paper, but with all the curated content of the publisher your artist friend may love to read.


For the web designer, a subscription to .net magazine will leave your gift-recipient with 13 issues every year all about the Internet. It also includes tutorials for all the latest web design techniques they can use in their work. Subscriptions available for print or digital copies.

For a graphic designer, a subscription to Before & After magazine will leave your gift-recipient with 16 downloadable PDF articles about how to design brochures, business cards, logos, and more. Print issues are available, and you can also see some samples of their work for free.

A subscription to Computer Arts may be the best bet for someone who is building a career in digital art and design, featuring analysis of trends, business issues, agency profiles, work from the global design community, and access to design briefs to read. An annual subscription to Computer Arts includes 13 issues, with print or digital copies available.

What Will You Get The Artist In Your Life?

There’s a lot of different kinds of gifts you can give to a person, and sometimes it feels impossible to get the right kind of gift. It takes a lot of understanding of the person you’re shopping for, some research, and a little luck. If you’re stumped, remember, you can always ask them about the sorts of things they might like, or the kinds of fields they’re interested in getting into. They might evade the question, but on the other hand, they might give you just the clues you need to know to narrow down your search.

What kinds of gifts do you find go over well with artistic folk? Is there more success in giving tools to do art, or in giving art itself? Have you ever had any gifts for artists go terribly? Share your stories in the comments below–we’d appreciate the warning!

Image Credit: v2 de biblioteca via Flicker

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