Whoever said art is cheaper than therapy has never gone shopping with an artist. I don’t know about you but I feel like a kid in a candy store whenever I enter an art shop—yes, even if it’s just an online store. When it comes to art materials, one can’t ever have enough. So if you want to treat your artist friends to a thoughtful present, you can’t go wrong with good paints, brushes, and quality paper. And personally, watercolor is a good gateway art medium for beginners as much as it’s well-loved by professionals.
There’s no need to rack your brains thinking of what to get for the watercolor artists in your life. Here are some perfect gift ideas to inspire and delight all your artsy friends!
Watercolor in all its forms
Watercolor is one of the more accessible (and fun!) art mediums out there since it’s available in many forms. I've never met a watercolorist who says they have enough paint. So watercolor paints make for an excellent gift for any artist in your life. Plus, there’s a plethora of unique palettes or watercolor sets at just about every price point. The best gifts for watercolor enthusiasts are the ones they can use to their joy and delight.
When choosing to gift watercolors to a friend or family member, it boils down to their personal preference and what they already have or use.
Curate a palette with a tin of empty pans plus watercolor paints in tubes
Watercolors commonly come in tubes or pans (more on the latter below). An advantage of getting watercolor paint in tubes is the color payoff. Since the pigment is more concentrated, it goes down on paper more vividly. You can also dilute the paint if you prefer a more translucent wash of color. Watercolors in tubes are also great for refilling emptied watercolor pans. You can give the gift of a customized palette by selecting individual tubes and an empty watercolor palette.
If your artist friend has a social media page dedicated to their artwork, take some time to scroll through it and see what colors they use the most. They’ll definitely appreciate a set of paints in their favorite colors!
My gateway into becoming a (self-proclaimed) watercolor artist was through watercolor pencils. I'd highly recommend a set of these for beginner watercolorists. You can use them just as you would regular pencils, whether for coloring or sketching. And you can transform the colors into watercolor paint it with a wet brush—either on the tip of the pencil or once it’s on paper.
You can get watercolor pencils individually or in a set. I personally prefer the latter—the more, the merrier after all. A decent entry-level brand is Faber Castell and they have packs of 12, 24, 36, 48, and even a whopping 120! Pair a set of pencils with a coloring book they’ll like. This is a great gift for any stressed-out friend who can benefit from a little art therapy.
Portable or travel watercolor palettes
You can’t go wrong with a watercolor palette as a gift either. Palettes can come with half pans or full pans of dry watercolor paint. Just add water to activate the paint! I love getting paint palettes as gifts because they usually last a few years and are easily refillable.
As mentioned earlier, it’s no problem if one paint color runs out. I’d personally add in a tube of white watercolor—as this comes in handy when you're looking to mix more pastel-like colors. Or, again, pick the color your artist friend loves and uses most.
Nowadays, watercolor enthusiasts are spoiled for choice with the wide range of watercolor palettes out there. Especially here on ZenART Supplies. Many palettes these days are highly portable, with colors carefully curated for every genre of watercolor painting.
Looking for a watercolor gift for that precious someone in your life? Art truly is magic when it comes to our Prezioso palette: a set of 18 fun and shimmery hues named after precious metals and minerals. It’s got brilliant shades like pink quartz, blue topaz, and (my favorite) pink aura rainbow quartz. Because of their sparkle, these paints look amazing on dark paper, too!
Here’s another wonderful watercolor gift for casual artists and calligraphy lovers. Watercolor markers are usually felt or brush tip pens with water-based inks. They blend just like a dream, with or without being activated by water. Since they function like any other marker, it’s not as messy as using a palette and brush. Like pencils, you can get these individually or in sets. Some watercolor marker brands even have selections like skin tones, earth tones, and metallic shades.
Encourage your friends to further hone and explore their talent and passion for watercolor painting with a sketchbook or a pack or block of high-quality paper.
Many artists suffer from perfectionism, which sometimes gets in the way of us using up notebooks and papers for fear of making mistakes. Which is why I like having an extensive stock of paper in all sizes and thicknesses. Knowing I have a decent supply of watercolor paper is a relief against my perfectionistic guilt. I also have a solid collection of sketchbooks and journals since I go through at least three or four of them in a year.
Watercolor pads or blocks vs. watercolor sheets
I believe every artist’s studio or art-making space deserves a paper corner. Again, you can never have enough!
Watercolor paper comes in pads or loose sheets. It’s nice to have watercolor blocks as well, which are pads of watercolor paper that are glued on each side. This keeps the paper flat and prevents warping during the watercolor painting process. On the other hand, you have watercolor sheets which come in all the sizes you can think of. I like to get A4-sized sheets since I have the option of cutting them down by halves or quarters.
ZenART's collection of watercolor blocks come in five different sizes that you can choose from. They're glued on two sides only, making it so much easier to remove each page once your painting is done.
ZenART's watercolor blocks are all 100% cotton, 300gsm thick, and acid-free.
Watercolor pads can either be tape-bound or wire-bound. A lot of the wire-bound options come with a perforated edge along the wire for easy removal.
Watercolor sheets in various sizes. A very convenient choice for practice work or for working on smaller paintings with a specific size in mind.
Watercolor sketchbooks and journals
Here’s one for the books, literally. A good sketchbook can go a long way especially for artists who love sketching or watercolor painting on-the-go! For left-handed artists, a soft cover or hardbound journal is best—trust me, we loathe spiral-bound anything!
There’s a watercolor journal in just about any size these days. Pay attention to paper thickness (measured in gsm or grams per square meter). The higher the number, the heavier in weight, meaning it can absorb more water without warping.
You can also opt for an all-around sketchbook like the ones we have here. These lay flat at 180° and can are designed for artists on-the-go. The acid-free, 120 gsm paper can handle light washes of watercolor or ink without smudging!
B5 and B6 Artist's Sketchbook from ZenART Supplies.
All the watercolor brushes!
They say that artists are only as good as their tools. But I find that this saying perpetuates the notion that, with art materials, pricier is better. This isn’t necessarily the case. True, a decent watercolor brush is a good investment, But you can easily find great gifts of great quality without the extra cost.
Take our vegan watercolor brush sets here on ZenART Supplies for example. These hand-crafted, professional artist-grade brushes come in affordable sets and are designed specifically with water-based media in mind.
A set of essential (and vegan) watercolor brushes
A must-have for anyone wishing to start their journey into watercolor artwork? Brushes, of course. Though it can get tricky to choose from all the brush shapes, sizes, and bristle types. So start with the basics: you only need a select few to achieve a wide variety of techniques. Luckily, we have a 6-piece set of all the brushes you need. An added bonus? They're vegan! The best watercolor brushes are made with real animal hair, but if sustainability is an issue, vegan or synthetic hair brushes work totally fine!
Black Tulip brush set from ZenART Supplies.
This set comes with two round tips, two flats, a cat's tongue brush, and a rigger brush. Though made with synthetic hairs, these pick up watercolor paint with the same ease as sable or squirrel hairs.
A 14-piece set of all the brushes you’ll need
Now if you truly want to treat a watercolor artist to a professional-grade set of brushes, this should be good to go. Designed by artists for artists, this 14-piece set has just about all the brush shapes you need for any water-based medium!
Turner Collection from ZenART Supplies.
Perfect gifts for their watercolor art studio
I’m a quality time kind of gal. And during the height of the pandemic, I would often have open studio sessions with a creative friend or two. It’s just an hour or two on a Saturday morning spent making art while on a Zoom call.
Nowadays with quarantine restrictions lifting, it’s much easier to go on art-making dates whether in their personal art space or outdoors in a park or café. These are some essential gift ideas for watercolor artists looking to add a social element to their painting process!
A porcelain palette
You can find mixing palettes in just about any art supply store. In my early days of painting, I’d just use Tupperware covers or the mixing pans already available in my palettes. But then I treated myself to a handmade porcelain mixing palette and haven’t looked back since. Honestly, porcelain palettes are superior. Not just because they look more professional but also because they’re less porous and much easier to clean. The paint also mixes better on porcelain since it doesn’t break away into smaller pools of watercolor.
Collapsible water cup
To the outdoorsy creative person, the world is their canvas. I find that plein air painting is much more inspiring than simply painting from a reference photo.
As I said, I’m a sucker for artist dates. It’s a habit I picked up while overcoming my creative block. Sometimes I’d make time to make art with friends. When I used to travel, I’d always have a journal, water brush, and a small watercolor palette in my backpack in case I chanced upon a spot that inspired me to paint or sketch. The only downside was how little water my water brushes could store.
Here's a collapsible silicone water cup that I use it as my collapsible watercolor cup.
A portable watercolor cup will always come in handy for any artist who loves watercolor painting outdoors. These are usually silicone cups that you can easily fold and store in your bag once you’re done painting.
Quirky artist water cup
Watercolor lovers and artists probably know this struggle. That moment when you mistake your painting cup for your coffee—or vice versa. It’s embarrassing but I really can’t count the times I’ve almost drank my paint water! So I’ve made it a habit to use a dedicated glass or vessel just for painting.
Wouldn’t it be cute to gift an artist with a ceramic or glass cup with a fun artsy quote on it? Give them something they’d love to display on their desk. Once they're done painting, a water cup or mug can also be used to store their materials!
Books on watercolor art for inspiration
Watercolor artists can't always be drawing from pure imagination or memory. Creative inspiration is a finite resource after all. In fact, most artists have the need to "refill" their creative reservoir, so to speak. If you're out of gift ideas for watercolor artists, especially those who already have all the supplies they need, books are always a welcome present. Flipping through picture books and even graphic novels can provide an artist with new reference material for their watercolor paintings.
Take a stroll down the artbook aisle of your local bookstore and select a tome or two that appeals to you or your friend's aesthetic. Say, a coffee table book filled with concept art or a compilation of works by famous watercolor artists.
Find your next artist gift here on Zen Art Supplies!
It's not that hard to buy gifts for a watercolor artist. At least, we'd like to think so if you've made it to the end of this gift guide. With the myriad of options out there, it can get overwhelming to find the best gifts for that special watercolor artist in your life. If you're unsure which watercolor paint to pick, stay tuned for our next post where we guide you through the different kinds of watercolor paint out there!
We'd love to hear from you, too! Have you picked out a paintbrush set or palette from us yet? Still need to narrow down your gift ideas? Let us know in the comments section below! We're more than delighted to help you out!
- MEET THE AUTHOR-
Belle O. Mapa is a writer and artist based in Manila, Philippines. She believes that everyone is born with an inner creative spirit—we just need to nurture and discover it on the blank page. Currently, she lives out her passion: writing stories, hosting journaling workshops, and advocating for mental health awareness.