Design Gift Guide – 10 Cool Gifts for Graphic Designers and Artists
December 12, 2016 • Design Assets

Design Gift Guide – 10 Cool Gifts for Graphic Designers and Artists

This design gift guide talks about the 10 things every designer and artist needs for Christmas. If you are a designer and anything like me then you are more than happy to put those much “needed” art products on your Christmas list. These items will hopefully inspire your creativity and improve your workflow. Here is my list of the top 10 things every designer needs for Christmas in my design gift guide. Whether you are a designer or buying for one, this is a great checklist that promises to be beneficial.

design gift guide

1. Medium of Choice

First of all, we all have a favorite medium. Even if your work is photography or digital based, we all need to sketch out ideas or get our creative juices flowing. Whether it be oil, acrylic, watercolor, graphite, charcoal, crayon, coloring pencils, markers, and so on, always having a well-trusted brand around is crucial. I can’t tell you how many times I tried to color with some cheap crayons or coloring pencils which ended up being a waste of money because the pigmentation was well below average. Invest a little more money and do your research on best-sellers of the medium that you love. Amazon is always a great source to see what medium and brand is selling well and the reviews make it easy to understand why.


cardstock paper

2. Paper

Next, paper no matter what you do is so important! Whether you are printing, need photography paper for pristine photos, create stickers, create stationary, sketch, use watercolors, or draw you need the right paper. I never understood this concept until creating graphic design for a couple of years. While working at a local print shop, I always saw the different paper stock – copy, resume, linen, cotton, glossy, matte, thick, etc. etc. etc. And yes, it absolutely matters. Here are the design gift guide’s major 3 things that matter and that you don’t hear about often when talking about paper.

  1. It determines who you are.

    First of all, if you print on cheap paper you come off as a cheap business, artist, or designer. Sometimes you really have very little choice (and you will quickly learn that when you print with big companies like Kinko’s). When possible, always spend more than the cheapest. Thick matte is always a good choice on business cards. Copy paper is never a good choice for anything unless you are printing large quantities of worksheets or something of little value.

  2. It determines how clear your designs show up or how well the pigmentation takes to your paper.

    Second, a lot of quality comes from the printer or the medium you are using, but just as important is the paper you are using. Glossy paper and photo paper are phenomenal for photography and there is a reason why! This paper absorbs the ink in a way that gives you the best quality possible. Not only will your images last longer on the right paper, but they will look a lot better and professional. Same goes for any sort of artist paper.

  3. It determines how your colors appear.

    Finally, cheap paper can leave your colors washed out while nicer paper will give you much more vibrant colors. I did a test print the other day on one of my designs. Dang! I must not have something set up right. I looked through my printing and document options and all seemed fine. After changing my low inks to brand new cartridges, I printed again. Nope, not the ink! But it’s just dark gray. So I thought maybe it was the paper. I tried my thicker but still cheap cardstock. UGH!!! Still the same saturation! So after another 30 minutes of scratching my head I tried my slightly more expensive printer paper. It is just slightly thicker than copy paper, but very bright white, and shows up colors like no other. WOW! It worked. The answer was 100% the paper.


schedule planner

3. Planner

Whether you work by a calendar, planner, or list it is so important to stay on schedule and up to date. I personally wouldn’t be anywhere right now without my calendar. Planners help your brain out and lets your head have a break so you can focus on more creativity. If you don’t work by any sort of schedule right now or you feel like yours isn’t working out I absolutely recommend a planner with separate days so you can jot down important tasks and deadlines.


sketchbook paper

4. Sketchbook

We all need somewhere to doodle and sketch out ideas. A sketchbook is never a bad choice as a gift and this design gift guide links you with a popular sketchbook with plenty of great reviews from Amazon. You can even use your sketchbook as an inspiration book. Some people glue in inspiring photos, quotes, or whatever else helps them think about new ideas. Sometimes when my brain is fried towards the end of the day all I have to do is reference my original sketches to get back on track.


resource books

5. Resource Books

Yes, I know this may sound crazy, but even a dictionary helps me retain resources and get ideas. Your helpful resources can be completely related to what you do or very random it doesn’t matter as long as it keeps you inspired and allows you to grow. Photography, graphic design, tutorials, crafting, whatever it may be get some resource books that offer incredible help to you.


digital design resources

6. Needed Programs or Primary Use of Programs

If you are a studio artist this may not relate as much to you. You can still use these programs to touch up your gallery images, make promotional material, or just learn! Programs like Illustrator, Photoshop, InDesign, and Maya are huge industry standards but can be terrible news for your budget. If this is something that is doable as a Christmas present however, definitely invest in whatever program you will use! There is always something more affordable. Sketch is very affordable and is one of the industry standard programs for UI and UX designers. Do your research and see if more affordable programs have everything that you will need. There is plenty of free software out there as well that are fine for simple design and touch ups. Make sure to update the software that you use often to stay current and keep learning.


design resources

7. Helpful Resources

If you are a graphic designer you may find purchased textures, fonts, and other resources in which you can use for your client(s) extremely valuable. Of course you must understand the licenses involved. All it takes is a great resource at a reasonable price and you could be set for numerous future projects. There are a lot of resources out there and plenty of bundled goods. Just make sure you understand what the license allows you to do. You may buy a font that will only allow you to use it for one client. You may buy a texture that allows you to use it an unlimited amount of times. Either way these resources have proved tremendously valuable for me. Studio artists may find helpful resources through online tutorials, YouTube videos, or subscriptions.


hand tracing

8. Tracing Box

An item that is on my personal Christmas list is a light box. Some designers may not use it at all. Some could really get some great use out of a tracing box. My design process usually looks something like this: idea > brainstorm > rough sketch > more detailed sketch > resketch / cleanup. I could go from rough sketch to finalized a lot quicker using a tracing box for my designs. Artists and watercolorists would find it a fantastic source for tracing onto thin canvas, watercolor paper, or drawing paper.


calligraphy handwriting

9. Water Brush Pens / Something New to You

I want to try my hand at calligraphy with water brush pens. I’ve seen great drawings and cartoons designed from them as well. If that’s not your thing, then try something a little out of the box for you! Try a new medium, subject, canvas, or craft! Ever want to try oil painting and only have painted with acrylics? Use the holiday and new year as a reason to try it out.


adult coloring

10. Adult Coloring Books

Last on our design gift guide, we recommend a fun and non work related gift of adult coloring books. Not only are they packed full of inspiration, but they offer a relaxing and stress-free activity to wind down with at the end of the day. I bought the coloring book linked below at a store for $10 and it’s the best $10 I’ve ever spent on a coloring book. Absolutely stunning images.


In conclusion this is just a small design gift guide of many creative choices for the holidays. If you are buying for an artist or designer, this list is an excellent source. You really can’t go wrong with these items in particular:

  1. Design resources, books, or magazine subscriptions.
  2. Sketchbook on nice paper.
  3. Adult coloring books – depending on how artsy they are!

Let me know what is on your design Christmas list this year and if you added anything new from this design gift guide!

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