The art shop can be pretty confusing, especially for non-artists, but take heart, with a bit of thought - and snooping to see what's already on their shelves - you can choose the perfect creative present for the artist in your life. Always choose the best quality within your budget - 'you get what you pay for' is a rule of thumb with art materials.
For Children - Choose safe, age-appropriate products.
Forget those huge sets of cheap art stuff - opt for a small set of good quality materials instead. Crayola products are reliable. Avoid pens/markers for littlies (the lids get left off).Good quality triangular-grip pencils are ideal for small children, while primary age kids will love Faber-Castell's tin of Watercolor pencils, which comes complete with a brush. A4 Canson spiral-bound sketchbooks are good value and always useful. Consider a simple how-to-draw book for kids from 6 years.
Teens - Find out what they are into!
Some teens won't draw, having decided that they don't have any talent. Doug Dubosque's 'Draw 3-D' might entice them to reconsider. Many teens will enjoy a book on drawing fantasy or Manga/Anime characters. For budding cartoonists, permanent fine fibre-tipped pens are great. Consumables like paper are always a good choice - a pad of Strathmore 400 series paper is perfect, or choose a bound sketchbook to use as a daily journal. Also consider a book on their favorite period from Art History.
You'll need to find out what they have already, or what they don't have! Many adults enjoy experimenting with different media. A Watercolor Field Sketching Box by Winsor and Newton or Daler-Rowney will be a sure winner, and a luxury sketchbook is always a popular choice. If in doubt, consider a subscription to an art magazine, or a video/DVD.
Grownup Gift Suggestion - a DIY Ink Sketching Kit
Put together an ink drawing set. You'll need a two nib-holders, two fine drawing nibs (perhaps a few, they are inexpensive), a bottle of Indian ink of a reputable brand, and a pad of medium/lightweight, hot-pressed watercolor sketch paper. To allow for pen-and-wash, include a number 8 Taklon Round Brush, a tube of black watercolor paint and a small mixing-bowl.
Grownup Gift Suggestion - Conte Sketching Set
Conte crayons are ideal for figure sketching and encourage loose, expressive work. Team a pad of large-sized pastel paper in various colors with a kneadable (putty) eraser, 2 large blending stumps (tortillons) and a box of conte crayons in various colors including black, white, sepia, and earth colors, and a tin of Workable Fixative spray.
Kids Gift Suggestion - Colored Pencil Kit
Encourage little artists with a spiral-bound sketchbook teamed with Freddie Levins 'Draw Cartoon Animals' or Steve Barr's '123-Draw Cartoon People' from Peel Books. Include a set of 12 student-quality colored pencils, with some extra earth colors or skin colors from the loose pencil selection in your art store. Add a white plastic eraser, kneadable eraser and a sharpener.