If you're spending a little extra on a special gift, it's worth doing some research first. Try to find out what the giftee already has, and note what their favorite brand of pencil is, and what sort of sketchbook they use, and whether they are coveting some studio equipment. If in doubt and you don't want to opt for a gift certificate, consider consumables like paper, pastels or pencils - many artists use a broad range of materials and enjoy experimenting with new things, so these items will never go to waste.
Who wouldn't love a beautiful boxed set of pencils like this? The classic Heirloom wooden box is the set I covet, while artists who are into collectibles might enjoy the 100th Anniversary Edition. These are superb colored pencils that handle beautifully and last well. Individual pencils can be replaced from loose stock, so this is a lasting gift. I own a well-used set of Faber-Castell Albrech Durer Watercolor Pencils, and find their products are always excellent.
This sleek, elegant boxed set contains everything you could possibly need for graphite pencil drawing, with a selection of beautiful graphite pencils and water soluble graphite pencils, stick graphite, blending stump, eraser, sharpener and sharpening board.
Top quality pastels can have limited distribution, but Terry Ludwig are a premier brand of pastels that are readily available. Several sets of these pastels have been created in collaboration with some of America's finest Pastel artists, including still life virtuoso Dianna Ponting, and landscape artists Deborah Paris and Maggie Price. A pastel set might not look as luxurious as fancy wooden box, but your artist will be sure to love these gorgeous, rich pigments.
Copic Markers are the medium of choice for illustrators, designers and comic artists to the point of being 'industry standard'. They come in 214 accurate, uniform colors - essential if consistency is important in your genre. They are refillable - a 'green' option, which also allows you to blend your own colors. They are double-ended with various interchangeable nibs so you can set them up to suit yourself. You might think of them as unexciting and overpriced, but if you are buying for a budding artist who is ready to progress to professional-standard materials, these markers won't disappoint.
I don't think I'd fancy having to put these files together on Christmas Eve (though the vendor says they are easy to assemble) but I'd certainly love to have them in my office! These beautiful, professional looking flat files will put an end to storing paper and artwork in tubes and assorted files - if you have the floorspace. Note that the drawer bottoms are hardboard, not solid timber, but that keeps the price affordable. Check shipping times!
The opaque projector is a less than glamorous gift, but it's tremendously useful for tracing images to speed up realist work, or for enlarging sketches onto a drawing or painting surface. Beware of cheaper plastic models which have poor quality lenses and are less than sturdy - some of them get very poor reviews. I haven't used the Kopykake myself but it would be my first choice, as it looks solid and functional, and the manufacturer produces a range of professional equipment. One of the better quality projectors in the Artograph range, such as the DesignMaster or SuperPrism would also be a good choice.