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Gift Guide 2021

Stylish, well-made gifts for creative people. Sourced from the world's best manufacturers and shipped with care.

For all the magical creatures on your list.

We're grateful to be surrounded by people with special powers. You know them, too: the co-worker who can make any office plant thrive, the significant other who always knows what word you're trying to remember, the niece who can effortlessly draw anything she sees. They all have their own magic, their own skills and perspective, and when we empower them, everyone benefits. That's why art and writing supplies are such a thoughtful gift: the brush becomes a conduit for your loved one's distinctive way of seeing the world.

Our annual Gift Guide is a hand-picked collection of supplies to inspire your friends and family. Each gift on our holiday list is well-made, elegantly designed, pleasant to use and pleasant to behold, so your favorite creative people will know how highly you think of them. We offer free gift wrapping with no order minimum and free U.S. shipping on orders over $59. Everything is shipped with care by our team here in St. Louis, and real people are here to answer your questions.

So, who are you shopping for?

A dreamer

A writer

A nature lover

A minimalist

A pen pal

A traditionalist

An achiever

An alchemist

An urbanite

A maximalist

A sweetheart

An innovator

Or, browse our quick picks:

Small doesn't have to mean disposable. We've curated a selection of well-made supplies under $25 for stockings, casual gifts, and Secret Santa.

Try Wrapping with Furoshiki

Furoshiki are Japanese wrapping cloths, perfect for reusable and elegant gift wrap. It's almost like an extra present.

Custom Schmincke Watercolor Sets

Tell us about your favorite artist.
Our Color Experts will curate a set just for them.

For dreamers:
Schmincke Akademie paints

Bright, playful colors for everyone.

Schmincke Akademie watercolors and gouache are a rare combination: high-quality paints from a heritage manufacturer, at an affordable price even for larger sets. Akademie paints are formulated to be bright, with clean mixing and excellent handling, but with pigments chosen to keep the cost down. A set of Akademie is about half the price of an equivalent set of professional-grade colors, so your creative loved one can have twice the colors (or use them twice as much) for the same cost. That means quick, direct, and fearless sketching, with a shorter path from their concept to its expression on paper.

TOP PICKS: We're offering a specially priced Akademie watercolor set this season, complete with 12 colors, space for 12 more, and a limited edition tin with a vibrant watercolor print on the lid. For $54.95, they get a full mixing set from one of the world's great color manufacturers. On the other end of the spectrum, check out the set of 24 Akademie full pans. For about $100 less than a professional-grade set of the same size, they get the biggest tin and a wide assortment of special colors. It's a gift that will last for years.

Specially priced set with colorful limited edition tin. Perfect for turning dreams into paintings.

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The largest travel tin available, with 24 large watercolor pans for a wonderfully complete range of colors. Fourteen distinct mixing areas.

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Opaque tube colors for designers, illustrators, and anyone who likes quick, bright sketching. Learn the CMYK system used in commercial design with this mixing set.

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For achievers:
the perfect 2022 planner

The best organization tech? Paper.

Studies have consistently shown that the brain works better with paper than with screens. Recall and comprehension are higher when you write on paper, and when you're planning for the year's engagements and achievements, isn't a brain boost a good thing? Our Japanese planners feature excellent, fountain pen friendly paper, efficient page formats, and a wide range of sizes and styles.

If you know someone who's constantly busy with their latest projects, we think they'll appreciate how these planners improve their workflow. We can tell you from personal experience: it saves a lot of time and effort when you write things down.

This classic planner from Midori is our perennial best-seller, with a simple layout that emphasizes open space.

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With gilded edges and fine, watermarked paper, Kleid Diary 2022 is a luxe choice with modernist style and thoughtful features.

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Ultra-slim, minimalist planner with monthly calendar pages only. The hardcover book fits perfectly in a jacket's inside pocket.

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The ultimate page-a-day planner, with 385 pages of MD Paper so you can make intricate plans and lists for the whole year.

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This alternate version of the elegant Kleid Diary features silver foil edges rather than gold.

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A dated planner with built-in zipper pocket and thick paper for your favorite art supplies. Ideal for those who like to illustrate their planners.

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For writers:
a practical fountain pen

Designed for everyday use.

Midori's cleverly designed MD Fountain Pen is a perfectly practical fountain pen for those prolific writers who fill notebooks, keep up on their correspondence, and scribble notes in the margins while they read.

Intended to complement Midori's iconic MD Paper collection, MD Fountain Pen is a simple and well-considered piece of industrial design. The uniquely shaped nib provides just enough feedback for comfortable writing and moves easily across the page without snags or skips.

It's not a flashy fountain pen. But anyone who spends enough time with their notebook will appreciate the outstanding functionality and unassuming grace of Midori's signature pen. So, your favorite scribe will be pleased.

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Key features:

Ergonomic "bird's beak" nib design keeps the hand in the correct writing position

Accepts International Short and Long cartridges, widely available in shops around the world

Smooth, round point makes writing easy

Attractive minimalist look; matches other MD Paper products

Lightweight body prevents hand fatigue

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For alchemists:
handmade Japanese pigment inks

They haven't seen this before.

At least, not if they shop in American art supply stores. We're the first U.S. retailer to import and sell the incredible Saiboku Aya pigment ink sticks from Boku-Undo, an esteemed ink manufacturer near Osaka, Japan. They work like traditional sumi ink sticks, which are ground with an ink stone and a small amount of water to produce ink. It's a wonderfully meditative process to make little circles in the water, watching as it gradually thickens and takes on the color of the ink stick. We recommend spending this time in contemplation of the centuries of history that imbue each Saiboku Aya stick with a special gravitas. (But we suppose you can ponder other matters if you wish.)

But if sumi ink is so ancient, why are Saiboku Aya sticks so exciting? Traditionally, sumi ink is made with either carbon black pigment, vermilion pigment, or colored dyes. That means there has never really been a full range of artist-grade, mixable, permanent colors available in this traditional medium. Boku-Undo worked with an art professor and materials expert in Kyoto to develop these new ink sticks with modern pigments. Eighteen colors are included in the new range, and they can be mixed and layered to create works of art the ancient painters of Japan never imagined.

Saiboku Aya sticks are the perfect gift for the artist who loves experimentation, the one who's always trying a new medium or mixing different kinds of ink and paint together. They'll be delighted to try a modern medium that comes with its own set of tools and has a character unlike any other ink or watercolor on the market.

We've curated a selection of supplies that will work perfectly with Saiboku Aya. Grab a few colors, an ink stone, and a brush to make a great starter set. Try wrapping the whole kit in a furoshiki cloth to make this gift even more special.

Saiboku Aya Ink Sticks

Click to see all 18 colors and select your favorites. We especially like Indigo, Peony, Marigold, and Azurite.


For anyone working with sumi inks, a textured ink stone is essential. This one is white, so you can see the color you're mixing.

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One of our favorites when we're in the studio, this sable sumi brush is a great performer with all kinds of ink and water-based paint.

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Try pairing Saiboku Aya with high-quality watercolor paper like this 5" x 8" block from Sennelier. We love the color and texture you can achieve with this 100% cotton paper.

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For color mixing with Saiboku Aya, this little 12-well palette is a great option. Transfer the liquid ink from your stone into one of the wells so you can make additional colors.

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These Japanese watercolor postcards are designed for use with sumi ink. Printed with Japanese address markings on the back, but mailable in the U.S. with a postcard stamp.

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For nature lovers:
Schmincke Supergranulation watercolors

Just one stroke for organic texture and complex color.

These special sets of Schmincke Horadam watercolor take a natural property of certain artist pigments and turn it into an incredible tool for rendering plants, animals, and landscapes. Pro watercolorists know that some pigments, like ultramarine blue and natural earth colors, form pockets of darker pigment when applied to paper. This textured look is beloved by landscape painters because it creates a complex and organic look with one brushstroke.

Horadam "Supergranulation" colors take this granulating effect to the next level. By mixing together highly granulating colors that naturally separate from one another, each Supergranulation color explodes into ripples and pools of contrasting pigment when you use it on paper. The result is the most intensely granulating watercolor we've ever seen, enabling you to paint dreamy sunsets, extraterrestrial worlds, and complex natural light with ease.

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Cheat sheet:

Choose from these five Supergranulation sets, with five amazing nature colors in each mini box.

FOREST SET with muted warm and cool greens.

GALAXY SET with intense blues, pink, and purple

TUNDRA SET with dreamy violet, ochre, desert rose, and moss green

GLACIER SET with icy blues and earth tones

DEEP SEA SET with deep greens, blues, and black

For an even better gift, get two complementary sets! They work great together.

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A truly cosmopolitan notebook.

Every city is different, and the daily routine of every city dweller is different, too. A busy attorney with a packed travel schedule might need a day planner, a deposition notebook, and a pocket for plane tickets. An art student might have graph paper with sketches for sculpture class and a watercolor journal with daily paintings from winter break. Both will be thrilled with Traveler's Notebook, the original modular notebook system with millions of possible combinations.

Start with one of the boxed starter sets in Regular size, the most popular for writing, sketching, and watercolor, or Passport size, meant for jacket pockets and handbags and sized to hold a passport as one of its inserts. The hand-cut leather cover comes with a blank notebook insert and a spare elastic closure, packaged in a delicate white cotton bag to make the opening experience extra special.

Once you choose your color and size, the Traveler's Notebook gets really interesting. Choose from dozens of additional inserts and use the Connecting Bands to connect up to four kinds of paper or storage options. The customization is what makes Traveler's Notebooks such a popular gift, because you can show how well you know them with the perfect combo.


Perfect proportions
for everyday use.
Starting at $51.95.

Pocket ready.
Starting at $41.95.

Millions of options.

There's a Traveler's Notebook combination for everyone.

Here are a few ideas inspired by the creative people we know:

Regular size notebook in deep blue, with watercolor paper, sketch paper, and a kraft folder for postcards

Passport size notebook in black, with graph paper, a zipper pocket, and a weekly planner

Regular size notebook in camel brown, with lined paper, sticky notes, and a card file

Passport size notebook in deep brown, stuffed full of sketch paper inserts

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Simple and powerful.

For the people on your list who seek simplicity, elegance, and order, the best gifts come in off-white packages. We love Midori MD Paper products for their incredible paper quality and their clean, minimalist look. They work very well with pen, but may we suggest pairing them with pencils for a more precious gift? The soft sound of smooth pencil on lightly textured MD Paper is pleasant and reassuring; equally so is that slight feeling of friction against the page when the pencil's just been sharpened.

We know that a pencil is a simple object, but we specialize in simple things of the highest quality. Any of these curated pencil and paper choices will delight your most discerning friends.

With a sturdy stitched binding in the best tradition of Japanese bookmaking and 380+ pages of luxurious MD Paper, the Codex is perhaps our best notebook.

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This lovely drawing kit is an ideal complement to MD Paper. Various hardnesses of high-quality drawing pencils are included, along with brass caps and a sharpener.

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The most popular MD Notebook is this A5 (about 6" x 8") Grid format. Suitable for writing, drawing, or a combination of both, the A5 Grid is a highly versatile workhorse.

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Created to satisfy stringent Japanese rules for standardized tests, these white-on-white pencils make smooth, dark marks.

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Mitsubishi Hi-Uni pencils are widely thought to be the best in the world, with a special graphite blend that flows beautifully. This gift set includes all 22 grades, from hard to ultra soft.

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With recycled wood bodies and perfectly centered cores, Mitsubishi 9852EW office pencils are a thoughtful choice for writing.

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Stoneground watercolors. Extra large.

Blockx (pronounced "blocks") is one of the finest traditional manufacturers of artist colors in the world. The Blockx legacy begins in 1865 with Jacques Blockx I, a Belgian chemist who developed his own formulas for permanent paints. His pioneering work was quickly noticed by prominent painters, who had largely been producing their own paints by hand and were eager to explore a broader, more consistent range of colors. Salvador Dalí wrote about Jacques Blockx I: "This man who never painted, will contribute more to the painters of tomorrow than what we will have accomplished, all the modern painters together."

Five generations of Blockx family chemists have continued in the tradition of the company's founder, producing only the highest quality paints using traditional stone mills, small batches, and low speeds. This labor-intensive process allows the individual qualities of each pigment to shine through, and you will notice that each Blockx watercolor is different in texture, flow, intensity, and finish.

Blockx Giant Watercolors are the purest expression of this great manufacturer's skill and sensibility. Hand-poured into custom 3" x 2" porcelain pans, a Giant Pan is about eight times the size of a standard half pan. That means your recipient can paint freely, applying artisan-made color with wild abandon, knowing they aren't going to run out anytime soon.

High definition.

Every Blockx color is different, and the huge surface area of a Giant Pan offers a panoramic view.

Some Giant Pans are smooth and glossy. Others are bubbly, with caverns and cracks.

This beautiful variation is a sign that Blockx treats pigments with respect and care, rather than grinding them all to an identical consistency.

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For your pen pal:
postcards & portable supplies

Let's compare notes.

When we're far from someone we love, it's nice to see what they're seeing. Watercolor postcards are a lovely way to share travel stories, architectural sketches, and subway portraits. With the right set of travel supplies, you and your favorite correspondent can make and send evocative sketches from anywhere you find yourselves.

Made at the historic Hahnemühle paper mill in Germany, these textured watercolor postcards come in a travel-ready illustrated tin. Blank on the front with address markings on reverse.

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We adore these warm-toned metal travel brushes from Parisian brush manufacturer Raphaël. The protective cap opens to reveal a soft, absorbent quill brush.

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Schmincke Horadam is the gold standard in artist-grade watercolor. We'll make a set to match your recipient's personality and style, and we'll throw in a free metal travel box.


These budget-priced travel brushes are an impressive value and come in more sizes and shapes than other travel brush options. We like the low-profile grey-on-grey look.


We recently started importing these surprisingly bright sumi inks from Japan, and they make a charming and distinctive sketching set.

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Made with the same advanced synthetic fibers as Raphaël's other artist-grade brushes, these half-length minis are perfectly sized to tuck into a travel box.


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For your sweetheart:
our most romantic watercolors

Special colors for your best friend.

When you give a gift to the one you love, you're trying to show how much you value them, how well you understand their strengths and passions, and how much promise you see in your future together. If your partner is a creative person, few gifts are more potent than a set of fine paints. Too often, we hear talented artists say they don't buy good colors for themselves because they're still learning. But the learning process is accelerated by better materials, and using a really special set is a confidence booster.

So why not get your sweetheart the paint upgrade they deserve? We think this limited-edition holiday set from Schmincke is the ideal choice, with professional-grade colors and a gorgeous, soft leather case that will patina and soften further with age. Inside is an enameled metal Schmincke tin with twelve specially selected colors and enough extra space to add twelve more. The selection includes, in our opinion, some of the most romantic colors in Schmincke's 140-color lineup, with a deep perylene green and violet, warm quinacridone gold, and French ultramarine.

Twelve colors with metal box
& soft leather case.


Twelve colors with metal box
& soft leather case.


Made right.

A romantic gift should be well-crafted, so it feels good to use and can be kept close for years to come.

This 100% German-made watercolor set features a thick, soft leather case, a glossy enameled metal tin, and twelve colors of the highest quality.

It's such a lovely thing to carry and use, and they can customize and refill it with new colors as you travel through life together.

More quick picks for cutie pies:

Have they been really, really good this year? Add one of these gifts.

Made from ultra-high-quality Japanese denim, this stylish pen pouch is large enough for quite a few writign instruments and a memo pad.

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Like leather, raw brass develops a patina over time and records its own history on its changing surface. This brass pen from Traveler's Company is always a favorite for romantic gifts.

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Similar in size to the Horadam leather set, this panoramic watercolor block features beautiful 100% cotton paper. Made in France.

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For traditionalists:
oil colors, refined since 1881

We'll let you in on a secret.

Acrylics get all the attention, but oil colors are just better. We know the value of quick drying and less setup, so of course we carry acrylics. But whenever we get the chance, we whisper in our customers' ears about the enduring superiority of oil colors. One of our owners is an oil painter, and she'll tell you (even if you didn't ask) that acrylics change color as they dry, that they never get as glossy or transparent, and that they just lack the subtle mystery and magic of oils. We know it's more work to use oil colors, but you simply can't duplicate the results with any other medium.

For the person in your life who does things the hard, "outdated" way, a set of oil colors with 19th century heritage and a handsome wood box will make the perfect gift. We are proud to offer Schmincke Mussini oil colors for the first time this holiday season, and each of our three gift sets are a wonderful introduction to the line. Even among professional oils, Mussini is in a class of its own, with a special formulation that uses natural resin to produce otherworldly transparent colors and incredible luminance.

We've selected a few essential surfaces and accessories to get your favorite artist started with a superb new set of oils.

Mussini oil colors are Schmincke's signature product, made since the company's founding in 1881. With a lovely resinous aroma and extraordinary color and handling, they are among the very best paints in the world.

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These 1/8" panels are a high-quality surface that can be used for practice or framed for permanent display. The thickly primed linen surface is ideal for oil painting.

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This incredible wood box set has everything an oil painter needs to make professional-quality work. Includes 16 colors and ten accessories, including a gorgeous oiled wood palette.

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This specially priced set of small Mussini tubes honors the 140th anniversary of these historic colors. A full palette of 12 colors is included in the textured purple box.

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Capped travel brushes are usually only available with watercolor bristles, but Jack Richeson offers these stiff brushes for oil painters. We like them even for studio use, because the bristles are protected from damage.

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These Italian-made brass palette cups hold solvent and painting oil in sealed containers, with a clip that attaches them securely to your palette.

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A new medium for big ideas.

Aqua Drop is a new liquid watercolor that offers brilliant, transparent color in a fluid format that unlocks novel creative possibilities. You can use Aqua Drop with a brush, of course, but you can also use it with your dip pens and in the Aqua Liner brush pen (included with this set). You can even use the dropper top to draw and drip directly on your paper, which is a great technique for urban sketching and quick color studies.

Unlike many liquid watercolors, Aqua Drop is made with the same permanent pigments as pan and tube watercolor. That means you can use it to create work for long-term display without worrying that it will fade.

Aqua Drop can be used straight (which is a lot of fun, because it's so intense and so easy to apply), diluted with water for pale washes, and mixed with any of your other watercolors. You can easily mix bright secondary colors with Aqua Drop primaries. We also like using this watercolor in thin, overlapping layers, relying on optical blending to create a range of tones and values.

Five intense colors
& empty brush marker.


Pro Tip:

Aqua Drop flows like water, so while you can dilute it, there's no need. You can start applying transparent layers of brilliant color with no preparation; you don't even need a mixing surface.

You can use Aqua Drop with any other watercolor supplies and techniques you like, but we recommend starting simple.

Just squeeze the dropper onto your paper and move the paint with a wet brush. See what you can do with pure, liquid color.

More gifts for trailblazing artists:

The art materials industry is centuries old, but our partner manufacturers around the world are always surprising us with new ideas. Here are a few new releases to delight your favorite mad scientist.

Released just this year, Schmincke Liquid Charcoal is a matte watercolor with the texture and tone of natural charcoal. This specially priced bundle is a great way to give it a try.

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This limited-edition color was formulated in collaboration with Spanish watercolorist Cesc Farre. It's a deep, stormy concoction that's great for rain, fog, and murky seas.

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This toned grey watercolor book is the first of its kind. Start with a cool grey midtone from the blank page, then quickly build highlights and shadows. Pairs perfectly with Aqua Drop.

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Small doesn't have to mean disposable. We've curated a selection of well-made supplies under $25 for stockings, casual gifts, and Secret Santa.