Gift Guide: Amateur (Student) Artist

This challenge is harder than I thought. I envisioned it as sort of a major Christmas present that parents would give to their aspiring artist, probably a teenager or a preteen about to enter highschool. The supplies need to be good, easy to work with, fun, but also relatively inexpensive, since the total cost needs to come in under $100. None of the supplies should appear childish or overly amateur, nor should they be crummy, as bad supplies can discourage a student artist almost as fast as a lack of skills. I tried to think about the sort of supplies I would have been excited to receive as a teenager, but honestly, my standards then were quite low. A 40 pack of Crayola pencil colors was a windfall for me back then, and I bought my sketchbooks from Walmart.

The parameters for this challenge were that all supplies should come from one place, and if it's an online store, the shipping should be included in the total. I chose Dick Blick because I'm familiar with the store, both in person, and online. They're slow to ship, with things arriving in two to three weeks, which is unfortunate, as Christmas is around the corner. I would have chosen JetPens, but that list would have been entirely sequential artist specific, instead of generic aspiring artist.

I based my choses off my own expriences as an artist, and also around my own biases. No pastels (I hate pastels), acrylics are a bit neglected (not a fan of acrylics), watercolors get all the love I can spare (they're easy to use, easy to clean up, relatively inexpensive, and go a long long way. What's not to love?) I tried to pick sets whenever possible, mainly because it's cheaper that way, but also to give the young artist a decent selection.

If you are shopping for a special younger artist, I must insist that you don't do your shopping at the local Michaels or Hobby Lobby. Not only are the majority of art supplies embarassingly low grade, but they're vastly overpriced. While I was at UNO, the majority of my art supplies came from Michaels (the only art supply store open after Hurricane Katrina), and I was shocked today when I looked up Golden Acrylics (the brand I used in my undergrad) on Dick Blick for this post. Way, way cheaper online. Your buck can go a lot further (even including shipping) if you do your shopping online.

Anyway, I met this goal with five dollars to spare, and I'm pretty happy with this list.  It's taken me a lot of time to compile, and has required a lot of editing in order to make sure that all items were of good quality, and that the total would come under $100.  I wish I had a young artist in my life to gift a set like this to, I'd love to see his or her face upon opening it.

NOTE:  Prices have been rounded to nearest dollar, but I did my calculating on, using my shipping address, so tax and shipping have been calculated for Georgia.  I've left enough wiggle room to ensure that it should ship nearly anywhere within the continental US.

All the Supplies a Beginner Needs, for Under $100 (shipped!)


Staedtler Non Photo Blue Pencil
General's Sketchmate Set (includes Factis Eraser, Sanding Block, Pencil Sharpener, and Blending Tortillon)

Pentel Clic Eraser



Canson Combo Pack (Includes a mixed media sketchbook, which can be used for the experimentation of techniques in a variety of media, including acrylic and watercolor)



Raphael Watercolor Travel Pan Set

White Gouache (highlights, and corrections when inking)

Filbert, Size 1/4" 

Blick Scholastic Sable Red Round

Blick Scholastic Camel Hair Oval Wash

Strathmore Watercolor Pad, Tape Bound, 12 Sheets, 5 1/2x81/2"

Pencil Color
Prismacolor Pencils set of 12

Pen and Ink

Bombay India Ink (Black)
Quill and Nib Cartooning Set

Bristol, 400 Series, 9"x12" (can also be used for cartooning, marker work, pencil color work, ect, very nice paper)

Other supplies


C-Thru Student Kit

Sketchboard 15"x16"

Now, for some photographic proof!

And if you want to save even more money, you could visit RetailMeNot, a coupon/savings code aggregator, and search for DickBlick.

So there you have it!  An impressive beginner's artist set for under $100 (shipped!) that beats the pants off most of those pre-packaged set.  I dare say that most artistic teenagers would be pretty pleased to get a set like this for Christmas.

Wordcount: 772


  1. What a great list of items Becca! I'd love to have this, even as an adult. XD Thanks for sharing and putting all the work into this post. Might I suggest that you should do this for intermediate and expert artists too? So those loved ones have an idea what to gift the artists in their lives. OH I would still love to see the sequential artist list from Jet Pens to see what you'd recommend. :D Thanks again for this great post! :D

  2. Starting on the intermediate artist post tonight! Heidi ran a far more focused gift guide with a higher price point, so I'll post that on the 7th as well.

  3. A representative picture of what is included in the set (doesn't need to be the same make/model) would have been awesome for the top of the post, especially with a little bow/ribbon over the corner indicating a gift set. But I understand the research for this post probably took longer than you intended.

    Also, I still think it would behoove you to turn this into a long-form image post for easily pinning on social networks. Even though it's a terrible way to capture information and I always cringe when I see them.

  4. Did I mention you should also have created a DickBlick U Wishlist so that people can easily buy everything and it's also more sharable?

    If you do in fact make the portable image I suggest you put a large shortened URL for the wishlist at the bottom of the post next to the total price after shipping and taxes.


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