8 gift ideas for the ink art enthusiast in your life

Are you having difficulty finding the perfect gift for your favorite person this holiday season? If they happen to be an inker, you may be even more mystified about what to get them.

Whether you want to surprise a friend or treat yourself, here are some wish list items to delight almost every ink art enthusiast.

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The number 1 sketchbook

A trait of exceptionally talented pen artists is that they practice all the time, anywhere, at any hour.

Kim Jung Gi, a South Korean illustrator, cartoonist, and manhwa artist from the Superani group, was famous for his large, highly detailed illustrations, often drawn only from memory. It is said that wherever he went, it was with a sketchbook in hand.

🏛️ Visit the Kim Jung Gi Museum exhibits

What’s awesome about the Moleskine Arts sketchbook, is the convenient format and durable hardcover which makes it un-cumbersomely travel-friendly. The pages are a high-quality hot-press paper, ideal for mixed media (wet and dry), which is highly valued by inkers because sometimes we like to use brushes to mix water with ink for a “wash” effect.

A Moleskine sketchbook is a premium item. I saw master artists on social media using them. However, I regarded owning a Moleskine as a “splurge” or too fancy for me because of the price tag.

Then I received one as a gift and realized why this is a prized item. Now I view having one as “essential”. Plus, I instantly feel like a more serious artist whenever I pull out my Moleskine at a coffee shop.

Moleskine Art Sketchbook

A note of caution: purchase from a reputable seller to ensure your Moleskine Art Collection sketchbook is authentic and not a knock-off. You’ll know by the price (~$35-65CA) and the expandable inner pocket in the back which includes a history booklet.

The safest pen cleaner

Another item that may seem like a superfluous splurge that is indispensable for traditional inkers is using a proper cleaning solution for dip pen nibs.

For dip pens to work how you want them to, part of that process is being attentive to their maintenance.

There are nibs made of (or coated in) gold or titanium to help prevent corrosion. Though the majority are made of metal, typically stainless steel. Either way, these can rust, or quickly get caked with ink if left uncared for.

After each inking session, I remove the nib from the pen holder, clean it with warm water and a drop of Speedball Pen Cleaner agent then wipe it dry before re-inserting it into its holder. This simple step has an impact on how my artwork turns out. A clean nib makes higher-quality lines.

This specially formulated cleaner is designed to keep dip pens, fountain pens, and technical pens working like new and is gentle enough to use on sable brushes.

For more information about pen care and maintenance, read my beginner’s guide to dip pen drawing.


Speedball Pen Cleaner – 2oz

Top-quality instruction

“If you could give advice to your younger self, what would that be?”.  The most common answer from pro illustrators is that they wished they had spent more time practicing the art fundamentals before trying to hone their techniques.

Truth is many of us could use a refresher on mastering the basics. Often, beginners (and experts alike) will enthusiastically jump into a medium – like pen and ink, and later struggle to make tangible progress. The issue? It’s likely due to having skipped a few steps.

Going back to the fundamentals might seem like taking a step back.

Yet, there’s a profound principle that originates from performance specialists. You’ve likely heard expressions such as “slow is smooth, smooth is fast” or “go slow to go fast” which may seem counterintuitive. However, this principle holds wisdom that can drastically enhance skill development across many disciplines – including art.

“Slow is smooth, smooth is fast”

While there are plenty of learning resources on the web, Proko is well known for both quality and fun instruction. Many of the teachers are academically trained with years of industry experience. The founder of the school, Stan Prokopenko, believes that learning should be entertaining as well as educational.

Proko recently launched a series by Marvel Comics Pros that would make an excellent present for the comic fan in your life.

It seems all the cool inkers use brush pens. Are you curious to try this yourself? Proko also has courses for brush pen users. There’s one by the amazing Miss Jisu from the Superani group.

🎬 Check out this video of Miss Jisu sketching with brush pens

The most fun brush pens

They say “clothes don’t make the man” yet also “fine feathers make fine birds”.

Moral of the story? Using the same brush pen as Miss Jisu might not magically transform someone’s technique however it can make drawing a lot more interesting. And if the tool is more engaging, then we’re more likely to practice regularly which subsequently will improve technique.

Ideally, I look for refillable brush pens.

For beginners, I recommend the Pentel Arts Color Brush with Pigment Ink because it’s normally predictable to control and the bristles tend to stay at a point.

Pentel Arts Color Brush with Pigment Ink, Medium Tip

Painters who want to try inking will enjoy the Pentel Arts Portable Pocket brush pen. This pen requires more advanced hand control. Less experienced drawers may find this tip a bit “squirrely” or sloppy at best.

Pentel Arts Pocket Brush Pen, Includes 2 Black Ink Refills

Most brush pens come in different sizes. A medium point would be my first choice for versatility.

Best books to practice fundamentals

When I’m unsure what to get someone, I give them a gift card so they can choose what items they want. However, most artists I know spend a lot of time searching for specific references. So, in that context, an art book is usually well received.

Alphonso Dunn has a popular book set with theory and exercises to practice for desired effects.

The Treasury of American Pen & Ink Illustration is a collection of captivating works for references to aid with doing master studies.

🎬 Watch the review

📚 Get Alphonso’s Book Set

📚 Get Treasury Book

Another book that has both function and beauty is Understanding Bridgman Drawings with Jeff Watts. Jeff Watts is a teacher at Proko and also owns an Atelier school.

In this book, he breaks down Bridgman’s work in a way that’s accessible for artists who want to progress on anatomy fundamentals and apply this knowledge to their line work.

This is particularly helpful for those working on the human figure and characters.

🎬 Watch the review

📚 Get Jeff Watts Book

Adjustable stand holder

I would love to have a hardcopy book image or live subject reference for every piece of artwork that I draw. The reality is my references come from the internet.

This means, I use an iPad and perch it next to my drafting table. I also have cats that insist on being involved in every activity and inevitably bump into stuff on my desk.

Even without pets, it’s not hard to accidentally knock down a tablet that’s not properly secured.

Solution? I bought a fairly sturdy stand holder. It’s adjustable, portable, and compatible with different size devices. In a pinch, I’ve also used it as an easel or book holder. I’ve had this stand for years.

It’s a clever, practical item that the majority of people would make good use of.

OMOTON Tablet Stand Holder

Cleaner art with a two-finger glove

I learned the hard way the importance of keeping the inking surface clean.

Resting a hand on a drawing while working on it increases the risk of smears. Skin oils and sweat can seep into the weave of the paper and interfere with ink application.

To avoid this, consider helping out an inker buddy by getting them a two-finger glove. It doesn’t get overly hot as a full glove often does, plus keeps the drawing fingers free. It’s a universal fit and can be used by left, or right-handed artists.

This two-finger glove can also be used on a drawing tablet to prevent friction, which means digital artists will also appreciate this gift.

Artist Drawing Glove

Art therapy – with a Happy Light

Natural light pouring into an art studio is such a boost of inspiration. And we wish there was more of it in the winter hours.

Turns out we can keep things fresh and exciting with the benefits of the sun with a Happy Light.

I enjoy the uplifting power of “bright light therapy” with my HappyLight® from Verilux. I got mine at Costco, though you can also shop online for deals and the best model to suit your needs.

It’s simple to use, rejuvenates my mood, plus doubles as a studio light. The brightness and color-warmth settings are fully adjustable with a quick touch, which means I can stay in the flow while I create instead of fidgeting with a cord button.

If like most artists today, your loved one is a social-preneur, then they’ll love this lamp too. It mimics a soft-box effect and makes the artwork look fantastic on camera.

Verilux® HappyLight® Alba

So, whether you treat yourself for the holidays or want to show a friend that you support their art goals for the new year – you now have several thoughtful gift ideas to choose from.

✒️ Want more ideas for pen and ink supplies? Go to Tools page.

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