Consider this roundup a universal Wish List – use it to shop for presents for your best artist friends, and send it to your own friends and relatives, particularly those who complain you’re so hard to buy for.

Iris Drawing Tool

The Iris Drawing Tool is a marvel of form fitted to function. Every now and then we all have to draw a circle; now you can forget those awkward compasses that poke holes in your paper. The Iris not only makes drawing circles effortless, it makes it a genuine pleasure.


The solid brass and steel Iris lets you draw single, concentric, or even shaded circles with its unique moving aperture. It comes with a walnut centering tool that allows you to position your circle to a given point (like a drawing compass’ needle but without the needle) and that also can be used as a display stand for the Iris when not in use.

This is one of those items that’s been copied and made available for less money online, but that you probably have to shell out for the original, because what’s really great about it – the heavy high-quality materials, finely tooled details, and beautifully smooth operation – simply can’t be copied on the cheap. It sells for $136.

Holbein Large Single Palette Cup

This is actually a two-for-one selection from the venerable art supply house of Holbein, but for plain air painters, it’s really all about this high-quality nickel-plated brass “heirloom quality” palette cup with its mirror-like finish. You can buy one in a smaller size or in a double unit paired with a second cup. Their voluminous but not bulky because of the sleek low profile (2 3/8″ across but less than 2″ high). The cup sports a precision-machined screw-on cap with a gasket to prevent spilling. It has a clamp at the bottom to fit directly onto the edge of your palette. Sells for around $40 ($55 for the paired cup model). Totally worth it. Lasts a lifetime, and replacement gaskets (the rubber liner that makes it airtight and leakproof) are available to stock up on. Feels good in your hand.

While you’re at it, maybe you’d like to pick up a palette too. Holbein makes some of the best. For plein air, there’s a folding palette that fits neatly into a bag or backpack ($113). For the studio, there’s this gorgeously curvy and larger-than-average Old School affair, available for around $165.

Høvel Sharpening Plane

Although designed and marketed (through a kickstarter campaign) as a luxury redesigned pencil sharpener, the Høvel is a great tool for Caran deAsh crayons, pastels, oil sticks, etc., because it replaces the one-size-fits-one pencil hole with a flat, adjustable plane. This design enables you to whittle any drawing tool to any desired degree of sharpness. Say the makers, “Due to its solid brass body, its weight is a joy, and it gains beauty and character with age.” This beauty will cost you $80. Ships with 10 replacement blades. A walnut base that catches shavings is sold separately.

Luxury Leather-Bound Sketch Books

Now’s the time to hit the Web for those hard-to-justify-the-purhcse-of gorgeous leather-bound sketchbooks and portfolios you wish someone would buy for you. You can find a bazillion brands and some very fairly priced quality Italian-crafted ones, such as these from Old World Luxury Leather Bound Sketch Books, starting at $18 and available at Jerry’s Art-a-Rama. But a Google search will yield places like and many others that can hook you up with even more deluxe, individually handmade, and even customizable versions too. It all depends on how much you want to spend.

Want to see more? Here’s a list of quality, practical desirables for any budget.