From Gouache to Gadgets: Shopping For the Animator on Your Holiday Gift List

A Tablet For Drawing Directly To Your Computer Makes a Perfect Gift
Alex Buga/Flickr

Whether that person on your holiday shopping list is a die-hard animator or a just-for-fun animation enthusiast, gifts that suit their interests are always sure to be a big hit. Perhaps you'd like to get them something that they can use: that gadget they've always been wanting, a boost to their software-bogged systems, or maybe just something fun and memorable related to their favorite animation topic. If you're struggling to pick out a gift, this little guide can give you a hand in narrowing down your choices.

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2D software

If you're shopping for a computer animator, software is the way to go. Animation software packages can get a little pricey, so giving one of the major brand-name packages is a great way to show that you appreciate them to the point where money is no object. It's also a great way to support their ventures in independent animation.

If your animator is into 2D, then Adobe's Flash should be at the top of your shopping list. If you'd like to go the extra mile and expand on that, Adobe's Creative Suite combines the multiple acclaimed Adobe products for animation, design, and web production.

For the 2D traditionalist, there's Toon Boom Studio, Toon Boom Solo, and Toon Boom Harmony, programs that take a more traditional approach to the process of computerizing cel animation with some great effects.

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3D software

The world of 3D offers many programs to choose from, but the largest and most familiar names in the industry are Maya and 3D Studio Max. For the architectural and drafting animator, ​there's also AutoCAD.

Which should you get? Get to know your potential recipient. Ask sneaky questions; you may even get lucky and have them tell you right out that they've been wanting to get a certain software package.

If those aren't within your budget, check out CNet's Download.com, which offers a comprehensive directory listing of downloadable programs in many areas, including 2D and 3D animation programs at affordable prices. You can shop listings and compare features to find the package that has just what you want to get for your gift recipient, without breaking the bank.

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Hardware

One problem with high-end animation software is that it's a little demanding in the area of system requirements; without the power to run it, sometimes we can't use it. Maybe the animator you're shopping for has all the software they need, but their computer's having difficulty handling it. Sure, you could always go so far as to buy them a new computer, but buying upgrades is a lot more cost-efficient.

A few extra sticks of RAM can let you give the gift of available system resources; an extra hard drive will ease the mind of the animator-turned-packrat who can't stand to delete a single iteration of a project.

Video cards make a nice gift as well; most associate video cards with an enhanced gaming experience, but the developers behind the animation in those games need those enhanced graphics just as much.

Buying hardware upgrades for someone else's computer can be a little tricky, though. If you can, at least find out the make and model of their computer, and research the specs to see what kind of available upgrade space it has.

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Peripherals

The most obvious computer peripheral that an animator needs is a graphics tablet

Some features to consider when shopping for a tablet are price, pressure sensitivity, and working area. For instance, you can get an Adesso CyberTablet 12000 with an enormous 12-by-9-inch working area, but you sacrifice pressure sensitivity and quality. The CyberTablet is a fairly good tablet and fine for everyday use, but there's still a noticeable difference between that and a higher-quality Intuos or Graphire. Both tablets have smaller working areas and a higher price tag — but also higher pressure sensitivity and a smoother interaction between the pen and the tablet surface.

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Art supplies

One thing you can never give enough of is art supplies. Animators go through non-photo-blue pencils like mad. If your animator has an artistic bent beyond animation, then pick up some inking pens, brushes, pencils, pastels, sketchbooks, markers, color pencils, and paints (watercolors, acrylics, and oils are all popular).

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Accessories

Side accessories can make good gifts, too. Light tables are essential for hand-drawn 2D animation, and lap desks can take that animation process away from the uncomfortable, cramped restriction of the desk or art table.

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Media

Odds are your animator is either an avid cartoon and film fan, a gamer, a passionate artist, or some combination of the three. With that in mind, why not pick up some media from their favorite genre?

Before you buy a game, though, make sure that it's supported by the platform(s) they have, or you may end up buying a gaming console to go with it.

Also on the media front, you can always give books: art books, instruction books, or books on any other animation and art-related topic under the sun. And for the gift that keeps on giving year-round, give a magazine subscription or two.

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Furniture

Animators need their own furniture: drafting tables, stools... but none of those hard, painful wooden stools. An animator who spends hours bowed over a light table or squinting at a computer screen wants something comfortable underneath their bottom so they don't end up with the animator's equivalent of saddle sores.

A padded drafting chair and stool can be nice gifts if the person spends a lot of time at the art table. For the computer-riveted recipient, however, look for something a bit plusher; leather executive office chairs are a comfy fit and a nice step up from the standard computer chair. And let's not forget the tables themselves; Drafting tables and art desks come in a variety of sizes and styles, from the foldaway to the traditionally tilted easel styles. You can even buy them in sets that include lighting and chairs.

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Memorabilia

Does your animation-enthused giftee have a yen for a particular game, series, or animated film? Do they love collectibles from it, like apparel, stuffed toys, or other memorabilia? Then try shopping around the company stores. The Disney Store carries merchandise from their hundreds of successful cartoons and films, as does the Warner Brothers store. You can even buy original cels from the films, sometimes signed by the animators themselves.

Try AnimeNation, too. Nintendo sells toys, t-shirts, etc.; so do Sony, Blizzard, and many other animation and gaming studios. Letting your gift recipient loose with a gift card in any of these stores can be like letting a kid run wild in a candy store; there's so much to buy, and you may even want to pick up something for yourself.