This is one of the years with the most variety and options to choose from when it comes to giving that manga- themed gift for your relatives, friends or loved ones who love drawing manga, either as a hobby or professionally.
As I indicated in last year’s guide, something interesting happened as there emerged (finally) some serious competitors for Wacom’s tablets, which have been dominating the markets for decades.
But how has Chinese manufacturers Huion and Turcom fared since last year?
While Huion didn’t exactly defeat Wacom this year, and its little brother Turcom seems to be focusing more on the least expensive alternatives, they have achieved something that no other manufacturer has in years: they have officially and cleverly positioned themselves as Wacom’s competitor.
The model that has been selling the best with the best ratings on Amazon is their Huion H610 Pro.
Manga Gift Idea #1: Huion H610 professional graphics pad review
For the moment being, this drawing pen tablet is their most competitive at a price of $76 and 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity and measuring 10 x 6.25” of active area, what would be a Medium size in Wacom.
The hot keys feature in which you can set up a function that you do repeatedly (free transform, mask, a special filter, etc) is a deal-maker.
This should be enough to defeat Wacom, right?
Not so much yet. But the tablet is perceived as the absolute best for beginners that don’t want to spend that much money.
To defeat Wacom, they would need to improve the product finishes, maybe do something out-there with the design, making the feel of the stylus against the surface softer and smoother, and of course, the driver issues with Macs.
Huion has tackled these driver issues by instructing the user to disable certain settings in the Control Panel before installing them. But it still means that there is somehow a learning curve when it comes to them.
I love that they’re going the extra mile by offering the product with the accessories for a bundle price. Especially the anti-fouling glove that reduces friction between your hand and the tablet’s surface, and helping you keep your hand in a fixed position so your lines come more precise and avoid smudging.
Manga Gift idea #2: Wacom Intuos Draw, Art, Comic and Photo tablets: a slap to Huion!
But of course Wacom took notice of the rise of Huion last year and obviously didn’t like to be displaced from their undisputed number 1 spot in Amazon sales.
That’s why they recently launched this year the new Intuos line aimed at beginners: Wacom Intuos Draw, Art, Comic and Photo.
You get all the value of the Wacom Bamboo at 1024 levels of pressure, PLUS four cute express-key buttons at the top and the Multi-touch feature that lets you zoom, swipe, scroll and rotate with your fingers!
Talk about a slap to the face to Huion!
While Wacom Intuos Draw is the least expensive, the others come at a price of $99, and the difference is the two options offered in sizes, as the Small is 8.25-by-6.7 inches and the Medium is 10.75-by-8.75 inches, but the price of the latter jumps at $199, and other difference is the software bundle it comes with, either Core Painter, Art Rage, Anime Studio Debut, etc, some online tutorials, but they are pretty much the same.
I would definitely go with the $69 one, as the rest seem to be a reactive pang from Wacom against Huion. And you notice this especially when they indicate in their description: “Made by the leaders in digital pen technology for over 30 years.“
However, in the world of graphics monitors or tablets, Huion still needs to earn the people’s trust. That why I’m not showcasing this year their 18” and 19” models this year, despite their price of $449. The same goes for Ugee.
Manga Gift Idea #3: Wacom Cintiq 13HD Interactive Pen Display (DTK1300)
Ideally, when working with manga, you usually don’t need this level of sophistication by buying a graphics monitor, often aimed at professional painters that work with specific type of brushes.
The feel is almost like drawing on paper itself, just that you’re doing it on a screen.
We’re talking about 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity and the highlighted Wacom Pro Pen, that recognizes the Tilt levels of the hand.
What keeps beating the competition is their 3 -position stand, the simplest there is for this type of device, and almost like a tablet as the others seem to be complicated, require a specific type of mounting due to their 18” or 19” size.
Whereas Wacom just keeps it compact.
So, if you of your friend or relative does complex manga/anime artworks, then Wacom keeps being the best option, especially this year with Wacom Cintiq 13HD at $799, the best deal right now.
Manga Gift Idea #4: Prismacolor Pencil sets
But what if you’re tired of all these drawing tablet catfights and you or your friend/relative actually love to draw manually?
Well, there has never been a better time to get the feel of coloring and sketching on actual paper.
And especially if you’re in a hurry, sometimes going the simplest route is the best.
This year I’m recommending the bigger sets of Prismacolor pencils, not necessarilly Prismacolor Manga set since it’s rather limited to certain types of artworks.
But still, if your budget is really tight, you can’t go wrong with the 24 pencil set and the blenders for only $20:
They can be a good option too for the beginner who is learning color theory and wants to apply this knowledge to the first colored manga artworks.
However, if you have a bigger budget, then these are wonderful options to achieve the most impressive coloring effects with the blenders:
At $35, it’s so far the best balance between price and quality/variety
But if you can spend more,the 72 pencil set at $61 is ideal since it comes with a wider range of skin colors, and also metallic colors for effects.
Then, the 132 and 150 color sets are more aimed for the professional illustrators/collectors.
But is there an alternative to Prismacolor?
Of course there is.
The Ohuhu 48 colored pencils set have been quite the talk of the town lately at only $22. Its quality is said to be the same as Prismacolor itself.
Their only downside: you see that there’s not much variety when it comes to skin colors. Unless you work more with the yellows and the light oranges along with the pink.
It seems these are better suited for clothing, as they blend pretty well for textures. It comes with a nice range of cold colors. Hair too looks awesome.
This set allows you to get that perfect strong contrast that is always needed in colored manga artworks.
Manga Gift Idea #5: Neopiko markers
I already recommended them last year, and will continue to do so. If you work with watercolors, then this is an ideal option.
Pretty self-explanatory, isn’t it? If you want that soft effect with sets of contrasts, then this is for you.
It’s on the expensive side at $62, with international shipping from Japan either with EMS, FEDEX or SAL (I recommend the first one, it’s the most secure and not as expensive as FEDEX).
But trust me that as an unique gift, it’s pretty worth it.
Manga Gift Idea #6: Huion Tracing Pad / Lightbox
For manual work, there’s nothing like this slim and sleek lightbox from Huion, a much more practical version of the traditional light box that occupies plenty of space.
Indeed there’s nothing more perfect for manual tracing and it enables you to flip over your artwork to see your own errors, and then improve on them.
While it measures 17.7 inches, its working dimensions are 8 by 12 inches.
The L4S size is bigger than A4, and with only 5.1mm of thickness, it is powered via USB only.
You can connect it directly to your computer or with a USB wall charger that is purchased separately:
Manga Gift Idea #7: Epson Perfection Scanners
They are vital for any manually drawn manga artwork, if you don’t want to depend on a drawing tablet only.
An optimal resolution is 4800×4800 dpi, such as this V19 model from Epson at $69, the most recent one. Another great balance between affordability and high quality.
With a extremely slim design that allows you to place it on one side, it’s much more compact than the old Epson Perfection V300 Photo Scanner that I have (I bought it at the time at $79), and it’s a truly worthy newer model.
The Epson Scan software provides you with four scan modes, suited from beginner to intermediate to professional. So either way you look at it, this is a solid gift.
Manga Gift Idea #8: Microsoft Surface Pro 1 and 2
I wanted to set this aside the Wacom vs Huion vs everyone else bruhaha, because this Windows tablet, that can be used for drawing, is in a world of its own.
And by this I mean that this tablet combines the features of a graphics monitor, without having to pay thousands of dollars, and the features of a regular drawing tablet, as you can perfectly use programs such as Photoshop, Paint Tool SAI and Autodesk Sketchbook Pro for your artworks.
At the price of $275, did I forget to mention that this is a great alternative to a laptop, as its dimensions let you take it anywhere with a Wi-Fi connection?
Forget about that ultra-expensive Wacom Cintiq Android tablet of $2500.
While the default Microsoft Surface Pro stylus comes with over 250 levels of Pressure Sensitivity, which is still ok for drawing manga, Wacom has been clever to offer their own stylus with 1024 levels of sensitivity, not only for Microsoft Surface Pro, but for other tablets too:
And of course, I could showcase the recent Microsoft Surface 3, but Wacom hasn’t developed a pen for that yet.
So, for $353 you get practically a laptop that can fulfill the function of a graphics monitor and a drawing tablet.
Manga Gift Idea #9: Paint Tool SAI
Paint Tool SAI is a simple yet powerful painting and sketching software that with ridiculously minimum requirements it doesn’t have anything to envy to Photoshop, Manga Studio or even the fancier programs such as Corel Painter and Autodesk Sketchbook Pro software.
With the license costing 5250¥ (around $43 dollars as of today’s exchange rate) at SYSTEMAX site, it’s a incredibly practical and budget gift. The results speak for themselves:
The interface is entirely based on a variety of personalized brushes, pens, markers, crayons, watercolors and airbrushes that function smoothly with the color wheel.
And that’s pretty much it as it doesn’t have complex filters like Photoshop. In fact it only has 6 blending modes.
But the key is simplicity and practicality, as the idea is to emulate real manga tools only, so this can be considered especifically a painting manga tool.
That’s why it’s so quick to function and even tells you data such as the RAM available.
Manga Gift Idea #10: Autodesk Sketchbook Pro
I wouldn’t compare this software with Paint Tool SAI since it’s like comparing apples and oranges, they’re not even aimed at the exact same demographic.
This software is often aimed at professional illustrators, architects, even animators with the Flipbook feature, though they have expanded to literally anyone, beginner, hobbyist, simply anyone that wants to draw.
However, while you can buy the full Windows license for $55, it’s the free app that has become so popular, as you can download it in your tablet, iPad or Surface Pro device, and since its interface is so simple just as SAI, it has quickly become a favorite.
The idea is just to take your drawings anywhere and get inspired with the versatility of a tablet and your favorite drawing/sketching app.
Manga Gift Idea #11: Manga studio EX 5
And last but never least, I’d recommend buying straight away the EX version instead of the debut for someone who is beginning in the world of manga.
Why? Because despite its complexity, it has more features that you can get familiarized with, as in the Debut version you feel like you’re lacking something.
But of course, this is my opinion, as everyone has its own learning pace.
This latest version of Manga Studio, compared with the previous versions, has more in common with Paint Tool SAI in the interface, and it’s more broadly oriented for illustrators, not necessarily manga drawers, and that’s great.
Many people have told me that it really doesn’t have anything to envy to Photoshop, especially with the 3D features and models that save you a lot of time when looking for references.
Hope you have enjoyed this guide, below you will find links to my previous manga gifts guides, I’m sure you’ll find something else that you might like too.