One of the reasons I didn’t do a 2016 manga gift guide is because there wasn’t anything else besides the continuation of the rising wave of Huion vs Wacom.
Well, or more like Wacom vs all generic brands you can imagine (and they’re not bad)
However, 2017 brings exciting new things to the table.
Because interestingly so, this year is about the feel of manual ink.
While digital ink technology dominates the market, there is the remembrance of the feeling that manual pencils, coloring crayons, watercolors, and markers can provide, for both the artist and the audience that enjoy the artist’s effort.
And what best way to celebrate your friend, partner or relative’s efforts with a gift that they will sure love.
This year, Wacom still dominates the tablet market due to tradition, and other generic brands have become a viable alternative.
A eternal question still remains: when will monitor-based tablets have an accessible price? is there really a need for them?
1.- The leader in manga drawing tablets: Wacom
Wacom has taken note, not only from Huion, but also another generic brand competitors. But this also means that they have lowered their standards on their latest most economic models a bit, in order to satisfy customer demand.
Such is the case with the latest Intuos line.
Still, I’ll begin by recommending the Bamboo One CTL471
Why? Because not only is the most basic and affordable model to draw manga right now, but because despite being released on 2012, it’s still the most reliable Wacom tablet product, wayyy before the competition appeared.
At a resolution of 1024 levels of pen pressure, you feel the smoothness and the unique, no-nonsense black and lime design.
With 4 extra nibs, the stylus doesn’t need charging, and despite not coming with an eraser like other models, you won’t really miss it.
It is simply the most basic and secure deal available.
Another option is the the Wacom Intous Draw CTL490DW, which offers 4 customizable shortcut keys that may come in handy.
The pen is somehow upgraded from a stylus, but it still doesn’t have an eraser. It comes also with a wireless kit if you don’t like the hassle of USB cables.
The only thing that bothers me is that somehow they sacrificed a bit of the drawing area for the express keys.
But what’s the real catch here?
Wacom Intuos Comic Pen and Touch anime & manga digital drawing tablet
Wacom KNOWS about their manga drawers niche and started catering directly to them in 2012 with the Wacom Bamboo manga, which was frankly, just the CTL 471 model above, bundled with ArtRage and Manga Studio 4, along with some tutorials.
But they are stepping up in their game and released the Wacom Intuos Comic, to cater more to the most demanding artists that don’t want to spend an arm and a leg on a drawing tablet.
At $99, the small model has a bit more drawing space than the traditional Bamboo, cleverly bundled with Clip Studio Paint Pro and Anime Studio Software.
The express keys are smaller, but the advantage here is the touch mode that lets you scroll, navigate and zoom over your artwork as if you were working on a monitor-type tablet, or drawing on your cellphone with an app.
Then there comes the inevitable Wacom Intuos Pro
For those who have a bigger budget or want to surprise that special someone with a potent and upgraded tablet so they don’t feel limited, I’d definitely suggest the Wacom Intuos Pro Medium Model
Why? Because so far is the one that offers the equilibrium of being pricey but reasonable, and at the same time you get an smashing 8192 levels of pressure.
With a Bluetooth handle included, they sure want to kill any rival that dares offer the same as them, especially with an active area of 8.7 x 5.8 inches (22 x 14 cm)
Another incredible feature is the Touch ring that lets you rotate and control brush size, as well as Tilt recognition in the Wacom Pro Pen 2, a feature that was only reserved for the most pricey models.
For $349, you also get 8 Express Keys and multitouch features.
You can even personalize the texture of your surface. This simply has it all.
2. But what happened in the world of Monitor-type tablets?
The idea of monitor tablets was to fully recreate the experience of drawing directly on a surface as it were paper, instead of having to get used to coordinating your hand while looking at the monitor.
The latest Wacom DTH1320K0 Cintiq has come a long way from that heavy monitor that ultimately strained your eyesight, your legs and your back.
They have softened the experience by simply taking the features of the Intuos Pro and adapting it literally to the Mac Book Air 13” monitor with 87% Adobe RGB quality and a resolution of 1920×1080 HD.
Then add an integrated stand and remote express keys.
The problem is: for that price $999, the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 has already offered all of the above, and for a much better price ($300-$600) and much more features (upgrade to Windows 10 and simply owning a Windows tablet with instant WiFi certainly helps).
3.- The competition: Huion tablets for manga drawing
Huions keeps building trust among consumers, despite the challenge that Wacom posed to them.
They keep going on with their economic prices and it certainly pays off. Especially in their offer of accessories and great customer support.
Their classic Huion H610 Pro became the people’s hero, offering 2048 levels of pen pressure at $76, with 8 customizable express keys.
Despite having a rechargeable pen that needs AAA batteries, the bigger drawing size and the cool accessories make up for this, making it ideal for beginners that don’t want to feel limited by the small and expensive texture of a Small Wacom.
Sometimes it’s all about simplicity.
But definitely you have to beware of some of their other ridiculously priced models.
Still, their best bet is their KAMVAS GT-191 HD model, which incredibly pretty much offers the same of the Wacom Cintiq and the Microsoft Surface Pro, at $499, 8192 levels of pen pressure, and a 1920×1080 HD LCD screen.
Weighing 14.6 lbs is still heavy in comparison with the Cintiq, but they want to make it up by offering you a glove, 2 pens, various types of adapter cables (HDMI and USB), 8 pen nibs and a pen holder.
The only limitation is that you would be drawing on a NTSC 16:9 monitor, but if this doesn’t really bother you, then this is the way to go if you can’t afford a Cintiq or a Surface Pro, OR, you want to surprise your loved one with this sophisticated monitor tablet that doesn’t break the bank.
Drawing Tablet cases
Yes, we have reviewed all this plethora of drawing tablets at all kinds of prices, the competition is tough to recreate the most natural drawing experience possible, ironically.
The latest trend 2017-2018: the natural manually drawn manga artwork experience
Incredibly enough, with the latest trend of filming your drawing processes or taking a pic with your smartphone and sharing your art to the world that took you hours to draw with your MANUAL pencils, inks, and/or watercolors, color crayons or markers (and sometimes a mix of everything), manga artists just want to get back to basics.
Especially with the Etsy trend of people buying more and more physically drawn art, in which you can feel the texture, smell the materials and the efforts that it took that person to draw the commission that you requested to them.
It’s the experience that matters this year. And a tablet surface or screen doesn’t always necessarily provide you that, despite all the simplification and benefits.
The only thing that you should worry about is price/quantity/availability, because at least you won’t ever run out of ink with a tablet.
Sadly, the Neopiko markers that I have recommended in other guides have been discontinued, and the other models that they have at Deleter.jp are around the same range as professional COPIC markers, around $200 the set.
But this doesn’t mean that there aren’t alternatives, quite the contrary:
Forget about those classic cheap markers that ran out of ink fast. More than ever, you can choose from a range of sophisticated double tip markers and even watercolor markers for those killer effects in your manga artworks.
As this is the year of a natural, authentic feeling, there’s nothing more organic than a simple set of watercolors to give that extra touch of magic to your artwork than sometimes even tablets can’t reach.
Watercolor Brush Pens Set,SAYEEC 24 Colors Twin Tip Brush Pens with Fineliner Tip Art Marker Soft Flexible Tip Watercolor Effect – Best for Adult Coloring Books/Manga/Comic/Calligraphy (24 Pack)
EconoArts Watercolor Paint Set, 72 Colors – Normal and Pearlescent Cakes, 12 Brushes – 6 Flat and 6 Round
Despite no novelties, color pencils keep going strong with specialized techniques. This leader brand lets you mix your pigments, and use diluted alcohol for degradation effects and other wonders that will make any artwork stand out.
7.- Manga Drawing Pens: Sakura Pigma
Of course, the classic but simple pen markers if you don’t want to bother with classic pen nibs. So far they’re the most effortlesly quality/price sets that you can find right now.
8.- Forming your own mangaka gift set with simple items
You can surprise that important person in your life by assembling any of the options indicated above and form a ‘mangaka basket’ of sorts.
You can fill it with colorful but sassy-looking supplies, a good set of markers, a mannequin, maybe a good reference book, a good set of pen markers, color pencils and watercolor sets to suggest new techniques.
9.- The mangaka bag with badges and inspirational nendo figures
And last but never least, to close this guide, is the all practical bag that I’ve been recommending for years now, just with the additional idea of filling it with your artists’ nendo figures from his/her favorite series. Plus, imagine the surprise on his/her face when thinking that it was just a regular bag with supplies…
Now that is the touch of grace, because beyond the obvious use that the mangaka bag has, there’s nothing like nendo figures to get inspired and keep going in a moment of stress and frustration.
Hope this guide helps you find the perfect gift, for either yourself,a friend, loved one, or that manga drawer in the family. Best of luck!