Christmas gift guide for 3D and VFX artists under £50/$75

It’s that time of year again. As a CG and VFX artist, I can testify that my family weep when they have to buy me gifts for Xmas. So here are some gifts ideas under £50, which I would give to a fellow artist, safe in the knowledge that it would enrich their life. 

01. Wacom Intuos Draw Tablet

Every CG artist needs to have at least tried a tablet!
  • Price: $62.37/£49.99
  • Check out this gift at: Amazon

I am still surprised at how many artists haven’t used a graphics tablet. This small Wacom tablet is an excellent introduction to using stylus input, which will dramatically improve painting, retouching, line and sculpting skills to name just a few. Even for those artists who already have a large tablet this is an excellent portable option.  

02. Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Mouse

This mouse is very comfortable for long modelling sessions
  • Price: $42.41/£33.99
  • Check out this gift at: Amazon

Having a decent mouse is an essential tool for any CG and VFX artist and while the Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Mouse may not be as ‘precise’ as others, it works well on PC or Mac, especially when using 3D apps and compositing applications. I have used these for a couple of years, and they are tough, reliable and best of all extremely comfortable and excellent value for money.

03. The Art and Science of Digital Compositing: Techniques for Visual Effects, Animation and Motion Graphics

Brinkmann’s book is essential for any VFX compositor
  • Price: $46.65/£37.39
  • Check out this gift at: Amazon

Even though this edition is nearly eight-years-old, Ron Brinkmann’s seminal book on how compositing works is an essential part of every VFX artist’s library. It provides a really in-depth view into the how's and why’s of VFX work, and is application agnostic. Thankfully, Brinkmann has a great way of explaining things too, so it never gets too complex. There is a kindle version as well, which is handy as the paper version is very heavy.

04. The VES Handbook of Visual Effects: Industry Standard VFX Practices and Procedures

The VES handbook includes tons of information including how to set up green-screens properly for shoots
  • Price: $47.71/£38.24
  • Check this gift out at: Amazon

Like Brinkmann’s book the VES Handbook can be seen as a handy 'how to' guide. The difference is that the VES guide looks at practical setups such as green screen, hdr capture on set, and is a must for any VFX or CG artist who works on shoots or wants to understand other areas of the pipeline. Again, this book is extremely useful in Kindle format, where it can be kept on a smartphone or tablet with notations.

05. Victorinox Cybertool Army Knife

This Swiss Army knife is designed to help build and maintain PC’s
  • Price: $62.37/$49.99
  • Check this gift out at: Amazon

I have owned one of these for years. As well as all of the standard tools that come with most Swiss Army knives, this has a great small screwdriver selection  and pliers selection which are ideal for replacing hard drives, opening up laptops and general computer tinkering.

06. EasyAcc 20000mAh Rugged Powerbank

The Rugged powerbank, can power any usb device from Phone, mirrorless camera and laptop
  • Price: $42.41/£33.99
  • Check out this gift at: Amazon

Easily the most useful gadget I have bought this year. CG artists always need power, whether it be CPU, graphic cards or simply just electricity. The Easy Acc fulfills the last requirement easily. It comes with two usb ports with a crazy 20000mAh of battery, which is enough to power, phones, cameras, tablets and some usb-c powered laptop’s when you're on-site or travelling. I have used it on shoots, and to power overnight time lapse.

07. Amazon TV Fire Stick

The Fire TV stick is a great cheap way to watch TV or play games on any HDMI equipped screen
  • Price: $41.16/£32.99
  • Check out this gift at: Amazon

One of the chief ways any artist can relax is by watching TV and films. The Amazon Fire TV stick is great value way to watch the latest from Amazon and Netflix. This includes some of the best genre TV of the year, such as Mr. Robot, Preacher, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, The Expanse….I could go on. Oh, and it can play games too! 

08. Royal And Langnickel Sketching/Drawing Artist Easel

This art set contains nearly every kind of drawing implement any artist would need
  • Price: $60/£48.16
  • Check out this gift at: Amazon

This amazing art set allows any CG or VFX artist to do what's most important in their creative life, which is to get away from the computer and create. This handsome set comes with pencils, pastels, charcoal, etc. The case can double up as an easel, and it even comes with a tiny drawing mannequin.

09. Amazon Echo Dot

The Amazon Echo Dot is a great entry point into a voice activated home or studio
  • Price: $62.37/£49.99
  • Check out this gift at: Amazon

Amazon’s Alexa system is a great way to get access a range of services from Spotify to weather, all through voice commands. And the Amazon Echo Dot is the best value way of getting into the service. It can also help when recreating Detective Dom DiPierro’s scenes from Mr. Robot Season 2.

10. Battlefield 1

Battlefield 1 is my gaming experience of the year, and is both exciting and profoundly moving
  • Price: $53.27/£42.70
  • Check out this gift at: Amazon

The other way a lot of VFX and CG artists relax is by playing games, and this years standout for me is Battlefield 1. For a start, the graphics are stunning, and when 60 players are against each other, it’s very fraught. But what makes it special is the emotion that's enthused through the games, from the standalone campaign to the new operations mode, which does make you think about the horrors the troops went through 100 years ago.

*Note: all prices are based on exchange rates at time of writing and are subject to change