The illustration industry is rapidly evolving. According to a survey conducted last year, about 51% of illustrators work “mostly digitally”, while 40% use both traditional and digital techniques. In a shifting field, today’s artists updating and upgrading their gear, juggling tablets and sketch pads, and using all the tools at their disposal to create more innovative work.
We asked seventeen illustrators working worldwide about the products they have at the top of their holiday wishlists. From tablets to books to studio decor, the latest in analog materials to the greatest in tech, they clued us in on what’s trending this year.
Price Point: $20-50
“I really want to buy this new black acrylic paint from CultureHustle,” artist and illustrator Sasha Ignatiadou tells us. “I have version 2.0, and it is a magnificent black acrylic with good coverage and a matte dense black pigment. I just adore it!”
“This year, I’m looking forward to lots of artbooks to inspire me again and again,” illustrator and character designer Karoline Pietrowski tells us. “Inspiration from the internet is nice, but artbooks, especially for movies that touched or inspired me, are much more effective. It’s incredibly exciting to read the thoughts and words in addition to all the sketches and illustrations.
“Besides, a book has always something special–touching and smelling the paper makes me so happy. This year, my wish list includes The Art of Frozen 2, The Art of Coco, and Creating Stylized Characters.”
“My most wanted gifts this year are The Art of Howl’s Moving Castle and any other art books from Studio Ghibli,” Mexico-based illustrator and concept artist Vanessa Morales tells us. “Studio Ghibli is one of my inspirations, so I always want to know more about the process behind their films–plus I truly love Hayao Miyazaki’s work. I think it’s important to feed our brains with more references and work from other artists to expand our ‘mental libraries.’”
“My wish list includes a simple Moleskine A5 artist edition sketchbook,” Copenhagen-based artist Chantal Horeis tells us. “It has been my favorite sketchbook for the past couple of years due to its thick and smooth paper and the classic look. It fits in every bag, so I can have it with me wherever I go. I think a basic sketchbook for visual note-taking when you are on the go is a perfect way to keep ideas fresh and coming and not to miss out on little inspiration sparks.”
“I’ve really experimented a lot with my work in the last year, and I’m really trying to take it into a new direction in 2020,” UK-based artist Ada Crowe says. “This year on my wish list is a Lino printing kit. It has everything I need to try it out, have a little play, and see where it takes me!
“I have always loved stamps, and I enjoy sculpting and using my hands. Since I’m trying to mix up my style to a more simplistic direction with limited colors, I think Lino could be a great medium for me.”
“One of the first things I’d like to receive as a gift is a light tablet,” Sasha Ignatiadou explains. “I still have not purchased it, but it’s a very convenient thing for those who draw traditionally and have to trace their work. With its help, you can transfer a sketch to blank paper.”
“I recently got my hands on a few tubes of the rather new Liquitex Acrylic Gouache paints, and I pretty much fell in love with those,” Berlin-based illustrator Benjamin Denkert tells us. “Trying new artistic tools is one of the biggest drivers in my day-to-day endeavor of finding new ideas and inspiration.
“Those paint colors made my head burst with new things I wanted to try with them. They are incredibly rich and opaque, matte and smooth–and they straight up obliterated my fear of working with gouache paints. For this holiday season, I would love to invest in a big bundle of those colors so I can go crazy with them!”
“I am a teacher and an illustrator, and part of the problem with being both of those things is being able to carry the stuff I need to facilitate both identities,” Portland-based artist Samantha Mash tells us. “I’d love to have something that is comfortable, cute, and functional to help carry around all my teaching or art needs.
“The wide straps on this bag seem like they would be functional and not slip too much as I walk, and the color Citron and Palm Stripe, in particular, seem like great additions to my current wardrobe style and tones. The best part for me is that these bags are 100% cotton, of which 65% is recycled materials.”
Caran d’Ache pencils were recommended to us by a few illustrators, including London-based artist Jacqueline Colley. “Caran d’Ache luminance pencils are among my absolute favorite tools,” she tells us. “I can only describe them as buttery! They will always be at the top of my holiday wish list.”
Price Point: $50-100
“Number one on my list is a gift card to Sugar House Ceramic Co.,” Canadian illustrator Meghann Rader explains. “They have some absolutely gorgeous hand-built paint palettes, brush rests, handmade brushes, and thrown paint pots. They are so beautiful and unique and would be a great addition to any artist’s studio.”
“I’ve been curious about using these for a while,” Samantha Mash adds. “I spend a lot of time in front of my computer working, and this is not going to stop anytime soon. My eyesight is very good, but I worry about what staring at a screen all day does to my eyes over time.
“Blue-light comes off of screens and increases eye strain and fatigue, which can cause a lot of issues from blurred vision to headaches, so having glasses that can filter that out would make working easier, as I do suffer from migraines.”
Price Point: $100-900
“At my core, I am a digital artist, but I’ve been getting into some more traditional work over the past year,” Samantha Mash continues. “And I want to continue to push that within the illustrative work I build in 2020. I’ve used gouache in the past, and while you can mix your own colors easily, there is something really useful about how many wonderful colors Holbein Acryla Gouache offers.
“Since I usually work more shape-based and free of shading when I paint traditionally, having a specific color readily available for touch-ups and edits is important. Using certain colors straight out of the tube makes my life a little easier in that way. I’m eager to expand my collection beyond the three colors I already have used. I’m particularly interested in working with Vermilion, Pale Lavender, Cream Yellow, and Misty Green.”
“This is the final item on my wishlist,” Sasha Ignatiadou tells us. “Since I do traditional painting, a portable drawing table is a necessity, especially if I don’t want to strain my back while drawing.”
“One product that I’ve had my eye on for a while is Datacolor’s Spyder Monitor Calibrators,” illustrator and concept artist Brandon Coates divulges. “There are a number of monitor calibrators on the market, but I’ve been looking at the SpyderX Pro calibrator because of its price, functionality, and reviews (online and from peers).
“I work a lot with color, so it’s important that what I’m seeing on my monitor is close to what my clients see on theirs. When I’ve worked at other studios, they have people who really know what they’re doing to help make sure everyone’s monitors are accurate, but as I do more work from my home office, having a system that can keep my colors accurate on my monitors throughout time is important.”
“I would love to have this Coptic marker set, as I really love Copic markers and I want to do more traditional pieces with them,” illustrator and concept designer Yangtian Li explains. “The tips of these markers are just unbeatable, and I really enjoy working with them. I’ve been slowly collecting more colors, but this would be a great addition.”
“This would be another great set,” Yangtian Li continues. “Faber-Castell has great quality pencils, and I cannot resist anything in a classic wooden box. Even if I just had it on display, it would inspire me so much to draw!”
“What I would really like to get into next year is painting and animating in VR,” illustrator and animator James Gilleard explains. “I’m hoping to get a headset and the relevant packages (e.g. Tilt Brush, Oculus Medium, etc.) over the holidays. I’m hoping trying something new and on the forefront of the tech will rekindle my passion for what I do, and animating in VR looks so fantastic. I can’t wait to try it out!”
“At this point in my career, I feel that I have all the tools I need,” Tel Aviv-based illustrator and tattoo artist Sasa Elebea admits. “Every day, I use an iPad Pro and an Apple Pencil, and that’s pretty much it. However, I am planning to invest in some photography equipment (lenses and a new tripod) and get a new iPhone to upgrade my Instagram daily content and the videos I make for my illustration process.”
Price Point: $900+
“This is the top item on my wishlist,” Yangtian Li tells us. “As illustrators, we are sitting in front of our desks all the time, and it’s not great for the back, as you can imagine. I’ve heard great things about this chair, but I have never tried it, and I want to test it in a shop before I make the big decision to get it. As you can see, it’s not cheap, but what I would give for my back pain to go away!”
“After doing digital art for a number of years using a mouse and a Wacom tablet, I’ve decided it’s time for a change,” Pasadena-based illustrator and art director Dennis Salvatier explains. “Instead of investing into a Cintiq, I thought I would give the iPad Pro a shot.
“Many of my colleagues have ranted and raved about the iPad Pro, its ease of use, and how much it feels like drawing on paper. Plus, it’s relatively affordable when you couple it with a purchase of the Procreate app. It’s definitely a gift I wouldn’t mind opening up during the holidays.”
“There’s really just one thing on my holiday wish list this year,” illustrator and cover artist David Nakayama tells us. “I already have a great art workstation at home, and I already have a Cintiq. But what I don’t have is a robust mobile workstation to take with me to comic conventions and other places I happen to travel.
“In terms of software, for me, there’s no real alternative to Photoshop, and although there’s a product on iOS called ‘Photoshop,’ it’s pretty far from the full package. So then I realized, ‘why don’t I just get the real deal?’ Turns out, you can get a powerful PC laptop/tablet combo from Microsoft and run actual Photoshop on it. It even uses your existing Adobe Creative Suite subscription! That’s the way to go, and that’s why I’ll be asking for a Microsoft Surface Pro 7 this year.
“Working on a Cintiq is perfect for me,” Netherlands-based illustrator Tjarda Borsboom tells us. “I love to work digitally, but on my Cintiq, it feels like working on paper. Working on a Cintiq really changed the way my art looks, and I couldn’t work without it. At the moment, I work on an older model, the Cintiq 13 HD. This season, I would love to have a new Cintiq: the Wacom Cintiq Pro 24.”
“My MacBook pro from ten years ago is pretty much dead at this point, and having the option of portability once again is enticing,” San Diego-based illustrator Dean MacAdam admits. “I currently work on an upgraded iMac with additional Apple monitor and Wacom tablets. So Santa, please bring thee top-of-the-line 15″ MacBook Pro! And because I like having a pallets monitor similar to my studio setup, these portable monitors would make for a great stocking stuffer (although we would need a big stocking).”
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Cover/thumbnail image credit: Skillshare student Lisa V for Top Teacher Liz Kohler Brown’s Winter Illustrations in Procreate + 27 Brushes and Stamps
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