The world of art is changing, and thanks to gadgets and consumer tech, you can give the artist in your life something to help them on their creative quest.
Art is one of those things that can happen anywhere, so when it does, you want to make sure you don’t need a scrap of paper to get your ideas out. Fortunately, there’s a tablet, and one of the world’s most loved tablets now features pens that do more than what your finger can do.
Oh sure, you could use your finger, but why bother when there are better options.
One of those better options is designed to look like a thick pencil and also feel much like one, FiftyThree’s Pencil is a different take on the stylus.
If the person you’re buying for already has an Apple iPad they love dearly, and are using it for art, the Pencil will bring some legitimacy to their art making, and some comfort at that.
Wacom has been making graphic tablet parts for longer than most companies, and in the Intuos Creative Stylus 2, you’re seeing the company’s 2048 pressure level technology make its way to a Bluetooth Smart stylus, so you can write and draw on an iPad like it was a real piece of paper.
Compatibility on this one is offered to pretty much every iPad beyond the iPad 2, meaning it will work on the iPad 3 and 4, the iPad Mini models 1 through 4, and the iPad Air models.
Apple iPad Air 2
Price: from $619
Apple’s best tablet for 2015 as far as we’re concerned, this one actually came from 2014, and a year on, it still offers one of the better tablet experiences around without doubt.
There are some Android tablets out there, too, and many of them are excellent, but the stylus options above will only work with iOS, and so if you don’t have an iPad yet, but want one of these, we’d probably aim for Apple’s best tablet.
Not strictly an art making device, Samsung’s Galaxy Note 5 is a surprisingly capable art making machine due to the complex stylus and screen technology thrown in.
It’s a phone, sure, so it won’t be an ideal pressie for everyone, but if you know someone scrambling for a notepad or a serviette or napkin or just something — some scrap of paper they can scribble on! — this will at least guarantee something to scribble and draw on at all times, and they can then just email it to themselves.
Professional practice can happen anywhere, so if you’re shopping for that someone who spends all their time sitting in a field or on a bus or at the coffee shop just sketching and you think they need something a little more professional, it might be time to give them a dose of a dashing digital drawing device.
Microsoft Surface Pro 4
Price: from $1349
Not just another iPad, the Surface Pro 4 brings together the best of a tablet with the best of a laptop PC, as Microsoft builds a fourth-generation product.
The specs are all up there and modern, and thanks to Windows 10 and an Intel chip under the hood, who ever owns this will be able to get any app they normally used on another laptop or desktop to work, meaning if they already have Adobe Photoshop, that’ll work, too.
And there’s also a pen, and this thing is designed to be used by artists and graphic editors, boasting a pen-like weight and feel and over a thousand levels of pressure sensitivity.
Price: $1699 for the iPad Pro, with $165 for the Apple Pencil
Seen by many as the biggest competitor in the digital tablet space this year, Apple’s iPad Pro is a large digital arts device designed for people that want a bigger iPad.
If a bigger iPad is what you’re after, the 12.9 inch iPad delivers, boasting a larger screen and support for the Apple Pencil, Apple’s take on what a stylus should be, able to pick up on 1024 levels of pressure sensitivity and boasting the ability to shade using the side of the tip of the Pencil.
All the apps you normally use on an iPad will work here, which will be super handy for the artists already using Sketchbook and Procreate, among others, for their art making.
The big daddy of the digital tablet world, Wacom is practically the inventor and the main innovator in this space, and with its Cintiq Companion 2, you get a tablet designed for people already used to using a real graphics tablet.
Like the Surface Pro 4, its reliance on an Intel processor, solid-state storage, decent amount of RAM, and Windows 10 means its a fully-fledged computer and therefore capable of running Photoshop, Illustrator, and other properly desktop-friendly apps.
Unlike the Surface, though, and going beyond the iPad Pro, the Cintiq Companion 2 boasts more pressure levels in its pen, screen friction to emulate paper, and the ability to pick up on various angles as you draw or paint which means the stylus can properly act like a real pencil or brush.
It’s not cheap, that said, nor is it light, but if you know a serious artist, there’s a good chance they’ll be interested in what the Cintiq can offer.
In the studio
Working outside isn’t for every artist, and that’s cool, too.
For those who want to remain inside and practice art where it’s cool and there’s the possibility for endless drinks near the refrigerator and the possibility of a fan or even some air conditioning, art practice can go digital with these great ideas.
Adobe Photoshop Elements
One of the best ways to join the world of the digital artist, Photoshop Elements 14 brings the power of quick and easy photo edits to a photo indexing system that will work out who people are based on facial data, work out where you photographed scenes from image date, and provide some advanced Photoshop functionality at the click of a button.
Haze can now be removed, something we saw in Lightroom and Photoshop this year, and camera shake can be cleaned up with sharpening, while fuzzy objects can be quickly separated, meaning hair and fur can be separated from the background of an image.
There’s more Elements can do, too, making it a great starting point for a keen artist or art student.
Apple iMac 27 inch with 5K Retina
Price: from $2799
Pretty much the best all-in-one we’ve seen, Apple’s 2015 27 inch iMac brings together best-in-class specs with a superbly thin design and a beautiful screen.
It’s about the best desktop we’ve played with all year, and one of the best ways to keep editing images and making art without bringing a touchscreen to the picture.
HP’s take on how the all-in-one should evolve is a little different from what you’ve probably seen thus far from an all-in-one, and while we love the iMac, HP’s Sprout is very different.
Instead of just being an all-in-one with one screen, the Sprout technically relies on two, with a 23 inch Full HD touchscreen being the most obvious screen in front of you, while a projected display rains down from the top, essentially providing a screen in front and below.
The screen at your fingertips is only one part of the equation, though, because this projector also sits next to a 3D camera able to work out where your fingers are and what they’re doing. Adding to this, you can scan in objects and photos using this camera, and even capture objects in 3D.
Talk about being creative, because you’ll be able to with this thing.