14 Guilt Free Creative Tools Under $100

by . January 22nd, 2014

At the start of the year, some (or most) of us sat back and wrote some variation of ‘be thriftier’ in our growing list of resolutions. It’s the third week of the year and already, the expenses are piling up. 2013 saw a rise in people looking up DIY tricks, life hacks and how to get a bang for your buck. We can guess that in 2014, it’s all about getting value for money. At YouTheDesigner, we’ve compiled a list of tools under a $100 that can help you with your workflow without crippling your wallet.


01. Copic Black Ink Pro – $53


Copic is a house-hold name when it comes to illustration. This kit is perfect for illustrators who want a full tonal range with their work. It’s a perfect companion for inking comics, storyboards, typography and logo design. The variety of widths help in some really versatile outputs.


02. Wacom Intuos Creative Stylus – $91


The price tag on the Cintiq Companion is a hefty one, so let Wacom’s Creative Stylus for iPads be a welcome alternative. This stylus features 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity and makes sure your palm doesn’t get in the way of your sketching. It’s a great investment for graphic designers on the go.


03. Monoprice Graphic Drawing Tablet – $63


Monoprice is making waves at being one of the best Wacom alternatives around. This tablet has an active area of 10 inches by 6.25 inches and accompanies it with 1024 levels of pressure sensitivity. For under $65 dollars and boosting a size that sits between an Intuos Pro Small and Medium – it’s definitely a steal. Illustrator Ray Frenden gives a really comprehensive review of this tablet.


04. Quirky Scratch-n-Scroll Mousepad with Erasable Writing Surface – $14


I am a sucker for re-writing and writing to do lists and have thus developed the nasty habit of leaving a post-it note graveyard. This brings back the childhood charms of the doodle board but adds the simple function of doubling as a mouse-pad. It’s double purpose serves double the charm. It’s definitely Eco-friendlier in the long run.


05. Toon Boom Studio  – $69



Toon Boom is an animation software that works as a pretty ace alternative for Adobe Flash. While Flash gives a lot more power to interactivity; Toon Boom has a steadier focus on animation itself. Toon Boom is raved at for being one of the better tools when it comes to animating digitally.

06. Corel Painter X3  – $99


Painter has always been one of my favourite go-to’s for digital painting. It’s a pretty straightforward and powerful software that blurs the line between traditional and digital art.  There’s a thriving community of concept artists, matte painters and illustrators who favor painter over other raster-based imaging tools like Photoshop.


07. Helvetica – $9


If you’re a typographer and you haven’t watched this documentary, stop whatever you’re doing and do it now. This documentary is an open discussion about the design community’s unabashed love for the typeface and how frequently we really use Helvetica in our designs.


08. Responsive Web Design – $27


If you have to buy a book on web design, you might as well get Ethan Marcotte. Ethan Marcotte is the father of the responsive web by writing the article that started it all. You can check Ethan out on his website or follow him on his often hilariously insightful twitter.


09. Just My Type: A Book About Fonts – $11



Simon Garfield’s book is consistently up there on the list of my favourite typography books. It brings up such great points such as legibility versus readability and why we find Comic Sans jarring. Simon Garfield manages to find the perfect balance of being witty and informative, while he walks you through essays on type and it’s history.


10. Diana F+ Medium Format Camera with Flash – $69


Film cameras are a little indulgent in the age of Instagram, but lomography has always held a special place in my heart. I find the Diana F+ to be one of the better cameras to start. It’s versatile and compatible with a good amount of accessories.  This kit also readily already comes with flash.


11. HDE Hot Shoe Three Axis Triple Bubble Spirit – $2


On those shots when you need a consistent vertical horizon like panoramas or landscape shots, this little tool comes in handy. It’s accurate, easy to use and helps you improve your photography.


12. Magnetic Detachable Lenses – $9


This is a set of nifty smart-phone lenses that attaches itself to any flat-camera smartphone. It fits into your bag and are perfect for the days you don’t feel like lugging around your SLR.


13.Ghope Waterproof Vintage Canvas Camera Bag – $35


There are a lot of camera bags that favor function over form. This bag doesn’t compromise usability with it’s classic and timeless look. The bag itself is made out of water-proof canvas in neutral colors, letting it coordinate with almost any outfit easily. At under 40 dollars, you could just get it as a stylish waterproof bag and still walk away with a good deal.


14. One of these sketchpads. – starting at $9



When we begin the creative process, most of us start with a sketch. These sketchpads are useful tools for doing mock ups and wireframes. If you’re in a meeting with clients and you’re walking each other through the design process – there’s definite short cuts in online sketching. Our current favourites are iPhone templates, the web developers dotted grid, interface templates and storyboards.