Some people aren't meant to pursue creative endeavors, but you don't want to tell them that. So here are ten gifts that will encourage their efforts, boost their confidence, and improve their skills, even if they're completely and utterly untalented.
1. Crayola Trace & Draw
They say good artists copy and great artists steal. But what about bad artists? Well, they trace. And this case, that turns the iPad 2 into a light-up drawing desk, is way better than just following a book.
An included screen protector safely lets an artist-to-be trace artwork onto a piece of paper without the risk of permanently marking up the iPad 2's display. A free accompanying app provides a small collection of things to draw, but really any image can serve as inspiration for your crappy art work. $40 [Griffin]
2. Casio LK-280 Learning Keyboard
If your tone-deaf musician's piano teacher has already walked out on them and suggested they stick with the cowbell, Casio's light-up learning keyboard could be their instrument of last resort.
The LK-280's light-up keys make it easy to follow along while practicing, and its large LCD display that shows which fingers go on which keys. It can even record performances so pupils can track their progress from untalented amateur to just plain amateur. $300 [Casio]
3. Nomad Compose Paintbrush Stylus
A myriad of apps make the iPad a terrific canvas for digital paintings and sketches, but an iOS artiste's real potential could be hindered if they have to poke away with just their finger.
A stylus is better, but a paintbrush is best. The Nomad Compose is both, using conductive bristles that allow anyone to paint directly onto the iPad, or any other touchscreen device. The individual bristles might not be detected, but painting with the Compose teaches the basic brush techniques and skills necessary for making the eventual transition to paints and canvas. $39 [Nomad Brush]
4. I Am T-Pain Mic
Using technology similar to the Auto-Tune software that keeps those Glee kids in tune, this wireless mic will pitch shift even the most tone-deaf singer so they sound like the over-produced pop and hip-hop stars on today's charts. It includes a set of sample beats, or you can upload your own, and you can record up to a three minute performance to share with friends. If T-Pain's lack of talent hasn't hindered his musical success, why should it hinder anyone else's? $30 [JAKKS Pacific]
5. MakerBot Thing-O-Matic
Sculpting is a very difficult artform to master, and if you know someone who struggles with even a basic ashtray, it might be time to encourage them to just cheat. The Thing-O-Matic is one of the cheapest 3D printers you can buy, literally printing out models and sculptures from ABS plastic at the push of a button.
Like a standard printer it connects to a computer through a USB port, but an included SD card slot makes uploading and printing a 3D model as easy as running off copies of photos from a digital camera. And with a little sanding and painting afterwards, most people would be hard pressed to tell that a Thing-O-Matic sculpture didn't start life as a lump of clay. $1,300 [MakerBot Industries]
6. Sony Cyber-shot HX9V
A fancy digital camera isn't going to turn anyone into Ansel Adams, but the intelligent automated functionality in Sony's Cyber-shot HX9V's face detection technology, automatic skin smoothing, smile recognition, and anti-blink functionality ensure anyone in frame will look their best. While HDR, backlight correction, motion detection, natural flash lighting and an advanced Auto mode will help minimize overexposed, underexposed, and blurry photos. It won't recommend where to point the camera for that perfect shot, but it should at least put a wanna be Anne Geddes on the right track. $330 [Sony]
7. Wacom Cintiq 12WX
Photoshop, clearly, is an artform that few have mastered. And using a clunky mouse or a touchpad to alter a photo just makes it that much more difficult. A tablet provides finer control when playing with pixels, and Wacom's LCD-equipped Cintiq line has the ability to detect 1,024 levels of pressure, and even the angle of the stylus.
With a twelve inch display, the 12WX is the smallest Cintiq you can buy—but it's still not cheap—so I only recommend it for those serious about improving their post processing skills. It's the closest experience an artist can get to feeling pen on paper, but with the added ability of being able to undo. $1,000 [Wacom]
8. Fretlight Learning Electric Guitar
Instead of a plastic guitar-shaped controller Guitar Hero education, Fretlights look, feel, and play exactly like real electric guitars. Except that to guide novice musicians, the neck features a fretboard embedded with red LEDs. When connected to a computer running their Guitar Pro software, the frets and strings that should be pressed light up as you follow along with the sheet music on screen. It's like having Eric Clapton giving your friend a private tutorial, minus the winces and grimaces while they butcher Polly Wolly Doodle. $500 [Optek Music Systems]
9. Pup-Casso Art Kit
Let's not forget that even man's best friend has a creative side they're yearning to express. You didn't think they tore up your feather pillows for fun did you? Since a paintbrush seems like nothing more than a tool for playing fetch, this dog-centric art kit uses paints squeezed onto a canvas with a protective shield they can walk all over.
They might only care about how the paint tastes, but that won't stop them from indirectly creating an abstract masterpiece that would give Jackson Pollock a fun for his money. $20 [Art-Casso]
10. Scoring Karaoke Game
Karaoke is arguably the one time when people don't care how terrible a singer you are, and everyone's too drunk to notice how pitchy you are. But this Karaoke machine will still be listening with a discerning ear. While you're singing one of the 100 included songs it detects the pitch of every note, showing you on screen if you're too high or too low. So while you might be afraid to tell your friend they're in desperate need of a vocal coach, this device isn't worried about hurting anyone's feelings. $90 [Hammacher Schlemmer]
Still haven't found the right present? Don't worry, we're here all month with a new gift guide every day—right up until the last minute. To see 'em all, head on over to #GiftGuide.