Practical Special Effects Gift Guide 2017

The holidays are quickly approaching and you know you’ve got a person in your life who is a practical effects geek. Maybe she needs materials to create her own animatronic bot, may he needs a book to occupy his time. You’ll find it all below.

I’ve broken this down into the following categories:

  • The Reader
  • The Sculptor
  • The Animatronics Guru
  • The Prop Builder
  • The Authentic Movie Prop Collector
  • The Makeup Magician


Many of these links are affiliate links to amazon.


For the Reader

Big Budget: Special Effects Artists: A Worldwide Biographical Dictionary of the Pre-Digital Era with a Filmography $2,013 (or the paperback for $30!)

It is important to note that there are 2 versions here. A $2k hardback and a $30 paperback.

The Wordwide Biographical Dictionary of Pre-Digital Era movie effects is a rather large collection of descriptions from a massive swath of genres, covering matte painting, costuming, and animatronics. The hardback has become fairly sought after due to rarity but the paperback can be had for considerably cheaper.

Link: Hardback or the $30 paperback

Medium Budget: Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters: Inside His Films, Notebooks, and Collections $18.35

Guillermo del Toro quickly made a name for himself for creating rich and immersive worlds that were largely done with practical effects. Known for the monsters he employs, del Torro revels in sharing his work, not just in the finished product, but behind the scenes.

Link: Guillermo del Toro: At Home With Monsters

Small Budget: Special Effects: An Oral History–Interviews with 37 Masters Spanning 100 Years $5.00

Interviews from 100 years of creating movie magic. Hear the stories of how the things on the screen were made.

Link: Special Effects: An Oral History

For the Sculptor


Big Budget: Stan Winston Sculpting Kit – Alfred Paredes’ “Figure Sculpture for Characters – Sculpting with a Live Model” (Multimedia) – Instructional DVD Included $429.99

This kit isn’t what you’d get a seasoned professional. This is everything the beginner needs to get started, including the instructional DVD. Get this, and you’re done!

Link: Stan Winston Sculpting

Medium Budget: Jack Richeson 15″ figure Armature  $29.35

Any pro will make their own armatures. However, if you’re not a pro, making them just adds so much time and effort to the hobby. Sometimes it is nice to just jump right into a sculp, ya’ know?

Link: Jack Richeson 15″ figure Armature

Small Budget:Sculpey Super Sculpturing Compound 1 lb. box, Beige $ 11.40

No one, NO ONE, who enjoys sculpting, even casually, will be upset to get a block of Super Sculpey. Pros, amateurs, doesn’t matter. This stuff is used for professional work and for dabbling just to have something in your hands while you watch a movie.

Link: Sculpey Super Sculpturing Compound

For The Animatronics and Robotics Guru

Big Budget: Futaba 14 channel transmitter + receiver $549.99

When you’ve created your ultimate animatronic rig, you need a way to control it remotely. If you’ve got the budget, a fancy multi-channel transmitter is perfect for the job. Tons of channels and the ability to mix them allows for controlling multiple servos and motors while combining movements.

Link: Futaba 14SGH on Amazon

Medium Budget: Adafruit ARDX Arduino Starter Kit $85.00

If you want to learn how to create complex motions and behaviors, you’re going to have to learn electronics and robotics. There isn’t much of a better way than to pick up Adafruit’s ARDX experimenter’s kit. It has everything you need to get started and learn the basics of motor ccontrol, lights, and programming.

Link: Adafruit Arduino Starter Kit

Small Budget: Flex Cable $10.74

This humble spool of flexible cable with a plastic sheath is the basis for so many moving movie props. It seems like such a simple gift, but is the cornerstone of the action you have seen in many movies. It will be appreciated by anyone hoping to make stuff wiggle, writhe, and hop.

Link: Du-Bro flex cable kit

For the Movie Prop Builder

Big Budget: 3D Printer, Prusa Mk3 $749

3D printers have drastically changed the world of prop building, and Prusa has drastically changed the world of 3d printing. The Prusa MK3 is an absolute beast, pumping out insane quality (look at all those awards on the order page!) and doing it for a price that is a fraction of the cost of the competitors. Also, I know Josef, he’s a nice guy.  Just a warning, these are in such high demand that you may not actually get your printer till possibly early 2018. Check the link for details.

Link: Prusa Mk3 3D Printer


EDITORS CHOICE Medium Budget: Premium Account $40 per year

If you’re a practical effects dork, you already know who TESTED is. Partially thanks to Adam’s star status they get incredible behind-the-scenes tours of the studios and collections that are considered holy places to practical effects aficionados. They’re also publishing tutorials and build footage that will take your prop building to the next level. Frankly, I’d recommend this gift for anyone on this list, and that is why it wins Editors Choice.

Link: Premium Account

Small Budget: Thermo Morph pellets $18.95

An absolute must-have material for anyone who makes props. These plastic pellets can be dropped into hot water, then molded by hand while soft. They cool down to a very rigid plastic. Messed up? just heat them up again. These should be in every workshop

Link: Thermo Morph pellets

For the Authentic Prop Collector

Big Budget: An IOU For the $$$

The is the prime place to find actual movie props from the movies you love, going up for auction. I can’t just drop a link here to the ultimate prop, because obviously that will depend on the movie fan in your life. However, a voucher for a set amount on this site will light up the eyes of any hard core collector.


Medium Budget: Aged Prop Money $34.00

Who needs a big wad of fake money? Everyone. A huge stack of fake money is one of those things that bridges gaps and starts conversations. Don’t have a huge budget for your favorite actual movie props, people will still ooh and ah over a big pile of cash.

Link: Aged Prop Money

Small Budget: A glass top prop display case $15.99


Showing off those props requires a bit of polish as well. If you don’t have a big budget to spend, your prop fanatic will appreciate the help with a nice case to display their treasures. At under $20, this case should be great for a hand full of items.

Link: Glass top prop display case on Amazon

The Makeup Magician

Large budget: Mehron Special FX’s All-Pro Makeup Kit $126.95

Highly recommended anywhere people ask how to get started. This kit comes with all the goods and some nice tutorials.

Link: The amazon link was over $300 for the same thing… not sure why. Here’s the kit direct form Mehron

Medium Budget: Mehron Professional Makeup & Face Painting Student Practice Head $35.14

You have to practice to get good and having to do it on your own face, or beg a volunteer is not optimal. this solves that problem.

Link: Mehron Professional Makeup & Face Painting Student Practice Head


Medium Budget: Ultimate Wound Kit $40.70

This set is perfect for someone who is still learning the ropes. Comes with everything you need for some incredibly gory latex effects.

Link:Ultimate Wound Kit

Small Budget: A Set of Brushes $6.56

you can never ever ever ever have too many cheap brushes.

Link: Brush Set



2 thoughts on “Practical Special Effects Gift Guide 2017

  • 12/10/2017 at 6:51 pm

    great guide! do u recommend a certain camera?

    • 12/10/2017 at 6:52 pm

      Thanks! I don’t really have a camera recommendation for you, sorry. So many options out there for so many different uses.

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