How to Choose the Right Drawing Table

Photo 26-09-13 13.13.36If you are serious about your craft, having a workspace dedicated to your art is essential. Even if you’ve gone digital, you need somewhere to put your Cintiq and be comfortable, since you’re going to be stuck at that desk for a looong time. I’ve been through a bunch of tables myself and still haven’t found the PERFECT one. But I’m fine with what I have and ultimately it’s not the tools but what you do with them that matters. That said, you need something that does the job!

Here are a few things to consider when shopping for an art table:

  • You need a table that can be slanted, so you don’t have to crouch forward too much. A slanted table helps prevent back/neck trouble down the line.
  • Your table should be slanted just enough so you pencils roll off whenever you’re not looking. I’m KIDDING! How much/how little is all about what you’re comfortable with. Some people like standing up at their work table, others like to be on the couch. You decide. Whatever feels comfortable enough.
  • It should be possible to adjust the angle/how slanted the table is. Because you might find a 5 degree angle makes all the difference.
  • Besides the angled table, you will want to have either a part of the table with a regular, horizontal surface, or another table besides it to put your stuff. If you don’t have a “lay-away” table, your mess will go on the floor and you’ll have no place for your coffee cup. Which is a violation of work laws everywhere!
  • There are a number of hacks to prevent stuff from falling off your desk. Rubber matting/shelf liner is by far the easiest and least intrusive. If you have an old table you don’t care much about destroying, a few screws or nails in the top might be helpful (bonus tip: a binder clip on a nail can hold almost anything, from your reference books to your art). Or glue a pen holder on it. Only after months of working at your table, will you discover your own habits and needs.
  • You need a tape roll of not-too-adhesive tape for taping your artwork while working on it! Use Scotch tape or masking tape, anything you can easily remove again, without destroying your art or leaving sticky leftovers on your drawing board.
  • Anything under the table? If you’re going to spend long hours at your drawing board, you don’t want to constantly be banging your knees against a metal rod or whatever. Check underneath for possible annoyances before buying.
  • If you’re on a budget, consider just putting a wooden board big enough to fit your drawings (and then some) on a big “regular” table. A sturdy box underneath and a few screws to prevent the board from slipping and you’re off!  Or get something used, at least for starting out. Buying a $300 crafts table might sound great for your art prowess, but are you really just putting off working, imagining this will make you a better artist?
  • Obviously you also need to consider the space the table will go in. Too big or too small? Only you will know as it’s going in your work space.
  • Use a lightbox often? Consider getting a table where that is built in. I found that having to go to another table to adjust a drawing was annoying, so now I’m back to drawing on a big glass light table again.
  • Please note that the chair is almost as important as the table. I have a chair without wheels, because I tend to lean in quite a bit, causing the chair to slowly slide back if not completely steadfast. Which again cause me to subconsciously tighten my lower back muscles = pain!
  • You need work light that doesn’t hurt your eyes (anything but flourescent light!) and makes it easy for you to see your art. Be sure to place the desk lamp so your hand doesn’t block the light as you’re drawing. Right handed = lamp to the left, left handed = lamp to the right.

I always recommend people to use whatever tools fit their needs, not what other’s do, so please take all this advice with a grain of salt. I do hope you got some value from it.

What kind of art table do you have? Please share! I’d love to hear what’s working out for you.

If you want to know the tools I use, go to this page and watch the video about halfway down.


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11 Responses to “How to Choose the Right Drawing Table”

  1. Niels April 20, 2015 at 7:06 pm #

    Great post!
    I’m considering a light box. Any recommendations?

    • Palle Schmidt April 21, 2015 at 8:14 am #

      Lightboxes are increasingly hard to find built into tables these days.. Unless you can build one yourself (my father built the first one I had) you’ll either have to scavenge used office furniture outlets or search online. Unless you want to shell out the cash for a portable one. Haven’t tried those, but I might get one for working remotely. I’ll let you know when/if I have any recommendations. Thanks, Niels!

      • Niels April 22, 2015 at 8:21 am #

        Thanks Palle. What about lightboxes that aren’t buillt into the table? Any recommendations there?

        • Palle Schmidt April 22, 2015 at 3:15 pm #

          There should be a link in the post itself, but you can buy small, portable light boxes that are USB powered. I haven’t had any experience using them, but as I said, I might just get one for working remotely. It’s hard to pack your drawing board for a longer vacation!

    • Dustin Pageloff April 27, 2015 at 1:39 am #

      Check out this artists table set up, he turned a glass art table into a light table.

  2. Dan April 20, 2015 at 9:30 pm #

    One VERY important thing – it should be a sturdy table – I had at table that was to flimsy and it was a total killer to try to draw on a table that was rocking just a tiny little bit. Now I got at drawing table that weighs a ton. Steady as a rock! Nice….

  3. Haris Varajic April 20, 2015 at 11:34 pm #

    Great topic Palle!

    After I did some “experimenting”, I found that, if it’s possible, the optimal solution (for me) is to have not one, but two – “tables”. Or drawing boards/surfaces of any sort actually.
    I use lightbox very, very rarely, almost never, so that fact changes a lot in the start.
    But I also do not “jumps” from table to table, having them almost one next to another, enables me to just roll left-right-left, on the same single chair. If I had to. (luckily for me, I did not encounter that trouble because of wheels)
    What I did found annoying was the changing of the angle on the board/s. No matter how the board or table versatile is…it just wasn’t working for me.
    In penciling phase I like to have non distorted perspective/look over the page plus that I can sit as much comfortably is possible. So I need angle over the 45°. But, because I like to ink page almost immediately after it’s pencilled (or at maximum after series of 4-5 pages), having to decrease tilt so the ink would not drip down, was just too frantic.
    On the other hand, the angle at which the inking is most comfortable for me, is too flat to have it as normal for pencils. Surely I tried to find some ” in between” neutral, or optimal for both positions, but…no luck there :/ Strange I know but, it’s what it is…
    So I ended up with the drawing board set at 45°-50° angle for penciling, and almost flat (max up to 10° angle) standard larger drafting table for inking. Tools are mostly on the horizontal surface/s between, or around two tables.

    • Palle Schmidt April 21, 2015 at 8:40 pm #

      Thanks for your insight, Haris! Sounds like you took the long way around – but as long as you ended up in the right place!

      I pretty much leave my table tilted at the same angle all the time, very much for the same reasons you mention. It’s a hassle adjusting it all the time.

  4. Dustin Pageloff April 27, 2015 at 1:39 am #

    sorry heres the link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p-1W5_sc2r0

    • Palle Schmidt April 27, 2015 at 8:47 pm #

      Hey Dustin, thanks for sharing! I love seeing how other artists have set up their working space.

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