As an artist, I know that sometimes the most important tool in the studio is the most basic one: a good drawing or drafting board. That’s why I’ve created this guide to help you find the best portable drawing board that fits your needs.
Whether you’re an architect, an engineer, a designer, an illustrator, or any other kind of artist, a good drawing board is essential. The best ones offer a stable work surface, adjustability, and portability. With so many options on the market, it can be tough to know which one to choose.
In this guide, I’ll share my personal experience with different boards and provide recommendations for the best portable drawing and drafting boards out there. Check it out and find the perfect board for your studio.
Overview: Best Drawing and Drafting Boards in 2023
14-3/4 x 19-1/2 Inches
26" Wide x 21" Tall
700 x 600 mm (27.6" x 23.6")
24 inches by 36 inches
Premium Adjustable Angle Parallel Drawing Board, 20" x 26", White Melamine
My Favorite Drawing Board
Because this is my buyer’s guide, I get to put my favorite drawing board at the very top of the list. And honestly, even with all of the great products below, my own personal choice was quite easy to select – the Koh-I-Noor Portable Studio.
I really like Koh-I-Noor products in general, and they always seem to offer a really premium level of design and performance, as well as look and feel, for a low price. And this is exactly how I would describe their Portable Studio, which offers a good, stable drawing surface and real usability, seems like it will last a long, long time and is quite affordable.
With both height and tilt adjustment, and a solidity when set that allows me to get lost in drawing or designing, as well as a super-smooth drawing surface that will handle up to 11 by 17 inch paper, well designed paper clamps and a smooth and positive (and fully removable) straight edge ruler, this adjustable drawing board is the best portable drawing board which comes with a cool carrying case!
While not as accurate or precise as the best professional grade drafting boards below, the Koh-I-Noor Portable Studio is great for when I want to get straight lines, angles and proportions just right, as well as offering a smooth, stable and big drawing surface that lets my creativity really flow – perfect for quick sketches, detailed drawings, illustrations or designs, and my favorite drawing board on the market today!
Best Basic Artist Drawing Board
The Juvale extra large clipboard is so basic, it doesn’t even meet all of the “look for” features we listed above – specifically, it is not adjustable, and doesn’t even have any kind of stand or support. Nor does it have a pencil shelf, a sliding straight-line ruler or, really, any other features to speak of.
It is, in fact, nothing more than a very basic but very solid, smooth and usable, drawing clipboard, with a nice low-profile clip for your paper or pad, a fairly large, extremely smooth and durable work surface, and solid fiberboard construction which should last and last. And that’s about it!
For sitting on the couch and sketching, stuffing into your tote bag or backpack or using anywhere and at any time, the inexpensive Juvale clipboard drawing board is a well-designed and well-made product and my choice for the best basic drawing board you can get.
Best Budget Artist Drawing Board
This lovely US Art Supply drawing board is still really quite basic, but proves to be incredibly handy, and you may be amazed at just how much you use it, or how you even managed to get by before having it.
There are definitely less expensive options which seem pretty similar, but for stability, precise and solid adjustment of angles, beautiful materials (hand-finished beechwood) and quality of construction, and a hard, smooth work surface, this board is in a class by itself.
A work surface that’s just over 2 feet wide gives you plenty of room to work, but isn’t overwhelmingly large – and is still easily moveable. The US Art Supply drawing board also offers six easily changeable angle settings, using solid wood arms that make each angle super-stable, and the overall construction is also very solid. An included t-square and a pencil ledge, and especially the perfectly finished hardwood drawing surface, make this board incredibly usable, even for the most precise and detailed drawing, and a joy for any creative work.
Best Premium Artist Drawing Board
700 x 600 mm (27.6" x 23.6")
An extremely heavy and solid board, the Rotring Designer has been the first choice among artists, designers and even engineers for decades. A perfect drawing surface – smooth and durable – lays on top of a board that will never warp, buckle or move when you are working. The Designer is meant to attach to the edge of a desk – and the solid clamps give both an ideal drawing angle and extreme solidity – but you can also lay it down and work with a flat board.
The integrated straight-edge ruler is superb, with absolute precision, smooth movement and secure clamping, and the board includes an adjustable protractor as well as two magnetic clamps for holding down your paper or other media.
From descriptions or lists of features, the Rotring Designer may not seem much different than other drawing boards, but when you use it you understand. It may be designed for engineering and technical drawing, but the solidity, the perfect surface, the big size and the simplicity make this the nicest board I’ve ever used for drawing and sketching, and one that really allows my creativity and my process to flow. It is my choice for best drawing board overall for artists on the market today.
Best Premium Artist Drawing Board (Runner Up)
24 inches by 36 inches
A lightweight and one of more portable drawing boards, than the Rotring above, the Pacific Arc is designed to be used on a table or desktop, with solid legs offering a nice working angle. A large work surface is covered in melamine for a perfectly smooth and precise drawing experience for many years.
The aluminum straight edge is height adjustable, moves with amazing smoothness and stays put when clamped down. With inking edges to prevent smudging and the ability to accommodate various weights of media, as well as protractors and drawing guides, it is a perfect accessory, but can also be completely removed.
Another premium board designed for engineering and technical drawing but actually ideal for any artist or designer, the Pacific Arc tabletop drawing board may not be as well known or widely used as the more expensive Rotring, but offers a more affordable option and is a superb product in every way.
Best Budget Drafting Board for Technical Drawing
Designed in every way for precision and intuitive workflow, the Staedtler Mars Technico drawing board is an amazing tool for technical and engineering drawing, drafting, design and layout, and an almost unbelievable value.
The double rail straight edge is smooth and secure, and has an ingenious double-lock mechanism for one handed operation. Mechanical clamps hold your media better than most magnetic stays, and the ultra-smooth drawing surface is long lasting and perfect for detailed and precise work. While this is a flat-only board, with no working angle or adjustability, it is an exceptionally stable and rigid drafting tool.
Maybe not an ideal choice for an artist who would love the quality and solidity but might be put off and distracted by the on-surface features like clamps and ruler rails, this is on the other hand an amazingly high quality and low price technical drawing tool, made in Germany for the professional engineering and technical drawing market – a serious tool at a silly price.
For engineering and science students, draftmen, designers and technical artists on a budget, this is the real deal, and the best drafting board available for the money.
Best Premium Drafting Board for Technical Drawing
Offering a whole new level of precision and accuracy, not to mention absolute stability as a drawing surface and in positioning of the integrated “drafting machine” crystal plexiglass straightedge, the JR Bourne A2 drafting machine is one of the finest and most widely used technical drawing, drafting and engineering tools of any model, and a drafting table that seems to inspire intense love and fierce loyalty among its owners.
To be sure, the JRB Tom2 is also at a completely different price level, more than a thousand dollars more expensive than any other drawing board or drafting board on our list, but to professionals doing technical drawing, architecture, engineering and scientific drawing, design and layout it is actually a bit of a bargain – far less expensive than some other top level drafting boards, and arguably better than any of them.
With a 27 by 19 inch drawing surface and the ability to handle full A2 documents, a super-positive track-locking drafting head with absolutely accurate crystal scales, incredibly rigid construction and stability when working, fully adjustable board angles and a perfectly smooth and rigid surface, the Italian-made JR Bourne Tecnostyl Tom2 is an ideal drafting station for the most exacting or complex work, and the best drafting board on the market today.
Best Premium Drafting Board for Technical Drawing (Runner Up)
Premium Adjustable Angle Parallel Drawing Board, 20" x 26", White Melamine
While the Rotring above is an amazing bargain, and the JR Bourne Tom2 is, well, amazing in every way, many working engineers, technical artists and students will be looking for something in the middle – something that offers superb stability, precision and accuracy and an ideal working design, with beautiful construction and material quality, all at a reasonable price.
And the Martin Universal Design Pro-Draft Deluxe is just such a product. With the same high resin particle board and melamine surface found in much more expensive drafting boards, a super-positive and smooth slide mechanism and a premium anti-warp straightedge with superior accuracy and real usability, and fully adjustable board angles, the Martin Pro-Draft is clearly made for the professional market and up to the standards and performance of drafting boards which are sometimes several times more expensive.
An absolute bargain, and a perfect choice for any engineering or technical drawing professional, art or engineering student or artists, designers and crafters of different types, the Martin Universal Design Pro-Draft Deluxe is in fact surprisingly cheap – far closer to the Rotring than the Tom2 in price – and could easily be my choice for best budget drafting table, but is clearly good enough to be a runner up to the justifiably expensive Tom2 as best drafting board overall.
What is a drawing / drafting board called?
What is the purpose of a drawing / drafting board?
Which is the best adjustable drawing board?
What is the difference between a portable drafting table and a drawing board?
What are drafting / drawing boards made of?
Are drafting / drawing boards good for artists?
What are the best drawing boards for artists?
What should I look for in a good drawing board?
What is a Drawing / Drafting Board?
A drawing board, also called a drafting board, a portable drawing table or a drawing stand, is simply a portable board that provides a nice working surface for drawing. Usually drawing boards are smallish, but still offer a nice, large surface area, and they are easily moveable and can be used anywhere. The best drawing boards are also adjustable so that you can tilt the surface up and down and find the optimal angle for your work, or at least offer a single ideal work angle.
Some drawing boards – especially those we would call drafting boards – come with a straight line ruler / t-bar attachment, which allows you to make straight horizontal lines, nicely supports and aligns protractors, triangles, drafting templates or other drafting / drawing tools and, most importantly, keeps your pencil from rolling off!
What is a Drawing / Drafting Board Used For?
At the risk of sounding smart, uhm, drawing! And a drafting board? Well…
While many people kind of forget about or dismiss the humble drawing board, maybe because they rely so heavily on digital tablets, high power laptops and desktop PCs, or because they are ok with simply using whatever surface is available, a good drawing board is such a great thing to have – I would even call it a fairly indispensable art tool – in how it allows us to draw on a perfectly stable, perfectly angled and perfectly smooth and durable surface anywhere and everywhere the light, the mood or the inspiration hits us.
In fact, I even use my own drawing boards at my art desk, since they always offer the perfect angle and lift. You might find that you also end up using your own new art board a lot more than you might imagine, and that it even brings you back to doing more and more old-school drawing – pencil-on-paper, pen-on-paper, markers, paint pens or whatever.
What Should You Look for in Your New Drawing / Drafting Board?
Drawing or drafting boards are pretty basic kit – essentially they are little more than an optimal surface to draw on. Nonetheless, there are a few features and qualities you should probably look for in selecting your next (or first) drawing or drafting board:
- Adjustable angle, or at least a good, comfortable drawing angle
- Stability, to prevent shifting and wobbling and keep you in the zone
- Smooth and durable surface, for precision and flow
- Moveable (even removable) straight-line ruler
- Size – not too big, for ease and portability, but not too small, so you have plenty of room to move
And, of course, in addition to a durable surface, you want a drawing board that is overall well made and of good material quality – the best drawing boards do end up being kind of like friends, or at least beloved and comfortable companions for us in our creative work, and we want the relationship to last and last!
How Can You Find the Best Drawing and Drafting Boards Available?
This is kind of the problem. Finding the best drawing board or the best drafting board should be pretty easy – it is, again, a pretty basic bit of kit, and there aren’t that many features to look for.
But when you look at Amazon ads you realize that they all are going to say their drawing board has a smooth, durable surface, will last forever, is precisely adjustable and stays in place, will slice, dice and make julienne fries. Darn it – now I’m hungry.
My point is, almost every product will claim to have these basic qualities, but many of them, well, don’t.
It’s not until you see them in front of you – something Amazon shopping, as wonderful as it is, doesn’t allow – and actually use them – especially for an extended time – that you really know if your new drawing table is a great and useful art tool, or if it is rather a fancy and expensive chunk of firewood.
So I’m going to make shopping for the best portable drawing and drafting tables easier and more certain for you, drawing upon my own experience with lots of different boards, as well as advice and feedback I have gotten from friends, colleagues, professional artists and engineers, even my students, and also the reports and opinions I’ve found in countless verified customer reviews – and especially those which describe long-term usage.
We will find the very best drafting / drawing boards for any artist, crafter, engineer, draftsperson, illustrator or designer – or any other creative person or creative use – in the following categories:
My Favorite Drawing Board
Best Basic Drawing Board
Best Budget Artist Drawing Board
Best Premium Drawing Board for Artists – Premium
Best Drawing Board for Artists – Premium (Runner Up)
Best Drafting Board for Technical Drawing – Budget
Best Drafting Board for Technical Drawing – Premium
Best Drafting Board for Technical Drawing – Premium (Runner Up)
At the end of the article, in the Bonus section, we will look at ginormous drawing boards that are ridiculously difficult to move around or stick in your pack, AKA drawing desks and drafting tables – a different approach with some similar results.
But for now, before we get too bored, let’s get into the best drawing boards and the best drafting boards for artists, crafters, technical draftspeople, illustrators, designers, and you!
Thanks so much for reading my latest article – The Best Drawing and Drafting Boards for Artists – and please visit my blog – Art Side of Life – for tons of other inspiring ideas, resources, articles, guides and a lot more!
Other articles in the artist desks, chairs, lamps, and drawing boards series!
- Finding the Best Art Desk: A Buyer’s Guide for Desks and Drawing Tables for Artists
- Finding the Best Artist Chair: A Buyer’s Guide for the Best Chairs and Stools for Artists
- Best Artist Desk Lamp
Hi, I am Iva (rhymes with “viva”). I am a full-time self-taught artist behind Art Side of Life® and a Top Teacher on Skillshare. I have 15 years of experience in the creative field as a concept designer, illustrator, art director, and now freelance artist, content creator, and art instructor. My goal is to help you get your creative groove on with Procreate and make awesome art through practical classes, tutorials, Procreate brushes, and guides on art tools, supplies and resources. About me »
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