The drafting table is going the way of the Dodo bird

Jim Borgman studioThe drawing desk of Jim Borgman.

The fine folks over at King Features posted photos of some of their talent’s studios. I love photos like these. What stands out to me is the lack of the drafting tables. You know, the old tilted tables where you’d also dip a brush into an ink bottle and try not to spill the bottle on said desk so it wouldn’t run down the desk, across the artwork and on to your lap? By my count – more than half of the cartoonists (seven out of thirteen) featured here are working on normal office desks and most of those within arms length of a computer to check Facebook, Twitter and the email from editors asking if they had any concept of deadlines. Sure, some might have a portable board (Jim Borgman, Mort Walker, but the ol’ stand alone drafting table is the minority in these photo samples.

Next thing you know, they’ll be drawing directly on those computers!

23 thoughts on “The drafting table is going the way of the Dodo bird

  1. I’ve gone a weird direction. I have a drafting table the size of a studio apartment. Very cumbersome, but I love it. I actually have my computer on the tilted drafting table, which took some getting used to at first, but it’s handy.

    My ink bottle doesn’t slide down because it’s next to my monitor.
    I do wonder what India Ink will do to a keyboard and I’m waiting for that to happen because my cats think it’s a playground.

  2. I have an old drafting table that was once converted into an animation desk — hole cut in the centre for lamp and animation disc. Over the past few years, I’ve been using my Cintiq more and more, but have found it extremely awkward to draw on when sitting on a standard computer desk.

    My first solution was to put the Cintiq on the pull-out keyboard drawer… The lower height made drawing more comfortable, but the creaking sounds every time I slouched forward made me fear the Cintiq was doomed to come crashing down. Wireless keyboard would be on my lap, but that too would slip every so often.

    Then I finally got the bright idea to feed the Cintiq’s wiring through the hole in my drafting table. So much more comfortable.

    Here’s a peak.

  3. If I were a full-time cartoonist I would probably use our home office desk more often, but working full-time at another job and keeping up with my three kids and wife forces me to be creative. Since most of my cartoon work happens in the evening I like to try and be in the same room with my family. So I built a portfolio/drawing board out of black presentation board. It’s just large enough to hold my strips when closed. It folds up and is held shut with a binder clip and is very portable. I’ve even used it to draw while sitting in my car waiting for my daughter’s soccer practices to be over. Surprisingly after six years it’s still holding up great.

  4. I have my computer & Cintiq set up on the drafting table. I love being able to draw directly on screen. So much easier to correct mistakes! I still do my sketching with pen & paper. Can’t quite give that up.

  5. Chris Browne told me about the early days of his dad, Dik Browne’s career when the only place Dik could find to work in a small house full of kids was in the laundry room with the washer and dryer. Now that’s roughing it.

  6. I still use a drawing board for drawing and a desk for the computer. I can’t afford a Cintiq, so I have an old Wacom tablet. Can’t draw on the tablet because of hand/eye coordination but I do use it for coloring or shading. Don’t know if I could ever give up my board; to me, it’s part of the joy of cartooning.

  7. Actually many cartoonists I know work on a lapboard at a regular desk as opposed to a drafting table. I actually use a lapboard for 90% of my work even though I am also sitting at a drafting table. I only use the table when I need to do some lightbox work, or it’s a big page that can’t fit on a lapboard.

  8. I have a large 3′ x 4′ tilted drawing board mounted on top of a heavy cast iron base with the name “Chicago” molded into it. The whole set-up weighs about 100 pounds. It retires when I retire.

  9. I have two drafting tables in my downstairs studio, one in my upstairs studio, one in my living room and another one that I work at outside on nice days. Does that balance out the numbers?

  10. Wow. I’m a little surprised too but I shouldn’t be. Being able to draw in more than one place or having more range of how you sit can be a great advantage. But right now, I sit in one place p, at my Cintiq.

  11. I have an old drafting table that originally came from the University of Nebraska Engineering Dept. It was designed for the draftsman to stand at while working. This was common practice years ago. I once visited the Frank Loyd Wright home in Oak Park, IL and there in the big drafting room where his assistants worked were a whole bunch of stand-up drafting tables. One of my high school drafting rooms also had tables like this. Since the knee hole is so shallow I had a drawing board board made for it that has a bigger overhang that allows you to sit at it and work.

    The table has 6 drawers to the right of where you sit and around on the side it has 6 slots where drawing boards were put when not in use.

    Right next to the table I have a roll-top desk for my computer, printer and scanner.

  12. Starting out, I wanted a drafting table so bad because a professional cartoonist was supposed to have a drafting table. I eventually had two during the 90’s and ended up drawing all my cartoons at the kitchen table. Then worked on drafting tables at papers I worked for. My last year at The Free Lance-Star I worked on a flat desk. Today I’m back to the kitchen table.

  13. I draw on my computer desk. I would sketch out the characters and backgrounds on whatever space is available on paper, scan them in, and then lay everything out on Photoshop. After I’m satisfied with the layouts, I convert the black lines into non-reproducable blue, print it out on Cardstock, then ink it.

  14. I worked sitting on the floor at a coffee table for years. When I could afford a drafting table I never looked back. Considering a Cintiq, but I dunno…

  15. I have three drafting tables. One which is motorized to go up and down with a foot switch. Came from the Dept of Transportation. Another which is a vintage cast iron I added a top to for the computer stuff and my table from 1975 Dad got me when I was starting out as a cartoonist. Amazingly all three, bought decades apart cost me $75 each. You can see them all on myEbook blog at

  16. I’ve got a beautiful stand-up light table, solid oak legs and pine top with a 24 x 36 glass work area that I got for a song back in nineteen-mumbledy-mumble that would be worthless to try and sell today, as in most respects it’s completely obsolete.

    I’ve recently moved away from computer animation and am learning the basics of 2D cel animation, (as well as working on some new pen-and-ink strips), so the light table that has sat gathering dust for a few years is back in action. I really do love working at it!

  17. I began working on a drafting table, but gradually switched to drawing directly on the computer. I still use the table to sketch out ideas and staging because I still love working on it.

  18. I use a table—I don’t know that it would be called a drafting table—but it does tilt and it is height adjustable. It holds an ungodly amount of ephemera besides the small area devoted to actually drawing cartoons. One of these days I might clean it off, but then I wouldn’t know where all of that stuff was.

  19. I still use the old,42 by 30 inch, ink stained, ‘Anco Bilt’ drafting table I purchased in 1978.

    I also, still use the light box I purchased in the late 70’s, through Paul Swan’s, ‘TOON-IN’ publication. I think I paid around $7.00 for it.

    (I just realized, I’m more ‘old-school’ than I had thought.)

  20. I still enjoy using my drawing table from art school in Chicago. Just something about the ol’ slanted table that makes it fun to work on! Best wishes to all my fellow cartoonist.

  21. I gave up my table a bunch of years ago, and I always regretted doing that. I recently inherited one and now back to using it. It was like coming home. The feel of sitting up on the desk allows me to be more relaxed and less restrictive.

  22. I have a old early 1900 bell mouth industrial drafting board.
    what do you thing its worth.

    best regards bob c

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