Drawing boards are an essential tool for helping students level up their drawing skillset. But they also pose unique classroom management challenges. So, which drawing boards are the best for teaching art in classrooms?
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There are three types of drawing boards that are commonly used in the classroom, and each has its own strengths and weaknesses.
Option #1 Masonite
Masonite is a very sturdy drawing surface. This quality makes it an excellent support for both easel drawings and working from tables. When working from tables, these boards make excellent surfaces for students as they can place them on their laps and lean them against the table. Due to their stiff nature, masonite boards make pretty unbendable drawing surfaces for this type of lap work.
Please note that the following pros and cons are for Masonite board purchased from the hardware store and cut down into the teachers’ preferred sizes. For pre-made drawing boards, please see option #3.
PROS of Masonite Boards
• Resilient. Compared to other drawing board surfaces, these boards can hold up to a lot of abuse. They are less likely to be punctured, ripped, bent, or broken. This is a highly desirable trait for classroom drawing boards.
• Easy to Acquire. It’s pretty easy to go to your local hardware store and have large sheets of Masonite cut down to any size you like.
• Doesn’t Bend Easily. Students aren’t faced with a surface that moves or gives.
CONS of Masonite Boards
• Weight. Masonite is heavy. You can only carry a few boards at a time which makes setup and cleanup routines less efficient.
• Space. Masonite boards take up more floor space. Because they are heavy, they cannot be stacked easily on shelves or in other raised storage areas.
• Price. Although not terribly expensive (a few dollars per board), it is more expensive than other options available to art teachers. However, the durability of Masonite boards often make it a wise investment as they will last many years under careful classroom curation.
• Single-Sided. Depending on which Masonite you purchase, it may have only one side with a smooth surface. It is best to get Masonite boards that are smooth on both sides to maximize their usefulness in the classroom.
• Sharing. If you have students sharing boards because they are heavy and take up too much space to assign every student their own board, it takes additional prep time at the beginning and end of each class to mount their drawings on the boards and take them down.
Go to your local hardware store and get double-sided masonite boards cut to 16″x20″ if you are using easels, or 11″x14″ if you are having your students lean them against the edge of tables or chairs. I am not placing an Amazon link here because it is silly expensive to have these shipped to you due to the weight. Your best price and option is to have the hardware store cut down large sheets to your desired size.
Option #2 Foam Core Boards
Foam core boards are my personal favorite choice for art classrooms. They are light and easy to pack up and put away. They are inexpensive and somewhat easily replaced. And my favorite part is being able to assign every single student their own board to take care of and use. This helps make sure they treat their drawing boards with the kindness and respect their drawing boards deserve 🙂
PROS of Foam Core Boards
• Light. They are super light. You can collect an entire class’ worth of drawing boards and gracefully lift them up to place on your highest shelf.
• Inexpensive. For $1 or less per student, they are the most affordable drawing board option. For those students who are good at taking care of their supplies, you can get another semester or more out of the same boards.
• 1 Board per Student. With heavier drawing boards, you might only have one class set that needs to be shared. Students have to remove and add drawings at the beginning of each class when this is the case. When every student has their own board, this unnecessary shifting of drawings saves your students time. When every student has their own board, they are almost instantly ready to get to drawing when entering class without much prep work before they can start.
CONS of Foam Core Boards
Tape sticks. Sometimes the tape is challenging to get off of the foam core drawing boards causing small rips on the surface.
Kids ruin. Depending on the age and maturity of your students, there is an inexplicable temptation to puncture these boards with pencils. I have found the best antidote to this is to assign every student their own board. If they fill it with holes, it is their problem to figure out how to draw around them.
You can either buy larger drawing boards and cut them down to your desired size, or buy boards pre-cut to the size you want. Cutting them down will save you some money if you are on a tight budget. However, if you are planning on getting hundreds of drawing boards for your students to each have their own, the precut option might be worth the additional money.
Pro Tip! Sometimes if you are lucky you can purchase large sheets of foam core at your local dollar store and cut them into 4 pieces each. At about 25 cents a board, this is one of the most economical options.
I recommend using ~11″x14″ boards for drawing at tables, and larger boards if using on easels. If this is your first time using drawing boards in your classroom, you might want to try a few different sizes and see what works best for you. Remember, the point of the drawing board is to keep the drawing surface as parallel to your students’ eyes as possible, so your boards need to be big enough to lean on a table or chair edge.
Option #3 Pre-made Drawing Boards with Clips
The only reason I am writing about pre-made drawing boards is to warn you against using them. They are terrible for classroom use. But first, the one PRO I could think of…
PRO of Pre-Made Drawing Boards
• “Oh, look at me!” They make you feel like a “real” artist
CONS of Pre-Made Drawing Boards
• Expensive. They are multiple times more expensive then going to the hardware store and asking them to cut down large sheets of masonite for you.
• Bad Design. When drawing, it is best to tape your paper to the edge of a drawing board so there is the least amount of visual cluter between your drawing and the subject at which you are looking. But because of the silly handle holes on pre-made drawing boards, you can’t tape drawings on the edges.
• Rubber band. These silly rubber bands smear drawings. There’s no reason for it when taping paper to your board is so much more effective and doesn’t ruin your students’ hard work.
• Clips bite. No, literally, they do. They bite into your paper leaving scars. Why ruin an otherwise pleasant drawing with unwanted marks?
• Space. The clips on these boards make the boards take up way too much space when stored. They do not easily stack together and they often get caught on each other. They are inconvenient compared to just a simple plain board cut down form sheets of masonite at the hardware store.
Mandy Recommends: DO NOT PURCHASE PRE-MADE DRAWING BOARDS WITH A CUTOUT HANDLES, CLIPS AND RUBBER BANDS. These drawing boards are unnecessarily expensive and the cutout for the handle is always inconveniently placed. It is so much better to get double sided Masonite from your local hardware store that you can have them cut down into any size pieces that you prefer. You will get better quality Masonite at a cheaper price than any pre-made drawing board on the market.
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Do you have experience with drawing boards in the classroom? Tell me all about it in the comment section below.