Magnetic Drawing Boards

Make your own magnetic drawing boards old-school
… or scroll down for an easier alternative.

My portable magnetic drawing boards are made out of foam core board, galvanized flashing, and duct tape! They’re meant to be hand held, so the foam board makes it lightweight. They keep the drawing paper, masks, scrap paper, and a reference photo in place with magnets so I can draw anywhere and at any angle that I happen to be sitting in.

Magnetic Drawing Board

Magnetic Drawing Board

I’ve used a magnetic drawing board for many years. As you can see from the illustration above, it’s a good way to keep your paper and reference photos in place.

Each of my drawings in process has its own drawing board and I stack them in a drawer. Each drawing board holds the artwork and reference photos I need to work on it and it makes a portable package that I can just pick up and take with me.

I hold the drawing board in my lap or on top of a pillow when I draw. In addition to holding the drawing paper and photos, I use the magnets to hold a protective sheet of paper in place where my hand touches the paper. I also use the magnets to keep drawing masks in place. If you have read my how-to pages, you know that I use “windows” cut out of paper to help establish values and the magnets work great for holding those in place. As far as I know, there are no magnetic drawing boards available for sale. I made my own board and I’ll explain how you can do that, too.

Supply List

  •  Galvanized flashing can be found at hardware stores and it comes in different widths and lengths. You can buy several feet of the twelve inch wide variety for about eight dollars. I’ve found that a twelve inch wide magnetized strip down the middle of any size drawing board is very useful, so I use the that size on all my boards.
  •  Tin snips are found at the hardware store too. You can get a pair for about six dollars.
  •  Duct tape is pretty easy to find since people use it for everything.
  •  Foam core board can be found at art, office supply and department stores. It is usually under two dollars a sheet.
  •  Magnets can be a little harder to locate, but you might be able to raid your refrigerator for some. :)

Cut the foam board and flashing as shown in the illustration below.

Foam board and galvanized flashing.

Foam board and galvanized flashing.

I make the foam core board larger than the flashing. The foam core board is easily cut with a matte knife and the galvanized flashing cuts fairly easily with tin snips.

Since I hold these drawing boards in my lap, usually resting on one hand, I like to keep them as lightweight as possible. Foam core board makes a stiff yet lightweight base and galvanized flashing is the thinnest metal I’ve been able to locate.

Keep it all together with Duct Tape!

Duct Tape Holds It Together

Duct Tape Holds It Together

When I tape the flashing to the board, I wrap the duct tape over the edge of the board for a really secure hold.

The edges of the tape and metal won’t transfer through to your drawing paper when you draw over them if your paper is thick enough. To avoid the possibility of that happening altogether, just cut a stiff piece of Bristol Board to size and put it under the drawing paper. The magnets can easily hold several layers of paper in place, even through the layer of duct tape near the edge.

An Easier Alternative!

One day, when I had more drawings in process than I had drawing boards to keep them on, I raided our fridge again. But this time I took the magnetic whiteboard instead of magnets. It’s very lightweight, and magnets attach many layers of paper to it firmly. Whiteboards come in lots of sizes, and they’re just about perfect for giving each drawing a safe working home.