Questions for artist who work with traditional medium: how to do you set up your workspace?
xin li last edited by xin li
I am wondering how do you set up your work space for optimal ergonomic. Lately, I struggle with shoulder pains and upper back pains. I felt need to spend time optimizing my workspace before my body falls apart.
I switched to work traditionally partly. I am mostly adding pencil and watercolour/gouache painting into my digital work. This means I spent about 50-70 percent of my time working on a A3 paper taped on a wooden board. Currently, I just hold the board while I am doing the pencil shading, and lean the board against the wall when I am painting. I wonder if it would be helpful for me to invest on a drafting table, or an easel.
I could not figure out what is better for this purpose: a drafting table, or an easel?
I am looking at things such as
Or a table like this one:
But the option online is endless and I am a bit lost. I wonder if you have any advice on this.
I have a drafting desk that is at least 30 years old lol but it still works great. I prefer a desk I can raise up and down plus has the tilt ability. Mine is not tilted super far but its a very sturdy desk and is very comfortable to work at. I personally don't like the high tilt or easel styles. I think they are better on your back and posture but not necessarily your shoulder.
@K-Flagg thanks for sharing. Your studio looks so neat :-).
It sounds like something I have to try to figure out what works for my body, tilted table, or easel. Right now the back pain is a big issue for me.
Amanda Bancroft last edited by
Hi @xin-li, I have been having this same problem since 2016 and am now trying to solve it. Let's try together! Ergonomics is very important, I agree. My back pain is a problem too.
I have used a very old drafting table and didn't like the instability of the table and the slant causing items to roll off, but modern tables have much better features and design.
I have used a wooden tabletop easel similar to the ones in your links. I think they're OK but they didn't work for me for reasons that are specific to my traditional medium (colored pencil and pan pastels on drafting film which is transparent). They can be great for "plein air" painting outdoors and some have a drawer with storage for supplies, and a handle to carry them!
I needed a white smooth surface so I purchased this one and so far am happy with the ergonomic improvement and design features. They say there is science to show that this angle is ideal, but artists do well with a variety of angles while working.
But the biggest tip I can offer is to try to modify your studio setup with whatever you have available that produces better posture based on best practices. So I'm using pillows behind my back, and a yoga mat rolled up under my feet as a foot stool, things that can help me achieve better posture until we can afford to remodel and make room for an actual desk and actual chair. Currently, I have to work at the kitchen table and sit upon a cushion placed on top of a wooden box filled with solar batteries for our off-grid tiny house electricity system. It's a messy solution but I hope it helps.
@Amanda-Bancroft I think you are onto something with modify your studio setup with whatever you you. It is really smart. I ended up purchased an easel though, the type that is meant to be standing on the table. I tape my watercolour paper on a flat board, and doing pencil drawing on that, it worked great. The easel is simple to adjust the hight, which really gives me a lot better posture when drawing different parts fo the image. Also the one I got can be adjusted from 90 degree to 0 degree - quite flexible. I also tried to put my 13inch Cintiq on top of the easel, seems working pretty good as well. I will need to use it for a bit longer time to figure out if it is working. I have a 14 days return policy on the purchase.
I think tools help, but probably not enough. I have to remind myself to move often, excise, yoga, just to be myself healthy to continue painting. I was more or less painting 10h a day for about 6 month. I did yoga for 20mins everyday, I was mostly OK. But Then I fell out of the yoga habit, and I also picked up working larger paintings traditionally instead of doing digital painting only. I realised I need to both get back to yoga and optimise my traditional painting setup. I felt very newbie when I googled around: I still could not figure out how the purpose of an easel is different from a drafting table, especially for illustrators.
@xin-li trying to deal with this problem too. I get going and don’t realize I e been hunched over for a while. I’ve just been trying to take yoga breaks.
RachelArmington last edited by
Pre-Covid, I had a great studio set up with an old ping pong table. It was at the perfect height for me and had plenty of room for working on multiple projects at a time. I stretch my paper on foam core art board, so my watercolors were light enough to just hold or prop up with rolled towels or the like.
For seating, I had a cheap medical stool with adjustable height.
I also had a floor easel that could tilt flat need be.
I don't have a photo of my ping-pong table set-up to share, only a picture of my ever-helpful cat.
@RachelArmington very cute cat.
@K-Flagg What an awesome set up. I bet you feel really inspired every time you sit down to create!
Heather Boyd last edited by Heather Boyd
@xin-li I have a drafting table that for the last few years I kept flat which meant my neck and head weighed down. So now it's on a tilt. It's old but large, though unfortunately it has a lot of scared marks (leads to bumps in drawing and rendering -I need a fix!). But it helps tremendously for my head and neck. I can't advise on chairs because I need a better one, one that doesn't have wheels because my floor is on a slope. I also do stretches for the office (chrio) and take a lot of breaks. My space (corner of my parents basement lols).
Heather Boyd last edited by Heather Boyd
@K-Flagg Nice Jake Parker comic -I have that also! Also what is that pad, do you draw on top of that -I need a solution to my cuts in my table. Thanks,
@K-Flagg I want to know if your workspace looks that neat all of the time or if you cleaned it up for the photo. If it's the first, I am really impressed!
Seriously, I love the way you have organized your stuff. I need to work on that. This is what mine looks like most of the time -- I do not recommend it
@Heather-Boyd haha I didn't notice that the Skyheart comic was even sitting there lol. I was using it for reference. I had the same problem with my table having some old screw holes in it so I covered it with an alvin cutting matte. Its really nice and cleans up easy. I think it's this one https://www.amazon.com/dp/B007VTP9TK?pd_rd_i=B007VTP9TK&pd_rd_w=4YxTs&pf_rd_p=ee186ce0-6bf7-4893-85b9-f3368b019e0f&pd_rd_wg=IJg60&pf_rd_r=W4N9X9K2QPJK68P0BM98&pd_rd_r=ed4c0d63-2f38-4097-b78b-1cc42b74ef25
tomparsonsart last edited by tomparsonsart
I alternate between standing at my drafting table and sitting at my computer desk. I usually sketch sitting in front of my computer so I can look up reference.
Then I’ll paint standing at my drafting table. I made this adjustable easel that I use to avoid looking down at my table all the time. I also have a heavy duty cushioned floor mat which helps with feet, hip and lower back fatigue and pain. Hope this helps!
@tomparsonsart So cool to see all of your set ups.
@demotlj my space is never very neat. Personality thing, I think. Even my 4 year old commented on it: she said we are the family of messy people. hahaha...
Here is my current setup. I ended up bought an easel. It seems to be an improvement. The table height can be manually adjusted, which allow me to switch between standing painting and siting painting. I will definitely trying to add some heavy duty cushioned floor mat. I can feel the pain on my foot if I stand painting for too long.
Heather Boyd last edited by
@K-Flagg Thanks -will it work on an angle, how does it not slide off?
@Heather-Boyd I have a thin metal lip that is screwed to the bottom of the table top so it won't slide off.