In many regards, Sketchboard Pro could be the ideal iPad drawing board for digital epigraphy

Oct 8, 2019

Sketchboard Pro, a new Kickstarter campaign, aims to provide a traditional solution for better drawing on the iPad Pro (Photo Kickstarter).

Either drawing in the field at the monuments or inking in the studio, creating steady lines and smooth curves requires a large drawing surface with lots of elbow room. Traditionally, the Epigraphic Survey provides their artists large wooden drawing boards with a handle and a hook to hang their board from a ladder propped against the wall. This setup helps finding the ideal angle and height when penciling on photo enlargements. When inking in the studio, the artist works at a large adjustable drawing desk with almost infinite drawing surface to rotate the drawings and move their arms freely, a necessary environment for creating publishing quality versions of the Survey’s visual material. However, when it comes to using digital tools in the same manner, we must deal with a rather awkward situation. The iPad Pro, just like Wacom’s portable solutions, consists mostly of screen surface, with almost no bezel to get a grip on. Luckily, digitalEPIGRAPHY is obsessed with finding the accessories ideal for content creation, no matter the devices and techniques used. So much so, that when we started experimenting with our first digital tablet at Medinet Habu, we custom created a companion drawing case for the Wacom Cintiq Companion, just to regain the flexibility and comfort we used to have with the traditional Chicago House method. 

Since its introduction in 2015, the iPad Pro has gained a lot of ground as a creative device. We recommend it as the definite tool for digital penciling at the wall. Interestingly, although Apple is heavily marketing its Pro tablet (accompanied by the Apple Pencil) to be used for content creation, they have never considered producing a stand or drawing board to get a better grip or drawing angle when using their tablet computer. Nonetheless, a few companies realized the need for such accessories, best among them are produced by iSkelter (Canvas Creator) and Araree (iPad Pro Drawing Desk). Unfortunately, neither of these products were upgraded to Apple’s newer devices. That leaves only one worthwhile alternative for the artist who wants more elbow room when working at the monuments: the Wooden Canvas Smart Board. When it comes to studio work, our options are even more limited, as existing iPad stands are mainly designed for smaller devices and with consumption in mind. They are flimsy and lack adjustment. Right now Elevation Lab's DraftTable is the only solution we can recommend that offers a similar experience to working on an adjustable drafters table - sturdy, solid and comfortable to use all-day. Nonetheless, even DraftTable misses out on delivering a flat surface around the iPad.

Braintreehouse, an independent game studio operated by veteran comic book artists and designers, aims to bring another contender into this market with the Sketchboard Pro, an iPad stand modelled after the classic illustration sketch boards we all know from art school.­­­­­

“The iPad is a wonderful device and apps like Procreate offer a great creative canvas. The problem with drawing consistent professional work on the iPad is that it can be stressful on your body. Holding the iPad in your hands for hours while you draw can cause numbness in your hands and arms, discomfort on your shoulders from having to float your arm so much while drawing and pain in your neck from having to look down so much. Don't even get us started on back problems.

We wanted to draw professionally from anywhere--a desk, couch, the floor--and feel comfortable doing it.” – says Bill Galvan, one of the creators of Sketchboard Pro.

With Sketchboard Pro, artists can use their entire arm motion while drawing to achieve a more elegant, flowing look to their brush strokes (Photo Kickstarter).

The special case, crafted for Apple’s latest (2018) iPad Pro 12.9 Inch, holds the device securely in a custom-molded enclosure, creating a seamless, large flat surface around the screen that allows more comfort and arm support while drawing. Sketchboard Pro can be used flat on a drawing table or hooked on to a ladder by the handle cut-outs, providing an ideal solution for digital documentation both in the studio and at the monuments. Additionally, the board has 3 fold-out legs at the back to create a comfortable 20-degree incline on any flat surface, either used in portrait or landscape mode. Most importantly, as the iPad is nestled into the form-fitted cradle, your hands can glide seamlessly across one continuous, smooth surface, allowing the iPad’s entire digital canvas to be utilized, rather than resting your hand on areas of the screen that could be used for drawing. One can’t underestimate the power such extension brings to the table (no pun intended), as no one likes interrupting drawing the perfect curve to adjust the digital canvas while getting close to the edges. Even the largest iPad Pro can be small at times. Not having the entire drawing visible at once tends to gravitate us towards using only the center of the beautiful screen space Apple created.

Sketchboard Pro has 3 fold-out legs to create a comfortable 20-degree incline on any flat surface (Photo Kickstarter).

Besides providing access to charging both the Apple Pencil and the iPad while inserted, Sketchboard Pro has embedded magnetic plates to help lock the iPad Pro in place. This trick prevents the tablet from accidentally falling out when you adjust your setup in front of the wall or carry your iPad from one spot to the next, a genius feature missing on other solutions we’ve tested so far. For obvious budgeting reasons, as the cradle is designed specific to the dimensions of the iPad, Sketchboard Pro only supports the latest (2018) iPad Pro 12.9 Inch model. However, the creators set up their stretch goals in a way that more models would be supported if more funding is gathered to realize their product. We can’t help thinking that a swappable mold accommodating more iPad models would have been a better way to get the product off the ground. Nonetheless, those of our readers who have Apple’s latest and largest iPad Pro are in for a treat. You can facilitate your daily drawing chores by heading to the project’s Kickstarter page and making a pledge. Sketchboard Pro is seeking founds until November 1, 2019, with estimated delivery by March 2020, and the pledges start at US$ 65.

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