The new Darkboard drawing stand accessory for iPad is a revelation. Occasionally something comes along that's so well designed and solves an issue you never really knew you had, and it just demands to be used. Blackboard is that thing, and I love it.
So what is Darkboard for iPad? Simply put, it expands the footprint of your drawing space when using an iPad to turn Apple's tablet into a drawing board. I used to use a drawing stand all the time, one where you'd clip paper to its edges, and Darkboard replicates that idea, but for iPad.
Darkboard gives you the width and depth of a larger drawing tablet or traditional stand, enabling you to rest your wrist on the edge outside of the iPad for a more natural way to draw and paint. In my review below I test the Darkboard using an iPad Pro 11-inch and Procreate; for more on these read our Procreate review and guide to the best iPad for drawing to discover which is best right for you.
Darkboard iPad stand review: in the box and setup
There's a *chef's kiss* moment when I unpack the Darkboard iPad drawing stand, as it has a warm tactile feel to the accessory's sleeve; it's made from that neoprene material associated with wetsuits for a lightweight, waterproof and cushiony finish. The fabric choice also means the Darkboard sleeve is stain, water, oil and heat resistant, ensuring your iPad is well protected.
Better yet, inside the sleeve is a nicely packaged array of bits, including the main Darkboard, its stand and simple instructions on how to set it all up (which is welcome, even if it's very easy to do).
Setting up the Darkboard is super-easy. The stand comes as a flat panel and simply lifting it up ensures it drops into its 'stand' shape, with velcro panels securing the stand in place automatically. When I place the Darkboard on top of the stand it sits securely and doesn't shuffle or move, meaning you can lean into it nicely.
The only slight niggle with the packaging is the sleeve's pull-tag system of securing its opening. At either end of the sleeve's opening are tags that need to be tugged apart to stretch the opening and slide the stand inside or out. It can be a little tricky and the fit is tight, so you do wrestle with it a little.
This is a personal issue with what is, overall, a very well thought out and crafted package. The upside of having such a tight-fitting sleeve also means the stand, and your iPad, and secure inside.
Darkboard iPad stand review: design and use
The Darkboard is sturdy and light. It's made from premium EVA which gives the stand a sturdy but rubber-like matt feel. The stand has a leather-like dimpled texture for a supportive grip and the overall finish is solid but cushioned.
While it may look simply designed, there are a lot of nice touches that show Astropad has considered how the Darkboard will be used, particularly how an iPad fits within the stand. The inner-plate, called the cradle, where the iPad fits is snug and secure – my iPad Pro never wiggled or even looked like it could fall out.
There are nice design touches, such as the hole for the iPad camera, the canal for a charging cable and shallow trough above the iPad for your Apple Pencil. The reverse of the Darkboard has angled grooves down either side for you to grip easily, which means if you're using the Darkboard without its stand you can hold it in place without finger-fatigue.
In use I find the Darkboard versatile and comfortable. The wide frame around the inset iPad means I can sweep my Apple Pencil across the iPad screen as I would on a drawing tablet (read our guide to the best drawing tablets for a comparison). It means you can get a more natural arc to your lines and pen strokes, which in turn can ease cramp and finger pain that comes from long stints on the iPad.
The eye-catching way to use the Darkboard is with its stand in the easel-style setup on a desk, which works nicely. I can lean into it and put pressure on it, and the angle gives me a good sense of movement in my pen strokes. The stand can be placed in a near-vertical form, which isn't really useful for digital art but does make a nice way to watch video.
What I really like about the Darkboard is the option to use it without the stand on my lap. I often doodle on my iPad while sitting on the sofa and this can lead to some finger pain or awkward angling of the tablet. Clipping my iPad into the Darkboard gives me a secure platform to use the iPad on, whether it's creating digital art or writing and browsing the web. If, like me, you doodle in an evening on the sofa Darkboard is a great accessory.
Darkboard iPad stand review: price and models
The Darkboard drawing stand comes in two models, the D1 that fits a 12.9-inch iPad Pro (3rd gen or newer) and the D2 that fits an 11-inch iPad Pro or iPad Air. Both models cost the same, $119.99. While you can find many iPad stands for less, they're not tailored to digital art and are often made from heavy plastic or metal. Most iPad stands are just that, iPad holders rather than drawing stands.
There are also some caveats, for example the Darkboard doesn't work with iPad Mini, or the new 2022 iPad. Essentially, Darkboard is aimed at digital artists who use iPad Pro and Air.
You can buy the Darkboard iPad drawing stand from the Astropad website, and at the moment it's not available outside of the official maker's site.
Darkboard iPad stand review: should I buy one?
I didn't realise how much I needed something like the Astropad Darkboard, until now. Using this iPad stand for digital art as well as web browsing has been a revelation.
Where Darkboard impresses is with its approach and design; this is a lightweight yet durable iPad stand that can be used as an easel or as on your lap. It turns your iPad into a traditional drawing stand, meaning it can help repetitive strain and ease the pressure on your wrists.
The only downside is Darkboard is currently limited to iPad Pro and iPad Air, but these are the more common Apple tablets for digital art. If you do regularly use one of these iPads for artwork, then I'd highly recommend the Darkboard. For a comparison of what else is available, read our guide to the best iPad accessories, but Darkboard is one of the best I've tried.