Updated January 2022
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Buying guide for Best drafting chairs

Drafting chairs are distinguished by their tall design and circular footrest. If you work at a drafting desk or raised work surface, a drafting chair offers a solution far more comfortable than a stool. If you work at a standing desk, you know how tiring standing for hours can be. A drafting chair allows you to sit comfortably at your raised desk and switch between standing and sitting.

Many styles of drafting chair are available, from leather cushioned to breathable mesh. Some drafting chairs have armrests for extra comfort, while others without armrests give you a bit more mobility. The height of the chair should suit your frame, and the range of adjustability should fit your needs.

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Drafting chairs were designed with a wide range of motion in mind because they were originally developed for engineers and architects.

Key considerations

Most drafting chairs are between 24 and 40 inches tall and typically have built-in wheels or casters and a circular footrest. Though originally developed for engineers and architects to use at drawing tables, anyone with a taller-than-normal desk can benefit from the comfort and flexibility of a drafting chair. First consider what materials and style best suit your needs and taste before purchasing a drafting chair.


The seat, armrests, and back of a drafting chair can be made from a variety of materials that offer a range of support and comfort. The material also contributes to the chair’s overall style.

  • Mesh: This is by far the most popular material for drafting chairs. Often made from polyvinyl chloride, polypropylene, polyethylene, or other synthetic materials, mesh is lightweight and sleek and lends a more modern aesthetic to the chair. Mesh drafting chairs commonly have a mesh back with no cushioning and a cushioned seat. While many people find mesh comfortable, others find that it doesn’t provide enough protection from the frame. Mesh can also lose elasticity over time and is challenging to clean. Mesh drafting chairs are usually black, but you can find other colors like red and blue, too.

  • Leather: Long a popular material for drafting chairs, leather is known for its classy look and soft comfort. Leather is used to cover the cushions in the seat and back, and it tends to be more expensive than synthetic materials. Leather drafting chairs are usually black or brown.

  • Fabric: You’ll find a wide variety of fabric colors and patterns in drafting chairs, offering many styles to suit your taste. The fabric typically covers foam cushions. The quality and durability of the fabric can vary, and some fabrics may show wear over time. Fabric works well in a variety of temperatures, but direct sunlight may fade the color.

  • Vinyl: This is a low-priced alternative to leather with a similar look and feel. Vinyl usually covers foam cushions in the seat and back. Available in a range of colors, vinyl is comfortable and very easy to clean. It’s also one of the most durable options.

  • Wood: Wood gives a drafting chair a classic look. Some wood drafting chairs have no upholstery, while others have cushioning just on the seat. Some have a metal frame, making these chairs a bit heavier than those made of plastic.


Some drafting chairs don’t have armrests, which gives you a wider range of movement. If you plan to sit in your chair for long periods and don’t need the extra mobility, you might want a chair with armrests. If you prefer the armrests to be optional, consider a drafting chair with armrests that can be removed or flipped out of the way. Removable armrests are the best option for maximum movement and a clean look, but you’ll need to store the armrests somewhere.

  • Style: Armrest styles include those that are shaped in a loop and others that resemble a T. The curve of the looped armrests has room for your forearm and hand. Your arms or elbows rest on the horizontal bar of the smaller T-shaped armrest.

  • Cushioning: Drafting chair armrests may have no cushioning or cushioning comparable to that in the seat. If the armrests have no cushioning, they’re usually made of the same material as the rest of the chair frame.


Most office chairs have a plastic frame with some metal parts supporting the frame. Plastic is fairly durable and unlikely to scratch, but it can bend. A metal frame is less flexible and overall more reliable. Stainless steel is a popular choice in drafting chairs.

Drafting chair features


Almost all drafting chairs adjust in one way or another, but the range and number of adjustable joints may vary. A highly adjustable drafting chair allows you to easily change positions when necessary, providing relief after hours of sitting in the same position.

  • Height: Some drafting chairs have pneumatic cylinders, allowing you to easily raise and lower the chair with a simple lever. Take note of the minimum and maximum height of a drafting chair, particularly if you occasionally need to work at desks of different heights.

  • Other adjustments: Some drafting chairs also allow you to adjust some or all of the following:

    • Seat angle

    • Seat forward/backward position

    • Armrest height

    • Armrest width

    • Armrest angle

    • Back height

    • Back angle

    • Tilt tension


The shape of the seat can be a major factor in the overall comfort of your drafting chair. Your seat should be a length and width that fit your legs and hips, leaving a few inches between your knees and the edge of the cushion.

  • Bucket seats offer depth and a curved design that wraps around you for cushioned support. Chairs with bucket seats usually have a back that wraps to meet the seat.

  • Waterfall seats have a curved front edge that reduces pressure on your thighs and knees.

  • Tractor seats have short backs that wrap in a similar fashion to bucket seats. These can be comfortable, but they don’t provide as much back support.

  • Stool seats are circular and often cushioned, offering less support but more freedom of movement. The back is typically smaller on chairs with stool seats.

Weight limit

Take note of the maximum weight a drafting chair can support. Most drafting chairs can support an average-size adult, and some are designed to support 400 pounds or more.


While it’s uncommon for a drafting chair not to swivel, you might want to double-check for this feature. Being able to turn the chair 360° is useful for easily getting up from your desk or if you need to turn to work at different different surfaces in your office.

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Did you know?
Many drafting chairs have armrests that adjust not only vertically but also horizontally to accommodate the width of your shoulders.

Drafting chair prices


Lower-priced drafting chairs often have mesh upholstery and plastic frames and cost around $50 to $80. While some chairs in this range can be fairly comfortable and adjustable, it’s important to look for one whose frame doesn’t dig into your legs.


Spend $80 to $110 and you’ll find drafting chairs with mesh, PVC, or other synthetic upholstery. These chairs are often highly adjustable to accommodate a variety of users and positions. The frames may be metal or plastic.


Higher-end drafting chairs that cost from $110 to $200 often have mesh or leather upholstery and a high-quality metal frame for a sturdy build and classy look. These chairs are typically easy to adjust and may have tilt-tension functionality.


  • Clean the casters. If your drafting chair isn’t rolling properly, clean out any dust or hair trapped in the casters.

  • Clean your chair. As soon as you notice dirt and dust accumulating, wipe down your chair and vacuum any visible debris.

  • Invest in a chair mat. If you work in an office with carpeted floors, a chair mat is a great way to keep your chair rolling smoothly.

  • Be comfortable. Adjust your seat and footrest height so your legs are roughly parallel to the ground and the edge of the seat doesn’t dig into your thighs.
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A drafting chair pairs well with a standing desk, offering you a break when you need it.


Q. Can the hydraulic function of a drafting chair break?

A. It can, and it will. The gas chamber that provides the pressure to raise and lower the chair will eventually wear out, but this part is relatively easy to replace.

Q. What does “tilt tension” mean, and is it important?

A. Drafting chairs with tilt tension and tension adjustment can be set to tilt slightly as you move, which can reduce strain on your back, arms, and legs. If you regularly move around at your desk and do more than simply use a computer, a chair with tilt tension may be a good option.

Q. Can the casters be replaced?

A. Yes, and in some cases, replacing the casters (or wheels) can be an simple way to upgrade your chair. Installing casters is fairly easy, and many chairs come with lower-quality casters that may not roll smoothly.

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