If you are a professional painter, an art student, or just passionate about painting as a hobby, with the arrival of spring you may be excited about the possibility of painting outdoors. Many of you may be wondering which outdoor easel you should choose and it’s a great question.
Since it’s basically impossible to try out many of the choices available on the market, we’ve done the research for you. In this article, we’re going to discuss our top seven best plein air easel for oil painting choices, why we selected them, and the benefits of choosing an easel from our list.
Here is our recommendation for the top rated Oil painting Plein air easel.[amazon box=”B00EUJK8PO,B07TK4T6KG,B07RFVGY6N,B0157UA8RM,B01M20WPS3″ template=”table” price=”none”]
What is a Plein Air Easel?
An easel is an essential piece of equipment for any artist and has been used by artists for centuries. It is a simple structure used by painters to hold the canvas that they are working on. It can also be used to display artwork.
“Plein Air” is the French term meaning out of doors and when joined with the word easel, it signifies an easel for painting outside. These Plein air easels date to French Impressionist Art in the 19th century. Many great French artists regularly painted outdoor landscapes including Cezanne, Monet, Renoir, and Van Gogh.
There are varying styles of easels ranging from the simple tripod style to A-frames, H-frames, or even tabletop easels in various shapes and sizes. Plein Air easels are different from studio easels. They will probably be lighter in weight and adaptable to different types of terrain from sidewalks to hilltops. Often, they may be made in wood or aluminum and might be produced in a combination of the two.
The important aspect of a Plein air easel is that it should be portable. In order to paint Plein air paintings, you need to travel. These easels can be folded easily for transport and usually feature a box attached to bring along pencils, brushes, paints, and whatever you need for your painting away from home.
What is the Best Easel for Oil Painting?
We asked a team of professional painters and art teachers to try out a group of easels we selected for testing. In order to discover which easel is the best for oil painting. Our team of experts had years of combined experience with all types and brands of easels from art class easels for students to premium easels produced in beautiful wood.
We considered construction, durability, stability, portability, storage space, and measurements. After researching and trying out numerous Plein air easels, we finalized our list. The seven easels we have chosen for your consideration can be found in art stores and online. We have attempted to make our guide easy for you to navigate.
Top 7 Best Plein Air Easel for Oil Painting Reviews of 2021
1. U.S. Art Supply Large Wooden French Style Field and Studio Sketchbox Coronado Easel
The Coronado Easel from U. S. Art Supply has a great deal to offer painters of all levels. Realized in hand-sanded beech-wood, it is quite sturdy and promises durability. This easel is adjustable and is adaptable for tall painters, shorter artists, or even as an easel to be used on the tabletop. Strong adjustable easel legs with rubber feet ensure versatility.
The Coronado Easel includes a large wooden palette to hold many, if not all of your paint colors and can be easily removed from the easel. Upon removal of the palette, you’ll discover the ample amount of storage space this easel has to offer, and a painter can never have too much space for brushes, paints, and accessories.
Imagine not having to run inside or dig through an extra bag to find what you need to paint. This drawer is divided into several compartments for your organizing convenience with three out of four slats that are removable.
The Easel also features brass hooks for you to transport any wet canvases and the canvases can be as large as thirty-four inches. When closed and folded up, the easel measures a compact 17 by 22 inches, which is very similar to the size of a briefcase. A convenient leather strap is included for easy transport. Last but not least, U.S.Art Supply offers a 100% lifetime satisfaction guarantee for a refund or replacement.[i2pc show_title=”false” title=”Pros & Cons” show_button=”false” pros_title=”Pros” cons_title=”Cons” ][i2pros]A large Plein air lightweight easel that can be folded into a briefcase-sized box for easy transport.
This easel offers an ample storage drawer with up to four compartments for paints, brushes, and accessories as well as an 18-inch wooden palette.
Canvases as large as 34 inches can be accommodated and brass hooks allow you to transport any wet canvases.[/i2pros][i2cons]Some considerations about stability.
Instructions for assembling reported missing.[/i2cons][/i2pc]
2. Delta Prime Savings Club Portable Easel
If you are looking for an affordable Plein Air Easel, this easel by Delta may be exactly what you are looking for. This is a French style easel that is relatively easy to assemble thanks to telescoping legs and wingnuts that avoid wobbling while you are painting. Also, the legs can be tucked away, and this easel can be used as a tabletop version.
A large palette allows painters plenty of room for experimenting with colors, while the large storage space can hold plenty of supplies from paints to brushes to palette knives and anything else you need. Another great feature is the canvas holder that can be slid up to 71 inches in height for larger canvases.
This easel can be easily transported anywhere you want to go to paint. It folds into a size of twenty-two inches in length with a width measuring 13.3 inches, fitting comfortably in any number of backpacks on the market, or the shoulder strap allows you to sling the unit over your shoulder.
Manufactured in solid wood, it offers both sturdiness and durability over time. The easel weighs just over fourteen pounds when it is empty, so you should plan your trip accordingly when you fill it with supplies.[i2pc show_title=”false” title=”Pros & Cons” show_button=”false” pros_title=”Pros” cons_title=”Cons” ][i2pros]This Delta easel is easy to assemble and transport for Plein air painting but can likewise be used in a studio.
The telescopic legs ensure stability regardless of the terrain you set it on.
A canvas slide can hold canvases that are quite large thanks to 71 inches of canvas space.
Solid wood construction is attractive and contributes to durability and long life.[/i2pros][i2cons]May be heavy when filled with supplies.[/i2cons][/i2pc]
3. Meeden Pochade Box Plein Air Easel with Carrying Case
The Meeden Pochade Box comes in a lovely sanded beech-wood and features an easy-grip leather handle similar to a briefcase handle. It boasts three good-sized compartments for paint tube, brush, and palette knife storage together with any other necessities.
This pochade box has a very functional tray to hold your paintbrushes while you are working and magnets inside the box prevent the tray from slipping or sliding during transport. The box lid’s angle can easily be adjusted making it ideal for outdoor painting. It can also be positioned to remain completely flat if that’s convenient for you.
While the canvas holder is adjustable, canvases do tend to move around a bit and may require repeated adjustment. This could become a nuisance during painting. Considering that the Meeden pochade box offers a number of attractive features, the wooden box seems nonetheless to be prone to scratching if bumped.
If you need or prefer more storage space, the bulkiness may be less of a problem. Also, the tripod mount is convenient, especially if you already own one. Manufactured in China, it is relatively affordable.[i2pc show_title=”false” title=”Pros & Cons” show_button=”false” pros_title=”Pros” cons_title=”Cons” ][i2pros]Features a great tray for holding your brushes even when wet, that doesn’t slide or slip during transport.
Comes with an adjustable easel slot to hold your canvas
The storage compartments have removable dividers for the efficient organization of supplies.
A universal mount plate for tripods is present on the box for easy mounting.[/i2pros][i2cons]The box surface is prone to scratching.
A bit bulky when carrying.[/i2cons][/i2pc]
4. Mont Marte French Portable Art Easel
This is an elegant French easel offered by the Australian company Mont Marte. It presents itself in a stylish dark stained finish which automatically gives it a unique and more pronounced appearance compared to other easels.
Manufactured in wood, it weighs much the same as other French easels available on the market at eight pounds when it is empty. Depending on what and how much you put in the box, it shouldn’t be particularly strenuous when transporting it.
When considering its dimensions, it actually seems pretty lightweight. Closed, this easel measures 16.93 inches in height, 10.04 inches in width, and 4.72 inches in thickness. If fully extended it has a height of 72.83 inches. Unfortunately, it does not come with a shoulder strap or carrying bag, offering only a handle for transport.
Made with a basic easel drawer, you can easily store all your necessary accessories and supplies, and this easel features a generously sized palette for mixing colors that measure 11.2 by 18 inches. It also can function nicely as a studio easel thanks to its attractive appearance and technical features and will hold canvases as large as 33.46 inches.[i2pc show_title=”false” title=”Pros & Cons” show_button=”false” pros_title=”Pros” cons_title=”Cons” ][i2pros]This is a very stylish and elegant looking easel that can be used both outdoors,or in a studio.
The wooden design is lightweight, weighing in at eight pounds when empty and it features a full-sized wooden palette for mixing colors.
It is quite compact when folded and closed for easy transport.[/i2pros][i2cons]It has no shoulder strap or carrying bag.
May be a bit expensive.[/i2cons][/i2pc]
5. U.S. Walnut Art Coronado French Style Field Easel
U.S. Art Supply is a leader in art supplies and offers great equipment to painters of all levels. Manufactured in hand-sanded beech-wood grown in Germany, it features a stunning walnut-stained oil finish making it stylish and attractive.
Adjustable and is adaptable for tall painters, it also caters to shorter artists and can be used as a tabletop easel for those artists who prefer to sit while working. Strong easel legs with rubber feet that are adjustable ensure durability and adaptability.
This Coronado Easel features a large wooden palette to hold numerous art supplies and can be easily removed from the easel. When you remove the palette, there is an ample amount of storage space, for brushes, paints, and accessories of all types. The easel drawer is divided into four compartments for your convenience and the three dividing slats are removable.
Featuring solid metal clasps and fasteners it also has box joints for increased strength. When closed and folded up, the easel measures a compact 17 by 22 inches, similar to the size of a briefcase. A convenient nylon strap together with a leather handle are included for easy transport. An extra benefit is that U.S.Art Supply offers a 100% lifetime satisfaction guarantee for a refund or replacement.[i2pc show_title=”false” title=”Pros & Cons” show_button=”false” pros_title=”Pros” cons_title=”Cons” ][i2pros]A large beautifully finished walnut stained Plein air lightweight easel that folded closed resembles a briefcase for easy transport.
An ample storage drawer can be divided into four compartments for paints, brushes, and accessories and includes an 18-inch wooden palette.
Canvases as large as 34 inches can be accommodated and metal clasps fasteners and box joints guarantee strength and durability.[/i2pros][i2cons]Considerations about stability when in use.
Instructions for assembling reported missing.[/i2cons][/i2pc]
6. Creative Mark Cezanne French Half Box Easel
Are you looking for a lighter easel to transport up and down hills when going outdoors to paint? The Creative Mark Cezanne French Half Box easel is a very practical choice. Some artists may decide to only bring the absolutely necessary amount of basic supplies on the road and this is where a half box will help keep the weight of what you carry with you on the lighter side.
The easels drawer is narrow but still allows sufficient room for paintbrushes and paint tubes. This French easel is quite easy to assemble, and the canvas holder can be adjusted to recline at just about any angle. Canvases as large as thirty-two inches can be used and the wooden palette that comes as part of the unit is ample and sturdy for mixing colors.
The much lighter weight of the “half box” makes this easel very attractive if you are traveling and want to take your painting equipment with you on the journey. Whether you travel in the car, or on a bus, train, or plane, this easel will easily find storage space above you in a standard overhead compartment. We suspect that it can even be brought along on a bicycle ride.[i2pc show_title=”false” title=”Pros & Cons” show_button=”false” pros_title=”Pros” cons_title=”Cons” ][i2pros]This affordable French-style easel comes with a half box allowing for storage that is lighter in weight that a full box would offer.
The easel size makes it easily portable yet nonetheless, it can hold canvases as large as thirty-two inches making it great for oil painting.
Durable construction in elm-wood with brass-plated hardware ensures a long life if well maintained.[/i2pros][i2cons]The finish is somewhat rough.
Wing nuts have a tendency to loosen during use.[/i2cons][/i2pc]
7. Soho Urban Mahogany Finish Pochade Box Plein Air Easel
The Soho Urban Artist Plein Air Easel comes in an attractive mahogany finish. It immediately appears compact and lightweight at first glance. Nonetheless, it is immediately apparent that it offers quite a bit of storage space.
For artists that may not be able to carry a great deal of weight, or may not want to, this easel is very lightweight compared to competitors. Weighing in at nine pounds, it is so compact that it is equally useful as a desktop easel. A nice feature is a wooden palette for mixing colors that comes with the box and is a perfect fit for the box’s drawer.
There is a knob that allows you to adjust the angle of your canvas holder, even flattening it completely should you wish. Canvases as large as thirty-two inches can fit onto the easel. The canvas holder will hold up to six panels and also holds wet paintings. An easy-to-grip resin handle and a cotton shoulder strap allow for easy transport. Comes complete with a universal tripod mount and a ninety-day warranty.[i2pc show_title=”false” title=”Pros & Cons” show_button=”false” pros_title=”Pros” cons_title=”Cons” ][i2pros]This Plein Air Easel is a budget-friendly purchase compared to similar lightweight easels.
Soho Urban includes a wooden palette for color mixing that fits perfectly into the box’s drawer.
A convenient adjustment knob lets you adjust your canvas to any angle, including completely flat.
The built-in wet canvas holder permits you to carry wet canvases.
It can be easily used as a tabletop or desktop easel, giving you indoor and outdoor use.[/i2pros][i2cons]Assembly is a bit difficult.
Legs can be somewhat wobbly.[/i2cons][/i2pc]
How to Choose a Good Quality Plein air Easel for Oil Painting
For you to produce your best artwork, an appropriate easel is a must when preparing for your Plein Air experience. Our Guide should help answer any questions or doubts that you might have and will hopefully provide you with additional information about Plein air oil painting. You may also want to consult Plein air easel reviews and customer feedback before finalizing your choice.
Plein air means “outdoors”. This means that you will be selecting an easel that you can use when painting fields, beaches, hills, mountains, forests and woods, and every conceivable landscape that mother nature has to offer. You will not be painting from a photograph or from memory but from observation.
For a good quality Plein air easel you just need to think about…
A very common and popular type of Plein Air easel is the pochade box. The pochade is French for “pocket” so that when you read the pochade box, it means that the easel is portable. Pochade can also signify an outdoor setting or scene sketch.
In fact, pochade boxes were invented for artists who work mostly outdoors. Should you select a pochade, you will have a portable box with storage space for paint supplies and tools and an easel to set your painting on. Most pochade boxes are produced in wood, but some newer designs feature metal including aluminum.
An easel is a relatively simple structure that is made to hold a canvas while an artist works on it. Most easels will be made in wood, however more recent manufacturing includes plastic, metal, and perhaps even steel. Easels usually come in a tripod design, or an H, or an A-frame design.
Some easels are produced in the “French style” and are produced to be easily transportable. They are, however, heavier and larger than a pochade box. The French easel will most likely include a sketch box and a carrier in canvas. Easel legs will be collapsable for more convenient portability.
Because Plein air easels are made to be used outdoors, they are born “portable”. Pochade boxes will tend to be lighter in weight than the French-style easels simply because they are smaller and compact. If weight is not a problem and you desire more storage space, a French-style easel may be a better choice for your painting needs.
In order for you to be comfortable while painting, you may want an easel that matches your personal height. Pochade boxes will come in many shapes and sizes. Some of the smallest-sized pochade boxes can literally be handheld. Larger pochade boxes will need a tripod of a table as support.
French-style easels will probably have collapsable legs. You should always note the maximum height when you choose your easel so that it matches your needs. If you are tall, it would be better to avoid a “half-sized easel” as it would have you bending to paint. Pochade boxes require a tripod or table support and therefore are adaptable to any painter’s height.
Normally, Plein air easels are easily adjustable for height and to any desired angle for painting. While Height adjustment will have its limits, angle adjustment is usually extremely flexible allowing for any angle including completely flat.
As these easels are made for traveling painters, storage space is a must. Plein air easels will feature a drawer or some type of compartment for transporting tools like paints, palette knives, or paintbrushes. Some of these easels will have storage space that is quite ample, however, you may bring along an extra bag for materials depending on what you need.
What are the different types of Plein air easels?
Plein air easels basically can be divided into four subcategories:
- Field Easel: The field easel is the simplest of Plein air options. They are easels set on three legs made in either wood or metal. Field Easel only holds your canvas. They offer no storage space or box attachments.
- French-style Easel: These easels are produced to be transported. The French easel will include a sketch box and some type of carrier, usually in canvas. Easel legs will be collapsable for easy portability.
- Pochade Box: A portable box with storage space for tools and paint supplies together with an easel to set the painting or sketch on. As a rule, pochade boxes are produced in wood, but some newer models feature metal or aluminum.
- Tripod Easel: Tripod easels are characterized by telescope tripod legs that are adjustable. They fold for quick and easy storage. Being similar to field easels, they only hold the canvas with no storage attachments. These easels can be found in wood, metal, lightweight steel, and aluminum.
How to Setup a Plein Air Easel
Depending on which type of Plein air easel you choose, the setting up of your easel should be relatively straightforward, simple, and not necessarily time-consuming.
A French easel
French easel will feature a wooden box for your art supplies and tools with three legs that are attached, the legs should unfold and be secured with wingnuts to the proper position.
- First, extend the back leg folded under the box.
- Balance the box against your body, holding onto one side while you unfold the opposite leg.
- Once the easel box stands on two of its legs you can unfold the third leg.
- Adjust the extension of the legs to your desired height.
- Open your box and prepare to paint.
A Pochade box
The pochade box will be mounted on a tripod and usually comes with a universal tripod mounting plate. The tripod mount may come already attached to the box, otherwise, it should be attached to your pochade box.
- Remove the camera mount from your tripod.
- Attach the camera mount directly to the pochade box and tighten.
- Snap the camera mount and attached the pochade box back onto your opened tripod.
- Unfold and extend the legs.
- Loosen the wingnut and extend the leg. Tighten the wingnut.
- Repeat this for all three legs.
- Loosen the wingnut to further extend the lower portion of the leg.
- Once it is at the desired length, tighten once more.
- Do this for all three legs.
- Stand the tripod upright and place the legs in the correct position.
- Tighten the wingnut on the side of the easel. The three legs will be secured as well as the easel.
- Raise the arms of the tripod by loosening the wingnut located behind the leg. Extend the arm and tighten into position. Do this for both arms.
- If the neckpiece is attached backward for box storage, remove the bolt, washer, and screw to completely remove the neckpiece.
- Now slide the neckpiece into its track with the block facing toward the easel. Replace the screw and tighten the holder. You will not need to repeat this after the first mounting. Often neckpieces are mounted backwards when they are packed into boxes for sale.
- You will be able to secure your canvas by loosening the wingnuts on the top and bottom holder blocks and adjusting for the canvas size. Now simply tighten the wingnuts in place.
How do You Make an Easel at Home
Buy three pieces of wood, preferably pine, about eight feet long, seven centimeters wide, and 2 centimeters thick.
- Cut the wood into five pieces.
- The two main legs should be cut 5.9 feet in length.
- The back leg should be cut 4.9 feet in length.
- A crosspiece should be cut 27 inches in length.
- A second smaller crosspiece should be cut 9.1 inches long.
- Lay the long pieces in an “A” shape. Place the 27-inch piece to form the horizontal line of the “A”.
- Secure the horizontal piece to the long legs with either three screws or nails.
- Attach the 9.1-inch board at the top of the A in the same manner but on the opposite side from where the lower crossbar is positioned.
- Attach a hinge to the 4.9 ft. board.
- Now attach the hinge to the 9.1-inch cross board.
- Fold the easel to close. Drill a hole in the center of a 27-inch piece of wood directly through the short back leg. Thread a rope through the two holes and knot. The rope will give the legs added stability when placed in the tripod position.
- To make an easel shelf, you can drill dowel holes at 1.5 cm distances on both legs above the horizontal 27-inch crossbar.
- You can use dowels or wooden pegs to move a shelf bar up and down your easel depending on the size of your canvas.
Frequently Asked Question’s
Why do you need a Plein air easel?
These easels are specifically designed for outdoor painting. They are designed to be lightweight, adaptable to multiple terrains, and easily portable.
How do you clean and care for a Plein air easel?
Wood easels can be cleaned with an appropriate oil. Follow with wax of your choice. Afterward, it is not necessary to reapply oil. Just wipe clean and eventually reapply the wax. Aluminum or metal easels can be cleaned with a soft damp cloth.
Can you paint without an easel?
Probably, but with considerable difficulty. Easels are important for any type of painting. In small spaces, you can opt for a tabletop easel or bench easel.
Is it easier to paint on an easel?
Definitely. An easel allows you to back away and view your artwork.
Is oil painting the right choice for you?
The two typical types of painting are oil and acrylic painting. Oil paints are responsive for a longer period of time because they take so much more time to dry. Oil paints are generally poisonous and must be handled carefully. They will also require the use of an oil medium to add to the tube paint for fluid painting and solvent for thinning oil paint or for cleaning. If you are a beginner, you may want to begin with acrylics.
What is the best brand of Plein air easel?
This will depend on your personal needs when painting. There are several well-known brands that produce excellent easels.
The Final Verdict
Even if digital art is making its way into artistic expression, the world still offers plenty of space for outdoor painting and lovely, practical, and portable Plein air easels. Both professionals and amateurs still look to mother nature for inspiration when oil painting.
Whether you are considering a pochade box, a French easel, or even a field easel, each Plein air type will offer a distinct design and a multitude of benefits ranging from storage space to canvas size to lighter weight for transport.
Here we have attempted to provide you with as much information as possible about what to look for when searching for your best Plein air easel for oil painting, and we have provided a list of seven top easels for you to consider. Any of our seven easels are great choices. Now it’s up to you to establish what the most desirable characteristics are for your specific needs. Happy painting!