Best Painting Easels

My selection of the best types of easels available.

painting easel

Vladimir Godnik / Getty Images

A good painting easel isn't cheap, and some are definitely at the kind of price where it's an investment. A decent studio easel will last you a long time, possibly even your whole artistic life. Don't feel compelled to buy one from a fancy wood (it's going to get paint on it sooner rather than later) and check it's not so complicated to manipulate you're going to hate using it.

Don't let anyone persuade you that you and your art aren't worth investing in! An easel...MORE not only make painting easier as the board or canvas stays in place, but it does make you feel like you've taken another step towards fulfilling your artistic dreams.

  • 01 of 10

    Best Easel of All for Studio Painting: H-Frame Easel

    H-frame standing painting easel

     

    Tetra Images / Getty

    I have a H-frame easel in my studio and it's been a loving relationship for years. It's got a ratchet system (pull out, move it up/down a notch, then let go) for moving the shelf the canvas rests on up and down. Providing it's standing on a level surface, an H-frame easel is wonderfully sturdy. You can get rough with a brush or knife on a canvas and the easel won't wobble. If a canvas is tightened into the shelf well, only very wide ones wobble. The legs won't collapse...MORE accidentally if you trip against it (as can happen with an A-frame easel).

    Things to check:
    • How is the canvas shelf raised? Is it easily done?
    • Will the top of the 'mast' hit the ceiling? Can I cut off a bit if need be?
    • What is the maximum size canvas it'll take?
    • Does it collapse flat for storage or transportation?

  • 02 of 10

    H-Frame Table Top Easel

    Table top easel

    Martin Barraud / Getty Images

    Before I had space for a H-frame floorstanding easel, I used an H-frame table-top easel. It's the same sturdy design, just intended to be used when you're sitting at a table (or even on the floor) rather than standing in front of it. I generally keep mine near my main easel, on top of a chest of drawers, often with a work-in-progress on it. But as it folds flat I have been known to pack on top of the luggage in the back of the car when we've gone on holiday.

  • 03 of 10

    Lightweight Sketching Easel

    Portable easel

    Jelleke Vanooteghem / Unsplashed

    I also have a third easel, a lightweight tripod easel that folds up small into a carry bag, for use painting on holiday or when I'm out and about. Mine's as basic as they come, but it does the job. It's a little low for standing to paint at all day (but I don't often do that), and so light the wind does like to pick it up (I solve that by resting a foot on the one leg).

  • 04 of 10

    An Easel for Really Big Painting

    Large easel

    LWA/Larry Williams / Getty Images

    If your usual size canvas is huge and you've got the space, you could invest in a giant or oversized easel with a winch or pulleys for easy manipulation up and down, wheels for moving the easel around easily, and possibly even two masts for supporting a canvas, not just one. Check the wheels lock in place and the maximum size canvas it'll take, plus the weight. The latter is important if you're painting on wooden panel or using heavy items in a mixed media painting.

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    Easels for Limited Space

    Easels

     

    Mark Murphy / EyeEm / Getty Images

    If space if really squeezed or you need to tidy away at the end of every painting session, look at single-mast easels or if you have a little more space an A-frame easel, though neither of these designs are as stable as an H-frame easel.

  • 06 of 10

    All-in-One Painting Stations

    Painting station
    Image courtesy of Blick Art Materials

    If neither space nor money is an issue, then how about an easel/desk/chest-of-drawers for your studio? Space for tidy storage of painting supplies, an easel for working at, and simply nice to look at too. The photo shows the one included in my list of Gifts Ideas for Artists When Money's No Object, but smaller, slightly less expensive painting stations, are available.

  • 07 of 10

    Pochade Box

    Pochade Box

    Ben Coope / Flickr

    A pochade easel is a small box where the lid serves as an 'easel' for holding a couple of small painting panels, and the bottom provides storage space for a few paints, brushes, and a small palette. If you're going to be painting anywhere windy, look for one with widget for keeping the lid propped open. Be sure to check the maximum size panel you'll be able to use (it'll be smaller than the box itself).

  • 08 of 10

    Sketchbox

    sketchbook easel
    Image courtesy of Blick Art Materials

    A sketchbox is like a desktop easel attached to a paints storage box. Check whether the paints storage area is automatically open when the easel is up, which way it opens (to the back or side?), how it's held closed when you're carrying the sketchbox, and what height canvas it'll take. You'll need a table to put the sketchbox on, or a chair so you can sit with it on your lap though this tends to be awkward.

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    French Easel

    French easel
    Image courtesy of Blick Art Materials
    A French easel is like a sketchbox easel with fold-out legs to bring the easel to a suitable painting height when you're standing. If you're going to be painting on location a lot but not walking too far to do so, it's a style of option to consider. But if you're walking long distances, it can get quite heavy especially if it's full of paints. Check the maximum height of the easel when the legs are extended and how easy it is to do.
  • 10 of 10

    Windmill Easel

    Windmill Easel
    Photo ©2010 Wilton Nelson

    A windmill easel is designed to revolve, giving you easy access to any part of your painting because you simply rotate it around to within reach. You can also tip a windmill easel backwards and lay your painting flat. The photo here is of the windmill easel in Wilton Nelson's studio. He says: "The windmill easel turns and tilts to fit whatever brush strokes desired and is wonderful to have."

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