Painting for beginners
Justin Collamore

What’s the best easel for plein air painting? We asked, and you answered! Dozens of artists share what their favorite plein air easels (including some DIY versions!) are, including why they’re top choice.

“Heilman pastel box and easel with a tripod. Super small and lightweight!” ~Pamela Hamilton

Pochade boxes for artists
Pamela Hamilton: Heilman Pastel Box

“Sienna medium and Strada mini ….love them both!” ~Robin Raymond

“This one (below), the one with me in my hat!!!, made by René Melenberg for me !!” AND “this one, made by Krayart Dmitryi Kraevski in Russia” ~Louise Treacy

Pochade boxes for artists
Plein air setup made by René Melenberg for Louise Treacy
Pochade boxes for artists
Louise Treacy’s plein air setup, made by Krayart Dmitryi Kraevski

“Jullian Escort French Easel with Alex Hardy French Easel Carrier Back Strap. Fits all my oil paints and materials and I can throw it on my back when done.” ~Erica Bey

Advice for plein air artists
Erica Bey: ullian Escort French Easel with Alex Hardy French Easel Carrier Back Strap

“I fabricated mine from an old camera tripod, with a paint box and canvas holder made from wood scraps and inexpensive hardware. It’s very functional. Why? Cost.” ~Mike Tavares

Pochade boxes for artists
A DIY easel and pochade box by Mike Tavares

“I love my Joshua Been DayTripper. It fits in a backpack!” ~Maggii Sarfaty

Pochade boxes for artists
Maggii Sarfaty: Joshua Been DayTripper

“I use a modified inexpensive wooden art material suitcase as a pochade box. I replaced the hinges with torsion controlled ones, added a quick release plate and put it on my tripod. I use it because here in Germany you don’t find any useful pochade boxes to buy. You can get one from the UK, but even that one doesn’t seem to be as sophisticated as the multiple ones which can be bought in the US. And it is cheap.” ~Christian Krebs

Easels for artists
The setup Christian Krebs uses for painting outdoors

“Sturdy aluminium easel with a homemade palette box and paint garage—easel was €70, box cost €10 total! Stable enough to withstand licking by cows!” ~Sheila Mac Nally

Pochade boxes for artists
Shelia Mac Nally’s company

“I use the carbon Manfrotto BeFree photography tripod. It is lightweight and can be folded up very small, weighing less than a kilo. Then I have a custom-made French Mistress palette and a custom-made lightweight wooden panel to attach to the tripod. Been to the Twintrees Painting Festival in Ireland with this set-up and it worked beautifully for me.” ~Joanne Fenech Portelli

Painting for beginners
The plein air easel of Joanne Fenech Portelli – a Manfrotto BeFree photography tripod

“Open Box M, light, doesn’t take up a huge amount of space. Took the thumbscrews out so it goes in and out of a pack easier. It’s not super deep, which I like—not a long ways down to your paint. I’ll use the small or larger size, depending on how far I’m hiking. And Open Box M is really good about sending you parts if you need them. I’ve been using one here for twenty years now.” ~Bill Lawrence

Painting outdoors
The plein air easel that Bill Lawrence uses: the Open Box M

“Jullian French Easel, going to get a U Go from Judson with a Guerilla Award from Land Arts for a lightweight alternative.” ~Lisa BurgerLentz

“My Soltek. It’s not that light but it’s awesome in the wind and on any landscape … uneven or not.” ~Cat Frohloff-Braunwell

Easels for artists
Cat Frohloff-Braunwell painting outdoors with her Soltek easel

“Based on Stefan Baumann’s recommendation on YouTube, I bought the EasyL Pro. It has worked out great for me so far. Lightweight, easy to assemble and disassemble, and I really like that it can hold three wet panels on it. It came at a good price and included the tripod. The company Artwork Essentials makes such a good product, I later bought their umbrella, which also works great for me.” ~John Nagridge

Painting for beginners
John Nagridge painting a landscape en plein air with his EasyL Pro

“French easel- holds everything I need.” ~Justin Collamore (shown at top of article)

“I like the Soltek easel when I’m using oils, especially on a windy day, as it’s sturdy and carries most of my materials for easy travel. It has been all over Europe and the States with me for years now. When I go out to do watercolors, I like my 9×12 wooden pochade box as it packs in a small carry bag. Can’t remember the name though.” ~Charlotte Wharton

Pochade boxes for artists
Charlotte Wharton using a Soltek easel
Pochade boxes for artists
Wharton’s pochade box for painting en plein air

“Strada Easel because it withstood the high winds at El Rancho de las Golondrinas!” ~Cheryl Hughes

Easels for artists
Cheryl Hughes painting the landscape outdoors with her Strada easel

 

“Old photo tripod and my Guerilla Painter Cigar Box without the palette is great for pastels. I also use a Guerrilla French Resistance for oils. 9×12 sizes fit in a backpack with the Tripod for hands-free trekking.” ~Kath Schifano

Painting for beginners
Kath Schifano painting a field of sunflowers

“I built my own out of a plastic drill box I got from Home Depot. I pulled the form out then made the inside folding panel carriers from gator board. It holds three panels, all my paints, and brushes and brush washer. It’s light and can’t break.” ~Jonathon Williams

“Years ago I would paint with my friend’s father, Claude Deegan from Belpre, Ohio. I was gifted his Creative Mark Cezanne Half Box French Easel. I think of him every time I paint. It is amazingly sturdy and has never blown over! In the background is the John F. Kennedy in Philadelphia.” ~Yvonne Mucci

Plein air setups
Yvonne Mucci painting outdoors using her Creative Mark Cezanne Half Box French Easel

“As a pastelist, I like to take out a full French easel on location. It is heavier than some plein air easels, but it is very stable in the wind, even with an umbrella attached, and holds a good amount of weight. When possible, I take out a well-stocked Heilman pastel box, and I feel extremely fortunate that I have never had my easel give out, which would result in having to pick up hundreds of pieces of pastel sticks! Yep, my Jullian French easel gives me the confidence I need when painting on location!” ~Barbara Reich

Painting outdoors
Barbara Reich painting en plein air

“For pastels, I use a Siena Pastel Easel on a tripod, and for oils a Guerrilla Pochade Box 9×12, again on a tripod. Each set up for easy transporting and stocked ready for my Sunday morning weekly paint-outs Spring to Summer.” ~Sheila Mitchell

“I use a Sienna easel and tripod. It was a gift from my brothers. It was my first Pochade box and is pretty hardy for all I put it through. It packs into a hiking pack quickly, but when I’m ready to upgrade I will probably select something more lightweight.” ~Erin Fearns

Advice for plein air artists
The plein air easel that Eric Fearns uses – a Sienna easel and tripod

“Prolific Painter Daytripper, by Joshua Been. I need the real estate!” ~Casey Cheuvront

Painting outdoors setup
Plein air setup of Casey Cheuvront – a Prolific Painter Daytripper, by Joshua Been

“Most of the time I use French-style easel which is still the most versatile one if you do not mind the weight.” ~Weiming Zhao

Outdoor painters
Weiming Zhao painting a snowy landscape en plein air with a French-style easel

“En Plein Air Pro. Everything I need packs in a duffel that is lightweight, easy to carry, and sets up in two minutes! It is stable in wind and adjusts for uneven ground. I recently bought the backpack version too! It fits under the seat for domestic or overseas flights.” ~Martha Elchert

Pochade boxes for artists
Martha Elchert with her plein air easel, the En Plein Air Pro

“Made my own with my husband’s help.” ~Kathy Stutzman

“Plein Air Pro for Watercolor. Lightweight, easy to put up, has its own palette and a duffle bag that’s big enough to carry everything I need! I love it!” ~Lisabeth Beiler Curnow

Art supplies for artists
Lisabeth Beiler Curnow with a group of enthusiasts while she paints with her Plein Air Pro for Watercolor easel

“My half-size Mabef! It has everything a traditional size French easel has AND it holds a large canvas and the drawer sticks out enough to use it as a table top and, as you can see, I attach my umbrella to it and it even has a small drawer for storage and is light:)” ~Teri T-Edgeworth

Pochade boxes for artists
Plein air setup of Teri T. Edgeworth – a half-size Mabef

“I have three easels, but the Open Box M is my go-to. Light, fits in backpack, quick set-up.” ~Anne Stickney

“Strada easel. Traveling full time in a motorhome, it is durable, and I like the variety of canvas sizes it allows.” ~Sara Chauvot

Outdoor painters
Plein air easel of Sara Chauvot – a Strada
Painting outdoors
Andrea Jeris painting outdoors

“Fly-on-the-Wall by Prolific Painter (Joshua Been) after the Jullian, Sienna pochade, and the Daytripper, finally a small one with big space. Add a palette garage and I’ve got it made!” ~Andrea Jeris

“Open Box M. Lightweight, compact. Holding up well through rain, snow, airline cargo, and more.” ~Kathleen Gray Farthing

“Jullian full box if someone is taking me by car. Frank Herring if I’m going by bike — oils. Board and tripod — watercolour, inks, or pastel.” ~Philip Chadwick

“I like to use my French wooden easel. It holds in it everything I need, and the wet painting seats securely on the front when I finish. Looks professional, it is handy and always ready in the car to go with me anywhere I go. Picture: painting under the Millennium Bridge in London.” ~Agnieszka Matyjaszek

Painting outdoors
Agneiszka Matyjaszek painting en plein air using her French wooden easel

“My car: provides great shade on hot Georgia asphalt! Easel: En Plein-Air Pro easel” ~Maria Hoath Peagler

Pochade boxes for artists
The outdoor painting setup of Maria Hoath Peagler, using her En Plein-Air Pro easel

“The French Easel!! This thing has been with me from the start.” ~Nate Flanagan

Pochade boxes for artists
Nate Flanagan’s French Easel

“Homemade easel from two slightly warped recycled wood panels and parts from the hardware store, mounted to a camera tripod from Amazon! Panels are secured to the easel with basic spring clamps. Got the idea and basic design from James Gurney’s blog. Made out of thrift, but it was a fun project and works pretty well!” ~Bonnie Klein

Painting outdoors
Bonnie Klein’s DIY painting setup

“Strada easel, love it!” ~Daphne Clark

Advice for plein air artists
Daphne Clark’s Strada easel for painting landscapes outdoors

“I use an Easy L Versa.” ~Diane Elizabeth Larson

Advice for plein air artists
Diane Elizabeth Larson uses an Easy L Versa

“My Strada. Easy to carry and durable.” ~Alicia Pulcher

Painting outdoors
Alicia Pulcher painting with her Strada easel

“Open Box M … it has traveled around the country with me and has held up wonderfully!” ~Melissa Gryder

Pochade boxes for artists
Melissa Gryder’s Open Box M plein air setup

“EasyL mini. Fits in a backpack, then I carry a Raymar wet panel carrier.” ~Laurinda Lee

Art supplies for artists
Laurinda Lee’s EasyL mini in action

“I love both my Edgeprogear sketch & paintbook. As a busy mom of three, set-up and take-down are a breeze. Also, I love the versatility of the palette … can be positioned vertically. Plus, it’s just so sleek!” ~Casey Krawczyk

Painting outdoors setup
The setup Casey Krawczyk uses (above and below)

Painting outdoors setup

“Strada Mini! All seasons!” ~ Abbey Fitzgerald

Painting outdoors
Abbey Fitzgerald’s Strada Mini

“I have a Strada Mini, going on five years. I love it. Sturdy, compact, but plenty of room for mixing with the two side attachments that fit inside each other to hold your wet paint.” ~Mary Beth Thompson

Pochade boxes for artists
Mary Beth Thompson painting with her Strada Mini

“Take It Easel is my main rig. I like it because I can do large-format painting and it is very stable. I can hang a lot of gear on it and keep it from blowing away. I do have to use a handmade rack I made for balancing smaller canvas. Strada easel is my #2 rig. I like it because it looks like a computer.” ~Megan Jonas

“Lately a homemade wooden box. I also like a French half box.” ~Hank Buffington

Advice for plein air artists
Hank Buffington’s DIY plein air setup

“Plein Air Pro travel watercolour easel. All fits into its rucksack with space for easel, tripod, palette table paints, etc. So thrilled with it.” ~Mairead Holohan

Pochade boxes for artists
Mairead Holohan’s Plein Air Pro easel for watercolor painting

“Good old-fashioned Jullian Full box French easel … my work horse. Have used the same type for 20 years now!” ~Kyle Buckland

Art supplies for artists
Kyle Buckland using his Jullian Full box French easel

“I love my Strada Mini for oil painting. I have flown with it in my backpack. It’s easy to put together and pack up and is lightweight!” ~Wendy Kay McWhorter

Plein air easels for artists
Wendy Kay McWhorter painting with her Strada Mini

“My easel is one I designed and built to fit in a backpack for painting in New York City. That way I could take the subway where I wanted to go easily.” ~Jeff Allen

Advice for plein air artists
Jeff Allen’s DIY pochade box

“I’ve had six different styles, but I always go back to my favorite lightweight Open Box M. I can hike miles to paint with it and have even had to use a pile of snow to hold it when I forgot my tripod! I’ve used it sitting in a kayak, floating on a salmon dock, and in the mountains of Alaska! Tried and true friend.” ~Nancy Angelini Crawford

Outdoor painters
Nancy Angelini Crawford with her Open Box M and a special assistant

“Edge Pro paint book. I love it, so quick to set up. It has magnetic panel holders that hold canvases or panels or their magnetic panels. It features paint trays on both sides and my favorite feature is the glass palette. It can be used on a table or with a tripod at just about any angle. I carry it in my laptop/camera bag, or my plain ole laptop bag. Great design and quality. I would definitely recommend it.” ~Jason Bailey

Advice for plein air artists
Jason Bailey painting in public with his Edge Pro paint book

“When first painting plein air, I made this box from an instruction video. Been using it for many years now. Would now love something a little more streamlined that’s affordable, or design one myself.” ~Laurie Samara-Schlag

Art supplies for artists
Laurie Samara Schlag’s DIY plein air easel

“I use a Strada mini, and I put the wing with the paint on it in the freezer in the camper while we travel to save paint.” ~Linda Jo Hunter

Art supplies for artists
Linda Jo Hunter’s Strada Mini

“I use a Soltek. I love it because it’s light, easy to set up, and it’s cool looking. I also made a rig for it so I can paint on my ladder for different vantage points.” ~Charles Newman

Easels for artists
Charles Newman’s unique Soltek setup

“I have three easels. Starting with a classic French easel, I use an Open Box M when I travel by air. I like to paint large. Last spring during a plein air competition event, I was painting a 24 x 30 on my French easel. Well, it blew over, twice. The backpack weight notwithstanding, I decided to change. I now use a Gloucester Take It Easel. It served me well in the recent PleinAirTEXAS event where I painted in 35 mph winds.” ~Stephen Gary Frisk

Pochade boxes for artists
Stephen Gary Frisk painting outdoors

“Alla Prima Belly River Pochade and compact Manfrotto tripod with ball head for overseas painting and Soltek easel when painting closer to home. Love them both.” ~Jan Norsetter

Advice for plein air artists
Jan Norsetter with her plein air easel

“En Plein Air Pro Easel. It’s lightweight, assembles easily, and I use it in my studio as well as plein air. It’s been to China, Italy, California, Seattle, Wisconsin, Florida, Denver, North and South Carolina, NYC, and next spring to the plein air convention! See you all there!” ~Carolyn Zbavitel

Painting outdoors setup
Carolyn Zbavitel with her En Plein Air Pro Easel

“Guerrilla cigar box 8 x 10 on a camera tripod with an insert for smaller panels.” ~Melissa Moffett

Outdoor painters
Melissa Moffett’s setup

“Custom tailgate easel. Sturdy for large work.” ~Carl Bork

Painting outdoors
Carl Bork’s custom setup for painting outdoors (above and below)

Painting outdoors setup

“Guerilla 9 x 12 laptop box with palette extender. Found it on Judson’s “seconds” page, which offers tremendous values on pochade boxes, and other plein air stuff. Solvent is in a converted plastic jar which once held Newman’s Own marinara sauce. It won’t break if it falls.” ~Sue Ginter

Pochade boxes for artists
Sue Ginter’s easel and setup from Judson’s Plein Air Outfitters

“Open Box M. They stand behind their products. I smashed it on the road and was sent in and repaired for shipping costs.” ~Lori Wallis Feldpausch

Art supplies for artists
Lori Wallis Feldpausch with her Open Box M setup

“Always use this suitcase easel.” ~Ute Farr

Pochade boxes for artists
Ute Farr’s setup for painting outdoors

“I use the French easel. It’s so convenient for me.” ~Yuriy Kapranov

Plein air easels for artists
Yuriy Kapranov’s French easel

What plein air easel do you use? Share it with us in the comments below!


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11 COMMENTS

  1. You people are scare, I have a birthday coming up and i was thinking of buying a new small plein air easel to travel with as a birthday gift to myself, and have been searching out different styles, well you have given me more thoughts on what do I really need. Loved the variety!!
    I have a traditional French Easel, but would like something small and lighter. Obvious Dick Blick let you know Weaver needs a brand new Easel. The Swiss Alps are calling!!!

  2. After a ton of research and fretting and cost/weight comparisons till my eyes crossed, I bought a Coulter easel. Comes with a good, light weight tripod. I bought the mini size palette but James Coulter swopped out the mini mast for a standard mast, at my request. Works great! Fits in a back pack. It’s already come with me from California and Maine and has been drooled over by many. It’s a sturdy little work horse at a very moderate price! Surprised nobody else mentioned it.

  3. There’s another setup you’ve overlooked : the LederEasel! Used by artists such as Liz Haywood Sullivan, Patrick Saunders, Richard McKinley, Sarah Sedwick, Susan Nicholas Gephart and hundreds of other fine painters. Very small, sturdy and lightweight. Have a look at http://www.LederEasel.com.

  4. I’d love to see more representation here for these new and innovative “Cup Easels”, I happen to have the superlite cup easel myself, I use it for watercolors both indoors, and outdoors.
    They can be found here if one is curious about what they are all about. https://cupeasels.com/

  5. I’ve owned and tried most every system mentioned in this article. But my favorite is one I did not see mentioned. It is the En Plein Air Pro. It is similar to a Coulter or a Joshua Beene Daytripper, but I like it better than both. And it costs less than most. It is an excellent setup.

  6. Interesting article! Lots of great plein air easels! Most of these set ups appear to be for “roadside” painting. I hike 2-3 miles, up and down hills, deep into the forest, to paint en plein air. There is a special vibrational frequency deep in the forest that I capture in the paintings. I was hoping to get some insight into what others are using for hiking, backpacking, and plein air painting. I am currently using the EasyL pochade and tripod in a Redwing backpack. But I am always looking for something more lightweight while still being sturdy and accommodating various sizes of supports. I would love to see an article devoted to the special needs of those who hike and backpack their equipment long distances to paint on location. Thanks!

    • I use a strata mini with two side attachments, one with extra glass for more mixing space. It fits easily into a medium size backpack along with tripod and all my gear, trail food, water etc. it’s light, durable and easy to set up, the only other thing I need to carry is my wet painting box. I hike into the North Cascades with it.

  7. I have a thin ~6″ x 4″ plate (could be wood, plastic, metal) with heavy velcro. It is screwed on to the camera base attachment plate. I cut corriboard in multiple sizes, and put more velcro on the backs of those. This is very quick and light both to make many boards and use. Although I nearly always use watercolour, I’ve put velcro on the back of various oil paint grounds as well. Also on the cardboard backs of watercolour blocks, typically 400 x 300mm. Its necessary to give the cardboard a heavy priming with PVA for localised strength. Obviously this will work an any camera tripod; min weighs about 1.1kgs and goes up to eye level height. I can’t put up photos here, or can I?

  8. I love my En Plein Air setup. It travels well and set up is easy. Taking it with me on my holidays.
    The Joshua Been company, Prolific Painter, has not been truthful with artist. I ordered a DayTripper easel from them 4 months ago and had to cancel my order as it was always ready to ship but never arriving – sad as I really liked their stuff.

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