Best Plein Air Easel for Oil Painting: Top Picks and Expert Tips

Best Plein Air Easel for Oil Painting: Top Picks and Expert Tips

I will say it upfront, while I do recommend the best plein air easel for oil painting, unlike others, this article is not going to be a long list of products I have never used. I have drawn on my own experience plus those of artists in my circle. We know that picking the right easel is like buying a car but for most of us we will own these easels for much longer.

This means that when we start embarking on a plein air painting adventure that it calls for a reliable and portable easel designed for working outdoors. When it comes to oil painting en plein air (that means outside for those of us who don’t speak French), finding the perfect easel to suit your needs can make all the difference in your experience. For me, the best plein air easel for oil painting is the French-style easel. Hands down. But find out why.

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This article will help you discover the ideal plein air easel for oil painting that complements your artistic style and enhances your outdoor painting sessions.

Selecting the best easel involves weighing factors such as lightweight construction, durability, and ease of use. With a myriad of options available on the market, determining the ideal easel for your oil painting endeavors might seem overwhelming. Worry not as we delve into the top choices, highlighting the benefits of each to help you make an informed decision.

Your chosen plein air easel should align with your artistic goals while providing the necessary support for your canvas or painting surface. As you read on, consider which features are most vital to your success and enjoyment. Soon, you will be well-equipped to paint outdoors and capture the stunning beauty of the world around you.

Best Plein Air Easel for Oil Painting: My Top Picks

Remember, my top picks do not necessarily mean they will be perfect for you so I have provided some picks for each category or plein air easels. That said, I do love a good French Style easel so I will start with that.

French-Style Easels

French-style easels are popular among plein air artists for their versatility and portability. These easels come with a built-in sketch box, which makes them perfect for storing your brushes and paints. The adjustable tripod legs allow you to paint while standing or sitting. One great option is the Jack Richeson Weston Full French Plein Air, which is considered the best French easel for beginners, giving you a professional feel at an affordable price.

At half the price you can also get the Artina from Amazon.

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Pochade Boxes

Pochade boxes are small and easily transportable, making them a favorite choice for plein air painters. These boxes store your painting supplies and provide a stable surface for your canvas. The Strada Easel is a top pick because it withstands high winds while offering a sturdy platform for your artwork. Another popular option is the Guerilla Painter Cigar Box, which can hold pastel palettes when combined with an old photo tripod.

Below is the Sienna Plein Air Pochade box which is considered one of the best in the price range.

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Tabletop Easels

Tabletop easels are perfect for those who prefer painting at a table or in a more confined space. The benefit of these easels is their compact size. When choosing a tabletop easel, look for one that is stable and easy to set up, making your painting experience enjoyable.

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H-Frame Easels

H-Frame easels are a classic choice for oil painters. They provide a stable base and are generally adjustable. Keep in mind that H-Frame easels can be bulkier than other options, but their sturdiness makes up for it. The Mabef M22 Sketch Box is an adjustable easel that’s primarily designed for outdoor use but can work well in a studio too. With its quality construction and materials, this easel is a reliable pick for a studio but I would not want to carry this around for plein air painting unless the location is right outside my studio.

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When choosing the best plein air easel for your oil painting needs, consider the style that suits you best and the quality of materials. Explore different options and you’ll find the perfect easel to support your artistic endeavors.

Features to Consider

Size and Weight

Selecting a plein air easel for oil painting should begin with considering its size and weight. A lightweight easel will be easier to carry, especially when you add a shoulder strap for convenience. You may be exploring the outdoors to find the perfect spot for your masterpiece, so keeping the weight to a minimum is essential.

Adjustable Components

A good plein air easel has adjustable canvas holders. This feature allows you to accommodate various canvas sizes, from large landscapes to small, intimate oil paintings. Make sure your easel can support your desired canvas size. Additionally, look for adjustable legs so that you can work comfortably on uneven terrains or in small spaces.

Storage Space

Storage space is a key aspect when choosing the perfect plein air easel. You need room to carry your paint supplies, brushes, and other tools required for oil painting. An easel with built-in storage compartments will make it easier to organize your materials and keep them within reach while you’re painting.

Ease of Setup

Lastly, focus on the ease of setup. You don’t want to spend valuable painting time struggling to assemble your easel. Look for a model with a simple, intuitive design that allows you to set it up and break it down quickly, so you can spend more time capturing the beauty of the outdoors on your canvas.

Top Brands and Products

Sienna Plein Air Pochade Box

Sienna Plein Air Pochade Box is a top choice for outdoor artists. Its sleek design and durable construction make it an attractive option for oil painters. The adjustable canvas holder allows you to work on various canvas sizes comfortably. The box also includes storage compartments for brushes, paint tubes, and other necessary supplies. You’ll appreciate the convenience this box brings while painting outdoors.

En Plein Air Pro

En Plein Air Pro offers a lightweight and portable solution for oil painting. The brand’s easel system combines a sturdy tripod with an easy-to-assemble easel, making setup a breeze. You’ll find the design of the easel simple and practical, ensuring you have a hassle-free painting experience. With En Plein Air Pro’s system, your focus remains on your beautiful artwork.

Jullian French Easel

The classic Jullian French Easel is a tried and tested choice among oil painters. The beautiful wooden design not only looks elegant, but it also provides ample storage for your art supplies. You can adjust the workspace to suit your preference, making it versatile for various working environments. Trust in Jullian’s longstanding reputation to provide a reliable easel for your outdoor painting sessions.

Meeden Ultimate Pochade Box

Meeden’s Ultimate Pochade Box is a compact and efficient option for plein air artists. Its design allows for easy transportation, and the adjustable canvas holder can accommodate different sizes. The box includes storage compartments and a sliding palette, ensuring all your supplies are organized and accessible. Meeden’s system offers a practical and user-friendly outdoor painting setup.

Original Soltek Easel

If portability is your top priority, the Original Soltek Easel is a smart choice. With a lightweight design and quick setup, you’ll spend less time assembling and more time painting. The easel’s stability on uneven terrain ensures an enjoyable painting experience. Enjoy the benefits the Original Soltek Easel brings to your oil painting adventures outdoors.

Remember, finding the perfect plein air easel depends on your preferences and requirements. Carefully consider the options mentioned above to find the easel that best suits your outdoor oil painting needs. Happy painting!

Accessories and Art Supplies

Palette Knives and Brushes

To create beautiful oil paintings, you’ll need a variety of palette knives and brushes. Different sizes and shapes will help you produce various effects on your canvas. Brushes with natural bristles like hog hair are ideal for oil painting, while flexible palette knives will assist in mixing and applying paint. Keeping your brushes clean is vital and using a brush cleaner can extend their lifespan.

Paints and Mediums

Oil painters should select high-quality paint tubes for the best results. Keep an eye out for professional-grade paints, as they have higher pigment concentrations and produce more vibrant colors. Some popular paint brands to consider are Winsor & Newton, Gamblin, and Old Holland.

In addition to paints, you’ll require mediums to modify the paint’s properties. Linseed oil is a common medium that reduces paint viscosity and enhances drying time. You may also try other mediums like stand oil or odorless mineral spirits, depending on your preference.

Storage and Transport Options

When painting outdoors, having the right storage and transport solutions is necessary. A sturdy pochade box or a traveling paint box is a great option for plein air artists. These boxes can hold your paint tubes, palette knives, brushes, and canvas panels securely during outdoor painting sessions, making them a key accessory for your plein air easel.

For palettes, consider using lightweight paint trays made of plastic or metal. 

They are easy to clean and can hold your paints and mediums efficiently.

To protect your privacy while painting outdoors, a privacy policy or an umbrella can offer shade and keep your work from curious onlookers. Umbrellas designed for plein air painting are lightweight and portable, allowing you to focus on your creative process without distractions.

Remember to keep your outdoor painting needs in mind when selecting accessories and art supplies. Equip yourself with the right tools, and you’ll be well-prepared for any plein air painting adventure.

Tips for Plein Air Painting

Selecting the Right Easel for Your Style

When plein air painting, finding the right easel is vital. Your choice depends on your specific needs and painting style. Some popular easels for plein air painting include:

Remember, the best easel for you should be portable, adjustable, and able to hold large canvases. Test different easels to find the one that best fits you.

Maintaining and Cleaning Your Easel

Taking care of your easel helps to extend its lifespan. Be sure to:

  • Clean paint – Wipe off excess paint from your easel after each painting session.
  • Regularly inspect – Check your easel for any damaged or loose parts.
  • Store properly – Keep your easel in a dry and cool place when not in use.

Don’t forget to occasionally oil any moving parts of your easel to keep it working smoothly.

Choosing a Painting Location

Picking the perfect spot for your plein air painting sessions can be both fun and challenging. When scouting locations, consider:

  • Accessibility – Ensure the site is easy to reach with your painting gear.
  • Lighting – Look for spots with natural light that highlights the landscape.
  • Comfort – Pick a location where you can work comfortably for several hours.

The Best Plein Air Easel for Oil Painting – Wrap Up!

With these tips in mind, grab the best plein air easel for your needs, find a location that not only inspires you but also suits your painting style and get started.

Remember: When it comes to plein air painting, the French style easel stands out as the best option for artists seeking a versatile and reliable companion. Its ability to accommodate various canvas panel sizes, combined with its light weight and sturdy construction, makes it an ideal choice for landscape painters.

With a wide selection of easels available, you should prioritize the best quality that will last for more than a couple years. My own easels are over 20 years old, I even have one that is 40 years old and I purchased that second hand from a landscape painter.

For those who wish to showcase their finished artwork, a display easel, like a particular model designed for plein-air painters, offers the perfect solution. Embracing the French-style easel as a plein-air painter ensures that you have the best tool at your disposal to unleash your creativity and capture the beauty of the natural world.

FAQs: The Best Plein Air Easel for Oil Painting

What is the best plein air easel for professional artists? 

The best plein air easel for professional artists would depend on their specific needs and preferences. However, some highly recommended options include the French-style easel, the Sienna pochade box, and the New Wave U-shaped easel. My pick is the French Style easel purely because of its flexibility in being able to be used in many ways indoors and out.

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What are the benefits of a French-style easel for oil painting? 

French-style easels are popular among plein air painters due to their portability and versatility. They typically feature a sturdy tripod design, a spacious palette area, storage compartments for art materials, and adjustable canvas supports. They are suitable for both small and larger canvases and offer a comfortable working height.

Can I use a French-style easel for watercolor painting as well? 

Yes, a French-style easel can be used for watercolor painting too. While primarily designed for oil painting, they can accommodate various painting mediums, including watercolors. However, it’s important to ensure that the easel provides the necessary support and stability for watercolor techniques.

What is the Sienna pochade box, and why is it popular in the market today? 

The Sienna pochade box is a compact and lightweight plein air easel system that combines a portable painting box and an easel. It is well-regarded for its simplicity, durability, and ease of use. The Sienna pochade box allows artists to paint on various canvas sizes and offers convenient storage for art supplies.

Can I use a camera tripod as a substitute for a plein air easel? 

While a camera tripod may serve as a temporary substitute in certain situations, it may not provide the same stability and functionality as a dedicated plein air easel. Easels designed for painting offer specific features like adjustable angles, palette areas, and canvas holders that are crucial for outdoor painting.

Which easel provides plenty of room for a palette box and other art materials? 

The New Wave U-shaped easel is known for its generous palette area and additional compartments for art supplies. It offers ample space for a palette box, brushes, paints, and other necessary materials, making it a convenient choice for plein air painters who require sufficient working area.

What are the advantages of using the New Wave U-shaped easel? 

The New Wave U-shaped easel is appreciated by artists for its lightweight construction, adjustable height, stability, and versatility. It provides a comfortable painting experience, accommodates different canvas sizes, and allows for easy adjustment of the painting angle.

Is the classic French easel a good option for plein air painting? 

Yes, the classic French easel is considered a popular and reliable option for plein air painting. Its timeless design, sturdy construction, and convenient portability make it a favorite among artists. It typically features a foldable design, adjustable legs, a spacious palette area, and storage compartments.

What is an H-frame easel, and is it suitable for outdoor painting? 

An H-frame easel is a type of studio easel known for its solid structure and stability. While primarily designed for studio use, some H-frame easels come with collapsible features that make them portable for outdoor painting. However, due to their larger size and weight, they may be less convenient for frequent plein air painting.

Which portable easels are recommended for painting on canvas panels? 

For painting on canvas panels, several portable easels are well-suited to meet your needs. The Sienna pochade box, New Wave U-shaped easel, and certain French-style easels often provide secure support and adjustable grips to accommodate canvas panels of different sizes.

Can you recommend a great easel with sturdy front legs and a lightweight design? 

The New Wave U-shaped easel and some French-style easels are known for their sturdy front legs and lightweight construction. These features ensure stability while painting outdoors and make transportation hassle-free.

What are the benefits of a removable tempered glass palette on an easel? 

A removable tempered glass palette offers several advantages. It provides a smooth and non-porous surface for mixing colors, is easy to clean, and allows artists to accurately judge the true color of their paints. Additionally, being removable, it facilitates easy replacement or cleaning of the palette.

Is it important for the easel to be made of solid wood? 

While solid wood construction can provide durability and stability to an easel, it is not the only determining factor for its quality. Many high-quality easels combine solid wood with other materials to enhance their overall functionality, portability, and lifespan.

Does the easel need a panel holder for holding canvas panels securely? 

Yes, an easel with a reliable panel holder or canvas support is essential for securely holding canvas panels in place during painting. It ensures that the surface remains stable and prevents any accidental movement or damage to the artwork.

What is a brush tray, and why is it essential for an easel? 

A brush tray is a dedicated compartment or shelf on an easel where artists can store and organize their brushes. It helps keep the brushes easily accessible, prevents them from rolling away or getting misplaced, and maintains a clean workspace while painting.

Which easels are recommended for serious artists and their art materials? 

Serious artists often require easels with sturdy construction and ample storage space. French-style easels, such as the classic French easel or the New Wave U-shaped easel, are popular choices among serious artists due to their durability, versatility, and storage capabilities.

Does the easel have a spacious palette area for mixing colors, like Jim Wilcox’s easel? 

While specific easels may vary in their palette area, certain models, like the Soltek Easel used by Jim Wilcox, are designed to provide a generous palette space. Artists who prefer extensive color mixing and larger palettes can opt for easels with a spacious palette area.

Can you explain the different types of easels available in the market today? 

The market offers a variety of easel types, including French-style easels, H-frame easels, pochade boxes, and flat panel easels. Each type has its own features and advantages, catering to different preferences, mediums, canvas sizes, and portability requirements.

Is there a specific easel that is ideal for landscape painters? 

Landscape painters often prefer easels that are lightweight, portable, and can withstand outdoor conditions. French-style easels, pochade boxes, and certain flat panel easels are commonly recommended for plein air landscape painting due to their practicality and adaptability.

What factors should I consider when selecting an easel for outdoor painting? 

When choosing an easel for outdoor painting, factors to consider include portability, stability, ease of setup, adjustable angles, storage capacity, durability, weight, and compatibility with your preferred canvas sizes and mediums.

How does a bungee cord attachment help in securing the canvas or panel on the easel? 

A bungee cord attachment is a practical feature on some easels that helps secure the canvas or panel firmly in place during painting. It prevents the artwork from shifting or falling off the easel, providing stability and peace of mind while working outdoors.

Can the easel be shipped internationally, and which models are suitable for this? 

The availability of international shipping would depend on the specific manufacturer or retailer. However, many reputable brands offer international shipping options for their easels. French-style easels, such as the Jullian easel, are often available for international purchase and shipping.

Is the Jullian easel known for its quality and suitability for oil paints? 

Yes, the Jullian easel is widely recognized for its quality craftsmanship and suitability for oil painting. It is favored by many professional artists for its sturdy build, adjustable features, and the ability to accommodate larger canvas sizes.

Which easels are best suited for larger-sized canvases and a portable studio setup? 

Easels with a full French easel design, H-frame easels with adjustable central columns, and certain pochade boxes are well-suited for larger-sized canvases and provide a portable studio-like setup. They offer stability, height adjustability, and ample working area for artists working on larger projects.

Can an easel be used for acrylic paint and studio use as well? 

Yes, many easels are versatile and suitable for different painting mediums, including acrylic paint. While some easels are specifically designed for outdoor or plein air painting, others are designed for studio use and can accommodate various mediums, making them ideal for artists working in a studio setting.

Are there easels available that can accommodate larger canvases for plein air painting? 

Yes, certain French-style easels and H-frame easels are designed to accommodate larger canvases for plein air painting. These easels often have adjustable canvas holders, sturdy frames, and extended height options to support larger-sized artworks.

How long can I expect a high-quality easel to last, considering regular use for a couple of years? 

The lifespan of an easel can vary depending on factors such as the quality of materials, frequency of use, maintenance, and care. However, a well-built and properly maintained easel should be able to last for several years, even with regular use by a serious artist.

Is there an easel with a display feature for showcasing finished artwork? 

Yes, some easels come with display features, such as a front-facing configuration or adjustable bottom crosspieces, that allow artists to showcase their finished artwork directly on the easel. This feature is especially useful for plein air painters who want to exhibit their work in outdoor settings.

Do all easels have bottom crosspieces, and what purpose do they serve? 

Not all easels have bottom crosspieces, but they are common in certain designs like French-style easels and H-frame easels. Bottom crosspieces provide stability and support to the easel, preventing it from wobbling or tipping over while painting on uneven or outdoor surfaces.

What extra features should I look for in a particular easel model for my home studio? 

When selecting an easel for your home studio, consider features like adjustable angles, storage compartments, ease of assembly, stability, compatibility with various canvas sizes, and the ability to accommodate specific painting techniques or mediums.

Can you recommend a full French easel suitable for a seasoned artist? 

The Jullian easel is highly regarded as a full French easel suitable for seasoned artists. It is known for its quality, durability, and the ability to handle larger canvases. The Jullian easel offers a range of adjustable features, making it a preferred choice for experienced painters.

What is the role of the adjustable central column in a plein-air easel? 

The adjustable central column in a plein-air easel allows artists to modify the height and angle of the canvas or painting surface. This feature enables comfortable positioning of the artwork and provides flexibility to accommodate various painting styles and preferences.

Which easels are recommended for a small size and flat panel paintings? 

For small-sized and flat panel paintings, easels such as pochade boxes or flat panel easels are well-suited. These compact and lightweight options offer stability, ease of use, and the ability to accommodate smaller artwork sizes.

Are there half-box easels available with a deep storage tray for art materials? 

Yes, some half-box easels are designed with a deep storage tray to accommodate art materials such as paints, brushes, and palettes. These trays provide convenient storage within the easel itself, allowing artists to keep their supplies organized and easily accessible during outdoor painting sessions.

Which easels are suitable for larger scale works and smaller canvases? 

Easels with adjustable features like the Jullian easel or H-frame easels with extended height options are suitable for larger scale works. For smaller canvases, portable easels like pochade boxes or flat panel easels offer compactness and convenience without compromising stability.

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