French Easel Vs Pochade Box: Plein Air Like A Professional

When it comes to plein-air painting, two popular options are the French easel and the pochade box easel.

While both are designed for outdoor use, they have some clear differences that can make one more suitable for your needs than the other.

Let’s explore the differences, pros, and cons of both easels.

A French easel

A French easel is a traditional, three-legged easel that typically comes with a built-in palette and storage for art supplies.

It can be adjusted to different heights and angles, making it a versatile tool for painting outdoors or in the studio.

A Pochard box

A pochade box easel is a portable, box-like device that holds your painting surface and art supplies.

It usually includes a small tripod to support the box while you work, and can be attached to a larger tripod for additional stability.

Now, let’s compare the two options in a table based on their key attributes as easels and useability:

AttributesFrench EaselPochade Box
Size and weightLarge and a little heavy but still portable. Not like a studio easel.

The average size of a French easel varies depending on the specific model, but most French easels are designed to hold canvases up to 32 inches in height.

When folded, a typical French easel is about 24 inches by 18 inches by 6 inches.

When fully extended and set up for use, a French easel can be as tall as 70 inches.

Keep in mind that there are many different French easel models available, so the size can vary depending on the specific brand and design.
Small and lightweight, very portable.

The average size of a pochade box easel also varies depending on the specific model, but most pochade boxes are designed to hold canvases up to 16-18 inches in height.

When closed, a typical pochade box easel is about 12 inches by 16 inches by 3 inches.

When fully extended and set up for use, a pochade box easel can be as tall as 30 inches.

However, keep in mind that like French easels, there are many different pochade box models available, so the size can vary depending on the specific brand and design.
Storage capacitySpaciousLimited
Set-up timeLonger (around 5 to 10 minutes)Shorter (Up and running in less than 5 minutes)
StabilityStable, but can be affected by wind as it is light weight but not as light as pochade box easelLess stable than a French easel. I like to weigh mine down when I am using one
VersatilityCan be used indoors and outdoors, adjustableBest for outdoor use, limited adjustability

French Easel

If you have never seen a French easel before, have a look at the (clickable image takes you to Amazon) image below.

See the various compartments, drawers and how the legs are angled as they are usually attached to the base of the drawer rather than pivoting on a joint.

French Easel
French Easel

Pochade Box

If you have never seen a Pochade box easel before, have a look at the (clickable image takes you to Amazon) image below.

See the various compartments, drawers and how the legs are angled and can pivot at the base where they join the box.

Pochade Box
Pochade Box

One of the main differences between a French easel and a pochade box easel is size and weight.

French easels tend to be larger and heavier, making them more difficult to transport but I would not say an impossibility, they are just heavier than a smaller easel that is all.

On the other hand, pochade boxes are typically more compact and lightweight, making them easier to carry with you on the go.

Another factor to consider is storage capacity. French easels usually have more room for art supplies, which is important if you need to carry a large number of materials with you.

Pochade boxes, on the other hand, have limited storage space, but can still hold the essentials for plein air painting.

Set-up time is also an important consideration. French easels can take longer to set up, as you need to adjust the legs and angle the canvas.

Pochade boxes, on the other hand, are quicker to set up, as you simply need to attach the box to the tripod and adjust the canvas holder.

Stability is another important factor to consider

French easels are generally more stable than pochade boxes, as they have three legs and are more resistant to wind.

However, pochade boxes can still provide a stable painting surface when attached to a tripod.

Finally, versatility is also important to consider. French easels can be used both indoors and outdoors, and are adjustable to different angles and heights.

Pochade boxes are best suited for outdoor use, but can still be used indoors if you attach them to a larger tripod. However, they are limited in terms of adjustability.

Now that we’ve compared the two options, let’s explore the pros and cons of each.

French Easel Pros:

  • Spacious storage capacity
  • Stable painting surface
  • Adjustable to different angles and heights
  • Suitable for indoor and outdoor use

French Easel Cons:

  • Large and heavy, making it difficult to transport
  • Longer set-up time
  • More expensive than pochade boxes

Pochade Box Pros:

  • Lightweight and compact, making it easy to transport
  • Quick set-up time
  • Affordable
  • Ideal for outdoor use

Pochade Box Cons:

  • Limited storage capacity
  • Less stable than a French easel, especially in windy conditions
  • Limited adjustability

Choose the right one for you

If you prioritize portability and quick set-up time, a pochade box easel is likely the better option for you.

It is ideal for artists who don’t need to carry a large number of supplies with them and prefer to work in outdoor settings.

Pochade Boxes

Pochade boxes are also a more affordable option, making them a good choice for artists on a budget.

On the other hand, if you need more storage space for your supplies and prefer a stable painting surface, a French easel may be the better option for you.

French Easels

French easels are also a good choice if you work both indoors and outdoors, and if you don’t mind carrying around a heavier, bulkier option.

It’s worth noting that some artists may prefer to use both a French easel and a pochade box easel, depending on their needs.

For example, you could use a pochade box easel for quick outdoor sketches, and a French easel for more extended outdoor painting sessions or indoor studio work.

What I like

Personally, I like the French easel for smaller paintings (I use a large studio easel for my big canvases).

The French easel lets me throw all my stuff into the drawers and I can carry it around and set up quite quickly.

I am sure I would come to love the pochade box easel given the time I needed with it.

I have found a few models online that may suit your needs but please go into an art store and see for yourself as these tools need to be seen in person to ensure they suit your height and other needs.

Other notable Plein Air easels to consider

While we have been comparing the French easel vs Pochade box, if you need to look at other easel options there are plenty more that may suit your needs have a look at the links below:

A Drafting Table Or Easel? What’s Best For Artists

The Best Easel Alternatives That Don’t Cost A Fortune

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