The Ultimate Easel Guide

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easel guide

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I will be going over a basic list of 10 different types of easels. All painters have different needs from their easel. Hopefully, you will be able to determine which easel suits your needs best after going through this guide.

H Frame Easel

The Ultimate Easel Guide

The first item in the easel guide is the H frame easel. They are often made of heavy beech, elm wood or Lyptus wood and get their name from their H like frame. They stand on a sturdy square base which allows you to adjust the angle of the easel without compromising stability. The downside of this type of model is that they take up a lot more space than other easels as they do not fold up easily for storing away.

However, if you have a dedicated studio space where you can leave an ease indefinitely, then this will not be a problem! There are smaller models available for those who have limited space.

Many of the H frame easel models can handle up to 84″ – 96″. If you paint large this is one for you to look at!

Prices for these range from about $90 – $1460

Giant Easel

You guessed it. These are for serious artists working on huge canvases – up to 8 ft! Giant easels are extra strong and sturdy for those who work very large.

Giant easels are usually larger, heavier and bulkier than H frame easels and not easy to transport! I purchased my Giant easel off of craigslist (something I do recommend as they can be expensive brand new). At a 7.5 feet tall (at its shortest) I just barely got it to fit into my vehicle. So, if you do go to purchase one in person (instead of having it shipped to you) plan the transportation for it accordingly.

Prices for these range from $300 – $1800

A Frame or Lyre Easels

The Lyre easel or also known as A Frame easel is triangular in form with three pieces of wood forming a triangle – hence their name! This easel is considered to be the second sturdiest indoor easel design. They fold flat easily so you can lean them against your wall if you do not need it out all the time. Unfortunately this easel type cannot be tilted back (for watercolorists) or forward (for pastellists).

Depending on which model you are looking at the A frame easel can hold paintings ranging from 38″ – 75″. As they are not the sturdiest of all the easels, if you tend to work large it is recommended to go for an H frame or Giant easel.

The price range of this easel is $50 – $250.

Convertible Easels

The convertible easel is great for artists working in various different types of media. They can stand upright or fold down to a table like state – something watercolorists would be apt to like. The upright position is ideal for those working in oils. So, if you like to switch between watercolors and oils this would be a good option for you.

Convertible easels tend to be sturdier than A frame easels but require more space.

Prices for these range from $90 – $750.

Single Mast Easels

The single mast easel is one of the most affordable options and folds up easily. They are not as sturdy as H frame or A easels but can support canvases up to 50 in. However, if you are just starting out and do not work large this would be a great option.

Price range for a single mast easel $42 – $600

Tabletop Easels

The tabletop easel is great for artists who like to work sitting down and on smaller sized canvases. As it is small it is very portable allowing you to take it with you on travels. Also, because of their small size they are easily stored away. All (except for pochade boxes) are designed for indoor use.

There are various different designs available for the tabletop from H frame, A frame, and single mast design. Some of the more sturdy ones may have a drawer at its base which is helpful for you to store art supplies in.

Prices range from $15 – $200

Plein Air Easels

When doing plein air painting you of course want an easel that is portable and light weight. There are numerous different options and designs available.

French easel – The French easel is a sketchbox, easel and canvas carrier all in one. The sketchbox can hold your supplies. The legs fold out so that the easel will be tall enough for you to be able see your painting at eye level. The drawer that pulls out will hold your palette.

One of the many things that I appreciate about the French easel is that there is space between the palette and your painting. In addition, it is one of the sturdiest of the Plein air easels. I personally use this easel when I go out to do some landscape painting. This is something that pochade boxes lack. The drawback however is that the French Ease is typically more on the heavier side – ranging from 10 – 13 lbs.

Tripod with palette box and canvas/ panel holder – This one is great in concept as it has the potential to be lighter than the French easel – though is typically not as sturdy.

ultimate guide to easels. tripod with palete box and canvas holder. Sienna easels

Tripod with pochade box – I love pochade boxes! They are great for taking with you on travels as they take up very little space. Also, you can easily store your supplies inside the box.

However, I have to admit that they are not my go to when it comes to plein air painting. They simply do not allow for vigorous plein air painting. There is no space between the palette and the canvas which does not allow for one to put a lot of arm muscle into mixing on your palette. Your arm has to always be bent upward if you want your painting closer to eye level. If you lower the pochade box then your painting is too far away. These are all my own personal preferences however, you might feel differently.

The pochade box showing its storage compartment

ultimate easel guide, sienna pochade box

Depending on which pochade box you purchase, you can attach a tripod to its base so that you can paint standing up. This is an ideal set up for plein air painting. The Sienna pochade box can have a tripod attached to its base.

prices cary between $17 – $500

Bench Easels

Now, the last item in the easel guide (but not least). Nearly all who go to art school experience bench easels at some point. What is great about bench easels is that it is an easel and chair all in one. However, it does not allow for the option to stand up and use as an easel. In my opinion, it is important to be able to stand up painting. Though you might find it useful in times when you need to sit in order to paint.

Prices can range between $200 – $400

Thank you for reading, I hope this easel guide was helpful for you!

Elisabeth Larson Koehler creator of art studio life

Hi! I am Elisabeth

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      3 thoughts on “The Ultimate Easel Guide”

      1. I have found the Hughes Easel to be the most adaptive for canvas of any I have ever used. Balanced for easy adjustment in height end best for studio.

        1. Elisabeth Larson Koehler

          Looked them up as had not heard of them before. Look like terrific easels! Will have to remember the name.

      2. Pingback: How to get started with oil painting - Art Studio Life

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