plein air easel at the ocean

7 Best Plein Air Easel Reviews (A MUST READ!)

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There is nothing to compare with painting outdoors in nature! The colors are true and vibrant and you are guaranteed a 100% original work of art because you are not painting from a photograph.

Choosing the best plein air easel for your next art project is key to your success!

You’ll need special equipment to make your experience a great one. Having a plein air easel setup that is a good fit for your body, the circumstances you’ll most often encounter and your personal challenges can make the difference between a miserable, difficult and frustrating day or an enjoyable and fulfilling experience.

Unfortunately, you can’t just pop over to your local chain store and see all the latest models. Here’s where I can help! 

If you are short on time, here’s a quick list of my recommendations in descending order of preference for the best plein air easel:

The truth is no one system works best for every person in every situation. That’s why I recommend that you start with asking yourself a few questions:

    • Do I have physical challenges with carrying heavy loads or bulky equipment (some easels with supplies stored inside can weigh close to 18lbs) – especially during the heat of the day?
    • Do I have to remain seated to paint a painting that may require 4 or more hours in the field to paint?
    • Do I need a quick and super simple setup process or can I fiddle with the setup for a while to get it just right?
    • Am I on a strict budget and am I willing to settle for merely o.k. quality for now or is this a one-time-gotta-get-it-right purchase?
    • Am I a beginner who just wants to try things out and see how I enjoy painting outdoors first before I make an investment in professional quality?
      • Is it super important that it be durable enough for airplane travel possibly to foreign countries?
    • Do I already have a strong preference on how my paint set up works? Do I like my palette in my hand the old european way or do I like it at my waist level on a tray or up near my painting?
    • Am I planning to take my set backpacking or am I planning to stay on paved areas close to my car?
    • Am I living in small quarters and need everything to store in a compact and low profile area?

Top 7 Plein Air Easels Reviews

If you are like me, you have specific needs and preferences, so here are my top recommendations for plein air easels that are available for quick and in most cases, free delivery:

1. Sienna Plein Air All in One Pochade Box (CT-PB-1014) by Richeson (RECOMMENDED)

My Top Pick for Serious Beginners and Intermediate Painters

If you need all in one toting and storage, this is a great easel box (pochade in french). It’s on the higher end of mid range in cost. More versatile than the Guerrilla and deeper storage. You DO have to read the directions that come with it and straighten the adjustment arms horizontal before you adjust the easel part, but that’s not hard!

Good quality construction, easy to use, a little heavy for a cheap tripod, so plan on investing in am aluminum or carbon tripod designed for weight and a quick release plate. (see my recommendation directly below). Store everything you need, transport wet canvases and palette, what’s not to love?

If you can afford the price point, this one is my top pick for serious beginners and intermediate painters.

>>Check Price at Blick Art Materials<<

>>Check Price on Amazon<<

(Note: Sometimes the photo for this Sienna Plein Air Pochade Box doesn’t work. But I can promise you this is still the best!)

  • All in one storage
  • Large palette mixing area and can transport with wet paint
  • Beautiful finish and fine detailed woodwork
  • Can use with a tripod
  • Sturdy and well made
  • Maximum versatility with medium price point

Total Rating: 88%

  • 5 out of 5 for portability and easy setup and take down
  • 4 out of 5 for durability
  • 5 out of 5 for versatility
  • 4 out of 5 for weight
  • 4 out of 5 for quality construction

(BONUS) ZOMEI Light Weight Portable Carbon Fiber Travel Complete Tripod Come with Ball Head Carry Case for Digital/Camcorder/DSLR/SLR/Video Camera, Orange

My Top Pick for a Tripod/Release Plate Combo

For the price, this lightweight professional tripod can tolerate weight up to 33 lbs! I wish I had bought this tripod. It comes with a quick release plate, a ball head for superior rotation adjustments and its own carry bag.

>>Check Price on Amazon<<

  • Superior rated for 33 lbs
  • Lightweight
  • Quick release plate included
  • Very appropriate for all your camera or video use as well
  • Very highly rated by professional photographers in this price point

Plein Air Easels and Pochade Boxes:

2. Professional Series En Plein Air Pro Oil & Acrylic Easel Package PETG Palette by En Plein Air Pro (TOP RATED)

There are many reasons why professional field artists prefer a tripod and easel combination. For myself, weight, portability in a backpack and quick and easy setup were my top priorities. I also prefer having the palette area be large and capable of folding up with wet paint inside.

I don’t mind having a separate wet panel carrier, and I prefer transporting my expensive brushes, solvent and paint in separate containers. Having my hands free to brace myself for clumsy trips over any old thing in the path is a must.

I can stuff into the backpack a folding stool, water bottle, roll of paper towels and I’m ready for just about anything. I can carry more weight on my back than in my hands. This Professional Plein Air Pro package is spendy, but it ticks all my boxes. Having everything in a backpack for airplane carryon is a plus.

>>Check Price on Amazon<<

  • High End
  • Light weight
  • Quick and easy setup and break down
  • Pan headed easel allows for adjustment from horizontal to vertical
  • Lever adjustments for tripod legs
  • Holds larger canvas with a central column that is adjustable up or down
  • Large Plastic resin palette for easy cleanup. Glass palette available for additional cost
  • Quick disconnect plate for easy on and off
  • Two slide out shelves to hold solvent and brushes with holes to keep brushes upright
  • Built in value scale chart
  • Palette cover doubles as a shade for canvas
  • PETG Palette 10.5 lbs Glass Palette 13.5lbs

Total Rating: 92%

  • 5 out of 5 stars for portability and ease of setup and take down
  • 4 out of 5 stars for durability
  • 5 out of 5 stars for versatility
  • 5 out of 5 stars for weight
  • 4 out of 5 stars for quality of construction

3. U.S. Art Supply Coronado French Style Easel & Sketchbox by u.S. Art Supply

The traditional French style easel has been in use for a over a hundred years. It’s pretty cool to tap into the romance of historical European master artist equipment without resorting to wearing a beret hat!

It is practical, useful and has all in one storage. I used one for many years before the invention of tripod style backpack systems.

Quality of construction is a concern, but in an entry level price point, that is to be expected. In my humble opinion, the screws on all french easel legs are problematic. There are plenty of youtube videos demonstrating how to assemble the legs on a french style easel, but I would get some washers to help that along.

The french style easels allow you to have your pallet at waist level and raise your painting surface up higher. Some manufacturers use super low quality wood that bends and snaps easily, but this one won’t do that.

This entry level french easel is better made than most, and at an attractive enough price point that it’s a great choice for teens and beginners.

>>Check Price on Amazon<<

  • Traditional wood french easel Beechwood
  • Budget priced
  • Ample storage for paints, brushes and small jars of solvent in a 3 compartment drawer- can stow it all away in a closet
  • Cumbersome and really awkward setup and take down
  • Bulky
  • Wooden palette
  • Can sit on a table top or adjust legs for sitting down
  • Too heavy to backpack or carry long distances
  • Not durable enough to be appropriate for long term use

Total Rating: 44%

  • 2 out of 5 stars for portability
  • 2 out of 5 stars for durability
  • 4 out of 5 stars for versatility
  • 1 out of 5 stars for weight
  • 2 out of 5 stars for quality of construction

4. Guerrilla Painter 9×12 Guerrilla Box Plein Air Painting Pochade Box with In Lid Easel for 9×12 in panels or canvas and Storage by guerrilla painter

A step up in price is this great little workhorse of an easel. This baby is durable. And I should know…I’ve dropped, bumped, crashed and tripped over my easels and this one keeps on going.

It is capable of storing everything you need to paint, but unlike a french easel, it’s super easy to set up and take down. It adjusts with one big screw handle and has a compact profile for home storage. Unless you like painting with it on your lap, you’ll need a camera tripod and a quick release mounting plate.

The palette mixing area is small and is very close to your painting surface. If you paint with thick blobs of paint and hope to leave your wet pallet intact with the painting in the lid for transport, you may have contact issues.

I would purchase a quick release plate and a tripod so I didn’t have it sit on my lap. It’s small enough to fit in a backpack. It can’t accommodate larger painting surfaces well. If that’s not a deal breaker, I know many artists who love their Guerrilla.

>>Check Price on Amazon<<

>>Check Price for Similar on Blick Art Materials<<

  • Mid price range
  • Nicely secures 9x 12 panels for painting, but they are recessed into the lid. If you like to paint over the edges of the surface, you’re going to get paint all over the lid of your box.
  • Compact and deep storage
  • Very durable made with basswood laminate for extra durability
  • Will hold up under less than gentle transport
  • Can hold up to four wet 9×12 panels for transport
  • Holds most of your supplies
  • One sturdy knob for adjusting. Easy to use and tighten
  • Palette can be left inside the box with wet paint on it, and no smearing
  • Weighs 5 lb empty
  • Use alone on your lap or with a tripod
  • This bad boy will last a lifetime
  • The tripod is not included, but make sure to invest in a sturdy model.

Total Rating: 88%

  • 5 out of 5 stars for portability and easy set up and take down
  • 5 out of 5 stars for durability
  • 3 out of 5 stars for versatility in the field for fairly limited painting surface sizes
  • 4 out of 5 stars for weight
  • 5 out of 5 stars for quality of construction

It has a screw hole in the bottom for tripod mounting, which means you have to turn, turn, turn it to mount it onto a tripod but the better option would be purchasing a quick release plate :

>>Check Price on Amazon<<

5. Sienna Plein Air Artist Pochade Box Easel Medium Brown (CT-PB-0910) by sienna plein air

I own two Sienna Plein Air easels. At this price point I could justify one for oils and one for pastels. The copycat easels with this slender and lightweight profile can run triple what one of these cost. I’d rather spend my money on paint.

While the quality is somewhat lacking, it makes up for it with the large palette mixing area that I can just close up wet and take home.

I like the attaching tray to lay brushes and mixing solvents and it folds up very light weight and compact. I enjoy having my brushes in separate storage boxes and my paints as well, so I prefer the light weight of this pochade. It also means I don’t have to worry about wobble on the tripod as I paint.

The extra tray attaches to the rear of the lid with light weight magnets, which are inadequate. I solved that by strapping the lid down with a bungee or old belt, which again, is fine for me as I want extra assurance that my stuff won’t come flying out on the long trek back to the car. (It’s happened with cheaper easels and no fun when you are juggling a wet canvas or two and you are hot and tired, or getting rained on).

Folks who complain that it feels wobbly at the hinges don’t read the instructions included with the easel! You are supposed to extend the hinged supports horizontal before you open the lid to your desired location, THEN you tighten the three knobs. (KNOBS, not tiny wing nuts. Yahoo!)

It doesn’t come with its own backpack, which is fine for me as I own several. All in all a great mid range outdoor easel.

>>Check Price on Amazon<<

>>Check Price on Blick Art Materials<<

  • Large paint mixing area, well contained
  • Light weight
  • Fully adjustable angles
  • Can easily hold many different sizes of canvas or panels

6. One Half Box French Artist Painting Drawing Easel – Oiled Stained Elm Wood, With Sketch Box Drawer, Canvas Carrying Clips, Brass Plated Hardware – Oil Stained by Creative Mark

A good compromise for a beginner easel is the half box french easel. It has all the features of a full size french easel minus the bulkiness and weight. For that reason alone, it’s an easier set up and take down than the full size easel.

You can easily carry seven or eight tubes of paint, a couple of brushes and a small jar of solvent in the drawer and it’s light enough and narrow enough at 12 x 24 inches to mostly fit into a large backpack (with some sticking out the top).

The artists I know who use this one love it and find that it fits all their needs.

>>Check Price on Amazon<<

  • Entry level price range
  • Light weight
  • Adequate storage
  • Difficult setup and take down
  • Oiled elm wood
  • 10 lbs empty
  • Smaller size profile

Total Rating: 60%

  • 3 out of 5 stars for portability and easy set up and take down
  • 2 out of 5 stars for durability
  • 4 out of 5 stars for versatility
  • 4 out of 5 stars for weight
  • 2 out of 5 stars for quality of construction

7. Jullian Escort French Style Easel Includes Travel Sketchbox with 12 Inch Drawer, Wooden Palette and Shoulder Strap – Birchwood by Jullian Mark

A better constructed french easel for increased durability, this easel is a great choice for beginners who want to step up slightly in quality.

Birchwood or elmwood is the real deal here. It comes with the cost of added weight though. Weighs in at 14 lbs when empty, but if you’re going to use a french style easel setup, then weight wouldn’t be your primary concern.

It’s constructed with less than heirloom quality, but it’s still a great easel setup. The drawer is metal lined and brass plated hardware throughout. All the above issues with french easels apply.

>>Check Price on Blick Art Materials<<

>>Check Price on Amazon<<

  • Traditional wood french easel Birchwood or elmwood
  • Budget priced
  • Small storage for paints, brushes and small jars of solvent in a drawer- can stow it all away in a closet
  • Possibility to transport in a large backpack with some poking out top
  • Not durable enough to be appropriate for long term use

Total Rating: 52%

  • 2 out of 5 for portability and easy setup and take down
  • 3 out of 5 for durability
  • 4 out of 5 for versatility
  • 1 out of 5 for weight
  • 3 out of 5 for quality of construction

Tripods

The subject of tripods is a complex one based on weight, size, budget, durability, precision of adjustments and stability. Unlike photographers, artists don’t need precision of adjustment, so high end tripods are unnecessary.

What we do need is stability, ease of levelling, strength and light weight for transport. For maximum strength and no wobble, you’ll need a connecting plate that can handle the easel of your choice. The heavier the pochade box, the more sturdy the connecting plate you need.

Skimp on the tripod and the plate and you’ll get wobble for sure.

For a simple plein air easel without the box storage underneath, a simpler set up should work fine:

Dolica GX600B200 Proline GX Series 60-Inch Aluminum Tripod and Ball Head Combo for DSLR

Great price point and will handle up to 15 lbs weight

  • Center hook to hang a sack of rocks for weight stability
  • Great price point
  • Ball head for maximum rotation
  • Highly rated with over 1,000 reviews – can’t argue with that!
  • Rated to hold up to 15 lbs – more than enough for a non-box easel
  • Weighs 2.5 lbs
  • Aluminum alloy
  • Standard mounting plate screw BUT no quick release mounting plate included. You can purchase it as an add-on

>>Check Price on Amazon<<

For a pochade all in one box, you’ll need a tripod and connecting plate rated for the total weight of your outfit. I would purchase the box and load it up with all the supplies you intend to carry in it then weigh it all.

What you are looking for is a light weight tripod with a load bearing weight of at least 18 pounds.

The top drawer tripods can run double or triple what your pochade easel box will cost, so really shop around. You need a workhorse, not precision for videographers.

Manfrotto MK290XTA3-3WUS 290 Xtra 3-Way Head Kit (Black) and Two ZAYKiR RC2 Quick Release Plates

Manfrotto tripod: world famous quality and durability for serious photographers. In some aspects what you are paying for is the brand reputation.

  • Comes with two quick release heads so you can use one for your camera
  • Aluminum construction
  • Retractable positioning levers for more compact transport
  • 7.5 lbs
  • Shoulder carry bag

>>Check Price on Amazon<<

Now you are off to the races! Go and enjoy your new plein air easel and let us know if you have any questions.

woman painting on a plein air easel on VeryCreate.com

In case you want to see some of our latest articles and tutorials, be sure to head back to our home page. We typically try to keep our latest and greatest available there for you!

Also, here below are a few other resources I wrote up that you may be interested to check out while you are looking at which plein air easel makes sense for you.

How Long Does It Take Oil Paints To Dry? 

Best Brushes For Acrylic Painting – Top 3 (MUST READ!)

Pastel Painting Tutorial – Best Fall Pictures To Paint [6 Steps]

Geological Art and Painting With Abstracts And Visual Play

If you are a painter, you may need an easel that you can leave in your studio. If you are more interested in this type of use case, please check out my best easel article to learn about the other types of easels!

Another more thought. If you have kids or grandkids, it would be wonderful to include them in your painting craft! You may want to grab the best kids easel for them and get to enjoying your art together.

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