9 Best Plein Air Umbrella Reviews in 2022 (MUST READ!)


Winslow Homer Smithsonian CC Best Umbrella For Artists verycreate.com

Selecting the best plein air umbrella for your outdoor painting experience is easy with our informative and comprehensive article.

Artist umbrellas are not intended to shelter you from rain or wind.  We sorta need a new word for artist umbrellas…..like,  Artist Color Observation Device  (ACOD), for short.  OK, I’m kidding.  In my article, you’ll learn why ‘umbrella’ isn’t quite the right word and I’ll show you the features and explain why each one may be important for your personal options.

Make sure to read to the end for the best information about choosing the best plein air umbrella for your next outdoor air project!

Max Wehl artist Best Umbrella For Artists verycreate.com
Max Wehl, 1875
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum acquisition

If you are short of time, here is a quick list for best plein air umbrellas for artists:

  1. Sport-Brella Versa-Brella SPF 50+ <<Best Budget Option
  2. KingCamp Awning Sun Shelter SUV Tent Auto Canopy <<Most Versatile
  3. EasyGoProducts Tallbrella
  4. Best Brella Artist Umbrella
  5. Guerrilla Painter Shadebuddy Umbrella
  6. Guerrilla Collapsable Plein Air Umbrella << Most Compact For Travel
  7. Eurmax 5×5 ft Ez Pop up Canopy
  8. American Phoenix 5×5 Lightweight shelter
  9. Julian Easel Painting Umbrella

Best Plein Air Umbrellas

I know, these aren’t your typical plein air umbrellas that artists typically think of using.  I have usedf those for sure, but please read the last part of my article to understand my reasoning why these first couple of umbrellas are my top pick nowadays for best plein air umbrella!

Sport-Brella Versa-Brella SPF 50+ Adjustable Umbrella with Universal Clamp

  • It comes in grey, which is a good option for artist’s use
  • Budget priced!
  • Heavy-duty universal clamp attaches to many different poles, table edges, chair legs or tripod legs up to 1 1/2 inches thick
  • You might need a separate pole if you are tall, unless your tripod has a vertical extension of some sort
  • If you enjoy painting while sitting, this will easily clamp to your beach chair
  • 360 degree swivel adjusting and articulation
  • Push button hinges
  • UPF 50+ lining
  • Eye protection tips
  • Not vented for wind gusts

Check Price On Amazon<<

https://youtu.be/zL7T9n0YdUI

Total Rating:  95 %  I’m rating it lower because it lacks black interior/silver exterior and it doesn’t come in white

6 out of 6 stars   Stable construction in moderate wind

6 out of 6 stars  Adjustable

6 out of 6 stars   Ease of transport

6 out of 6 stars  Budget

6 out of 6 stars  Quality of Construction

 

KingCamp Awning Sun Shelter SUV Tent Auto Canopy

Do you envy those artists who own fancy pickup trucks outfitted with all their supplies and a tent extended over the back to create a shaded canopy?  Well, this SUV awning will adapt to most SUVs and provide great utility as a stand-alone shelter as well.  ANNNDDDD it is cheaper than the ‘artist’ umbrellas on the market!!!

If you enjoy parking your car and staying close by, this is a great option!  You don’t need to carry anything, all your supplies, water and food are right in the back of your car.  Spacious enough to accommodate a few people, it is easy to put up and lightweight. Check out the alternate configurations on Amazon and watch a demo video!  I want one!!

  • 60 Sq Ft of coverage
  • 3 shock corded fiberglass poles
  • 2 steel canopy poles stabilize the trailer tent
  • Quick and easy to assemble
  • 9.7 LBs
  • Available in Grey
  • Takes moderate wind well
  • Set includes 2 wind ropes that should be used to secure stability
  • Made of rip-stop 210T polyester fabric fly with 1500mm PU coating for abrasion prevention and best Anti-UV

>Check Price On Amazon<<

Total Rating:  93 %

6 out of 6 stars   Stable in moderate wind

5 out of 6 stars  Adjustable   — but you need to pull up stakes and repark the vehicle

5 out of 6 stars   Ease of transport

5 out of 6 stars  Budget   — we’re rating it higher for its fantastic versatility away from the vehicle

6 out of 6 stars  Quality of Construction

 

 

EasyGoProducts Tallbrella – Artist/Photography/Sports Umbrella, 48″ Round

This great umbrella is too tall for my needs, but it ticks all the boxes for a silver reflective, black lined umbrella AND it comes at a budget-friendly price. More stable ground anchor than most.

I would for sure tie this umbrella down if there is going to be any breeze at all.

  • 6.5 ft high!
  • Stakes sturdily to the ground
  • Reflective silver shell
  • Non-reflective black lining
  •  4.4 lbs
  • Carrying case
  • 48” diameter
  • Adjustable angle
  • Easy on the budget
  • Highly rated by owners

 

>>Check Price On Amazon<<

Total Rating:    90 %

5 out of 6 stars   Stable in moderate wind – needs securing with rope and stakes

4 out of 6 stars  Adjustable

6 out of 6 stars   Ease of transport

6 out of 6 stars  Budget

6 out of 6 stars  Quality of Construction

 

Best Brella Artist Umbrella

Made by a small independent manufacturer, this umbrella is at the highest price point.

  • Silver exterior with black lining
  • Super clamp & rotating arm
  • Two extension poles with aluminum ferrules
  • Wind vents and fiberglass ribs for durability
  • Black carrying bag with strap and velcro closure
  • Silver exterior black interior
  • Clamps securely to any horizontal or vertical surface up to 2.5″ thick.
  • Clamps to any surface round, angular, or flat (works on tripod legs)
  • Rotates a full 360 degrees to position at any angle
  •  38″ across
  • Weighs only 2.5 pounds
  • Check it out here

Total Rating:    80%

5 out of 6 stars   Stable in moderate wind

6 out of 6 stars  Adjustable

6 out of 6 stars   Ease of transport

1 out of 6 stars  Budget

6 out of 6 stars  Quality of Construction

 

 

Guerrilla Painter Shadebuddy Umbrella

  • Freestanding so your setup is safe from accidentally tipping
  • Silver exterior, black interior
  • Less than ideal soil anchor – it should be longer or two or three pronged
  • Vented
  • Easy angle adjusting
  • 4. 5 Lbs
  • Included shoulder bag for carrying
  • 6.5 Ft high
  • Tie-down kit is available, but extra cost
  • Higher price point

Guerrilla Painter Shadebuddy Umbrella Set

>Check Price On Dick Blick Art Supply Store<<

Total Rating:  76%

5 out of 6 stars   Stable in moderate wind –  but tie it down

6 out of 6 stars  Adjustable

6 out of 6 stars   Ease of transport

2 out of 6 stars  Budget

4 out of 6 stars  Quality of Construction

 

Guerrilla Collapsable Plein Air Umbrella

  • Folds for travel in a backpack and suitcase
  • Lightweight umbrella at less than 2 lbs
  • Has lots of moving parts and needs to be carefully treated
  • Measures 12 inches when collapsed
  • 34 inches height when extended, it might be too short to accommodate your head or upper body if you are tall
  • 42 inches wide from edge to edge
  • Wind venting feature

Guerrilla Painter Plein Air Collapsible Umbrella

Check Price On Dick Blick Art Supplies Store<<

https://youtu.be/xI-LLphci-A

Total Rating:  73 %

3 out of 6 stars   Stable in moderate wind

6 out of 6 stars  Adjustable

6 out of 6 stars   Ease of transport

5 out of 6 stars  Budget

3 out of 6 stars  Quality of Construction because of all the moving parts to make it collapsable, it is more fragile in durability

 

 

Best Brella Artist Umbrella

Made by a small independent manufacturer, this umbrella is at the highest price point.

  • Silver exterior with black lining
  • Super clamp & rotating arm
  • Two extension poles with aluminum ferrules
  • Wind vents and fiberglass ribs for durability
  • Black carrying bag with strap and velcro closure
  • Silver exterior black interior
  • Clamps securely to any horizontal or vertical surface up to 2.5″ thick.
  • Clamps to any surface round, angular, or flat (works on tripod legs)
  • Rotates a full 360 degrees to position at any angle
  •  38″ across
  • Weighs only 2.5 pounds
  • Check it out here

Total Rating:    80%

5 out of 6 stars   Stable in moderate wind

6 out of 6 stars  Adjustable

6 out of 6 stars   Ease of transport

1 out of 6 stars  Budget

6 out of 6 stars  Quality of Construction

 

Eurmax 5×5 ft Ez Pop up Canopy   Outdoor Heavy Duty Instant Tent Pop-up Canopies

  • If you are going to ‘set up camp’ for the day, the best solution may be to just cover all your bases and use a small pop-up canopy
  • Wheeled carry case for some distance from your car
  • Not suitable for unstable ground, sand, or for hiking long distances from the car
  • Larger area of comfort, good wind flow through and sturdiness.
  • Heavy enough to not get airborne in light wind

 

>>Check Price On Amazon<<

Total Rating:   70 %

6 out of 6 stars   Stable in moderate wind

2 out of 6 stars  Adjustable

5 out of 6 stars   Ease of transport  – fairly heavy, but the wheels can be maneuvered by one person

3 out of 6 stars  Budget

5 out of 6 stars  Quality of Construction

 

 

 

 

American Phoenix 5×5 Lightweight shelter

  • For a cheaper and lighter option
  • 19 lbs
  • Not for windy situations.

>>Check Price On Amazon<<

 

Total Rating:   63%

4 out of 6 stars   Stable in moderate wind

2 out of 6 stars  Adjustable

3 out of 6 stars   Ease of transport

6 out of 6 stars  Budget

4 out of 6 stars  Quality of Construction

 

Julian Easel Painting Umbrella

  • Non-vented
  • Colored!  (What were they thinking??) NO! Buy the white one!
  • Designed for Julian Wood French Easels.

Jullian Easel Umbrella

>>Check Price On Dick Blick Art Supply Store<<

Total Rating:      40 %

0 out of 6 stars   Stable in moderate wind

2 out of 6 stars  Adjustable

5 out of 6 stars   Ease of transport

2 out of 6 stars  Budget – we are rating it lower because it lacks key features for artists

3 out of 6 stars  Quality of Construction

 

Umbrella and Shelter Features (and problems to consider)

Artist umbrellas are not intended to shelter you from rain and wind, or adverse weather conditions like regular umbrellas.

The best plein air umbrellas are used for seeing and painting colors more accurately from nature, to keep direct sun from you and/or your work, to ease eye strain, and to make your painting experience more accurate and fruitful.

clear umbrella rain Best Umbrella for Artists verycreate.com
Not effective for outdoor painting!

However, you may be like me and NEED to be sheltered from sun or weather conditions TOO!

1. Wind

A sudden gust or even a continual light bout of wind will play havoc with your plein air experience.  The canvas acts like a boat sail, and an umbrella can catch the wind and take off like a race car. And, if your umbrella mounts to your easel, it’ll take it along for the ride as well.   Make sure you purchase a vented umbrella!   That won’t solve the problem entirely, but it will help.

Pro Tip:

Make sure you anchor your umbrella against sudden gusts before you start painting.  This can be as complex as braided nylon rope tied to the umbrella and secured to the ground with a stake (or two or three) or fill a bag with rocks or sand that you find on-site and tie the umbrella to that.  Unless there is zero wind, and no likelihood of any, think twice about securing your umbrella to your easel!

2.  Umbrella Color

The color of your umbrella is critical!  Don’t just use a regular or golf umbrella unless it is white, grey or black because the light will shine through the umbrella and tint your canvas and palette and play havoc with your ability to discern color.  Even if you are painting a model clearly influenced by light filtering through a shear object, you still need to have an unbiased light illuminating your palette and canvas.

Young Girl in a Garden with Orange Umbrella (Anna Ancher)

This painting by Danish painter Anna Ancher  (1915) shows the golden light streaming through the yellow umbrella turning the model’s face orange/gold as well.

(The public domain permissions to use are granted here.)

White Umbrellas

White is the traditional color used by artists for a long time.  The advantages are:

  • Evens out overhead dappled light from tree branches, flags, etc
  • Good for judging colors on your palette and canvas
  • Good for temperate climates when shelter from pounding sun is not an issue
  • Our eyes will adjust from looking out to looking down much easier, which means less eye strain

Silver Umbrellas with Black Interior

A modern invention, these umbrellas have several unique advantages:

  • The silver exterior reflects heat away from the working area, and if it is large enough will keep you cooler
  • Best UV protection if you are concerned about skin cancer (and we ALL should be concerned!)
  • Good for intense sunlight the closer to the equator you travel
  • The darker interior keeps your pupils opened wider, which means you will be able to judge color changes easier
  • Black interior won’t reflect ambient light back up into your work area.  If you are painting on green grass or orange dirt, that is something to really consider.

Pro Tip:

If painting outdoors is an often occurring event for you, and you travel in many different climes, consider investing in a white umbrella and a silver umbrella, so all your bases will be covered.

3. Rotating and adjustable

The sun moves throughout the day, and after an hour or so, you will find yourself constantly needing to move the umbrella.  If you have a flexible mount, sometimes you can adjust the umbrella without changing its anchor clamp.  If you are like me, I don’t want to mess with the umbrella once it is set up and anchored. I’d rather pick up my tripod easel or my chair and physically move it a few inches.  Quick and effortless! So I personally don’t need an adjustable, expensive umbrella.

4. Personal comfort

By far my personal first priority is comfort.  I get heat stroke super easy (thank you, high school marching band, and marching in parades with a wool uniform in 100 degree heat playing trumpet) so it is very important that I don’t overheat or get exposed to intense sun.  If you are the outdoors type who thrives in sun and heat, then you will have more options to choose from!

5. Weight and ease of transport

If you are backpacking, you will need something that is collapsable and lightweight.  As much as I love pop-up shelters, it sure doesn’t work unless you are near your car!

6. Budget

Most of us have to consider the budget.  I do envy the artists with their top of the line pochade boxes and umbrellas, but I prefer to keep my most expensive supplies to be the paint and the paint surface, not my boxes, umbrellas, chairs, etc.

Check out our informative review article on the Best Plein Air Boxes here.

As well as our review of Best Indoor Easels here.

If budget is your top consideration as well, we have several great options to consider.

7. Durability

Comes back to budget again.  It doesn’t do much good to buy a cheaply constructed umbrella if it breaks the first time you use it. (Or the second or third, etc.). While no umbrella is manufactured to last a lifetime, they should last you long enough to get your money’s worth.

 

And lastly, here is an option you may wish to consider if you are handy at building things:

Use something else!

Have you thought about using a light diffuser instead of an umbrella? The most it will do is shelter your canvas and maybe your palette.

Here is a tutorial by the famed illustrator and artist James Gurney.  He loves to invent and craft useful supplies for his artistic creations. In this video, he shows how to make by hand several light diffusers for Plein Air use:

 

There you have it. Nine options to meet some or all of your needs and preferences when painting outdoors in a variety of price points.  See you outside!

Anita HC

I hope you are enjoying this article! I love helping creators learn. My goal is to help you find the knowledge and inspiration you need. Check out our library of articles and visit often...I'm adding articles every week! Thank you again for reading!

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