Painting inside or outside can be a tricky task if you’re not using your home studio. Not only do you have to bring all your painting skills to the table, but you have to take all the equipment and paint you need out into the field if you want to be effective. That means you need a good-quality easel, and potentially one suited to outdoor use.
Not every easel is going to be up to the task. Some are durable and portable, while others add some storage so that you can bring your paints and brushes along. Others look like they might be a good choice, but ultimately don’t provide good value.
If you’re looking to find the easel that best suits your needs and get great value on your buy, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve assembled this list of reviews of the best easels of 2018 to help guide you to the one that’s perfect for you.
|Jack Richeson Dulce 840200|
|US Art Supply Artist Adjustable E-135 ||25 lbs||4.7/5|
|Mont Marte Tripod MEA0001C|
(Best for the Money)
|Art Alternatives Sonoma AA13500||14 lbs||4.3/5|
|US Art Supply Torrey E-419||2 lbs||4.0/5|
The Jack Richeson Lyptus Wood “Dulce” Easel is a great choice for the serious painter who may be working on large canvasses in the same place for a long duration. This model holds canvasses up to 7 feet tall, which gives you the freedom to work on custom canvasses larger than the standard size. With all that weight, you might be worried about how well this easel will hold up, but you won’t have to with this model. It’s made of solid lyptus wood, a hardwood that is extremely strong and more quickly renewable than other kinds of wood. Not only is it durable, but lyptus wood lends an extreme sturdiness to the easel, which rarely moves, even under the heaviest weights.
Furthermore, it comes mostly-assembled right out of the box, which means you don’t have to do much to get ready to paint, which is always a nice feature. One small complaint about this model is that it isn’t wheeled, which makes it hard to move around relative to other easels. However, if you’re looking for a strong, high-capacity easel, you better check this one out.
The US Art Supply Artist Adjustable E-135 is a great choice for the painter who doesn’t want to spring for the top entry on our list. It costs far less, but still supports canvasses up to 48” tall, which is a good deal. It also comes with wheels, which makes it better regarding mobility than the previous entry. It’s also quite lightweight given how large it is, weighing less than 25 pounds, which means most people should be able to move it around with ease.
It’s very stable, so you don’t have to worry about your paintings in progress ending up on the floor. It does have some downside, however, as it comes almost completely disassembled, which means it takes a lot of time to put it together before you can use it. This easel is also nearly eight feet tall, which feels a bit excessive given that it has a total height capacity of four feet. However, if you’re looking for a cheaper, but still high-capacity and sturdy model, this one may be the one that you’re looking for.
The Mont Marte Tripod MEA0001C is a classic A-frame easel that many people outside of the art world think of when they hear the word “easel.” The best thing about it is that you can get it for a great price relative to the other entries on this list, which makes it a good deal on that factor alone. However, it also has one of the better capacities on this list, supporting easels up to 52” in height.
It’s also very portable. It’s largely made of Beechwood, which is very lightweight, and steel fittings, which provide good durability while keeping the overall weight low. It also folds up into a very small form for travel, which makes it easy to use this easel outdoors if that’s your location of choice. While it doesn’t have any wheels, it only weighs 8 pounds, which means it’s easy to take it from place to place. If you’re looking for an extremely-portable easel at a low price, this is the easel for you.
The Art Alternatives Sonoma AA13500 is an average easel with higher ambitions that it doesn’t live up to. This coolest thing about this model is that it folds up into a briefcase-like box, which makes it very portable. It also contains a lot of storage for your paint supplies, which can make it a good choice for doing art on the go. It holds canvasses up to 34” tall, which isn’t all that big, but it’s still pretty good for a portable model.
However, it lacks some of the finish that it would need to rise higher on our list. It comes un-sanded and unsealed, which means it has literal rough edges, and it’s not fully ready for outdoor use since it hasn’t been sealed against the elements. This is something you could fix on your own, but it will cost you time and money. It’s also a bit wobbly relative to other models, which lowers its value. Overall, there are better easels, but this one is a good choice if you don’t mind doing a bit of extra work and place a lot of value on portable storage.
The US Art Supply Torrey E-419 is an example of an easel that’s more likely to make you mad than to do anything useful during its life. It’s a bare-bones easel, which might be something you like. It has three legs, a small platform on which you can rest your canvass, and that’s about it. There’s no storage and no wheels. It is the cheapest model on our list, but that cheapness comes at a price.
It does fold down, but it’s still very tall unless you take apart the legs. That makes them not all that suited to moving around. It’s also very flimsy. This isn’t an easel that’s going to hold a large canvass for a long time and feels like a model that would fall over or snap in a moderate breeze. Capping off these problems are the lack of included instructions, which makes assembly more frustrating and time-consuming than it needs to be. Overall, this is a very cheap model, but you’re unlikely to get a long, satisfying life out of it.
We hope that our reviews have helped you see some of the important features that make for a great easel and some of the flaws that make for a bad easel. If you’re interested in learning more about easels in general or want to understand some of the thinking that went into our reviews, be sure to check out this buyer’s guide. We’ve loaded it full of good information about easels, suitable as an introductory course for the beginner, and a nice refresher for the expert returning to the market.
You may only value portability if you plan on working outside, but there are reasons that you’d value it for indoor use, too. More portable easels are easier to put away if you need to clean up a room for a social event, and they also allow you to easily reposition during the day to take advantage of the best light in the room.
So, even if you’re not working outside, there’s a reason to value portability in your easel, unless you’re confident that you’ll never move it from a certain spot. You also want to look for models with wheels, which can make a big difference when you need to reposition your easel.
If you are planning to take it outside, you should place a high value on easels which fold down into a smaller form factor. This makes it possible to slip them into a bag or backpack in some circumstances, while others can be carried around on a strap of their own. You’ll also want models with folding legs that can be quickly reassembled.
Easels that don’t last long aren’t a very good deal. While there are plenty of cheap models on the market, many of those will not last as long as you’d like, and you may end up spending more money in the long-run as you pay for new easels and shipping to get them to you. The good news is that you can get a reasonably-priced model that will last you a long time.
If you want to get the best on the market, however, you’re going to want to get an easel made from hardwood. These have the greatest durability, and they also tend to be the most stable, which is essential to accuracy when you’re painting. The tradeoff here is that those easels are going to be heavy, and far less portable than models made from lesser materials.
You can get easels made from lighter woods like balsa, or even plywood, so you have some options if you need to have a tradeoff between quality and portability. These will be far lighter, but they will be less durable in the long-run and generally less stable when you use them. That may not be worth the saved money, as you may end up wearing it out far sooner than you would have preferred.
Some easels come with a massive capacity, supporting canvasses up to 7-feet tall. You may not need something that size, but it’s important that you figure out what the likely maximum canvass size you’re likely to use. You’ll probably want to get an easel that has a few more inches of tolerance than your maximum canvass size. That way you’ll always have the confidence that it’s held securely in place and won’t be too loose or too tight while you work.
You also have to consider horizontal capacity. While none of the easels on our list is the cool kind that turns sideways to make landscape orientations easier, they will support landscape orientations out a certain distance. You can go wider than the lower support, but you don’t want to go far enough to be affected by the wind, so you’ll want to limit this to about six inches on each side, at most.
Likewise, you don’t need a massive easel if you’re always going to be working on a small canvass. All that extra capacity will just take up space in your studio.
Some easels include storage in their frame which allows you to take your paints, brushes, and other supplies with you on the go. Note that not all easels have this storage space, so it’s a nice bonus when you have it. You’ll always need to research how much space they have. In some instances, you’ll be able to fit everything you need inside, while in others, you’ll have to bring a secondary bag.
Storage almost always adds weight to an easel, which makes it less portable. It’s a decent tradeoff if it means that you’ll be able to bring all the supplies you’ll need in just the easel, but it also means that you may not want to move it as much.
However, that storage can come in handy in your studio as well, as you can keep the materials for your current project nearby, but out of sight, when you’re not working.
No one easel is going to work the best for all artists. Each one is going to have slightly different needs, and that means that generically-good easels aren’t going to work for them. However, common models on the market vary so greatly that you shouldn’t need to spend the big bucks to get a custom easel.
However, that doesn’t make it clear which model will be the best for you. The first thing you need to do is to take an honest inventory of every feature that you’re going to use on your new easel. Once you have a clear picture of your own needs, it gets a lot easier to narrow down your options.
Hopefully, that gets you down to just a few that closely match your requirements. You now have two choices. You can emphasize value, and go for sturdier, more durable, more feature-laden models. Or, you can go for cheaper, or less-durable, less-sturdy, more utilitarian models. Neither approach is inherently correct, but as long as you know what you need and have set a reasonable budget, you should be able to find an easel that you’ll love using.
The Jack Richeson Lyptus Wood “Dulce” Easel is our favorite easel, coming with a massive capacity and an extremely sturdy frame. The US Art Supply Artist Adjustable E-135 is the runner up due to its high capacity and light weight, even if it loses points for how tall it is. The Mont Marte Tripod MEA0001C is a classic A-frame model that you can get at a great price, earning it the title of “best value” on our list. The Art Alternatives Sonoma AA13500 has lots of storage and is very portable, but it’s ultimately wobbly and not sealed against the elements, which lowers its ranking on our list. The US Art Supply Torrey E-419 is cheap, but it’s also flimsy and lacks assembly instructions, which makes it a pain to use.
Hopefully, our reviews have taught you something you didn’t know about easels. You should be able to use that information to find the model that works best for you and gives you a long, happy life of outdoor painting.