The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Right Artist Easel

The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Right Artist Easel

Apr 02, 2024Elmo Stoop
Embarking on an artistic journey requires not just talent and vision but also the right tools to bring your creations to life. Central to an artist's toolkit is the easel, a steadfast partner in the creative process. This essential piece of equipment supports your canvas and your artistic aspirations. Through this guide, we aim to delve into the nuances of choosing the perfect art easel, ensuring it aligns seamlessly with your artistic endeavors and workspace requirements. Join us as we explore the world of easels, offering insights and tips to help you select the ideal one that harmoniously complements your artistry.

What is an artist easel?

An art easel is much more than a mere stand to support canvases; it is a fundamental tool that bridges the gap between artist and artwork, offering a versatile platform for creativity. Serving various functions, easels for painting are designed to accommodate artists at work, whether they are crafting a miniature portrait or a large-scale landscape. The traditional painter's easel consists of a sturdy frame, usually adjustable, allowing artists to work at their preferred height and angle. This adaptability is crucial for achieving the right perspective and ensuring physical comfort during long painting sessions.

The benefits of a quality painting easel extend beyond mere functionality. They are instrumental in transforming a space into a creative sanctuary, where ideas can flow freely. Easels for painting also promote proper posture, reducing the risk of strain from bending or stretching to reach the canvas. With features such as adjustable clamps and trays for holding art supplies, easels enhance the painting experience, making them indispensable for both amateur and professional artists alike.

In essence, the right art easel serves as a silent assistant, steadfastly holding your canvas in place while you pour your vision onto it. It's an investment in your art, offering both physical support for your work and an emotional anchor for your creative journey.

Types of Artist Easels

Within the artistic community, easels are divided into two main categories: studio and plein air, each designed with specific artistic needs in mind.

Studio easels stand out for their durability, intended to be used in a fixed indoor location. They are the ideal choice for artists who engage with large canvases or need a stable base for intricate work. The studio easel category includes:

  • H-frame easels: Recognisable by their robust, H-shaped structure. These easels are versatile, adjustable, and capable of supporting canvases of various sizes, making them a staple in professional studios.
  • A-frame easels: Notably lighter, these easels can be easily collapsed and stored, making them a practical option for artists with limited space.
  • Single mast easels: Simple in design, featuring a single vertical pole, they are the most cost-effective and portable choice, perfect for students and those just starting out.
Conversely, plein air easels are designed for artists who paint outdoors, prioritising lightness and portability. They offer convenience through features such as quick foldability, integrated storage, and legs that adjust to uneven surfaces.

Each easel type brings its own set of benefits, catering to artists whether they're working within the confines of a studio or in the midst of nature's inspirations.

Choosing the Right Easel for Your Needs

When selecting an easel, it's essential to assess factors like size, weight, adjustability, and material, along with how they align with your workspace and budget. Size and weight influence ease of storage and mobility, especially for artists who exhibit or paint in different locations. An easel's adjustability is critical for ensuring ergonomic comfort across various painting styles and durations, while the choice of material—be it wood for a traditional feel or metal for durability—adds to the easel’s longevity and aesthetic.

Crucially, your medium and artistic technique should guide your easel choice. For detailed work with oils or acrylics, a sturdy, upright easel might be best. Meanwhile, watercolourists may benefit from easels that tilt to a horizontal position. Complementing your choice with the right support, such as premade canvases, canvas rolls, or stretchers from Build A Canvas, ensures a seamless painting experience tailored to your unique needs.

Easels for Specific Mediums

Selecting an easel that aligns with your medium is crucial for optimal painting outcomes. Watercolor artists need easels that can tilt to various angles, allowing gravity to influence the flow and blend of colors uniquely. These easels should accommodate the delicate balance of water and pigment, enabling artists to explore the full range of watercolor techniques.

For oil and acrylic painters, stability and durability are key. These mediums often require the application of thick layers, necessitating an easel that can hold heavy canvases securely. A sturdy, vertical easel is preferred, providing a reliable foundation for detailed brushwork and layering. 

In this context, the choice of canvas is equally important. Canvas rolls are particularly beneficial for oil and acrylic artists. They offer the flexibility to cut the canvas to any size, suiting both the grandeur of studio work and the spontaneity of plein air painting. This adaptability ensures that your easel and canvas work in concert, tailored to your specific artistic approach and medium requirements.

Understanding the synergy between your easel, medium, and canvas choice empowers you to create a conducive environment for your art, enhancing both the process and the final piece.

Setting Up Your Easel

Proper setup of your easel is pivotal for an enjoyable and efficient painting session. Follow these step-by-step instructions to ensure your easel is correctly positioned for your art-making:

1. Assemble Your Easel

Begin by assembling your easel according to the manufacturer's instructions. If it's a studio easel, like an H-frame or A-frame, make sure it's balanced and stable on the floor.

2. Adjust the Height

Adjust the easel so that the centre of your canvas will be at eye level. This is important for maintaining a good posture and avoiding neck or back strain. Most easels have knobs or levers that allow for easy height adjustment.

3. Mount Your Canvas

Securely mount your canvas on the easel. If your easel has adjustable clamps, tighten them so that the canvas is stable and doesn’t move as you paint.

4. Tilt to the Ideal Angle

Adjust the angle of the easel according to your painting style and medium. For detailed work or certain mediums like oil and acrylic, a more upright angle may be preferred. Watercolour painters often need a flatter angle to control the flow of paint.

5. Make Final Adjustments

Ensure your palette, brushes, and other tools are within easy reach. Adjust your lighting so that it illuminates your canvas evenly without creating glare.

By taking the time to set up your easel properly, you create a conducive environment that supports your creative process, allowing you to paint comfortably for hours. Adjustments might seem minor, but they can significantly impact your overall painting experience.

Easel Maintenance and Care

Keeping your artist easel in top condition is key to its longevity and functionality. Here’s how to maintain your easel effectively:

  • Regular Cleaning: Wipe down the easel after use to remove dust and paint. Use a damp cloth for wooden easels and mild soapy water for metal ones. Avoid harsh chemicals.
  • Tighten Loose Parts: Regularly check for and tighten any loose screws or bolts to maintain stability and extend the easel's life.
  • Protect from the Elements: Store in a dry, cool place to prevent moisture damage. Avoid leaving your easel exposed to harsh weather if used outdoors.
  • Lubricate Moving Parts: For easels with adjustable components, a silicone-based lubricant can keep movements smooth and prevent rust.
  • Prompt Damage Repairs: Address any damage as soon as possible to prevent further deterioration.
  • Seasonal Checks: Conduct a thorough inspection at least once a year to ensure all parts are in good working order.

By following these simple steps, you can ensure your easel remains a durable and reliable support for your artwork, helping to keep your creative process smooth and uninterrupted.


In this guide, we've navigated through the essential considerations for selecting and maintaining an artist easel, from understanding the different types available to setting it up and ensuring its care over time. We've highlighted the importance of matching the easel to both your artistic medium and personal working style, as well as provided practical steps for its upkeep. The right easel not only enhances your painting experience but also supports your creative journey, making the choice a pivotal one. We encourage you to reflect on the insights shared here to find an easel that aligns perfectly with your artistic endeavors. Remember, the best easel for you is the one that meets your unique needs, enabling your art to flourish.