An easel is an essential tool for any artist or crafter. Easels allow you to easily prop up your canvas or work surface at an angled position that is optimal for painting, drawing, crafty projects and more. With so many types of easels on the market, it can be tricky to determine which style best suits your needs. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the key factors to consider when shopping for an easel, provide tips on proper easel use and maintenance, and highlight the best easel options for different types of art and craft projects. Read on to gain the knowledge needed to find the perfect easel to unleash your creativity!
What is an Easel and Why Use One?
An easel is a stand or frame designed to hold a canvas, paper, board or other work surface in an upright and angled position. Easels allow artists and crafters to work comfortably on their creations without having to hold up the work surface manually.
There are several key benefits to using an easel:
- Provides optimal angle for drawing, painting or crafting. The tilted angle makes it easier to see your entire work area without glare.
- Keeps work surface stable and steady. An easel prevents your canvas or board from shifting as you work.
- Allows your hands to be free. By propping up the work area, you can use both hands for art and craft creation without having to hold up a canvas.
- Lets you step back easily to view work. With the work surface angled upwards, you can effortlessly step back and see your artwork from a distance.
- Adjustable options available. Many easels allow you to adjust the height and angle to suit your preferences.
- Portable styles available. Some lightweight easels fold up for easy transport to classes or outdoor painting sessions.
Overall, an easel makes creating visual art or crafts far more comfortable,controlled and efficient. The stability, angle adjustment and versatility offered by easels have made them a staple in art studios, classrooms and craft rooms for generations.
Key Types of Easels and Their Uses
There are several major categories of easels to consider based on features, portability and intended art or craft:
Studio easels are fixed, heavyweight easels designed for serious art studio work. Key features:
- Larger size provides stability for large canvases
- Made of solid wood or heavy metals
- Do not fold or collapse
- Typically have built-in shelves and drawers
- Elevation and angle fully adjustable
- Best for heavy-duty oil and acrylic painting
Studio easels allow artists to comfortably work on very large canvases on a sturdy, non-collapsible surface. The adjustable height and angles make it easy to get the perfect distance and perspective. Storage space for paints, brushes and other supplies integrated into the easel is convenient. Studio easels are ideal for dedicated home art studios or professional artists.
H-Frame easels get their name from the H-shaped aluminum frame used to prop up the legs and canvas holder. Key features:
- Lightweight metal construction
- Folds up for some portability
- Typically have 3-4 adjustable height options
- Limited angle adjustments
- Budget-friendly price point
- Best for painting heavier mediums on medium surfaces
H-frames offer a solid, stable easel option that comes at an affordable price for hobbyists. The foldable design makes them transportable for art classes or outdoor painting. While angles are not highly adjustable, they can accommodate small to medium-sized canvases for painting with oils, acrylics or pastels.
As the name suggests, tabletop easels sit directly on a table or desktop surface. Key features:
- Compact and lightweight
- Fold up for easy transport
- Limited height adjustments
- Typically have more angular adjustments
- Best for small canvas or paper painting
- Good for crafters and hobby painters
Tabletop easels offer a highly portable option perfect for painting or crafting on the go. They work nicely for watercolors, illustration, mixed media and craft projects that require a smaller surface area. The ability to adjust angles makes tabletop easels quite versatile.
Display easels are designed specifically for presenting and showcasing finished artwork. Key features:
- Lightweight and highly adjustable
- Easy to set up temporary displays
- Allow art to be easily moved
- Best for exhibitions, gallery shows, retail
- Often have wheels for mobility
If you want to proudly display your amazing creations, a display easel is just the ticket. They make it a breeze to put up art shows, wheel pieces around a studio or gallery, and adjust height and angle for the optimal viewing presentation.
Field easels are extra portable options intended for painting outdoors. Key features:
- Lightweight and collapsible
- Compact for easy transport
- Typically have tripod-style legs
- Limited adjustments and features
- Best for watercolors, pastels, illustration
- Ideal for plein air painting, urban sketching
Field easels are optimized for travel, packing up quickly for transport by car or public transit. The compact size and tripod design are great for outdoor art sessions, be they in nature or urban settings. While minimalistic, field easels offer enough adjustability for most outdoor art mediums.
Children’s easels are designed for safety, ease of use and storage. Key features:
- Made of lightweight, non-toxic materials
- Shorter height for kids
- Very stable to prevent tipping
- Built-in paper rollers and art supply trays
- Best for classroom settings, young artists
Specialized easels allow children to comfortably create art without risk of materials toppling over. Key safety and convenience features give kids independence and focus. Easels built for children encourage artistic development and exploration in a safe setting.
Top Tips for Choosing an Easel
With so many types, styles and options, selecting the right easel demands careful consideration. Keep these tips in mind:
Pick an Easel Based on Your Art Medium
The art medium you most commonly use should heavily influence your easel choice. Larger, heavy-duty easels are best suited for bigger canvases and oil/acrylic paints. More portable options work for watercolors, pastels and crafts.
Consider Weight and Portability Needs
If you plan to transport your easel often, opt for lighter metal or composite options that fold up. Studio artists will want heavier wood or metal fixed easels.
Examine Adjustability Options
Think about the level of adjustability needed for height, angle and arm placement. The more you can customize, the more versatile an easel.
Mind Your Storage Space
Measure where you will store your easel when not in use. Telescoping, folding and collapsible easels take up less space.
Buy Quality Over Cost
Cheaper easels often wobble, shake and may not hold up over time. Spending a bit more on quality provides stability and durability that enhances the art experience.
Seek Out Safety Features
For kids’ easels especially, be sure to choose options with non-toxic materials, rounded edges, stable bases and paper/supply catchers.
Read Reviews Carefully
Focus on feedback about stability, durability, ease of use and how the easel holds up over time when reading reviews.
By keeping these factors front of mind when shopping, you can select an easel that meets your artistic needs.
Proper Easel Use and Maintenance Tips
To get the most out of your easel, follow these usage and care guidelines:
- Fully extend leg sections for maximum stability and carefully tighten clamps. Do not overtighten.
- Use provided counterweights if available and place heavier art supplies on lower shelves to prevent tipping.
- Adjust height so your forearms and wrists are at natural angles as you work.
- Angle the easel between 15 to 30 degrees to reduce neck strain and glare.
- Place easel on flat, even surfaces and use rubber pads under legs if on slick floors.
- Move canvases slowly and carefully to prevent tipping when working on larger easels.
- Clean metal parts with just water and a soft cloth. Use wood polish and cloth on wood elements.
- Loosen screws, clamps, and joints regularly and lubricate with WD-40 if needed to maintain good adjustment functionality.
- Fully extend and lock legs into position for storage. Keep folded easels in cases.
- For extra stability outdoors, drive easel stakes into the ground or weigh down legs with bags.
By following proper usage and regular maintenance tips, your easel will offer years of steady and reliable art support.
Best Easels for Different Art Mediums
To make shopping easier, here are the best easel types for specific art mediums:
- Oil painting – Studio, H-frame or tabletop easels offer the stability needed for canvases and the messiness of oils.
- Acrylic painting – Studio, H-frame and tabletop styles all work well with acrylics.
- Watercolor painting – Tabletop, field and tabletop easels suit the portability and adjustability watercolors require.
- Pastels – Tabletop and field easels are great for transporting pastels while keeping paper stable.
- Illustration or graphic design – Opt for tabletop or portable mini easels for paper and drawing board stability.
- Mixed media – Tabletop or portable easels give the flexibility mixed media art demands.
- Plein air painting – Field, tabletop and mini easels are perfect for transporting to outdoor locations.
- Crafting – Tabletop and portable easels allow crafters to adjust angles as needed for projects.
- Displaying art – Display easels excel at showcasing artwork while allowing easy transport and height adjustments.
Keep your primary artistic medium and needs in mind, and you’re sure to find an easel match made in heaven!
Recommended Easels for the Home Studio
If you want to invest in a high-quality easel for years of art creation at home, here are top options:
Jullian Taboret Easel
This French studio-style easel is hailed by artists for its quality, versatility and thoughtful details like built-in supply trays, a canvas hoisting crank, and removable side shelves for palettes. The beechwood and powder coated steel construction offer lifelong durability. Angle, height, and arm adjustments meet any need.
Strathmore 300 Series Studio Easel
An excellent budget-friendly option, this Strathmore easel provides stable studio features like integrated storage and a wood/steel design. Multiple height settings, easy angle adjustments, and wheeled mobility add to the functionality. The arms hold canvases up to 5 feet wide securely.
Mont Marte Art Easel
If you need a large yet portable easel, Mont Marte’s easel fits the bill with its foldable legs and included case. The extendable arms accommodate large canvases while four height options and ample angular adjustments provide versatility. Made from strong beech wood.
Jack Richeson Lightweight Easel
At just 11 pounds, this lightweight aluminum easel has a convenient tripod design perfect for mobility. The watercolor paper tray, brush holder and generous height range offer customizable options for watercolors, illustration or crafting on the go. Folds up easily for transport and storage.
Best Choice Kids Easel
For the aspiring young Picasso, this super-stable kids’ easel has a large backrest surface, built-in paper roll, drying clips and supply trays to nurture creativity. Non-toxic materials and rounded edges offer safety as well. Easily adjustable and built to last years of childhood fun.
The right easel truly takes artwork to the next level. Hopefully these recommendations help you narrow in on the perfect easel for your studio, kid’s room or artistic adventures!
Helpful Accessories for Enhancing Your Easel
Beyond the easel itself, a variety of handy accessories can make using your easel more convenient, clean and comfortable:
- Easel trays – Help corral art supplies, paints and tools at your fingertips. Attach to studio easel lower shelf.
- Paper roll holders – Allow seamless paper dispensing so kids can keep creating. Compatible with many kids’ easels.
- Tabletop easel cases – Protect tabletop and field easels during transport in style. Some have shoulder straps for easy carrying.
- Easel umbrella mounts – Attach a sun shade umbrella to your easel to see artwork clearly, even in bright light.
- Wheeled easel cart – Allows extra-large canvases to be transported safely. Helpful for moving big pieces around a studio.
- Easel arm extenders – Clamp on easel arms to accommodate oversized canvases and special shaped boards. Great for studios.
- Easel lights – Clip-on lights illuminate your workspace in any lighting. Flexible legs position light exactly where needed.
- Floor mats – Cushion hard floors and catch stray drips. Help stabilize easel legs. Available in different sizes.
- Canvas carriers – Specialty cases transport finished canvases safely to shows or galleries without damaging corners.
With the right accessories, you can take your easel capabilities to the next level. Be sure to assess your artistic needs and choose aids that will maximize your creation potential.
Frequently Asked Questions About Easels
Q: Are easels only for painting?
A: While most associated with painting, easels are highly versatile for any visual art medium. They can hold canvas, board, paper, photos, sewing projects, models, carvings, and more at great angles.
Q: Do I really need an easel or can I just prop a canvas on something?
A: While a canvas can be propped against a wall or piece of furniture, an easel gives you adjustability and stability specialized for art. This allows better focus, comfort and control over your work.
Q: How much workspace do I need for an easel?
A: Studio easels take up quite a bit of floorspace so plan on several feet on each side. Tabletop easels need just a table surface. Measure your space before purchasing.
Q: Should I invest in an expensive heavy-duty easel?
A: For artists planning to use an easel intensively for years, investing in a high-quality studio-style easel can be worth it. But less frequent users will do fine with budget options.
Q: How can I prevent my easel from shaking as I work?
A: Fully open leg extensions, use counterweights, place heavy items on lower shelves, tighten joints, drive stakes in the ground outdoors, and don’t push on the easel too hard as you work.
Q: What’s the best way to clean an easel?
A: Use just a soft damp cloth and water for metal easel parts. Use wood polish and a soft cloth for wood elements. Avoid harsh cleaners or abrasives. Oil any joints if needed.
Q: Are easels safe to buy used or secondhand?
A: Examine used easels closely for quality and stability before purchasing. Rigorously clean wood surfaces and replace any frayed straps. Consider new if used price isn’t much lower.
Easels are incredible for unleashing creativity, showcasing finished art, and allowing comfort during the artistic process. By understanding the major types, deciding which features matter most, and choosing the right style for your needs, you can find the perfect easel to elevate your artwork. With care and regular upkeep, a quality easel can provide years of steady service. Get your creative juices flowing by picking out an easel that speaks to you!