Best Plein Air Easels – Buyer’s Guide & Reviews

En plein air is the French saying meaning ‘open in full air’ and has become a well-known phrase for the act of painting outdoors (and tempting the weather in certain countries). If you have decided to join the brave few and are thinking of purchasing an easel specifically for outdoor painting, you have come to the right place.

Here I will explain the different types of easels, which ones suit different painting styles, various prices to suit all budget needs and my overall pick for the best.

At a Glance: Our Choice of the 5 Best Plein Air Easels On the Market

Note: The links above take you to more information, current prices and customer reviews on Amazon. If you do purchase something we get a small commission, which has absolutely no effect on the eventual price that you pay.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

Buyer’s Tips: Key Considerations

When looking for an easel to paint outdoors, there are a few things you need to ask yourself before handing over any money:

  • Size: Are you a petite 5 foot or a tall 6 footer? Making sure you buy an easel at a comfortable level is extremely important, you’re going to be standing by it for a while!
  • Portability: If you simply want to work in your back garden, any easel would be suitable. If you travel and hike somewhere special, you don’t really want a heavy frame to carry around.
  • Material: Wood is the medium that everyone knows and loves. You can buy aluminum frames which are a little hardier.
  • Type: A frame, H frame, tabletop, single mast, etc. There are quite a few types of easels you can buy. The best for plein air are those which are light and portable.

Best Plein Air Easels – Product Round-up & Mini-Reviews

Coronado French Style Easel

U.S. Art Supply Coronado Large Wooden French Style Field and Studio Sketchbox Easel with Artist Drawer, Palette, Premium Beechwood - Adjustable Wood Tripod Easel Stand for Painting, Sketching, Display

Click to learn more / buy from Amazon

When anyone thinks of painting on an easel, the French style is the shape a lot of people would imagine. It’s an extremely popular choice and for good reason; this particular frame is made of hand-sanded beechwood which makes it capable of supporting a canvas up to 34” and is quite sturdy.

The Coronado easel has a drawer and shoulder strap making it ideal for anyone wanting to paint outdoors. It also folds up to a neat size with a handle and weighs approximately 15 pounds, the Coronado easel is ideal even for beginners.

PROS

  • Strong and sturdy wood
  • Extends for taller painters
  • Folded dimensions perfect for portability

CONS

  • ​Maybe a bit more money than a beginner would pay
  • Wood can dry out quicker (you can use linseed oil to help this)
  • Weight is a little heavier than others out there

Let’s take a look at this product…


Sienna Pochdale

Sienna Plein Air Pochade Box, Artists Adjustable Easel and Palette Box (CT-PB-0910) - Medium

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The Pochdale box is a stunning looking easel, it’s dark wood and sophisticated design is sure to put a smile on any painter’s face. If your painting style is more akin to sitting down on the grass, the Pochdale box is perfect as it lies on the ground while supporting a canvas.

It does extend upwards for those standing, including a generous amount of storage for horders.

PROS

  • Very strong construction
  • Looks every inch the professional painter’s tool
  • Extremely light and portable

CONS

  • More expensive than the French styles
  • Smaller canvases only
  • No handle for carrying

Let’s take a look at this product…


Tri-C Aluminium Field Easel

Tri-C Aluminum Field Easel

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This lightweight easel is a great portable tool for any painter wishing for plein air. It is extraordinarily light and easy to fold up (it comes with a carry case), meaning anyone can grab and go. For those on a tight budget wishing for low priced, portable easels, this is your new best friend.

PROS

  • Can hold canvases up to 32”
  • Adjustable tripod legs for uneven terrain
  • Portable

CONS

  • Doesn’t have the traditional painting aesthetic
  • No storage drawers
  • Hard to clamp on taller canvases

Let’s take a look at this product…


En Plein Air Pro Traveler Series

The En Plein Air Pro Traveler Series for Watercolor with Sunpak 2001 Tripod

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For the more serious painter/traveler amongst us, you can really do no better than the Pro Traveler series. This is an ideal setup for anyone wishing to throw everything in a backpack and hike somewhere to paint. It has a shelf for palettes, paintbrush holders, water bottle and trashbag holders and comes with its own handy bag to fit everything inside.

PROS

  • Perfect to hold ¼ sheets
  • Excellent for the traveling painter
  • Sturdy in uneven terrain

CONS

  • Not the best for canvases
  • No storage drawers
  • More expensive than other easels on this list

Let’s take a look at this product…


 Martin Jullian Classic-Style

Martin Jullian Classic-Style Full Size Wooden French Sketch Box Easel

Click to learn more / buy from Amazon

This is another French-style easel with a little more oomph than the Coronado, but you do pay almost twice extra. The wood is made with elmwood, with brass and brass plated hardware meaning you will get a quality built easel which can stand the test of wind and temperamental weather.

There is an exclusive Jullian locking system on the metal drawers, adding extra safety and durability. The synthetic leather strap, handle and carry case all give this easel the extra special care you would want in a quality easel.

PROS

  • Classic French style is always a winner
  • Strong wood and excellent finish
  • Carry case, handle, light easel is good for portability

CONS

  • More expensive than the Coronado French style
  • Slightly heavier at 13.8 pounds
  • Minor final assembly (this isn’t much of a downside though really!)

So which is best for me?

Overall the best plein air easel is whichever suits your style and most importantly your budget. Out of these, I’d say my favorite would have to be the Pochade.

Yes, it’s a little more expensive than the others, but for traveling, storage and ease of use; it has to be the one I’d choose.