EASEL 101: The Ease of the Easel

A Table Easel, one of the many different types of easels.

A Table Easel, one of the many different types of easels.

OVERVIEW:

An easel is defined as an upright support used for displaying or creating a canvas, board, or panel (aka: surface area).  The surface area rests upon the easel from a range of about 20° to fully vertical.

Traditionally easels are used by painters to support a painting while they work on it, normally standing up, and are also sometimes used to display finished paintings. The vast majority of easel’s are typically made out of wood.

While, not immediately essential to the painter, once a painter introduces this tool to their process it quickly becomes indispensable. The easel lives up to its name adding an ease and flexibility to the creative’s process.

 

TYPES OF EASELS:

Types of Easel's

The Range of Easel’s

There are many types of easels to meet the various needs of each artist. Below you can find the description of each type, recommendations for purpose, and a link to what our research as the best selection and best price through Blick Art Materials.

 

A-frame Easels (Lyre easels):

A Frame Easel

A Frame

A-frame easels are easels with 3 legs – 2 in front and 1 in back, triangular in silhouette. Then are called “A” frame because from the center front the structure resembles the letter “A”. The Tripod design allows for a sturdy foundation for painting and this shape is easy to setup in corners or tight spaces. Most models rear legs flatten for convenient storage.

Canvas Range: holds surface area up to 38″-75″

Price Ranges: $50-200

Recommended for: limited space (apartment or city living), or if you work in small or medium scale

Not recommended for: large-scale works,heavy works

 

H-frame Easels:

H Frame Easel

H Frame

“H” frame easels that most resemble the capital letter “H”. The shape of these lend for a much sturdier design than A-Frame easels. Due to their sturdiness H-frame easels are pieces of furniture, so it is ideal if you have dedicated studio space where you can leave them up. Some models come with storage areas for your paints and brushes. Any working artist will tell you that an investment in a good H-frame easel is well worth the money.

“H-Frame Easels derive a solid stance from their rectangular silhouette and their substantial rectangular bases. Several models accept giant canvases, most afford a forward tilt, and some have crank adjustments and paint tray features that offer even more convenience to the painter. These substantial workhorses command a presence in the studio. Many models can be collapsed for storage and transport, but they are heavier and clumsier in their collapsed state than A-Frame and Single-Mast easels.”

Canvas Range: holds surface up to 84″ – 96″

Price Range: $100-1500

Recommended for: large scale works, dedicated area (not very convenient to store), stable surface area support

Not recommended for: small scale works, tight spaces, or where portability is required

 

Giant Easels:

Giant Easel

Giant Easel

Giant easels are for artists who want to work in large scale, or extra large scale that is works taller than 8 feet(244 cm).  These Giant’s are especially sturdy and durable and can handle extra weight for heavy works that need extra support. Some models have the extra feature of  a double mast, or a winch to hoist heavy surfaces.

Canvas Range: extra large scale that is works taller than 8 feet (244 cm)

Price Range: $300-1800

Recommended for: large scale works, dedicated studio space, maximum stability for surface-area support

Not recommended for: small scale works, tight spaces, or where portability is required, requires lots of space

 

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Convertible (Hybrid Easels):

Hybrid Easel

Convertible, Hybrid or Swing Easel

Named convertible because these easels convert from an easel to a table top. This configuration is meant for multi-media artists who work in a variety of mediums and whose creative needs vary. Convertible easels are more sturdy than A-Frame easels.

“Convertible and Hybrid Easels serve the artist who is not satisfied to work in one medium. Most are designed to accommodate the needs of oil/acrylic painters while converting to the needs of the watercolorist or pastel painter. Most closely related to the H-Frame family, these easels provide a maximum of flexibility.”

Canvas Range: range varies depending on model, some with a max canvas size of 84″

Price Range: $90-750

Recommended for: artists who work in a variety of mediums, great for artists who need ease and flexibility in their creative flow

Not recommended for: large scale works, small spaces

 

Single Mast Easels:

Single Mast Easel

Single Mast

“Single-Mast Easels are the simplest of easel forms. Their more affordable architecture can be appreciated for its elegance but cannot be counted on to provide the same sturdiness or flexibility of the other traditional forms. Single-Mast easels are often seen in cramped apartments or school studios where their advantages are clear. They take up less space, they collapse and store with great ease, and they are generally more affordable.”

Canvas Range: range varies depending on model, some with a max canvas size of 72″

Price Range: $40-650

Recommended for: limited space (apartment or city living), or if you work in small or medium scale, collapsable for storage, affordable

Not recommended for: large scale works, heavy works, large scale works

 

Tabletop Easels:

Tabletop Easel

Tabletop

Tabletop or table mount Easels are great for artists who need to sit while working, artists who do not have a lot of floor space, or who prefer to work smaller. Available in many of the same styles as the larger floor models, the artist should be able to find the right style for their needs. These easels are perfect for artists who work in a small scale. Tabletop art easels are available in A-Frame, H-Frame, and single mast designs, with some models having room for supplies.

Some contain a drawer for holding art supplies, which is handy for artists who need to take their easel and supplies to and from home and school, for example. Depending on the specific model, some tabletop art easels can hold paintings up to 32″ high. The price range for tabletop art easels ranges from $15 – $200.

Canvas Range: range varies depending on model, some with a max canvas size of 72″

Price Range: $10-222

Recommended for: artists who work at a table or sitting down, limited space (apartment or city living), or if you work in small or medium scale, collapsable for storage, affordable

Not recommended for: large scale works, heavy works

 

Plein Air Easels (portable easels):

Plein Air Easels

Standing Plein Air

“Portable and Field Easels are designed for artists who plan on traveling with their easels, need to be able to easily move them around their studio, or who want to plein air paint. These easels fold to a compact size for easy storage and portability and are considerably lighter weight. These easels usually contain the minimal necessities to successfully use them effectively.”

Canvas Range: can hold paintings up to 45″ – 78″ inches high

Price Range: $15-550

Recommended for:  artists that need portability, and to travel. Lightweight and convenient.

Not recommended for: large scale works, heavy works,

 

Bench Easel (Art Horse Easels):

Art Horse Easel

Bench/Easel

Bench easels are for the artist who needs to have a place to sit. This type of easel combines a bench and either an easel, a drawing board, or another form of support bar. This allows the artist to sit while drawing or painting. They are collapsable for added connivence.

Canvas Range: can hold paintings up to 24″ inches high

Price Range: $210-400

Recommended for:  artists that need portability, to sit and to travel. Lightweight and convenient.

Not recommended for: large scale works, heavy works,

 

Display Easels:

Display Easels“Display Easels are not recommended for using as a working artists easel. They tend to be made from lighter weight material, for easier storage and portability, but because of this they cannot hold heavier signs or artworks. Available in either wood or metal, table top or floor models, and collapsible or not, we have something to fit most needs.”

Canvas Range: can hold works up to 55″ inches high

Price Range: $15-420

Recommended for:  display purposes only

Not recommended for: this is not a working easel, the structure does not have the stability to support any type of working art or artist.

 

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Children’s Easels:

Childrens Easel“Children’s Easels are designed with the younger artist in mind. Designed to be shorter than traditional, adult style easels, they also tend to offer at least two sides to work on instead of just one. Some easels contain sides with dry erase panels, chalk board panels, or rolls of paper for drawing and painting. Many of these floor easels also have additional storage and trays for holding the child’s art supplies.”

“Display Easels are not recommended for actually using as a working easel. They tend to be made from lighter weight material, for easier storage and portability, but because of this they cannot hold heavier signs or artworks. Available in either wood or metal, table top or floor models, and collapsible or not, we have something to fit most needs.”

Canvas Range: can hold paintings up to 55″ inches high

Price Range: $30-410

Recommended for:  younger children, to young kids this type of easel functions as a vertical standing table top with extras.

Not recommended for: adults- this type of easel does not offer range, flexibility or maneuverability that the mature artist prefers.

 

RECCOMENDATIONS:

WATCH: LOOKING AT EASEL FEATURES

Would you like more information? Watch this short video about the various features on certain easels.

Shop Blick Art Materials, for the most extensive selection of artist easels.

The following resources were used in the compilation of this article:

Blick Art Materials (website)

Types of Easels (website)

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Patron of the Arts- Creativity & Inspiration Crown

-article compiled, photographed & written by Lyrica Glory, founder of Patron of the Arts