How to Choose an Easel for Painting and Drawing

By Alina Bradford

Instuctor Lisa Mitchell using a wooden easel by Alina BradfordArtists in the market for a new easel for her art studio may be stunned by all the choices. There are metal easels, wooden easels, A-frame, H-frame and French easels and all types of features that may make the easel more attractive to certain types of artists, and useless to others. (Image: Instructor Lisa Mitchell using a wooden easel by Alina Bradford)

Here is a guide to help even new artists weed through the choices to find the perfect easel for his needs.

Which is Better, Wooden Easels or Aluminum?

When it comes to the material choices, one is not necessarily better than the other. Wood is a classic choice for easel construction, but metal has many advantages as well.

Advantages of wooden easels:

  • Sturdier construction
  • Less likely to wobble during the painting and drawing process
  • They often come in a wider variety of designs

Advantages of metal easels:

  • They are lighter and more portable
  • Many fold up and can be stored away in small areas
  • They are easier to clean because they are non-porous

What Types of Easel Styles Are There?

If an artist looks hard enough, she will find an unending amount of various sizes and styles of easels. There are three main styles, though.

  • A-frame or tripod easels are shaped like the letter A with an extra leg jutting out to support it. This three-legged structure makes it easy to fold up for storage. The problem with A-frame easels is the lack of support on the upper part of the canvas. Also, this type of easel isn’t a stable as other easel types, though they are often less expensive than H-frame counterparts.
  • H-frame easels have a square-shaped frame with a crossbar or tray that runs along the center to hold the canvas. H-frame easels are very sturdy and support the canvas from top to bottom. The only problem with this style is that it takes up a lot of room. Space conscientious artists should look for a version that folds flat so that it can be stored against a wall of the art studio or under a bed.
  • H-frame and A-frame easels come in large floor sizes or smaller table-top designs.
  • French easels are small boxes or cases with pop-up painting supports and extendable legs. These types of easels are made for plein air painting since artists can store their supplies in the easel and carry it to various locations easily.

How to Choose Easel Features

Besides size and construction material, easels come with a wide array of features. Here are some easel features that artists should look for:

  • Telescoping legs make A-frame styles take up even less space.
  • Extending support bars keep even large canvases steady. Make sure to look for information on how large of a canvas the easel will accommodate.
  • Look for built in trays and cups for holding art supplies.
  • Make sure the canvas support bars are wide enough to hold deep, gallery-style canvases.
  • Rubber tipped feet keep tripod and A-frame legs from slipping during the painting process.

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