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How to Choose the Perfect Easel for Your Artwork

Photo by Raychan on Unsplash

The right artist easel can make a world of difference to your artwork. While they aren’t a necessity, it’s a great idea to try painting, sketching, or illustrating using an easel, just to test out the option. If you’re just starting in the world of art, it can be difficult to decide whether an easel is worth the investment. On the other hand, more experienced artists could be used to working on a flat surface to create their masterpieces. Your art style will be unique to you, so it’s worth experimenting to find the best art set-up for you.  

Do I need an Easel to paint? 

The simple answer to this is “not necessarily”. Many artists prefer to work in positions that easels simply won’t allow. However, there are significant advantages to a more upright position while painting or drawing. 

If you’re accustomed to working on a desk or dining table, an easel could relieve any stress felt in your back as your arch over your work. It also allows your wrist to be held at a more upright angle, removing any smudging that can occur as we rest our forearms on horizontal paper or canvases. Working on an easel allows you to angle it to capture the amount of light you need, as well as a space dedicated to your artwork that doesn’t need to be cleared in time for dinner! 

How to choose an easel

As mentioned, your art style will be unique to you, making choosing an easel unique too.  It may even take trying different types for you finally settle on what’s best suited for you.  Ultimately, we can’t make this decision for you, of course, but we can inform & help find the right one.

  • Scale: It goes without saying that if you work on a large scale with a more expressive style, a sturdier easel might be necessary. For smaller, more detailed work, an artist easel where you can get into the details would be a perfect choice.
  • Flexibility: If you enjoy changing angles and switching up your position, maybe between sitting and standing, perhaps a more portable easel or one with more adjustable options would be best for you.
  • Storage: Thinking about the space you have in your home or studio, how big an artist easel can you store out of the way if need be?
  • Medium: Which medium you choose can play an important factor. For more fluid mediums, like watercolour, an easel where horizontal angles can reduce mess is recommended.

Types of Artist Easel

Now we come on to the wide variety of artist easels, many of which are available in perfect condition and at affordable prices from Cowling & Wilcox. 

Daler-Rowney Box Easel

Table Easels

Table top easels are light, compact, and can usually be set up in a matter of seconds. If you are a lover of fine detail or watercolour, these are typically fully adjustable, using wingnuts that are easily loosened and tightened, providing the ideal painting or drawing angle in your chosen medium. Some table easels allow storage, such as this Daler-Rowney Box Easel, which offers the perfect solution for the artist who is always on the go. 

One thing to bear in mind is that the lower canvas support on table easels are often fixed, so if you would prefer to work at eye level this may cause problems. To avoid this problem, a studio easel or a table easel with adjustable canvas support would be best. While fairly sturdy, these are better suited to smaller-scale canvases, so if you’re looking to work on heavier surfaces another type of easel is recommended.

Jakar Aluminium Field Easel

Field Easels

Also known as sketching easels, these are lightweight, highly portable options among artist easels. They are constructed with three legs to be placed in a triangular shape on the floor while artwork rests on a central support column. Legs are telescopic to allow fully adjustable height or a sturdy painting surface on uneven ground, as well as collapsing the easel down to around 2 feet for easy transport. For the best portability, this Jakar Aluminium Field Easel even includes a carry bag and other options may have a built-in storage tray for your equipment.

Sketching or portable easels can take larger canvases than table easels, roughly up to around 120cm canvases, with fully adjustable lower and upper canvas supports. With their lightweight nature, if you enjoy painting on heavier canvases it may be better to choose a studier wooden studio easel.

Winsor & Newton Lea Radial Studio Easel

Studio Radial Easels

If you enjoy positioning your artwork directly in front of your subject, a radial studio easel could be the one for you. Radial easels, such as this Winsor & Newton Lea Radial Studio Easel, stand on three short legs and a long central mast. Compared to other studio easels, these save space where it is limited, making it a popular choice for educational art environments. Radial easels can also be adjusted, whether you want to tilt your canvas forward or adjust your canvas supports. 

All in all, radial easels are an affordable, flexible, and sturdy option for beginners and professional artists alike. They cannot, however, be tilted to a horizontal angle so if this will be necessary to create your ideal artwork, a more flexible studio easel may be required.

Cowling & Wilcox Piccadilly Studio Easel

Studio: A-Frame Easels

Also called ‘Lyre’ easels, A-Frame Studio Easels offer much more stability than a portable easel while also being fairly lightweight. Often made from Beechwood, A-Frame easels are formed with supports in the shape of an ‘A’ and a triangular base. Small to medium canvases are ideally placed on A-Frame Easels, such as this Cowling & Wilcox Piccadilly Studio Easel. Some can be flattened and stored vertically with ease and this type of artist easel is usually more affordable than H Frame studio easels.

These studio easels are available in various levels of flexibility but typically do not tilt back to accommodate watery mediums. They will, however, often allow slight tilts to the painting angle and allow you to adjust canvas supports to accommodate a range of canvas sizes. 

Cowling and Wilcox Shaftesbury Studio Easel

Studio: H Frame Easels

For larger-scale pieces, we come to the H Frame Studio easel. Shaped like the letter ‘H’ as their name would suggest, these easels provide a sturdy and ultimately flexible surface for a wide range of styles, sizes, and artistic mediums. They are easily adjustable to accommodate whatever angle or canvas style you require for your art project. 

Some H Frame easels, such as this Shaftesbury Studio Easel, also include a storage tray for your artist equipment. With a sturdier frame, these easels are also bulkier and heavier, but some are available with castors to assist with transporting them around a room. These are also the most expensive variety so you may want to make sure this is the right option for you before investing in an H Frame easel.

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