They may seem like simple props, but the best easels for painting do more than just hold your canvas. A good easel can transform how you work, improving your posture and even improving your art itself.
Choosing the best painting easel for you requires some consideration of how and where you work For plein air painting, you're likely to want a reasonable portable easel. If you're working in a studio and have the space to leave an easel fixed, you might want a more solid structure that can hold large canvases and last a long time.
To make the guide below, we've consulted the professional artists that contribute their expertise to Creative Bloq in order to pick the best easel for different needs, including the best plein air easels and easels for kids. We've considered versatility, build quality and price, starting with floor-length easels and wrapping up with the best tabletop easels.
If you're stocking up creative gear, make sure to also check out our guides to the best coloured pencils and the best oil paints. If you want to reproduce your art with accuracy, then also take a look the best art printers and best light boxes for tracing and drawing.
The best easels for painting
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The best easels for painting: floor standing
Height: 48 inches
This is my pick as the best easel overall. It's sturdy and well-built and has a square base with lockable castors for easy mobility and optimal lighting. I found it to be highly adjustable, accommodating canvases up to 48 inches tall, and offers easy tilting, folding and a handy storage tray for supplies.
Height: 78 inches
If sturdiness and size are important, I found this Medeen easel to be a great choice for larger canvases. It has strong and moveable hinges and rubber grips that provide resistance. This does come at the expense of wheels for mobility, but the easel won't shake or wobble. I found it super easy to assemble, too.
Height: 78 inches
Working on even larger canvases? This Mont Marte easel is constructed from quality beech wood, its fittings are made from brass plated steel, and it adjusts to up to 139 inches high. That means it'll comfortably hold a canvas that's up to 78 inches tall: perfect for larger artworks.
Height: 47 inches
The options above are on the large size. If you want something lighter, I think this is a solid option, whether you're a professional artist or just dabbling. Mabel has a great reputation for its easels, which are known for their quality and longevity. This model is made from stain-resistant oiled beechwood. It's solidly and expertly constructed, with a beautiful finish.
Height: 31 inches
This heavy-duty easel is very affordable, and portable enough to be suitable in different environments. I found it sturdy and lightweight enough to serve for travel. It also has a good amount of adjustment options and a ledge for storing tools. Putting it up outside isn't too much work either.
Best plein air
Height: 34 inches
Plein air painters will appreciate this large, adjustable easel that's primarily designed for outdoor use but is equally suitable for painting at home or in the studio. Made from oiled, stain-resistant beechwood with quality steel fittings, its adjustable legs made it easy to position the canvas for optimum painting.
Height: 48 inches
This easel's overall functionality is great. Although it’s not collapsible, the wheels make it easy to move around the studio as needed. You can also convert it into a horizontal easel, which I found made it perfect for watercolour painting or even just for extra table space.
Height: 48 inches
This field easel aluminum easel is an excellent option for outdoorsy painters, and you can even adjust each leg individually to ensure the easel stays stable on uneven ground. A spring clamp keeps your canvas firmly in place, but it still isn't as secure as fixed easels. Portability is the priority here.
Designed for three- to six-year-olds, this versatile easel cam be used as a dry-erase board, a chalkboard, or they can attach a piece of paper with the easy-clip grips included and crack out the paint or crayons. There are lots of added extras, too, and this easel folds flat for easy storage when not in use.
The best easels for painting: tabletop easels
Max canvas: 23 inches
If you're short on space, or just don't like painting standing up, this lovingly-made, affordable and compact H-frame could be the perfect option. Constructed from beechwood, I found it offered a very stable base for working on a tables, and it can be tilted using seven adjustable settings from 41 degrees to 78 degrees.
Max canvas: 20 inches
This sturdy little fold-out boxed easel means you can pack away all of your paints, pencils and brushes. Inside are four compartments, and two locking clasps ensure it stays securely shut. It has no legs, but I love the attention to detail, for example the rounded corners to prevent snagging.
Max canvas: 40 inches
This option is more expensive, but I found the build and finish to be of excellent quality. It can hold larger canvases than many table easels, and it's made from eco-friendly Lyptus, which is harder than oak. I found it to be super sturdy, with a wide base, a grove for a drawing board and plastic bumps to hold a canvas. The lower shelf adjusts upward, making it easier to move work to eye level.
Max canvas: 28 inches
This great, lightweight starter easel is not only good for sketching but also plein air painting. There is plenty of storage, which does add to the weight, but the best aspect for me was the range of adjustments it offers. The canvas size can be extended up to 28 inches.
Max canvas: N/A
This foldable kid-focused tabletop easel is made from high-quality wood. It comes with a host of extras, including five chalks, an eraser, 36 number and letter magnets, a built-in, 50-feet long paper roll, and chalkboard side with coloured chalks. It's fun and should delight young artists.
Max canvas: 20 inches
If you're looking for something more compact than the sketchbox and frame tabletop easels that I've mentioned, and more of a display stand for your art, then this is a great value option. I'm not saying it's the most luxury option, but if you simply want to display your art on a table, there's no need to pay more. It has rubber feet to avoid sliding and folds away neatly.
What are the different types of easel?
There are two main types of easels used by artists. Tripod easels, as the name suggests, have three legs, and may include crossbars to make the easel more stable. H-Frame easels, again as you'd expect, resemble a letter 'H' and are constructed of two vertical posts with a horizontal crossbar support. Both types of design may have extra features for rotating the canvas and adjusting it horizontally and vertically.
Children's easels are generally simpler, smaller and more durable; the younger the target age range, the more so in all respects. Finally, tabletop easels are designed for artists with a limited amount of space, enabling them to angle their canvas while fitting onto a table or desk.
How do you choose the best easel?
There are many factors which dictate what kind of easel will be best for you. The first is where you paint. If it's always going to be in the studio, you'll want an easel that's as sturdy as possible, however heavy that makes it. (Although if you plan to move it around the room to capture the light, you'll want it to be on wheels.) If you mainly paint outdoors, though, you'll want a lighter easel that's easy to collapse and carry around. Too lightweight and flimsy, though, and it might tip over in a strong wind, so there's a balance to be struck there.
The overall size of your easel will depend on how big a canvas you like to work on, and what height you like to paint at. So it's important to check the dimensions of any easel before you buy it, measure this out with a tape measure, and make sure you're not going to be stooped over or stretching up too much.
Most easels are adjustable, but only within a certain range, so take that into account too. Also, if use a heavy canvas, a lot of thick paint, and/or heavy collage pieces, think about the amount of weight your easel will need to support.
Finally, consider how you paint. If you like to be energetic, lively and passionate with your strokes, you may need something pretty sturdy to hold everything in place. Conversely, if your approach is more gentle and quiet, you'll be fine with a more lightweight frame.
What's the best easel for painting?
The best easel for painting you can buy today depends on your location. If you're in the US, I recommend the US Art Supply Medium Wooden H-Frame Studio Easel. This solid and sturdy easel can hold a canvas up to 48 inches high, and can be tilted back if required. It folds flat for easy storage and the wheels make it portable for transporting. In short, it provides everything an artist might need, at a very reasonable price.
If you're in the UK, I recommend the Basic Studio Easel Mabef M/09. Made from stain-resistant oiled beech wood, it's solidly made, easy to assemble, and adjusts up to 96 inches in total maximum height via a user-friendly ratchet system. Although it's on the pricey side, this is a quality piece of workmanship that should last you for years.
What's the best easel for children?
Melissa & Doug's wooden standing art easel is our top recommendation for kids. It's easy to assemble, folds away easily for storage, is well constructed, and comes with lots of great extras, including a dry-erase board, chalkboard, locking paper-roll holder, child-safe paper cutter and four easy-clip grips. Best of all, there are two large plastic trays that can be removed for easy cleaning after your little ones have covered them in mess.
What's the best easel for plein air?
The best easel for plein air comes in two styles. First, if you prefer a wooden one, I recommend the Mabef M22 Sketch Box. It's a large, adjustable easel that's designed for outdoor use, and is equally suitable for indoor painting. Made from oiled, stain-resistant beechwood, it comes with a handy and stylish box with four compartments, with a sliding drawer and a wooden palette, which also acts as a cover when the easel is folded up for transporting. All this makes it perfect for holding your paints, brushes and more while you're out in the field.
Adjustable legs make it easy to place your canvas in the ideal position, letting you work on your surfaces flat, vertically or anywhere in between. This easel can accommodate canvas of up 34inches in height. And it weighs over 16lbs, making it nice and sturdy, although that also makes it a little heavy to carry.
Meanwhile, if you prefer a metal stand, check out the Ohuhu 66" aluminium field easel. A spring clamp on the top of the easel stand keeps your canvas firmly in place, the height can be adjusted from 21 to 66 inches using easy-turn knobs, and if the floor is uneven, the legs can be adjusted to adapt to the floor. It can be folded to only 21 inches for easy storage and it comes with a carry bag for easy transportation.
How did we choose the best easels for this guide?
To choose the best easels for this guide I asked for recommendations and feedback from the wide range of working artists who contribute reviews and tutorials to our site. I then tested the easels myself where possible or compared online reviews and specs based on my own experience as an artist. The factors that I took into consideration were structure and build quality, adjustability, extra features such as groves for different supports and value. I've aimed to choose easels that suit different sizes of canvas and portable options too.