There comes a time in every painter’s life when he or she decides to go out in nature and paint. Or maybe you simply are a landscape artist. In order to paint outside in the field, you need a portable easel. But like with everything else the same is with easels, it is very difficult deciding what to purchase and what will suit your needs.
There are many good easels on the market so in order to help you decide which one is for you I created a list of 5 best portable field easels. Some painters prefer wooden easels so they can tap into the mood of old masters while working while others are more modern and look just for the practical side of the tools they use so easels made of aluminium and graphite suit them better.
Before I give you the list of easels you should know what is very important to look into when you are buying your portable easel. First and very important is the weight of the easel. Keep in mind that easel is not the only thing you will have to carry to find that perfect location to work at.
There are your other tools, paints and solvents, also, there is a canvas or a panel. Not every location is accessible by a car and sometimes you have to carry everything for quite a while. It is not very nice having to set up and paint after a little workout you had while dragging a heavy easel on your back.
Therefore make sure the easel you purchase is light enough so you can carry it along with all the other tools you need.
Another very important thing you should pay attention to is how easy or difficult is to set up your easel and start working. You do not want to spend too much time setting everything up for work.
It can often happen that easels are like puzzles and you need to be very skilful to assemble everything. That can be super annoying and kill the mood and inspiration entirely.
The ideal would be to set it up in a few easy steps and believe me, there are easels whit which that is possible.
One last thing you should keep in mind is stability. Imagine your easel flipping over in the middle of your painting. Not good. Keep in mind that you are working outside in nature. There are no perfectly flat surfaces to position your easel on.
So your easel should be fully adjustable to fallow up the terrain it is placed on meaning – fully adjustable legs are a big plus. Also, it should be stable enough so it doesn’t get flipped over by the wind. It is not that bad if you are working on small surfaces. Wind won’t affect you much. But if the surface on which you work on is big it is easier to flip over. So look for an easel with a big footprint and adjustable legs.
This all being said it is time to go through the list of easels that might suit your needs. I tried to cover a wide range of easels in quality and price as well so I am sure everyone can find something useful in this review.
Mabef Portable Field Easels
Mabef is an Italian company with a long tradition in the production of top quality wooden easels. It is a family-owned company back in 1948. in Italy. All the materials used in the production of their easels are of top quality. Mabef easels of unparalleled quality and what you get from Mabef is a lifetime guaranty on all their products.
Mabef field easels are on top of my list because not only that their easels are of top quality they are also very practical for field use. They are a bit expensive compared to other wooden portable field easels but they are worth every penny and are a good lifetime investment.
Mabef M32 Field Easel
Mabef M32 field easel is the biggest of Mabef’s field easels. It is made out of oiled stain-resistant beechwood. Beechwood is the best choice of material for wooden easels because of its good characteristics. It is dense but is very lightweight and there are no hard or soft grains in one piece of beechwood so it will never splinter or wrap.
Being the biggest of all other Mabef’s field easels makes M32 the heaviest but it is still light enough to carry to the desired location even when you count in all the other things you need to carry along with your easel.
Weight of M32 field easel is 4kg and it is big and heavy enough to support canvas or a panel up to 200cm high. The weight gives it stability. When folded the easel is 103cm in height. Height of the easel, when unfolded, is 268cm. It is suitable for sitting or standing position.
Since it is a bit bigger it can not fit in a bag to be carried but it has a neat leather handle to carry it and everything is tied with a leather strap when folded.
Setup and assembly on the field are very easy so it won’t take too much of your time. Mabef’s M32 can be tilted in many angles or even lay flat allowing you to use your easel for all the techniques you want.
The only remark I have to this easel is that there is no tool tray or area to place your palette on so you have to carry something to help you with that as well.
Big and sturdy with big carrying capacity this easel is ideal for all of you that like to work on bigger surfaces even when outdoors.
Mabef Field Easel With Folding Tripod M27
Another of Mabef’s exquisite portable field easels. Made of oiled beechwood. Sturdy and durable with a lifelong guarantee. This easel is extremely lightweight so it is suitable for all of you that like painting in those inaccessible areas where you have to walk for a long time to get to.
Mabef’s M27 is only 1.9kg in weight. It can be easily folded to fit in a bag you do not need to disassemble it everything is built in a manner to fit in and there is a letter strap to hold everything together.
Since all of the parts fit into each other it is very easy to assemble it for painting so it will just take a few minutes of your time. Dimensions of the easel are 83cm long when folded and when fully stretched it is 185cm high. It is suitable both for sitting and standing positions.
There are two folding shelf brackets on the front end of the easel that can hold your pallet or pastel box so you can have your tools at hand while painting. Mabef’s M27 is constructed to carry two canvases at the same time. It can support canvas or panel up to 155cm in height.
There is a neat wingnut to adjust the Rake and secure it in many different angles. This makes the easel suitable for many different techniques. Good adjustability to many different positions, stability and very small weight are the traits that make this easel ideal for painting outside.
When it comes to Mabef’s easels the price is a bit higher but it all comes due to unparalleled quality and durability. Also, Mabef gives lifetime long guarantee so you consider this as a lifetime investment. I’m sure that looking from this angle it does not seem that expensive any more.
Mabef M29 Mini Field Easel
This is a smaller version of the M-29 field easel. Although it is smaller It offers the same quality with even more functionality in this compact and convenient package. As all of Mabef’s easels, it is constructed out of top quality oiled beechwood and has a lifetime guarantee.
Mabef’s portable easel M29 can be adjusted both for table or floor use. Very small and compact it can be fitted in a bag when folded or stored out of the way easily.
It is only 55cm in length when folded and fully stretched it is 195 cm high. When you fold the easel there is a handy leather strap to keep it all together.
Its pivoting canvas holder allows you to adjust your canvas or panel at any angle you might need while working and that makes the easel suitable for many painting techniques.
On the front end of the easel, there are two folding brackets that can carry your palette box allowing you to have all your tools and materials at hand. Even tho the easel is small it can carry two canvases at the same time. The maximum height of the canvas it can carry is 100cm. Setup of the easel is very easy whether you want to use it as a tabletop or floor easel all is done in a minute with few easy steps.
Mabef M29 mini is definitely an ideal field easel for those of you that work on smaller canvases. It is very compact, lightweight multipurpose easel constructed of top quality materials with a lifetime guarantee.
En Plein Air Pro Easel
This is definitely the best modern version of field easel. It is actually a complete system setup of great, very cleverly designed parts. You can purchase it all together or just chose what you need and create a setup of your own.
Everything is designed in a manner to give you a very pleasant outdoors painting experience. Created to fit the needs of modern painters.
What you get when you purchase the entire system is a panel holder, tripod, palette box, turps jar and a backpack.
The entire easel weighs about 13 pounds and that’s with a huge palette box included so it is fairly light to carry. Setup is very easy and it will not take you more than a minute before you can start painting.
The main part of the easel is the palette box. It has a large mixing area over 166 square inches. The palette box is made of ABS plastic and PVC reinforced with aluminium.
There is a removable lid on the box that you can attach to the tripod with a tiny magnet to shade the box from the sun. This is very useful when you are mixing colors outside.
Also, there are two side shelves on the palette box for storing your paintbrushes, turps jar and all other things you might need while painting.
There are holes on the shelves to put the brushes into and the one on the right has a hole for the turps jar to keep it secure.
The mixing area of the palette box is made of a clear PETG panel which is resistant to solvents and it is also resistant to scratches.
I would advise you to be careful with your palette knife while mixing the paints tho, especially if it is very sharp because it can cut in the panel a bit and damage it.
Even if you happen to damage it do not worry there is an option to replace it for just a few dollars. Cleaning of the mixing surface is very easy, just scrape the paint off it with your palette knife and wipe it with turps and all set.
You attach the palette box to two front legs of the tripod thus creating a sturdy paint mixing area.
The panel holder attaches to a quick-release mount. Since the mounting system is not the same for all tripods the quick disconnect for mounting the holder to the tripod is not included when you buy it separately.
The holder is made of lightweight aluminium bar fitted with ABS brackets. The weight is only 1lbs. It can hold the canvas or panel from 6″x*” to a 22″.
Once attached to the tripod it can be adjusted to many different positions quickly making it easy for you to paint in any technique.
When you finish painting you simply detach it from the tripod with a quick-release system and use it as a wet painting carrier.
When you purchase the entire system you also get a turps jar. It is a 4-ounce turps jar made of the same PETG plastic as the mixing area on the palette box.
The turps jar fits perfectly in the hole on the right shelf on the palette box which ensures that it won’t flip or fall. The lid on the jar is secure and you are safe to transport it in your backpack filled with turps. It will never leak and damage your other tools.
The tripod in this series is solid SLIK U 800. It has a plastic head but it is of good quality and won’t flex, I say this since plastic heads tend to flex no matter how hard you tighten them.
The tripod performs very well on a large canvas and stability won’t be a problem even for those of you that tend to apply a little force while painting. When I say large canvas I mean up to 12″ X 16″.
There is a small problem with the tripod tho. It is the head tilt mechanism. If you press hard at the top of the canvas it tends to slip a little. Not even tightening it hard helps with this problem. It is simply impossible to prevent this from happening.
You will find the setup of the tripod very easy and quick and with a bit of extra weight added it is stable even with strong wind. The maximum height of the panel or canvas it can hold is 72″. You can easily adjust it for standing or sitting position whatever suits you best.
A backpack is included in this system. It is the Everest backpack which is very spacious. The backpack is big enough to fit in it all that you might need while painting outdoors. It is designed in a manner to be comfortable for you to carry for as long as you might need while searching for the perfect painting area.
Everest backpack is big enough for you to put even the tripod inside tho I would recommend you to strap the tripod to it and use the inside to neatly pack all the other supplies and tools you might need.
The capacity of the backpack is 60l. It is made of high strength oxford canvas fabric. Oxford canvas fabric is found to be durable and ultra-tough. Weight of the Everest backpack is about 3lbs.
There are many pockets on the backpack which are great for storing all the little things you might need while out in the field.
On the side of the backpack, there is a zipper for easy access to the largest compartment. You can easily fit the entire easel system in the largest compartment meaning it can hold the tripod, panel holder, palette and 12 x 16 palette box.
You will find that there are sturdy handles on three sides of the backpack – top, bottom and side. The handle that is on the side allows you to carry the backpack as a suitcase if you prefer it like that. There is also a shoulder strap that allows you to carry it like a duffle bag.
Padded shoulder straps and waist belt help you to convert it to a sturdy easy to carry backpack.
This is an amazing easel system for a modern artist. Easy to carry to remote areas that you can not easily access by your car since the entire system is very lightweight, very easy to set up on the scene in just a few simple steps En Plein Pro easel will give you an exquisite outdoor painting experience.
The price is a bit too high but all of you that often do outdoor painting know how important it is having a good and reliable easel that is easy to set up and those usually come with a bit higher price. It is worth it.
US Art Supply Easel Coronado
US Art Supply Coronado easel is a traditional french style easel. Choice of easel for those of you that like to paint in a more traditional way using the tools that were used by historical European masters over hundreds of years ago.
French box easels can be very practical with their useful all in one storage drawer. Coronado is in budget easel and for the price, it is very good. Unlike many in budget easels that are made of low-quality wood that easily snaps and bends, Coronado is made of quality beechwood that is very durable and consistent.
It is better made than most of the easels within its price range, at a great price which makes it ideal for students or hobbyists. I just don’t find it sturdy enough for serious painters.
The Coronado easel is constructed out of hand-sanded solid beechwood. It is a french style field easel that has a handy tool draw in which you can put all the tools and materials you need so you have them at hand while painting.
The drawer is spacious and divided into small compartments which allows you easy access to all your tools and materials while working.
When you need to clean the drawer you can just take it out and clean it since it is removable. Also, you can pull it out partially while you are working to use it as your palette holder. The palette comes with the easel when you purchase it. It is wooden and the dimensions are 11″ X 18″.
Coronado easel can be used as a tabletop easel and can also be adjusted for you to use it while sitting or standing. It is easy to carry since it has a handle on the side to be carried like a suitcase and a strap to carry it over the shoulder. It also has bras hooks so you can carry your wet painting.
When you fold it Coronado easel is small enough so you can store it in your closet. Dimensions, when folded, are 17″ X 6 1/2″ X 22. When it is unfolded it is large enough to support a panel or canvas up to 34″. Dimensions of Coronado easel when unfolded are 28 1/2″ X 45″ X 71″.
Speaking of performance there are a few things I would like to point out for you. First of those is the weight of the easel. It is simply too heavy. The weight of the easel is 14.7pounds. And have in mind it is only the easel without all the other things you will need to carry like your tools and painting supplies.
So you better make sure to park your car near the place you intend to paint at since you will not be able to carry your easel very far. This is definitely not the easel for remote secluded areas which require hiking.
The second remark I have is the set up when on the field. Once you finally manage to get to your desired location for painting you need to set it all up quickly and start painting. Well, not that easy with this easel. Be prepared to take your time with it since it is really complicated and takes practice.
On the other hand, if you are athletic enough to carry it and patient enough to take your time setting it all up you have yourself a very neat little easel with a nice drawer to fit everything you might need and a nice area to put your palette on.
when it comes to materials used for the production of Coronado I must say that the wood is not of the best quality so don’t expect it to last you many years but then again price is more than affordable. So if you are a student or a hobbyist this is a good enough in budget easel, would not recommend it to serious painters though.
In short, Coronado french box easel. It is made of hand-sanded beechwood. The price is low so we can say this is an in budget easel. You can use it as a tabletop or both while sitting and standing.
It can be folded to be really small and stored conveniently in a closet or under the bed. Has a handle and a strap so you can carry it as a suitcase or over the shoulder.
When fully stretched it is big enough to support canvas or a panel up to 34″ high. Also, it has a very useful drawer to store all the things you might need while painting outdoors.
My remarks to this easel are that it is too heavy for a field easel, very complicated to set up and not durable enough. I would say that this is an easel for students and those of you that consider painting just a hobby definitely cant fulfil the needs of serious artists.
I hope I managed to help you decide which easel is the best for you. Whether you decide to go more traditional and purchase Mabef or modern and get your self an En Plein Air Pro easel I am sure you will enjoy them while working outdoors for many years to come since both are of top quality.
If you have any additional questions feel free to leave them in the comment section below and I will be more than happy to answer them.