A portable easel (also "acadamy easel") is a three-legged easel made of wood. It serves to hold the canvas (the picture carrier) in a vertical position. This makes it much easier to paint straight large pictures, because you can paint in an upright position (whether standing or sitting, does not matter). In principle, a three-legged portable easel is not as heavy and stable as a studio easel, which has a better stability due to a massive foot. Nevertheless, the portable easel is also suitable for larger image formats (up to approx. 150 x 150 cm). The main features of a portable easel:
- Real light (5 - 7 kg)
- Suitable for formats up to 180 cm high (depending on model)
- With wide image formats (more than 120 cm) the whole thing gets wobbly when painting.
- Most models with slider (picture holder) on top to clamp the screen (not all)
- With the better models, the screen can be set up vertically (by tilting the center bar with the image holder to the front).
- Usually you can move the horizontal bar (image support) vertically (with the help of a snap-in drag hook).
- Very easy to collapse and put away
- Some (few) models have a shelf underneath the crossbar
- Prices (rough frame): between 40 and 120 USD
Buy a portable easel - what to consider?
There are a number of differences between the models. To judge which easel is best suited for your purposes, here is a list of points to consider when buying a portable easel:
- Material: Most easels are made of oiled beech wood. This is very stable and unbreakable. Above all, it is only slightly susceptible to humidity caused by the weather or the room. Therefore beech wood hardly warps or only very little. The easel remains functional and easy to use for a long time. Some very inexpensive portable easels are also made of softwood (spruce, pine). Here the risk is quite high that the taffle will warp after a few months / years, relatively large.
- Weight: The optimal weight of an easel is mainly related to the picture formats you want to paint. Basically, the larger and heavier the canvas, the more stable the easel must be. And the stability increases with the weight. Those who paint rather large pictures should rather choose a heavy portable easel.
- Stability: the stability depends on the one hand on the weight, on the other hand on the question how far the rear leg can be folded down. The three-legged Akademie-Staffelei is of course not as stable as a Atelierstaffelei that has four feet. But still it can stand stable even with large picture formats. (You have to keep in mind: the further you fold the rear leg backwards, the more inclined the screen on the easel will be).
- Storage / Transport: a portable easel can be folded. This makes it flat and does not take up much space. You can tare it and place it in a corner. However, the height remains largely unchanged - it cannot be pushed together like a field relay.
- Inclination of the picture: Normally the picture lies on the crossbar and is leaned against the two front legs. Thus, it is slightly inclined backwards, which is quite suitable for painting in most lighting conditions. But only a few portable easel models offer the possibility to fix the picture in a vertical position. This is only possible if the center bar, on which a picture holder is attached at the top, can be tilted separately.
- Maximum image height / size: On a heavy portable easel, relatively large formats (up to 180 x 180 cm) can be easily processed. The lighter the easel, the more "fluttering" the canvas reacts on the outside when painted.
- Height-adjustable: most models have a height-adjustable crossbar. You can move the picture carrier to the individually optimal height. Those who are especially tall or like to paint in a sitting position should pay attention to the minimum and maximum height adjustment of the easel.
- Storage space for utensils: Normally a portable easel has no additional storage space underneath the crossbar (like a studio easel). If you want something like this, you have little choice.
- Picture holder above: of decisive importance for the stability of the picture on the easel is the picture holder, which is attached to the top of the middle bar and which can be moved in height. One lets it down on the upper edge of the picture and fixes it then - the picture is thus firmly clamped, ideal for painting. However, the very inexpensive models do not have a picture holder. Such portable easels are more suitable as presentation relays (or for drying) than for painting.
Learn more about the difference between easel types.
Usually an easel is made of wood, but recently it has also been made of aluminium or other metal. There are a number of different easel types that have different advantages and disadvantages. The decision which easel is the right one usually depends on individual factors. This article is intended to help you find the right easel.
How to construct an easel by yourself
If you don't have the necessary small change to buy a suitable easel, you can make a simple portable easel yourself relatively easily and inexpensively. The following video shows how this works - it's german but you might understand how to build it.
A detailed and well-illustrated manual can be found on the Künstlerbedarf-Blog (german): Build your own easel (incl. PDF instructions)
- Studio easel
- Introduction to oil painting (for beginners) - Overview
- History of oil painting
- The special feature of oil paint