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What are Some Different Styles of Easels?

Easels come in various styles, each tailored to the artist's needs. A-frame easels are popular for their stability and portability, while H-frame easels offer robust support for larger canvases. Tabletop easels cater to small-scale work, and French easels combine storage with a work surface, ideal for plein air painters. Curious about which easel might elevate your art? Let's explore further.
Devon Pryor
Devon Pryor

Easels are widely used by artists to display a two-dimensional piece of art, or to hold a work surface, such as paper or canvas, at a desirable height. There are two common styles of easel, and three common uses for easels. There are also many modified styles of easels, as well as various materials used in the construction and design features of easels. Of course, one might choose to use an easel for any number of purposes. Therefore, there are a number of different ways to group styles of easels.

Easels can be grouped by design. There are two basic styles of easel design. The tripod design is a simple design based on three legs that converge at the top. Tripod easels may have crossbars that, like the rungs of a ladder, add stability between the two front legs. The third leg is adjustable and swings out and away from the main legs, allowing the easel to stand freely. A small shelf-like bar bisects the front side of the two main legs, and can be moved vertically to adjust the height of the work surface. Tripod easels are often called Lyre easels, or A-frame easels because of the resemblance to an “A” when viewed from the front.

Most easels have three legs that form a tripod shape.
Most easels have three legs that form a tripod shape.

Another style of easel is the H-frame design. The H-frame style is slightly more complicated in form, having either two or four main legs supported by a rectangular base at right angles to the legs. H-frame easels may also have crossbars for support, and adjustable shelves for vertical placement of the work surface.

There are three common styles of easels that are grouped based on usage; studio easels, field easels, and display easels. Studio easels and field easels are both used during the creation of a work of art. Studio easels are designed for use within an artist’s studio. They can often be very large and sturdy in order to support huge canvases which are not transported to an external location for painting.

Easels are usually available in tripod or H-frame designs.
Easels are usually available in tripod or H-frame designs.

Field easels, on the other hand, are designed expressly for taking the art studio outside. These easels are portable, and usually have spaces designed for holding the artist’s materials, including brushes, paint, and canvas or paper. These easels are usually small, lightweight, and cannot accommodate large canvases. One common type of field easel is the sketch-box, or French box easel.

There are specific styles of easels that are used for display purposes only. Display easels are used to show off completed artwork. These do not require the same level of stability needed when the painter is still working on the art piece. Display easels do need to be strong enough to support the weight of the artwork, yet they are usually more decorative than utilitarian.

Modified styles of easels include nesting easels, reversible easels, single-mast easels, bi-fold easels, and convertible or hybrid easels, which are related to H-frame easels. The frames of these many styles of easels can be made of wood, steel, aluminum, or brass. Many easels now have built-in work surfaces for use in other activities aside from painting. Available work surfaces include white boards, chalkboards, magnetic surfaces, cork, flannel, fabric, and paper. More advanced styles of easels include telescopic legs, wall mounts, wheels, trays, and small shelves that fan out from a pivot point.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the main types of easels used by artists?

Artists typically use three main types of easels: A-frame, H-frame, and single-mast easels. A-frame easels, also known as lyre easels, are triangular and lightweight, making them portable and suitable for small spaces. H-frame easels are sturdy and stable, with a rectangular shape that can support larger canvases. Single-mast easels have a simple design with one vertical post, ideal for limited workspaces and easy storage.

How do I choose the right easel for my painting style?

To choose the right easel for your painting style, consider the size of canvases you use, the medium you work with, and your workspace. For large canvases and heavy-duty use, an H-frame easel is robust and stable. If you work with watercolors or like to paint at an angle, a convertible easel that can lay flat is ideal. For plein air painting, a French easel or a portable tripod easel is practical due to its compact and transportable nature.

Are there easels designed for plein air painting?

Yes, there are easels specifically designed for plein air painting, which is painting outdoors. French easels combine a sketchbox, easel, and canvas carrier in one, making them highly convenient for outdoor use. Portable tripod easels are also popular among plein air artists due to their lightweight design and ease of setup. These easels often come with shoulder straps or carrying bags for mobility.

What is a convertible easel, and who should use one?

A convertible easel, also known as a hybrid easel, is versatile and can be adjusted to various angles, including a completely horizontal position. This feature makes it suitable for artists who work in multiple mediums, such as oil, acrylic, and watercolor. Artists who require flexibility for different techniques or who have limited space and need an all-in-one solution should consider a convertible easel.

Can children use the same easels as adults, or are there special easels for kids?

While some children can use smaller adult easels, there are special easels designed for kids that cater to their size and safety needs. Children's easels are often made of durable, non-toxic materials and feature adjustable heights to grow with the child. Many include additional features like chalkboards, magnetic boards, or clips to hold paper, encouraging a range of creative activities beyond painting.

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    • Most easels have three legs that form a tripod shape.
      By: WavebreakMediaMicro
      Most easels have three legs that form a tripod shape.
    • Easels are usually available in tripod or H-frame designs.
      By: captblack76
      Easels are usually available in tripod or H-frame designs.