Plein air easel s ?

edited September 2021 in General Discussion
Howdy folks,

For some time I have been mulling over the idea of getting an easel for painting outdoors. As with many things there is such a variety. 
I cant decide if I should get one of those more modern tripod type set ups, or a Jullian type.

The Jullian appear more robust, and personally I like the look and aesthetic of something crafted in wood (not that I am going to be staring at it much  :) )

Though the down side is the comparative weight of them.

If I do end up going for that type, there is then the dilemma of ` should I get the full size or the half size`.

Jacksons looks like a decent one.

I dont mind paying for decent quality.  

I’m based in UK so buying something from far afield wont be economically viable due to shipping costs.

Any hints, tips, advice would be welcome.



  • I have one of the Julian type, full size, and found it to be too awkward and heavy.  It is now parked in my storeroom.  

    I've tried a number of other solutions and so far, my favorite is the Leder Easel.  It fits on a tripod.  You can Google it to see what it looks like.  If you are reasonably handy, you could make something similar.  I use it along with a Masterson resealable palette box.  

    I am currently making another style.  It consists of a palette tray hinged to an easel mount.  Not sure if it will work well or not.  It is intended to hold up to a 16 by 20 panel.  The prototype is turning out to be heavier than I would like but still lighter than the Julian style French easel.

    As I get older, i find it more and more desirable to cut down on the amount of weight that i have to haul around.  So far, what is working best for me is the Leder easel and carryling only the five tubes of paint that Mark uses.
  • edited September 2021
    Thanks for your response @mstrick96, yes the Jullian do look nice but way too Harvey.

    I have seen many variations of ones that go on a tripod. Theres more of a variety on offer in the states but shipping and and duty costs when it gets to the UK bumps the price right up.

    There are some nice pochard boxes that are like laptop dimensions, but I wonder how high, realistically that would go on a tripod, as I like to stand when painting.

    A set up I like, but again its from US, is the Daytripper, its very light,  has the pallet box that slots onto the tripod legs, and a mast that goes in the tripod fitting to put your canvas/board on.

    I will check out the Leder.

    Thanks again


    UPDATE, Oh that Leder is very nice, and similar to what I was describing with the Daytripper, though Leder looks better quality, and reasonable price.

    I would much prefer that set up than the laptop style box ones.
  • @MichaelD
    I'm 6 feet 4 inches tall, so I got a tall tripod that can extend to 75 inches.  The box I'm making is like a laptop, so I can mount it with the painting surface well above head height!  Here's the tripod.
    AmazonSmile : BC Master Camera Tripod Dslr, 75-inch Tall and Portable Aluminum Alloy TA333 with Carrying Bag, 2018 NEW 360°Ball Head, Bubble Level, Quick Release Plate for Canon Nikon, Weight: 3.17lbs/1.44Kg : Electronics
  • @MichaelD
    The Leder is quite nice and as I said before, if you have the tools, you can make something similar.  There are ideas on the interent for making a tray that fits onto the tripod legs to hold the Masterson palette.  I've even thought about glueing a couple of clamps onto the bottom of the Masterson so that it wouold fit directly on the tripod legs.

    Another excellent option witht he Leder is using a hand held palette like the old arm palettes.  The LEder seems to be the most flexible system.
  • Thats great info @mstrick96, I will check out that tripod.
    I have went ahead and ordered the Leder, as their site helpfully had a link to a seller in Europe, thus helping me avoid the US to UK shipping costs and duty.

    Hand held pallet is a great idea, then maybe can use the Leder palette holder, with a board on to hold brushes medium, etc.

  • Great @MichaelD!  I had not realized that they have a dealer in Europe.

  • edited September 2021
    The two major factors are how far you have to carry it, and how large your canvases are.  For some the real estate you need for gear would be a third.  These three are going to have to give at some point, but the rig from a car with a 5 step walk can be completely different from one that is used backpacking. 

    I am an x outdoor jock, kayaking sea and WW; rock climbing; ice climbing, back packing, bike tripping, etc.. I just say it because I love carrying heavy things when I could, and doing work.  I am currently making home made Daytrippers  (heavily modified to suit me), and fly on the wall easels and basically have made a lot of other types.  I still find some days I don't even feel like moving the lightweight gear outdoors to paint on the property.

    As a woodworker I have been building just about all the portable solutions, and I think the Prolific Painter stuff, or similar, is best.  I can't recommend ordering from them as I got no responses back in a timely (months) time, and the shipping is crazy expensive; and there is a certain pall of unfilled orders and contact problems on the net.  (And at least at this point after over 45 years of buying almost all my hobby gear from the US, I had two big orders take 2 months (would normally be  weeks), and one was broken when it arrived. One spent over a month in Chicago.  It is now officially faster to get anything not from amazon to canada from Russia, or China).

    I am not suggesting they are bad people, I think they may be doing the art, but unless you have a ton of time, you might as well not bother.  I was willing to spend 500 at PP, and in the end just fired up the 3D printer, and also the table saw.  Making one out of wood is very easy if you have anything like skills.  You can see in some of his early videos that he was just scabbing some simple sticks of wood together.  The first Grand Canyon video has examples.
  • I went through one of Been's videos and added up all the sizes of panels he used in his polyptics.  Most of them in the rockies trip were 8x8, and 12x12, with the 4x8 and 6x12 also.  The reason I went to the trouble was in order to see what panels made sense in his practice, and in particular what panel carriers I would need to make, for the above 4 sizes you need two panel carriers.  For the small stuff, I think his easels are tops, and that is all I want for the moment.  I think the idea of really huge canvases is not for me at this stage due to the time it would take.  Might be good in studio some day.
  • edited September 2021
    I made two Been stye palettes, but at the moment I am painting in the back 150, so I have short walks, and I really like the shelf design T J Kitts has on his site.  It would work for car also.  But packing, I don't think so.  I use it as a palette, while Kitts designed it for supplies, he uses a vertical palette.  I made a vertical palette for my Been style easels, but have not used it but I find the Kitts shelf works great when one can walk around with it level, It is brilliant on a tripod.
  • Thanks for all the info @TamDeal.

    I can drive but dont own a car, or indeed want to. So my travels would either be on foot with a back pack, or on my touring bicycle with back panniers.

    Yes I could make things, but not as good as the Leder I have ordered, which I think is a reasonable price anyhow.
    I may make some kind of slim box though for palette.

  • edited September 2021
    That Leder shelf is basically the Kitts shelf, though all these things have been out there for a while.  The Leder is lower profile.  The Kitts fits any tripod I have tried it on.  With low profile you need tighter tolerances to fit on a tripod and stay at the right angle.  The Kitts does that, but it is utilitarian.

    The one thing that PP got right for what I do is his easel does not touch the painting surface, and I have taken that further on mine. The Leder has really big clamps, but if that bothered one, one could add the screws PP uses.

  • I did look into the PP one initially and contacted them to see if they ship abroad. 
    They responded that they do, but had some returns because some people refuse to pay the duty.

    Duty and shipping US to UK bumps up the price considerably. 

    Thankfully Leder have a supplier in Europe, PP dont.
  • The PP configuration is easy to emulate with the Leder.  I've thought about making a palette with the fold out wings like his to use with the Leder tray support.   The laptop configuration I'm making now will have separate side mounted trays.  

    I like to keep my colors so that I can continue work on my painting back in the studio, so decided to make a deeper palette area in my current model so that when it's closed the paint isn't touched.

    My go-to system is the Leder combined with a Masterson palette box. One of my hobbies is woodworking, so I'll probably keep tinkering with other ideas!  
  • One problem I have with spending lots of money on these systems is that I won't know if I like them until I've used them for awhile.  I was about to build something similar to the Leder system when I found his and it was inexpensive enough that I went ahead and bought it.  So far, it is the most vertitile.

    Other than my Leder easel system, I've built most of my own equipment.  Usually it is in rough prototype form, because I am comtinually modifying everything and trying out new ideas.   

    Here's a photo of the laptop-like pochade box that is almost finished.  It has a 12" by 16" mixing area and the panel clamps mount with magnets anywhere on the easel portion.  To keep them from touching the paint when the box is closed, the clamps simply go onto the other side of the sheet steel. 

    You can see the second iterations of my clamping system in the mixing tray.

    I haven't seen this exact magnetic panel mounting system anywhere yet, so I think this is my unique contribution.  One vendor uses magnets that have to be glued or taped to the back of the panel, or you have to buy his special panels.  Mine can use any panels.

  • I would have jumped on the Leder when i was originally looking.

    This is one of my easels.  It has a matching card carrier for notan sketches, or values sketches, or in this case, a reminder of mixes.  That is a 4x8 panel but it will hold an 11 inch vertical.  I have a ton of sizes and bar formats.  I was surprised to find I liked the tall masts as there is more usable real estate, including greater height for sight size work.  But the small ones only weigh 8 ounces, they were designed to take a 11x11 panel, all of my panels at the time were 10 inches or smaller.

    Those are real weights, not marketing weights.  I used to work in backpacking while at school, and it was shocking that the marketing weights for things were always understated by quite a lot.  So if weight is important, weigh. 

    The 8 inch bars weigh 1 ounce each. so if you double the size of the composite mast to hold 22 inch canvases that would add maybe 5 ounces.  These weights are without the dovetail mounting plate as those are owner supplied and vary a lot in weight.  I have some really large bars, but where I live there is a lot of wind, and small is better for me.

    One feature I like a lot is the same bars hold even 1/8"/3mm panels slightly above the bars with 100% access.  But you can do the same with cavases, or 1/4" panels.  Since it is 3D printing, I can make any type of bar that I happen to need.
  • These are some of the other sizes I have from 12-24" masts and 8-12" bars.  I have a wider bar size, but frankly I prefer a pyramid style easel for much larger size work, or a studio.

    The unit on the right weighs 9 ounces with the 12 inch bars.  All 3 jaw sets have different jaw types.  The 3 bar set lets you hold two cavases, or plates, so you can have a vertical palette so your values stay true.

  • edited September 2021
    These shown have epoxy floors, but I prefer to also use a glass bottom.  The frame on the small one is a single integrated plastic billet.  The nice thing about 3D printing the frame and hinge bars is that the parts then align perfectly with the hardware as all the screw holes are built in.

  • This is the Kitts Shelf.  I added aluminum trim which is riveted to the aluminum billet angle brackets.  Not sure it adds anything needed, but it matches the trim on my other palettes.  It won't be weaker.

    You can find Kitt's generous plans on his website:

    (As I mentioned this shelf is for your gear, not intended as a palette, but with some glass and paper I like it as a palette also)

  • This is a picture from Kitt's upcoming seminar ad of his large pyramid easel.  These are made in Maine under the Take It Easel brand, for one.  There may be others.  I have a plan for one of these, even though I don't really like them all that much, but sometimes you need some pyramid power.  My plan is to make one out of stuff we already carry into the field, and sidestep the half-a-lumberyard nature of the beast.
  • Neat!  I haven't gotten into 3D printing.  When I retired, I got interested in building a CNC Router and even worked out the design details.  My intention was to use it to build wooden geared clocks and I needed someting to cut the clock wheels (gears).  I designed several clockworks, but then my interest in painting took over and I also realized that clocks would be about all I would use the CNC Router for.  Working out the designs is the interesting part anyway!  The rest is buildign a troubleshooting!

    The Kitt style tray is what I was about to build along with your style of penel holder when I found the Leder Easel.  

    At my age (75) I'm interested in lightening the weight of my plein air gear, but I can't walk far enough to go to the trouble of ultralight.  

    Your panel holders look great!  I guess I'll stick to my woodworking tools!
  • It is easier to make in wood anyway. 

    I got the printer 2 years ago, and for the first year just printed stuff off places like Thingieverse, utilitarian things.  I already could do CAD, but I was not looking to learn a new program, once I did I really found it useful.  In particular it is the professional touches.  When I made my big easel similar to Mark's I knew what I wanted for the jaws but really didn't want to start it.  Metal grinding indoors is pretty miserable. But with 3D I could make all kinds of parts, more or less off the couch.  And we had lockdowns, I never had to worry if I didn't have something, I could just print it.

    Painting is a full time job it makes sense to stay focused.

    I have parts for a router.  I can think of a lot of things I could do with it, but a router is a large commitment, space hog, and you can't really walk away for fear it will start a fire.  I need one, but it never seems to make sense when I look deeper.  Printers are so cheap, and you can leave them, you don't have to get get expensive stock for the,  A lot of advantage stem from the fact that they are so small, and making them bigger really doesn't work, yet they are still useful  With a router I always found myself reaching for the 4x8'

  • edited September 2021
    regarding buying a (camera) tripod for my Leder set up.
    Doing my best to narrow it down to somewhere between not too cheap and breaking the bank.

    The Leder site recommends K&F and Neewer.

    I’m thinking of going for this one

    Reduced from £170 to 100, carbon fibre, so nice and light.

    Of course they show all the glowing reviews on their site, but when I check it on Amazon, there are a fair few not so good, thought the good outweigh the bad.

    Its the same with reviews for most things I guess.

    I’m old fashioned in that I would much prefer to actually go into a shop and see/test the product, then I would know if its suitable enough to purchase.
  • @MichaelD
    That looks pretty good.  Should be plenty strong for a plein air setup.  I've never had a carbon fiber tripod.  Mine are aluminum.

    The ball head should make it easier to adjust for level on uneven ground.  One of my tripods that I got for photography has a ball head.  I got it to photograph my paintings because I thought it would help me to get framed perfectly on the rectangular canvases.  It was too fiddly to get it perfect.  That is the only case where the ball head has not been useful.

    On Amazon reviews, There will ALWAYS be negative reviews for everything!  A few are the random defective product, but the majority tend to be nonsense.  Quite a few show that the reviewer didn't bother to read the instructions!  Also some people are going to find fault with everything!    The way I use the Amazon reviews it to look for reviews the describe features and how the product was used. 

    That looks like a good tripod. 
  • @TamDeal
    i was Director of Engineering for my company and when I joined them in 1988, they were still doing their designs on drafting boards with pencil and paper.  Among my first goald was to get their design and manufacturing processes upgraded.  I took them to full CAD/CAM/CAE capability over the next ten years.  They do all their own manufacturing and machining and have state of the art CNC mills, lathes, etc.  

    It's amazing what can be done with computers now!
  • @mstrick96

    Quite right, I went ahead and bought it.

  • Folks

    from a 2019 post.

    A $32 pochade

    Hinged two picture frames (17.5x12.75 inches), used card table stay and some neodium magnet closures. Added glass palette and a tripod mount. 

    Low quality tripod head makes it a bit wobbly, but easily fixed.

  • Great @dencal, and with the picture still in the frame  =)
  • @dencal
    Looks like a great idea!  About the same size as the one I made.

    I used friction hinges on mine so I can open it to any position and they will hold if sized properly.  They would easily attach to the frames, but cost more than the frames themselves!  

    Friction hinges (or torque hinges) are rated in inch-pounds, so to size them, you would take the weight of the lid frame at it's center of mass and multiple by its distance from the hinge centerline.  In this case, assuming the frame with glass weighs about 3 pounds, the hinge needed would be 3 x 8.75 = 26.25 for one hinge.  I found that they need to be significantly over-rated, so I woul duse two 30 inch-pound hinges to account for panel weight , etc, etc.  So each hing would cost about as much as this entire pochade did!

    Here's a source for reference if you ever want to investigate these.

    friction hinges | McMaster-Carr
  • dencaldencal -
    edited September 2021

    Thanks. I just slipped one of my A3 photo prints in behind the clear plastic to make the picture frame look real.
    Should replace the print with a large ten step grey scale.

  • mstrick96

    Thanks for the info. I scoured my local shops for friction hinges, couldn’t find any. The online versions looked suited to barn doors.


  • Folks

    Anyone for a well designed, high tech Pochade Box?

  • @dencal ,

    Yes I had checked those out during my search Denis, very nice.

    Though I felt there would be limitations, for me, with that set up when outdoors, compared with the separate easel mast and palette.

    Though in all honesty I wouldn’t mind one of these as well,
  • edited September 2021
    I was in the dollar store the other day and they sell, for a few buck each, plywood half boxes/panels (a plywood panel with a glued on frame).  One had really nice grain.  A pair of those will make a porchade box, if you don't have a saw etc...

    Porchade boxes are one thing and easels are another.  Last year I made a mess of every kind of porchade box with friction hinges.  They are fine, but they really seemed limited compared to an easel.  Like why would you use a prochade box, if you could have a high functioning easel for 8 ounces?

    So it is the eternal  should I morph my easel into a box, or my box into an easel.

    My latest idea is a small version of a DMP easel on wheels that one could move around like a golf pull cart.  I would rather go to a garage and wheel out a full system that was rock solid, that struggle through doors with flimsy tripods.  Of course, would only work for some things.  But I have a lot of very paintable stuff within walking distance.  And during the pandemic, one could switch that around to "within walking distance there is a lot of paintable stuff".

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