26 Oct 2022Mont Marte
Sometimes we’re faced with a few tricky easel questions, so, we’re putting the “ease” back into easel (sorry we had to), and settling any confusion. From the basic “what is an easel” to the more detailed, how to set up a painting easel, here are 10 answers to common easel questions. 

1. What is an easel?
Typically made from wood, an easel helps hold a canvas while the artist is painting. Easels are available in a range of types and sizes including floor, table, tripod and display easels and can also be made from steel.

2. Can you tell me how to set up a painting easel?
For the best set up, follow your easel’s instructions. Some easels are relatively simple to set up and others will take longer. Once assembled, there are a few things you can do to position your easel. The whole point of an easel is to keep you comfortable while painting, so set your canvas up at a workable height and keep your canvas at eye level. Make sure your canvas is centred on the easel and sit the canvas in line with the top of the canvas holder to minimise shadows. For a handy how to video, definitely check out our how to work with a canvas on an easel video.

Man setting up a wooden easel with a canvas on top to begin painting.

3. What can I use instead of an easel?
Easels are great for medium to large projects but for smaller projects, try a tabletop easel. These easels are also great for watercolour or drawing artworks because you can easily move your surface around and adjust the position for flat working. For drawing or watercolour projects, we’d suggest using some clips or taping the paper at the top to secure your work to the easel.
Otherwise, you can also try using a chair instead of an easel, leaning your artwork against the back of the chair.

4. Do I need to paint differently when I’m using an easel?
A handy tip is to paint from top to bottom. This will stop you from getting any paint on your hand and accidentally transferring this to your canvas.

Man paints a white canvas on a wooden easel with blue acrylic paint, beginning from the top corner.

5. Can you tell me how to set up a French easel?
Typically, French box easels have three legs with a canvas holder and a wooden drawer. The type and construction will depend on the brand, but generally it’s best to loosen the wing nuts on the easel first, so the legs swing down and sit comfortably on the ground. Tighten the wing nuts, set the back leg up, then adjust the canvas holder and lock this into position.

6. Can I use an easel for drawing?
You can! You use an easel with art paper for large to medium scale projects, if you’re happy to work with your work in front of you. We recommend using a little piece of masking tape to help keep your paper in place. If you’re worried about the paper tearing, you can stick the tape to the back of your hand a few times to remove the “stickiness” or use a low tack tape. Easels are also great to use for holding canvases when sketching or planning your artwork.

Man sketches with a graphite pencil on a white canvas with a wooden easel.

7. How do I stop an easel from sliding around?
Most easels have castors (wheels) for movement that can be locked into place, or some have rubber feet to protect the floor and stop them from sliding around the ground. For floor easels or tabletop easels that doesn’t include this, you can use a non-slip mat or a tea towel under the feet it to stop any sliding.

8. What easel works best outside?
French box easels are great for plein air painting. They have a good weight to them and strong wooden legs that won’t topple over once you start painting. Tripod easels are also great for painting outside. They have three telescopic legs and can be easily folded away when you’re finished. For a heavy duty telescopic easel, we suggest trying the Mont Marte Tripod Easel Signature. It’s made from a sturdy pine wood and features telescopic legs for convenient and easy height adjustment.

A telescopic easel stands outside next to a garden with a detailed graphite sketch on it.

9. How do I protect a wooden easel?
Wooden easels can be expensive, so it’s a good idea to look after them to keep them lasting longer. To keep a wooden easel in good nick, treat your easel to regular conditioning. Use a gentle furniture oil or polish on the wood then apply a light oil on the wing nuts to keep your easel working it’s best.

10. How do I fix a wobbly easel?
All easels will have a bit of movement in them, so the trick is reducing the movement as much as possible. Make sure all of the bolts and wing nuts on the easel are tight first. You can use a screwdriver to tighten them if they’re not. This will help lift the castors (wheels) on the easel up and it’ll help balance the easel. For wobbly easel support bars, you can use some padding to alleviate this from moving, slide a piece of cardboard between the base and the support bar to stop it from wobbling.

A good habit to get into, is to check your easel is sturdy before starting a creative session, this will give you plenty of time to tighten any screws and you won’t need to stop mid-creating to fix a wobbly easel.

For more on our easels, learn how to work with a canvas on an easel with this handy how to video.

We hope that you feel inspired to create something new yourself. Show us your creations #montmarteart or tag us @montmarteart on Instagram or Facebook, we’d love to see what you come up with!