Best Tabletop Easel for Travel, Events, or Limited Space


Are you looking for the best tabletop easel for your painting needs? Intrigued with the floor length ones, but are either short on space or looking for something easy to tote with you, in the case of taking classes, or just being away from home? Well I hear you.

In this article I will discuss the advantages of using one of these kinds of easels as opposed to the larger “studio style” and then I’ll talk about some options that I think you will enjoy and find helpful for your situation. Ok, let’s dive in!

Pin Me, Crafters…


First -The Main Advantages of Tabletop Easels?

I always preferred smaller tabletop easels to the bigger ones for various reasons. One, when I got started with classes we all had to share a room with long tables so we had limited space. A folding small easel made sense. My instructor had back trouble and so he wasn’t keen on standing to paint.

I do happen to own a floor length easel. It came from Pearl’s Art Supply in Buckhead. It had to be assembled. It is beautiful and solid wood. This baby is sturdy for sure. Only thing is its gawky. I also have to be careful how I move it as I may have hit the ceiling fan once. Yikes. It does not have wheels or anything. So that is one disadvantage and a reason you might seek a more compact art easel.

After 20 years of faithful use, I finally disassembled it…For awhile I almost thought about donating it to my college art department, but something in me said to hold off for awhile.

Also, if you’re one of those people who enjoys working plein air (painting outdoors) something like that is impractical. Lastly,  what if you are planning to throw a paint and sip event and you need a lot of easels, obviously they need to be nice and small and the type that folds up after use.

Check Out My 2-Piece Easel…

One time I got an opportunity to test and review a product – a small easel with a minimalist design. It consists of two pieces with notches in them to support your canvas. I also like that it has non skid padding on the bottom.

I like that it’s portable. It did have a weird smell to it though. The smell never did dissipate much, unfortunately.

small portable easel by colorana

I don’t know for sure but I think it is made from wood. Only thing is the notches, when you’re painting, you’re going to be forced to be careful in those areas, and paint around them (possibly leaving bare spots.) It is better suited for smaller canvases.

Here it its supporting an 11 x 14 size. That aside I think it would also be good to use as a display easel.

portable easel in use

Lastly, my video review here…

Now I made this video in 2016, and when I checked, the same brand I got is no longer available, but you can find one just like it here. Ideal if you’re looking for something you can just throw in a bag and take with you to class.

Tripod Style Easels

Tripod easels are sometimes known as “a frame”. Folding aluminum or metal easels are a good idea, I have had one for a long time. They weigh almost nothing and are great to have. When you are done for the day you can collapse it back down and just throw it in with the rest of your art stuff and be on your way. The thing I DON’T like about them, is their stability is not very reliable, although it may depend on the size of the canvas you’re working with. I have worked with them comfortably with canvases up to about 16″ x 20″.

I know I’ve had many a painting or board tip at the hand of my elbow at the wrong time. Also, wood tripod style easels can be more supportive. In one of my classes we worked on a wooden tripod style. There was a chain the back of them somewhere. They don’t collapse like the aluminum ones do, but they were fairly stable. Here are a few like that one here:

Miratuso Painting Easel, Folding Wooden Tabletop Easel Holds Highest to 21Miratuso Painting Easel, Folding Wooden Tabletop Easel Holds Highest to 21See on AmazonFalling in Art Beechwood 25’’ Tabletop Easel Display Stand Set of 2Falling in Art Beechwood 25’’ Tabletop Easel Display Stand Set of 2See on AmazonConda 25 Portable Wooden Tabletop Easel for Display and StudyConda 25 Portable Wooden Tabletop Easel for Display and StudySee on Amazon

A-frame/tripod easels are best suited for:

  • Students, hobbyists
  • Paint and sip events
  • Displaying finished work
  • Smaller canvases under 25″

H-Frame Style

For a long time I’ve had an H frame easel – which by far is one of the sturdiest I’ve ever used bar none. The one I have, however, is a floor length one. If you’re looking for the kind of easel that can stand up to whatever you can dish out, this is it!  I found this beechwood beauty not too long ago and I can tell you this is one I’ve loved to have had back when I was taking lessons.

It can be tilted back or forward to various degrees and secured into one of the grooves at the base, The center bar and top brace ensuer your canvas will never jog as you work. This should be on every student and hobbyists’ list now.

h frame tabletop easel
See on Amazon
Solid beechwood, can be adjusted, ideal for serious practice.

Storage Box Style Easels

I think the folding box style is the best kind of tabletop easel if you are actively seeking.

This is a particular style that doubles as a storage desk. Inside is ample room to hold all of your materials. It will support smaller canvases much better if you tend to use them more. They are made of real wood not MSF which is nice. I hate that stuff that isn’t real wood because if you get it wet it may swell up and look bloated or stained.

When you are done for the day you can close it back up and all of your supplies will be inside, you just tighten the latch and be on your way! (hey, just like a suitcase.)

sketchbox easel
Check Amazon’s Price
Made of solid wood, plenty of room for all your tools, and will hold paper as well as canvases.

Ever Thought Of DIYing One?

But then if you are the el cheapo type and if you need an easel in a pinch, did you know that you can put one together out of cardboard. If you’ve got cardboard laying around (most of us do) I know of some very clever people who have done this and it works like a charm. You may also need a yardstick and an x acto knife to assist with creating the resting place for your canvas and the back support so it will stand up. I found a good example here I think this is really cool.

Image credit: Image by Barry Neeson

One guy took it a step further and actually used a pizza box to make into an easel – wow now THAT’s good thinking there! I have been employed in a well known pizza chain and I can tell you there are tons of those boxes around (we have to devote a lot of time to folding about 20 a day) and this thought has never crossed my mind once, especially when I think about all of the “specialty” pizzas that are placed in long, rectangular or larger square sized boxes. Obviously I I’d prefer to use a clean unused box if possible.

pizza box easel


Image credit: Image by Makedo-able


Well that’s my take on tabletop easels, and the different options available to you. I have given you five different ideas to go on, now it is up to you to choose what best suits your needs and lifestyle. Good luck and happy painting.

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