Do you need an easel to paint? (and what others prefer)

You might have seen many professional artists use easels when painting. But do we need them to get started? I thought of asking this question to a bunch of artists and seeing what they thought. Following is the conclusion I got from that.

Many artists prefer using an easel when painting, to prevent the distortion of the viewing angle, have a perception of freedom, and better hand movements. TIt helps improve the painting. However, some artists only prefer flat surfaces for painting while other artists prefer both easel and tabletop.

Some artists have cool ways of holding their paintings even without an easel and haven’t used an easel for years in their painting journey. Following are the statistics of different opinions on using easels in a group of artists.

What is the point of an easel?

Easels are traditionally used to hold a canvas upright at an angle of about 20° to the verticle, while painting standing, without distorting our viewing angle and the perspective. It solves the problem of drawing figures at the top of the canvas bigger compared to the figures at the bottom.

Artists use easels to prevent distortion of the viewing angle because the painting is done while standing up. This way figures on the canvas will have proper proportions when they were hanged. It gives artists the perception of freedom and allows them to make brushstrokes freely.

Many artists prefer using an easel for painting rather than painting on a flat surface. Hence it is worth buying an easel for all its benefits. However, some artists prefer to work on a flat surface, meaning you can work on a flat surface while painting until you can afford an easel. However, you can try an affordable easel from Five Below or Dollar Tree.

Artist painting at an easel

Acrylic artists preference to use an easel, tabletop or both

I asked 61 acrylic painting artists, what they prefer, an easel or tabletop. Because you know, when you are starting, you need to keep the stuff limited and on budget. I tabulated their responses and made pie charts. According to the data, 44 artists referred to an easel or tabletop for painting. But 17 out of them had some cool ideas and different suggestions when choosing an easel or tabletop.

As you can see in the pie chart, more than half of the artists preferred to use only an easel when acrylic painting. Their second preference of them is to use only the tabletop for painting. Around 18 percent of the artists preferred to use both easel and the tabletop.

According to these data, buying an easel when you are starting painting will be a good investment. However, it all comes down to your preference. Try out both easel and tabletop and see what you like. You can find cheap easels from Five Below or Dollar Tree.

I have written a whole article about the 17 pros and cons of acrylic paint. You can find all the important aspects of acrylic paint there.

Preference for the type of easel (floor easel and tabletop easel)

The two types of easels are tabletop easels and floor easels. You can paint while sitting on a chair at a table with a tabletop easel. Floor easels are basically for painting while standing.

With a tabletop easel, you can rest your arms on the table while painting. Also, the easel will angle your painting, so that you can see the painting from better angles. It also allows better hand movements.

Floor easels are for painting while standing. They allow you to take a better look at the painting by looking from distance. It provides a better angle to look at the painting which is important since most paintings are hung on. If painting on the tabletop, there is a tendency to draw figures at the top of the canvas large and the figures bottom of the canvas small.

This occurs because we see objects far away from us small and which are close to us large. When you are looking down at a painting on a tabletop, figures at the top will be drawn bigger without knowing.

I asked the artists who preferred easels, and what type of easels they are using, a tabletop easel or a floor easel. Following I have represented the results in a pie chart.

As you can see in the pie chart, 56.5 percent of artists who use easels prefer floor easels, while 43.5 percent of them prefer tabletop easels. So if you are buying an easel, it is better to go for a floor easel at first, as it is preferred by most people. However, you might like the tabletop easel as well.

What I recommend is, buying a cheap floor easel first to check what you like. If you liked the cheap floor easel, then you can go for a heavy-duty floor easel. If you are sure what you want is a tabletop easel, then you can go for that.

What are the other options available?

Drafting table

From the 61 artists I have surveyed, 17 artists had some other suggestions about easels and using tabletop for painting. Of all the artists, 15 percent suggest using either the tabletop or easel, according to your preference. What they said was, that there was no bests way to put up your paintings. The best way is the way you prefer the best. You can try painting from a tabletop or easel and then figure out what you prefer the best and go for it.

5 percent of artists preferred using a drafting table for painting. What they say was, that by using the drafting table, they can paint at any angle they want. However, drafting tables are relatively costly and will not be the best option for a newbie to painting. If you can afford one, it will be a good option.

6 percent of artists suggest using a Dollar Tree or Five Below to buy an easel so that you can try out easels at an affordable price. If you find yourself preferring an easel, you can go for a heavy-duty easel.

2 percent of artists have some interesting ways of holding the paintings. They said they use, toilet paper rolls to hold the painting at an angle on the table. You can keep anything under your canvas to keep it at an angle. This way you can better look at the painting and without costing extra.

Canvas being angled on the table

Is it easier to paint with an easel?

Painting with an easel is generally easy after getting used to it. You may have to deal with its bulky construction and heavy parts. Also, arms can get tired since they cannot be rested on a table. Standing long hours can also be tiring, but using a small stool to rest while painting will help.

If you are worried about arm straining due to a floor easel, you can buy a tabletop easel. It will give a better angle to view the painting. However, they might be a little costly. So you can use some objects under the canvas to angle the canvas while painting.

I have written an article series about common acrylic paint questions and answers: part 1 and part 2. You can find answers to questions like this in the articles even before you face them.


More than half of acrylic painting artists prefer to use only easels when painting. However, the second most preferred is the tabletop (flat surface) for painting. Some artists prefer to use both tabletop and easel for painting. Of the artists who preferred easels for painting, most of them preferred floor easels, while others preferred tabletop easels.

Using an easel comes with many benefits. However different artists have different preferences. Hence the best way is to find what you prefer. You can try it out with an affordable easel from Five Below or Dollar Tree.

About Dilini

Dilini Tharaka is the principal creator of, a website dedicated to answering painting questions and providing helpful resources.Painting has always been Dilini's hobby. She has created dozens of paintings that she is proud of. She loves to share her painting experience with you.