Here’s Everything You’ll Need to Start Painting “en Plein Air” This Spring

En Plein Air Painting Materials

Stock Photos from Chamille White/Shutterstock
This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase, My Modern Met may earn an affiliate commission. Please read our disclosure for more info.

As the weather warms up and the flowers begin to bloom, you might be tempted to take your art supplies outside to capture the beauty of springtime. But you wouldn’t be the first to have this fine idea—the concept of painting outdoors (aka en plein air) was popularized by the Impressionists. Artists such as Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir took their paints and easels outdoors to observe and capture the colors, light, and movement of life outside of their studio.

In 1841, American painter John Goffe Rand invented the metal paint tube, allowing artists to easily transport paint anywhere they went. The simple piece of equipment was the first of many objects designed specifically for plein air painters, and the movement is still as popular as ever. Whether you want to capture city streets or paint your favorite beach, there’s a few tools you’ll need to get started.


Easels for Painting en plein air

There are 4 main types of plein air easels: the field easel, the French-style easel, the pochade box, and the tripod-based easel. Read on to discover which one would suit you best.


The Field Easel

En Plein Air Painting Materials

US Art Supply | $23.96

These three-legged easels are the most basic option for those who want to paint outside. Designed to hold a canvas upright, they’re usually made of lightweight wood or metal. Although they don’t have any storage (for paints and brushes etc) like some other easels, the field easel is a great, inexpensive option for beginner plein air painters. And if you need to upgrade your storage options, you can purchase easel accessories such as clip-on brush holders and trays.


The French-Style Easel

En Plein Air Painting Materials

US Art Supply | $86.96

The traditional French easel was used by the Impressionists, but it’s still popular today because of its useful features. Typically made from wood or aluminum, these easels feature multiple storage compartments for your palette, paints, and brushes, as well as a place to hold a finished painting while it dries. They also have adjustable legs that fold up to create a suitcase-shaped box which can easily be carried using a shoulder strap or handle. Despite this, this style of easel can be heavy, so it’s best suited to those who don’t need to travel far.


The Pochade Box

En Plein Air Painting Materials

US Art Supply | $17.96

If you’d like to hike to remote locations to paint outside, perhaps the pochade box is for you. These handy, compact easels are named after the French word pochade, meaning a rough or quick sketch. They’re usually small enough to fit in your backpack, so they’re a great option for spontaneous painters on the go. The bottom of the box-like structure also contains a palette and storage compartments (or sometimes drawers), while the hinged lid opens to become a stand for your canvases. These easels don’t have legs, so you’ll have to place them on your lap. Alternatively, you could buy a separate tripod.


The Tripod-Based Easel

En Plein Air Painting Materials

Mont Marte | $59.95

Similar to the field easel, the tripod-based easel has three legs and is usually made from wood or metal. These easels have two basic components: a palette holder that attaches to the legs, and a canvas holder that fits onto the head of the tripod. These palette surfaces are often larger than the French-style easel or the pochade box, so they’re great for those who like to paint large-scale. They also feature a handy mixing area, so you won’t need to keep cleaning your palette.


Paints and Paint Brushes

Whether it's oils, watercolors, or acrylics, it’s totally up to you when it comes to choosing a medium. However, it’s important to make sure your paints and brushes are organized, easily stored, and portable. Here are some sets we would recommend.


Paint Brush Set and Palette

En Plein Air Painting Materials

CONDA | $10.69


Watercolor Paint Set

En Plein Air Painting Materials

Lithwish | $19.98


Watercolor Sheet Booklet


Paint Brush Set with Travel Case

En Plein Air Painting Materials

MyArtscape | $29.97


Water Brushes

En Plein Air Painting Materials

Pentel | $13.64


Pocket Paint Brush Set

En Plein Air Painting Materials

MyArtscape | $16.97


Oil Paint Set


Acrylic Paint Starter Box

En Plein Air Painting Materials

Liquitex | $23.57


Next: More Useful Painting Materials

Page 1/2

Emma Taggart

Emma Taggart is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met. Originally from Northern Ireland, she is an artist now based in Berlin. After graduating with a BA in Fashion and Textile Design in 2013, Emma decided to combine her love of art with her passion for writing. Emma has contributed to various art and culture publications, with an aim to promote and share the work of inspiring modern creatives. While she writes every day, she’s also devoted to her own creative outlet—Emma hand-draws illustrations and is currently learning 2D animation.
Become a
My Modern Met Member
As a member, you'll join us in our effort to support the arts.
Become a Member
Explore member benefits

Sponsored Content