Do you paint flat or use an easel?


With a background in drawing and painting in watercolor, I was used to working flat at a table. When I showed up for my first acrylic painting class, I was (almost) surprised to find that everyone had an easel to work at. It felt strange painting at an easel – holding my arm up in the air. After the class ended, I continued to paint more and more in acrylics, always flat on a table or on the floor. I began to wonder if I should be using an easel. Some online research (on revealed some interesting points including, “work vertically, because the painting will be displayed vertically.”

Things to consider when deciding to work flat vs. at an easel:

  • How large do you work? It’s easier to work on an easel with larger paintings than a table.
  • Viewing your painting. You can back away from an easel, to “take in” and view a painting, especially the larger ones.
  • Do you add fine details? I find it easier to add details when the painting is flat and I can lean on the canvas.
  • Acrylic vs. oils – Oils take longer to dry and dust can be an issue as it dries when a painting is laying flat.
  • Do you have a dedicated space for an easel?

I invested in an aluminum easel. It’s lightweight but sturdy and folds up for storing. Learn more here. It looks so professional, and I love displaying my latest painting on it! There’s even an arm that extends to hold my brushes and palette! Read “The 11 art supplies I can’t paint without!”

Want a dose of creative inspiration? Sign up for my newsletter “My Creative Collection” by clicking here. Learn more about the newsletter here.
Have you read:
Six Ways to bring the Beach into your Home…h-into-your-home/ Process for Painting the Beach in Watercolor 14 tips on painting waves in watercolor

Easy Acrylic Beach Painting anyone can make! 11 Art Supplies I can't paint without Easy steps to paint a sunset sky and a tree in acrylic paints19 Books for Creatives


I really want to hear from you! How do you prefer to work?
(To date, 90 people have completed this survey and 79% prefer to work flat.)

This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting my blog!


Author: Eileen McKenna {my creative resolution}

Web and Print Designer living in New York. I blog about painting, illustration, and designing patterns. Inquires are welcome.

12 thoughts on “Do you paint flat or use an easel?

  1. I enjoy working with a tabletop easel if I’m working on small to medium canvases. I actually have the tabletop version of the same one you bought! I find I enjoy painting most when I can sit comfortably while doing it. I love my table and the easy access it provides.

    • Thanks for your input! Lately, I’ve been working in watercolor. I think I’m most comfortable sitting and painting flat! Whenever I paint in acrylic, I’m all over the place – the floor, the counter top, the easel. Still trying to get comfortable I guess!

  2. i have only worked flat excepts when I visited, as a guest, a big city studio. My problem is that the perspective is off sometimes and you don’t see it until it’s too late.

  3. Now I draw on flat surface. But I wanna draw vertically. It will have a professional look. Besides the entire work can be seen as a whole. While we work on flat surfaces there is a chance to make slight mistakes due to perspective.

  4. I use both methods, depends on the detail of work, how I feel, if I want the easel to clutter my living room for a week ( my living room is my painting space, so a dust sheet has to roll out too, when the easel appears) 😀

  5. I was glad to see this entry as I was wondering if there were any others who preferred to paint flat. I’m just a hobbyist and I have purchased both a table top and a regular easel. I use the table top once in a while but I still prefer to just use the table or my lap. The fact that they are displayed vertical is a good one though and one I had not considered.

    • Since I mostly work in watercolor, when I do paint with acrylics on canvas, painting flat feels more natural to me. I’m sure if I spent more time painting with the easel, I’d be more comfortable. I think the size you work in is also a factor. I tend to work on smaller canvases. If you work large you may need it on an easel, so you can back away and take the whole canvas in. Thanks for commenting!

  6. It just depends on what I am working on. I do both. Large paintings I usually use an easel. Small paintings, a flat surface. Thanks! Great topic! =)

  7. I’m a beginner mainly watercolors and pencil, I like small sizes. I paint flat but oft I stan up to have a better view on what I’m doing.
    robert, absolute beginner

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s