Discover the best art easel style for your teaching needs.
There are 2 major easel types that are useful for teaching art to large groups of students. There are pros and cons of each kind of art easel, and these reviews will help you find the right match for your art classroom needs.
Easel Type #1: H-Frame
This is the most sturdy and least tippy easel style. These qualities make it a good choice for middle school classrooms where students might not have a good understanding of how much space their growing bodies take up and consequently run into things frequently.
Although they can collapse, it is a cumbersome process so it is best to use this art easel style if you intend to keep them up most of the time. They also have a larger floor footprint because the bases cannot be staggered like they can with A-frame easels. H-frame easels also take up a fair amount of space when collapsed, so this easel type is best for spacious classrooms.
Although not always true, H-frame easels tend to be more expensive than other styles. If you are committed to using art easels as your primary art-making tool in you classroom and your budget is generous, this could be the right easel style for you.
H-Frame easels are a good choice for you if
• You have clumsy students in your classroom
• You are committed to using easels and will leave them up most of the time
• You have a fair amount of space in your classroom
• You work in a school that financially supports their arts programs
H-Frame Easels are probably not a good choice for you if
• You want to use easels only part of the time and intend to set them up and take them down often
• You have an overcrowded classroom or very little space
• You have a miserly budget from a Scroogey school board
Recommended H-Frame Easel
This H-Frame Easel does the basics very well, like holding a drawing board vertical. It isn’t encumbered by lots of extras that you don’t want or need in your classroom (such as extra shelves at the bottom that make it difficult to fold and store).
This H-frame easel does come with the choice between “tray” or “tray and storage”. I recommend getting the “tray and storage” option. It is slightly more expensive but gives a landing place for pencils, brushes, and other art room accoutrement that might otherwise be rolling around on your floor.
Easel Type #2: A-Frame
A-frame easels are my personal favorite choice for classroom use, but with the caveat that you have to get the right A-frame easel. A-frame easels tend to be the most economical option, and this attribute seems to spawn a fair amount of very low quality, practically useless easels that you definitely don’t want to get stuck with.
A good A-frame art easel is fairly sturdy, has some weight to it, and has a fully adjustable slant and fully adjustable board-holders.
Avoid any A-frame art easel that has only one setting for a slant, or a small number of notches to choose from to set the slant, as these are completely pointless. (This is because the most important advantage of using an easel is to eliminate distortion when drawing. If the only setting the easel has is on a slant, most of the benefits of using easels disappear. You want to be able to place drawing boards in a vertical position to eliminate distortion when drawing.)
A-frame easels tend to be easier to collapse than other models, and take up less space when collapsed. The three “feet” of the easel allow you to stagger the easels in a way where you can pack them tightly together in a smaller classroom space.
They tend not to be as heavy as H-frame art easels which makes them easier to move around but slightly more prone to tipping. Investing in high quality A-frame easels helps with potential tipping problems.
A-Frame Easels are a good choice for you if
• You have a small or crowded classroom
• You need to collapse easels and store them often
• Your students are only a little bit clumsy and not super likely to bump the easels often
A-frame Easels are probably not a good choice for you if
• Your budget is so tight that you are tempted to get the cheap worthless ones on a permaslant. Don’t do it, you are better off with no easels.
• Your students are prone to knocking things over
Recommended A-Frame Easel
The Stanrite 500 art easel is absolutely the best easel I have ever used in a classroom setting. It is metal instead of wood, which makes it super durable. I have seen students drop, tip, crash, knock, and otherwise create acts of violence against these easels and there is nary a ding on them.
Metal also solves an easel maintenance problem, as wood easels will eventually strip screws over long periods of use. These use a screw and wing nut system, which are easily replaced with basic supplies from your local hardware store if they wear out.
They fold up easily and relatively flat for easy storage in the classroom. They can collapse partially by pulling up the back leg and stacking them 5-10 deep against a wall. Or they can collapse fully, where the bottom legs fold upward and they are small enough to carry on a subway train if need be.
These easels can handle super small to quite large artworks. You can even purchase an extension that will allow you to hold very large works.
They also have a decent amount of weight to them that keeps them upright. However, occasionally students will trip over one of the two front legs. This can be largely avoided by placing the easels evenly in a row instead of a mish-mash orientation.
A word of warning: because these easels are cut from metal, they can occasionally arrive with somewhat sharp edges. It is important to sand down any sharp edges on these easels before using in the art classroom.
Pro Tip: If you are an art teacher working in a public school, I encourage you to reach out to the manufacturer directly for a price quote on a class set of easels. This company has been super generous towards the art teachers I work with who are seeking to create atelier setups in their classrooms.
Also of Note
There are many other styles and configurations of easels, including travel easels, that may be useful to you personally. However, they are not reviewed in this article because they are not particularly useful for classroom purposes.
What kind of easels do you use in your classroom? Let me know in the comments below.