Lines and Colors art blog

This post was updated May 10, 2018.

Alla Prima Pochade box - Bitterroot 10x12

Jullian French easelThough the practice by individuals can be traced back further, painting en plein air, meaning in the plain air or simply painting out of doors, was first practiced in significant numbers by artists in the Forest of Fontainbleau in the mid 19th Century.

Around that time, the advent of soft metal tubes for carrying paint and the development of the “box easel”, or “French easel” as it is more commonly known today (image at left), made it much more practical to carry painting equipment into the field. The practice was subsequently made even more popular by the French Impressionists, and by painters influenced by them in America and elsewhere.

Plein air painting has undergone something of a renaissance in the last 20 years or so, a phenomenon which seems to be growing. As in the 19th Century, there is new equipment that makes the practice easier and more practical, notably a new generation of pochade boxes.

Pochade is a French word meaning a small painted sketch, particularly one painted in oils, out of doors, and often in preparation for a larger, more finished work. I think it’s one of those French words that’s actually used more commonly among non French speakers. It’s derived from a 19th Century French verb, pocher, meaning to sketch.

A pochade box, then, is a portable painting box with a built in easel, meant to facilitate the creation of small alla prima paintings or sketches.

A pochade box shouldn’t be confused with a simple painting box, which holds painting supplies and a wooden palette, but has no provision for acting as an easel.

Modern pochade boxes are fitted with tripod mounts which allow them to be set up in an extremely flexible fashion, and carried to the painting site more easily than the traditional outdoor painting box/easel combination known as a French easel.

Portable easels

French easels are still in wide use and have many adherents, and they are better suited for some things, such as handling large scale paintings and stretched canvasses (as opposed to panels).

Soltek, SunEden and Take-it-Easel portable easels
There are also a number of other types of dedicated outdoor portable easels for that purpose, like the Soltek, SunEden or Take-it-Easel (image above, left to right), or the Coulter Plein Air System (not pictured).

Some of these can be less expensive than a pochade box/tripod combination and are generally lighter and easier to set up than French easels, but are generally not as flexible or easy to adjust in terms of the position of the panel and palette as a pochade box mounted on a photographic tripod. If you haven’t decided on your ideal outdoor painting solution yet, you should give them a look.

I’ve recently added an article about these options:
French (Box) Easels, Field Easels and Other Plein Air Painting Systems

Pochade boxes

For small scale paintings, the pochade box is becoming the outdoor painting platform of choice.

Some will say that anything larger than 6×8″ doesn’t count as a “pochade”, but the modern boxes are bridging the gap between that definition and the function of French easels, the larger ones easily handling 12×16″ (30x40cm) panels or even larger.

I did a bit of research this year before acquiring my own pochade box, and I’ll try to give you the benefit of my rather exhaustive search with an overview of what I found.

Most pochade boxes are designed to handle flat painting panels, like primed Masonite, or canvas attached to a board, though some will also hold (but not carry) small stretched canvases.

Pochade boxes come in a variety of sizes, usually to fit standard size panels, such as 6×8″, 8×10″, 9×12″, etc. The smaller boxes are lighter but also have a smaller palette area, though most manufacturers offer palette extensions or add-ons of some kind, as well as ways of attaching fluid cups and holding brushes.

Most pochade boxes are primarily aimed at oil painting, but some of the manufacturers also have pastel or watercolor models, and oil oriented boxes can be adapted for watercolor with the addition of a watercolor palette, as many of them have panel holders that will open to a reasonably flat position.

Types of pochade boxes

Open Box M pochade boxPochade boxes fall into two major configurations; the first type, I’ll call “palette and panel only”, the second, I’ll call “all in one” (obviously not official terms of any sort).

The former is a combination of a recessed palette surface, usually a wood traditionally used for palettes, like birch (which some artists cover with a sheet of glass or plexiglass), with an attached, hinged panel holder, forming the easel. The whole unit has a standard photographic tripod mount underneath that allows for it to be adjusted and set in virtually any position when mounted on the tripod (Open Box M 8×10 above left)

The painting panel is held in place by a variety of mechanisms, depending on the manufacturer. There is also variation in the means of adjusting the angle of the easel back.

For the palette and panel style boxes, painting supplies and wet panels are carried separately, and the manufacturers often sell complete “kits” that fit into a wooden box, cloth bag or carrying pack.

Open Box M pochade boxThe “all in one” style pochade box not only provides a palette and easel, but also incorporates storage for painting supplies and/or the built in provision for carrying wet panels. (Alla Prima Pochade “Bitterroot” at left)

The advantage of the all in one style is that everything is in one unit, and, depending on the configuration, the painting supplies are at hand in drawers or compartments right there near the palette while you’re painting. The disadvantage is that the all in one boxes are bulkier and heavier, and require a more sturdy (and expensive) tripod.

“Palette and panel only” style pochade boxes


Open Box M pochade boxOpen Box M

This is one of the most popular and well regarded manufacturers of this type of pochade box. They use a spring loaded horizontal clip system to hold the panels, which allows access to all parts of the panel without obstruction.

Their complete kit includes a walnut carrying box and matched wet panel holder. They also have lightweight kits with a soft pack instead of the outer box.

In addition, they make “palm boxes“, meant to be held to the hand with a strap instead of mounted on a tripod. You can also purchase the palette/panel holders separately, without the panel carrier and outer box.

I note that, among others, James Gurney, who is a dedicated plein air painter as well as a talented studio painter and illustrator, uses and recommends an Open Box M pochade box. I have a high regard for Gurney’s expertise. Gurney’s blog, Gurney Journey, has a number of posts in which you can see good shots of his Open Box M pochade box in use.

Open Box M has dedicated models for pastels and watercolor. The boxes range from 8×10″ to 12×16″. They also carry Manfrotto tripods and a line of plein air painting accessories.


EASyL Versa pochade boxEASyL and ProChade

EASyL and ProChade are brand names for pochade boxes from Artwork Essentials. These also have their adherents among well known painters. Notably, Kevin Macpherson, who some of you may recognize as the author of some very popular (and quite good) books on painting, has given the ProChade model his official endorsement.

The EASyL and ProChade models use a vertical spring-mounted holder that does not restrict the size of the panel horizontally (though past a certain point, you would overload the box). The boxes range from 10×12″ to 12×16″.

The EASyL models (though not the ProChade) provide carrying for wet (or dry) panels in the back of the easel, placing them somewhere between the panel and palette style and all in one style of boxes. Some of the models offer a limited compartment separate from the palette area for carrying a few supplies. You can order a separator grid that fits in the recessed palette area for pastels.

When looking at the product pages on their site, note that they offer downloadable PDF files that go into more detail about the boxes than the web pages. There is also a PDF chart comparing their various boxes side by side. Their boxes come with a matched tripod.

Like Open Box M, Artwork Essentials carries a line of pochade box and plein air painting accessories, in their case one of the most complete, including a clamp-on lightweight umbrella and even plein air style picture frames.


Craftech Sienna pochade boxSienna

Sienna is a relatively new (to me) entry in the field, and has rapidly been adopted by art suppliers like Dick Blick and others, as well as by Amazon.

They offer a line of two sizes of pochade boxes, an optional Supply Box, a panel carrier, watercolor and pastel inserts, a Sienna branded tripod and a new line of separate panel and palette style portable easels.

The panel holding system is wood and seems reasonably flexible in terms of panel size, the larger box holding panels or canvasses up to 17″ (43cm) high and the smaller up to 15″ (38cm).

These boxes seem to offer a less expensive alternative to some of the other models in this category. I have to wonder, though, how well their wooden panel angle mechanism will hold up in comparison to the metal systems used by other makers.

Reader Paul Forest describes them as a good beginner’s box. See his comment on this article’s 2011 follow-up post.


Strada Easel Strada Easel

The Strada Easel is essentially an all metal variation on a pochade box (most of which are made from wood). It was designed by painter Bryan Mark Taylor.

There area a variety of sizes. They also sell tripods and ballheads they feel are well matched to their easels.


Edge Pro Paintbook pochade boxEdge Pro Gear

Edge Pro Gear makes pochades that have a form factor similar to laptop computers, giving them a more modern look than some boxes.

The Paintbook and Sketchbook easels have glass palettes. Edge also carries appropriately matched tripods, detachable trays, lighting gear and other supplies.

Don Dos Santos has a review on Muddy Colors.


Edgmon pastel pochadeEdgemon

Edgmon makes a line of pochade boxes for pastel and watercolor as well as oil.


“All in one” style pochade boxes


Judsons Guerrilla Painter pochade boxJudsons Guerrilla Painter

This is the brand of pochade boxes you will most commonly encounter in retail settings, art supply stores and online art suppliers, along with newcomers Craftech Sienna, Mabef and some French easel manufacturers. The other brands usually have to be ordered directly from the manufacturer.

Judson’s has a line of pochade boxes and accessories and sell their own branded tripods as well. They show a typical setup for oils, watermedia and pastels.

The Guerrilla Painter boxes feature a compartmented space beneath the palette area, accessed by sliding the palette surface to one side. They are probably the deepest boxes on the market with the most space for supplies.

The hinged back holds two wet panels. If I understand the configuration correctly, one of them is the active panel, which is held in place by clips. The clips in this case do not appear to be spring mounted or adjustable, apparently limiting the horizontal size of the panel to the size of the box unless you use an optional adapter. They indicate that the box can accommodate larger panels vertically, but it seems to be one of the least flexible of the panel holder systems.

French Resistance pochade boxJusdon’s has more recently introduced an additional line of “French Resistance” pochade boxes (image at left), with a different configuration in which the box bottom, or a section of it, is the palette. These have a more flexible panel holder system.

Judson’s also sells umbrellas and a broad range of other pochade and general painting supplies and accessories. They also make small “ThumBox” models, with a thumb hole in the bottom, for holding like a traditional artist’s palette, in addition to the tripod mount. The thumb boxes are 6×8″ and the Guerrilla Box comes in 9×12″ or 12×16″ sizes.

Though tripods are not included with the boxes as they are with ArtWork Essentials, Judson’s site is helpful in that they offer separate tripods matched to their boxes, eliminating the need to guess at what’s appropriate.


Billups Box pochade boxMabef Pochade Box

Easel manufacturer Mabef, who also makes French easels, offers a 13×16″ pochade box that handles panels up to 9×12″. It looks like there is storage for materials and two panels.

They also offer an accompanying wooden tripod that is somewhat unique in the field and is apparently based on their French Easel legs. While not as versatile or sturdy as a professional camera tripod, it’s relatively inexpensive.


Abbey Easela pochade boxAbbey Easels (UK)

This UK manufacturer of various styles of easels offers three pochade boxes, though it doesn’t look to me as though they can be tripod mounted and are evidently meant to be used on a table. One fits 203x152mm (8×6″) and the other 360x255mm (14×10″). They also offer a watercolor pochade box meant to fit an A5 pad in the lid.

It doesn’t look at though the lid angles are very adjustable.


Utrecht (Jullian) pochade boxUtrecht (Jullian)

This is a small “thumb” style box, meant to be held in the hand with the thumb through a hole in the bottom like a traditional palette. It’s made by Jullian, who manufacture the most popular French Easel, and branded for art supply company Utrecht. The box itself is 7×9″ and fits panels 6×8″ (horizontal) or 8×10″ (vertical).

The UK Jullian site (scroll down the page) shows them as sold with a set of paints and brushes and includes a panel sized at 22x16cm.


Alla Prima Pochade  boxAlla Prima Pochade

Alla Prima Pochade boxes are crafted by a single woodworker, Ben Haggett, though he is a full time dedicated pochade box maker as well as a plein air painter.

Alla Prima has a full line of sizes and styles and should be thought of in the same league with the larger manufacturers like Open Box M, EASyL and Guerrilla.

I have to make a bit of a disclaimer at this point.

After doing the research you’re getting the benefit of here, looking at all of the options I could find, and determining that my personal preference was for an all in one style box, I decided on one from Alla Prima Pochade. I was very impressed with the design, features and evident craftsmanship.

I then approached Haggett about redoing the Alla Prima Pochade web site, to which he agreed, and he is now my client. The web site you’ll see if you visit is the one I designed. So I can no longer say I’m unbiased; though I was when I initially made my decision to choose one of his boxes.

Haggett is wonderfully clever. His boxes feature several different configurations, based on the size of the box and the best solution he can design to accommodate carrying panels, brushes and other supplies in each. He also has unorthodox and clever solutions for the hinge mechanism, using torsion springs that eliminate the need for knobs or wingnuts.

His panel holder solution is equally unorthodox and remarkably flexible, consisting of a lower panel rest held in place by (uncommonly strong) magnets, that move in channels behind the panel holder, and a sheet-spring top clip. Like the EASyL models there is no restraint to the horizontal size, though you can only carry that so far without the box becoming unwieldy.

Alla Prima Pochade  boxMagnets also close the box lid, which holds four 1/8″ thick panels (or two 1/4″). The panel storage has a removable adapter that allows for carrying smaller panels, e.g. the 10×12 model can carry a 10×12, 9×12, 6×8 and 8×10 all at the same time. The magnets also make it easy to stick palette knives to the box when working, though palette knife painters have to be careful when painting in the vicinity of the bottom panel holder.

In the smallest, 6×8″, model, he uses a sliding palette to cover the storage bin, like the Guerrilla Painter configuration. In the 8×10, he has a single drawer. Both feature clip-on palette extenders.

The larger boxes, 10×12″ and 11×14″, utilize two drawers that can extend in a balanced manner when painting, one of which can hold a palette extension and both of which are drilled to serve as brush holders.

There are “lite” versions of his two biggest models – essentially palette and panel holder only variations with no drawers. They still incorporate brush and wet panel storage (2 panels instead of 4). Haggett can also build custom pochade boxes on request.

All of his boxes can be extended with optional “piggyback adapters” that tie into the box when closed (with magnets and a strap) to allow for carrying larger panels than the lid would normally accommodate (e.g. the 6×8 box can carry 8×10″ panels, the 10×12 can carry 12×16″). The piggyback can hang from the tripod when painting to serve as an extra bin.

The Alla Prima Pochade boxes themselves range in size from 6×8″ to 11×14″; the 11×14 can handle up to 14×18″ panels with its piggyback.

Like most of the other manufacturers, he also sells separate wet panel carriers for extra storage. Alla Prima doesn’t sell tripods, but Haggett does give a few suggestions.

Their are videos of Haggett demonstrating the boxes and how they work, that are also available on YouTube.

I got the 10×12 “Bitterroot” model (image at the top of the article shows my box in use) and I’ve been very pleased. The box is physically beautiful and a joy to use. My father was a woodworker and museum model maker and I know good woodworking when I see it. The cleverness is put to good use and the box is extremely easy to set up, and everything just seems to be exactly where I need it while painting. Plus the thing smells great.



Bogen Manfrotto 190
Except for some of the handheld models, most pochade boxes are fitted with tripod mounts, though you can certainly use them in your lap or on a table. I’ve mentioned in the course of the article that although some boxes come with tripods, most don’t.

Even the lightest boxes are heavier than most cameras, so your $30 K-Mart tripod probably won’t hold them very well except for the smallest models. For the all in one style, the largest of which can weigh in at 8-10lbs or more with paint and panels in them, you’ll want a sturdy professional tripod.

If you’re serious, look at a professional specialty camera store (as opposed to typical mall stores), if possible, take your pochade box with you. Some of the brands mentioned include Bogen (Bogen Junior or Bogen Digi), Velbon and Silk. James Gurney uses a Velbon CX 444 for his relatively light Open Box M. For my all in one Bitterroot, that has drawers for supplies in addition to the panel carrier lid, I went a little overboard and got a Bogen Manfrotto 190 (at left) and a 488 head (tripods and heads are often separate units at the professional level).

For those who have a heavy box like mine and want a cheaper option, you might investigate this Ravelli APGL3. I can’t speak from personal experience, but it looks suitable. There are a number of cheaper options, but I can’t predict their quality or stability. Reviews from buyers on sites like Amazon can sometimes be helpful if you can compare enough of them.

As Ben Haggett points out, though, a tripod for a pochade box doesn’t have to be rock steady as it does for a camera with a large lens, and you can often get away with overloading them beyond spec; as long as they don’t have a flimsy head or quick release shoe that will break under strain.

Check eBay, Craig’s List or your parents’ attic. You’ll be surprised how many tripods are gathering dust somewhere, waiting to be used.

Painting Panels

Painting panels by Ampersand and RayMar Art
There are various sources for buying or making primed or canvas covered panels. I sacrifice money to save time and buy already prepared 1/8″ panels that fit easily into panel carriers.

I’ve used the smooth Ampersand Gessobord panels from Dick Blick and other art supply houses, and liked them fine; but I now prefer the real canvas surface of the Canvas Plein Air Panels from RayMar Art.

For those inclined to make their own painting panels, there are some resources on this Squidoo lens from Sue Favinger Smith and this step by step on Making a Canvas Board by Larry Seiler.


Box Sizes

When I give sizes for the boxes, it’s a reference to the size of the panels they hold, not their outer dimensions. For the benefit of those outside the US here is a rough conversion of common panel and box sizes:

6×8″ — 15x20cm
8×10″ — 20x25cm
9x 12″ — 23x30cm
10×12″ — 25x30cm
11×14″ — 27x35cm
12×16″ — 30x40cm

Do it Yourself pochade boxes

If you’re inclined to woodworking, or simple tinkering, there are some DIY options. I’ve moved the original content about them from this article into two more recent and expanded articles:
DIY Pochade Boxes – make your own cheap pochade box from simple materials
DIY Cigar Box Pochade Boxes – make your own cheap pochade box from a cigar box

Related posts:

DIY Pochade Boxes – make your own cheap pochade box from simple materials

DIY Cigar Box Pochade Boxes – make your own cheap pochade box from a cigar box

French (Box) Easels, Field Easels and Other Plein Air Painting Systems

Pochade box manufacturers (US):

Alla Prima Pochade

Art Attack

EASyL and ProChade

Guerrilla Painter

Huffernan ArtWorks

Open Box M

Utrecht (Jullian)


Craftech Sienna

Pochade box manufacturers (UK):

Abbey Easels

Jullian UK (Same as Utrecht, but sold with paints)

Do it yourself:

Artist Easel Plans

The Serrett Box

David Becker’s paint box conversion

Sketchin Dan’s DIY pochade box

The $15 cigar box pochade box

Art supply houses:

Portable easels and (Geurrilla) pochade boxes at Dick Blick

Guerrilla boxes at Cheap Joes

Guerrilla pochade and Utrecht brand Thumb box at Utrecht

Craftech Sienna at Dick Blick, and at Amazon

Mabef at Dick Blick and Amazon

French Easels and other portable easels

Jullian French Easel at Dick Blick

Cheap Joes’s French Easel

French style easels at Jerry’s Artarama

Mabef field easels and French easel

Soltek Easel

SunEden portable easels



Exploring Pochade Boxes, article on Wet Canvas

French Easel vs. Pochade Box discussion on Wet Canvas (14 pages)

Plein air supplies list on American Artist

Traveling Light – Outdoor Painting

Plein air easels – the pochade box from Jennifer Young

A look at some pochade equipment on Tom McQuiggan (UK)

Comparison of pochade boxes and outdoor easels by Barry John Raybould

Pochade box related posts on Gurney Journey


58 responses to “Pochade Boxes”

  1. Peggy Feltmate Avatar
    Peggy Feltmate

    What a useful article! Thank you for all this wonderful information and for the many links. I started looking at these boxes a couple years ago and became quite overwhelmed. Your clear info and pictures inspire me to head back into the shopping jungle, but this time much better equipped. I have been enjoying your blog very much for the past several months. Best,

  2. Thanks, Peggy.

    Glad both the post and the blog are proving useful.

  3. I appreciate how thorough your write up for each box is (though I’m really happy with my box, it’s fun to see everything together… admittedly, I’m a bit of a gear hound). I did months of research (along with years of trial and error), going through several different boxes as well, including my own cigar box pochade. Like you, I eventually decided on Ben’s Alla Prima Pochade box (the 8×10) and man, it’s probably one of the best investments I’ve ever made! I was really happy when I recently revisited his website and saw how great it looked…. my immediate reaction was,”wow, he’s really starting to move up. Good for him!” That’s a credit to your design… and of course, the great craftsmanship behind the product. 🙂

  4. Thanks, Mike. I appreciate the compliment, and I’m sure Ben does too.

    Other readers can check out Mike Dutton’s illustration portfolio, webcomic and blog.

    On the latter, you can see his pochade box in action in this post, and some of his plein air work in this range of posts.

  5. Hey Charley. Great review of pochade boxes. I didn’t know there were so many options out there. I’ll look into some of these for my next purchase.

    I wanted to mention that I have the mid size model from Artwork Essentials and have worked on canvases up to 30 x 40 inches. As long as I have a cross brace and bungees to attach the canvas to the easel, I can go pretty big. If you’re willing to monkey with your set up, alot of times you can push the box to do more for you.

    They also sold me replacement parts when I needed them, which is great for me as I beat up my easels pretty badly using them every day.

    Thanks for compiling this info for everyone.

  6. Thanks, Colin. It’s great to get first hand accounts from artists who are using these boxes. I’m amazed that you can get the box to handle that size!

    Other readers can see Colin’s work here, and my recent update post about him here. He certainly knows a thing or three about plein air painting.

  7. This is the best post I have read on so far. Very useful. I think I am going to build a pochade box for myself.

  8. Thanks, Rene. Let us know how it turns out.

  9. Excellent post, Charlie! Very helpful. I’ve also tinkered with the idea of getting one of these, but I wasn’t sure where to start… and here it is!

  10. Thanks, Takeyce.

    Other readers can see Takeyce Walter’s twice weekly postings of small oils here.

  11. Unbelievable! Today I decided to make or by a pochade box, as my Julein halfbox cvant take my painting style (all the screws in the hinge for the canvas holder have come loose and eaten away at the wood. Pretty damn annoying, especially when your just about to put in that oh so crucial thin straight line, and a child´s fart is enough to send the canvas hurtling towards your loaded brush…)

    And here you come and give me JUST WHAT I NEED TO READ!! Many thanks!

  12. Glad to be of help.

    Other readers can check out Timothy Atkins’ portfolio, including illustration, portraits and plein air painting here. There is a separate section for sketchbook.

  13. A VERY useful post for many, many readers.

    Being a bit of an equipment junkie I’ve tried some of these. Each that you’ve described has it’s own advantages or the maker wouldn’t be selling them. So for most it’s a question of finding what suits your own needs and habits.

    Three things I’ve learned from painting outdoors with these things:

    1.) Sometimes a tripod or easel is not necessary. I have a table top travel easel that can carry a fairly large canvas, paint brushes and palette and rest on top of a car hood, picnic table or tree stump.

    2.) Attractive prices on reasonably good home-made pochade boxes can be found on ebay under “pochade” or “plein air” searches. I have one made out of scrap wood by a gentleman in Canada with all the fittings including the tripod mount. I paid about $45 for it a year or two ago.

    3.) An old fashioned Julian French easel as sold today is not that heavy, still compares pretty favorably with all the newer designs and can accommodate a pretty good sized canvas and, perhaps most importantly, a good sized 11 x 18 palette.

  14. Thanks, Dan.

    You make good points about the continued usefulness of French easels, the availability of pochade boxes on auction sites and the use of them, or inexpensive small easels on a table.

    I’ve tried to touch on a few of the alternatives, but mostly I’ve focused specifically on pochade boxes as they are most commonly used in the field.

    Also of interest can be a search for “pochade boxes” on Google Images or Flickr, where you will often find images of them in use.

    Other readers can see Daniel van Benthuysen’s portfolio here; in particular, in the still lifes and landscapes section, a series of still life paintings with the subject of seashells.

  15. Thanks so much for the compilation. I’ve been doing a lot of research myself and was seriously considering the Bitteroot, but I’ll have to save up some more for that. Meanwhile, I’m trying to build my own, but there’s a lot of guess work and theories.
    Thanks again for all the useful research.

  16. R. Chunn Avatar

    Thanks for posting on this topic. I didn’t realize there were so many choices out there. I have a couple of Open Box M’s: an 8″ x 10″ palm box and a pochade box. As you noted above, the quality of these boxes are very good; however, the horizontal panel holders, or clips, can sometimes get in the way of the brush. I think the tradition, vertical system of holding the panel probably works best.

    I’m coveting those Alla Prima Pochade boxes. I’ll have to start saving up for the Blackfoot.

  17. Wow – seriously good post! I love reading posts like this – and love looking at different boxes. One day I’ve got to put my dry media down and give brushes a whirl one more time!

  18. Wow! Fantastic and very thorough stuff here. Thanks for the mention too 🙂 I saw the Alla Prima Pochade demoed recently by a fellow painter and I was highly impressed. I have been seriously looking at the EasyL Versa (by Artwork Essentials) but after seeing the Alla Prima, I may have to change my mind. (Okay, I actually told my husband that my next pochade box would be home made, but now I can just blame you for putting out such a convincing article! )

    I’m looking at either the Bitter Root Lite or the slightly larger Yellowstone Lite. All of the designs seem incredibly well-thought out though. The magnets are pure genius. They also seem more “complete” than a lot of others, with features that are generally considered “add-ons” in other models. Even so, they still seem to have a fairly thin profile.

  19. Thanks, everyone, for the comments.

    Other readers can see Katherine Tyrell’s blog here, and my recent post on her here.

    Jennifer Young’s blog, Paintings of France, Italy and Beyond, features her work in several categories, as does her web site.

  20. Wow- what a thorough and timely post.
    Thank you for providing so much specific and clear information on a dazzling variety of options.
    I’ve been holding out due to confusion and not wanting to buy the wrong thing and then be unable to return it
    I’m looking for one that’s good both indoors and out.

    Now I’ve got something very meaty to digest here.
    Of course once you look at that Alla Prima, you’re ruined for the rest….

    Thanks so much for all of this research and the visuals too.

  21. Thank you Charley for this thorough review as I have been looking into purchasing another plein air box. I have tried a french easel, a Judson’s Guerrilla box and now after your fine post, have decided to try a Bitterroot Light. I am looking forward to using this well-made, well-marketed product! Looks fantastic and will suit my needs well. Thanks for taking the pain out of my endless search! Good work on the website as well. I watched three videos which informed my decision as well.

    barbara geri

  22. Excellent article Charley. I currently have the larger Open Box M and love it. I use it for my pastels and built a divider for it. Recently I began using the Golden Open acrylics and wish to have a smaller version pochade box so this article came in handy! Thanks for the research. Nice blog as well.

  23. Patricia Clark Avatar
    Patricia Clark

    I just stumbled across your page. Super! I bought a pochade box last year after researching on the web and observing quite a few plein air painters. Your site has a more comprehensive list of suppliers than I was able to find at the time.
    Now I know you are the one responsible for the choice I made. I had never seen an Alla Prima box in use, but the web site and videos made me think the Bitterroot Lite would work best for how I wanted to use it. I am still thrilled. I have wrapped it in a laptop cover and carried it on planes, hiked up mountains with it, strapped it on my bike in a backpack, and set it on a table at an outdoor cafe. The engineering and craftsmanship set it apart. I am geeky, so I love the way things snap into place, and how solid it is in use. The box is a piece of art in itself. Ben gave me good advice and also “went the extra mile”. Anyway, glad I found your site. Keep it up!

  24. I love the comprehensive info you put together for either buying a ready made or making own pochade box. I have researched for days and thank God, I have found it here. I have been looking for a better solution to my French easel for plein aire painting.

    Enjoyed your blog, too. It is very informative and stimulating. I am more traditional minded when it comes to painting and drawing. Your blog opens my eyes to a more modern way of using drawing and painting.


    1. Thanks, Connie. I’m glad you found both the pochade box research and the blog in general useful.

  25. I just had another look at this post, now that I have a decent table saw, and chop saw, I am going to give this project a go. Thanks for the detailed look at these easels Charlie.

  26. Sally Borges Avatar
    Sally Borges

    Good review. For you box makers out there I have two other ideas for inexpensive boxes. I made one cute 8X10 box by stacking three wood frames from the dollar store. Bottom two were glued together on three sides. The fourth side I cut off the end and attached a piece of wood for a sliding palette, so there is a little storage space underneath. The lid is a third frame, and the 8X10 panel fits inside and is held in by little screw in brass L shaped metal hooks. Two hinges and a strip of wood on the back hold the lid up. Top and bottom I glued on a piece of wood to fit. Cost less than $10. Have not attached a tripod fitting but could.
    The second box I based on a wood birch box from Ikea for $10 for the base materials. I based that one on an Easyl L design. More compicated but doable for me with little woodworking skills. So You can do it!

    1. Thanks, Sally.

      If you ever put images of your process for these online, please let me know and I’ll link to them from the article.

  27. Johnny Avatar

    Great article.

    I’d just like to put in a good word for Abbey Easels Pochade boxes. I bough the 10×14 version about five years ago. Of all the boxes this seems the most intelligent and simple solution. The lid can hold three wet panels and wet palette without anything touching. There is just the right amount of space for paint, brushes etc under the slide out palette. My one has a chain to adjust the open angle. It is simple, basic and works.
    (I have no connection with Abbey)

    1. Thanks, Johnny.

      For the benefit of other readers, here is a link to Abbey’s Easels.

  28. Just another plug for Ben Haggett’s Alla Prima Pochade boxes. Very well made, pure genius in the use of magnets in various places on the boxes. Compact, light… just exactly what the plein air artist needs for venturing out into the wild (or not so wild).

    I liked the pochade boxes– and Ben– so much I bought one of his oil sketches. 😉

    Good price too, for quality craftsmanship by a thinking man.

  29. Very very complete guide, thank you..I found Jim Serrett’s article on how to make your own pochade box Very interesting:

  30. Thanks, Georgina. I’ve added Serrett’s post to the article.

  31. Very helpful post – I’ve come back to it over and over in my research for a new box. I have the Craftech Sienna but have a few issues with it and it’s falling apart pretty quickly. The main issue I have with it is that when you close the lid the bottom part that holds your panel sticks right into your paint. So I have to adjust it where it won’t stick in the paint but then you can’t close it up so I use a velcro strap to keep it closed – a little bit of a pain. Just ordered one of Ben’s boxes and can’t wait to get it. I’m sure I’ll do a post about it and share some pictures. Thanks again for taking the time to share all this great information!

    1. Thanks, Sandi. I’ve been a little concerned about reports of quality issues with the Sienna boxes.

  32. I’ve had a couple of the boxes mentioned above and recently decided to build my own out of a Lukas paint box I had laying around:

    I’d say if you have the tools to build your own that go for it – it’s just you can customize it to fit your needs – for instance I wanted a glass palette & I also wanted to paint 16×20 on site with ease – this does it and more.

    1. Thanks, Chris. Looks like a nice box. Let me know if you publish a step-by-step.

  33. Why do you prefer the Ray-Mar panels to the Gessobords?

    1. Canvas texture. Gessobords are OK if you want to paint on a completely smooth surface. Raymar has a sampler of their various canvas weaves. I use the Medium Landscape canvas.

  34. Hi Charley,

    I have been looking at a new company that makes a metal easel. Bryan Mark Taylor is helping promote them, which is how I heard about it. Looks like a good light weight set up, but they are out of stock. I am on a wait list for one. If I get it I will let you know what I think.

    Just thought I would add one more to the mix for you.

    1. Thanks, Colin. Looks interesting, please do let me know how you like it and I’ll update the post.

  35. Hey thanks Charley – that’ll be in the works for a step by step – it was pretty easy actually.

  36. Hi Charley,

    For those boxes that come without a Tripod Mount or are Homemade…

    Here is a Mounting plate from Ken Bromley…

    From experience I can tell you it is solid and dependable, though I did replace the screws supplied with bolts…

    1. Great to know, thanks, Jim.

  37. Alex Barton Avatar
    Alex Barton

    Something that a few of us are using to hold our Canvas panels securely to the lid of DIY Pochade boxes is Velcro. Purchased at most hardware stores, I stick the male Velcro tape on the box lid, and 4 female Velcro patches on the back of a canvas panel. I’m able to mount all sizes up to 9″x12″ very securely. When I have some photos I’ll send them along.

  38. Dan Garvey Avatar
    Dan Garvey

    Ran into your blog while researching pochade boxes. Great work! I studied all the options and visited all the links before buying. I just returned from a workshop in Colorado where I put to the test an Alla Prima Bitterroot Lite mounted on a Manfrotto 190CX tripod. Including panels, paint, turps and brushes the rig is under 10 lbs, very fast and easy to set up, and works flawlessly. Thank you for a terrific contribution to the plein air community!

    1. I’m glad you found the post useful, Dan. Thanks for letting me know. Enjoy the Bitterroot, Ben does great work.

  39. I recently got Ben’s Yellowstone lite and I love it except that it’s really shakey on my tripod and I have a tripod that is rated for over 13 pounds. Have you found yours to be shakey? Here’s the tripod I’m using – any thoughts?

    1. My guess is that this is one of the manufacturers of photographic tripods making a branded model for Sienna, but it’s hard to tell from the photographs how sturdy it is. There may be more to it than the weight rating.

      Mine is only rated for 11 lbs, but it’s a known brand name (Manfrotto) and it’s quite steady under my Bitterroot with paints and a jar in the drawers, which I leave open while painting. However, I replaced the lightweight head I originally purchased with a heavier duty head (often separate in professional tripods).

      My suggestion it to seek out a real camera store (the kind that caters to dedicated photographers who use high-end equipment, not mall stores), take a look at the professional tripods meant for large cameras with heavy lenses — and compare to your tripod. You might even take the box with you and ask if you can test it on a brand name tripod rated for a similar weight.

      Be prepared for a little sticker shock, but you don’t need to commit to buy one, you just need to make the comparison to determine if that’s the issue. Also compare the quick-release mechanism to see if it engages solidly in both cases.

      Also you could write to Ben Hagget and ask him about the suitability of that tripod. He may or may not be familiar with it, but you’ll find him very friendly and helpful in general.

      Another quick thought is to add stability to your existing tripod by suspending a weight from the center column (small backpack or bag of supplies), as shown in the top photo here: This lowers the center of gravity of the tripod.

  40. Jeremy Bishop Avatar
    Jeremy Bishop

    Hi Charley, love the post. I’ve been looking at making my own box and this is a wealth of info for me. So thanks. I’m curious though, when buying a tripod do I have to buy a head? I looked at the Bogen Manfretto you use, just the legs and thought it looked like the top has the bolt to attatch the box. Is the head just a useful extra?

    1. Thanks, Jeremy. Glad the post is helpful.

      I’m not certain, but you may be able to use the bolt on the tripod base itself, if it is the same size as a standard mount.

      However, it is the head in professional systems that allows the pochade box to be angled and positioned exactly as needed. To me, this is one of the nice advantages of a pochade box over systems like field easels and box easels. Also, most tripod heads come with a quick-release plate than can be screwed into the fitting in the box, and then snapped easily into place on the head of the tripod on location. (Otherwise, you would have to screw the box onto the tripod, or vice-versa, every time you set it up.)

      You may want to look into some of the semi-pro models that have a built-in head, but are still sturdy enough to support the weight of your box. I will be the first to point out that I bought an extra heavy model, but my box contains drawers for paint and a panel holder, so it’s heavy, and I like it to be rock-steady.

      Also, you might think of looking for a used tripod.

  41. Mohamed Hirji Avatar
    Mohamed Hirji

    Hi Charlie, Thank you for a very useful post. Very little is written on tripods for pochade boxes. I am planning to purchase a Yellowstone from Allaprima. (7 lbs). wonder if Manfrotto 190 series legs with a 496 ball head. would be unto the task? since the box has an off centre attachment, does it stress these attachments more than a camera which are centred over the head?
    Which lightweight head did you replace and with what?

    1. Hi Mohamed. Glad you found the post useful.

      The reason the mounting plate is off-center is so that when the box is open and in use, and the lid (likely containing additional panels) is open and leaned back, the plate will actually be closer to the center of gravity.

      I don’t remember the lightweight head I had at first (it may have been a 486), but I replaced it with a 488 with a quick-release plate. I think you will appreciate a head that includes a quick-release plate. I find it much easier to detach and attach the box to the tripod that way. I just leave the plate screwed onto my box unless I’m using it as a table easel.

      I also bought my tripod from a local camera shop rather than online (a pro camera shop, not a mall camera shop), and I had the advantage of being able to take my box in with me to look at tripods. When I didn’t like the smaller head, they let me return it for the larger (and more expensive) one.

      I still think my system is a bit heavier and stronger than it really needs to be, but it’s solid as a rock.

      If you’re looking for a less expensive option, a friend of mine, who also has a Bitterroot, got a Ravelli APGL3, with built-in head and quick release plate for $80 total, and likes it fine. The difference between the Bitterroot and Yellowstone is less than a pound (empty).

  42. Dear Owner

    My name is Mr Robert Cook.With regards to your company, I am sending this email to make an order of ( Mabef ) which I hope you will be able to assist me with .I would like you to get me the type,sizes and sales price ranges for anyone you have in stock so that i will tell you the quantity i will like to order but if you don’t have it,Please don’t hesitate to email me back with the product you have in stock for sale.I Hope to hear from you soon

    Best Regards

    Mr Robert Cook

  43. Delannoy Avatar

    I would like some more information about the BILLUPS BOX and know where I can buy it ?
    thank you very much
    Best regards

    1. It looks like the Billups Box is no longer being offered. You can try contacting Betty Billups through her website to see if any remain available: