Lines and Colors art blog

A simple DIY drying rack for plein air panels and small paintings

A simple DIY drying rack for plein air panels and small paintings
One of the simultaneously good and difficult things about oil paint is that it dries slowly. Storing oil paintings as they dry is always something of an issue. Plein air painters, in particular, who often produce a lot of small paintings in a relatively short time frame, are faced with the question of how to arrange their panels as they dry.

I came across a nicely done and simple-to-construct plan for a DIY drying rack by plein air painter Matthew Lee, which he was kind enough to share with the community on Wet Canvas.

In his version, Lee uses pegboard and dowels to make racks that fit within the shelves of a store-bought metal shelving unit, dividing the space into panel holders of varying heights on four shelves.

In my case, I used his idea to make a more modest, single, free-standing rack just for small panels, at a size that would fit onto a bookshelf in my small studio space.

He used pegboard and 1/4″ dowels, which in his case seemed to fit well through the pegboard. I assume the pegboard I got had slightly different diameter holes, as I found 1/4″ dowels a tight fit.

I decided to use that to advantage, and make 1/4″ dowels, tightly wedged into the pegboard holes at the corners and middle, hold the structure together; and 1/8″ dowels, which slipped easily through the holes, to make the majority of the uprights.

My original sheet of pegboard was 24×48″, from which I had Home Depot cut one 8″ wide strip. (They won’t actually cut 8″ wide boards or strips, but they could make one 16″ wide cut off the 24″ wide original, leaving me an 8″ strip, and saving me the trouble of cutting the pegboard lengthwise.) I then cut that 8×48″ strip in half, giving me two pieces of pegboard 8″x24″.

The largest panels I need to dry in quantity are 6×8″, so I cut my dowels to allow about 8″ clearance between the top and bottom sheets of pegboard, leaving adequate room for the 6″ height of the panels. I cut the dowels with a miter saw; the miter box made it easy to hold them while cutting.

I used my tight-fitting 1/4″ dowels at the corners and in the middle, spaced one hole in from the edge, to hold the pegboard sheets apart. They fit tightly enough to provide just enough structural rigidity to hold the pegboard in place, (Your milage may vary, and gluing might be in order for pegboard and dowels that don’t fit that tight.)

My loose-fitting 1/8″ dowels were cut longer and just slipped through the top and slotted in the matching holes in the bottom piece of pegboard, which is mounted on a piece of 1×8 shelving lumber. I spaced them more closely so the panels would rest in them with space at the ends and be easy to grab.

As you can see to the left in the middle photos, I’ve tried other kinds of racks to hold panels — in this case, wire racks for file folders from an office supply store — but they tend to be spaced too far apart for panels that are 8″ wide, which wind up just tilted into them instead of resting on both sides of the rack.

The DIY rack holds more, and is sized to fit the panels.

My apologies if the clamps for lights above and in front of the rack provide any confusion in the photos, they are unrelated to the drying rack. The rack as you see it in the first photo is complete.

See the link to Matthew Lee’s original article below.


5 responses to “A simple DIY drying rack for plein air panels and small paintings”

  1. Beverly Todd - Artist Avatar
    Beverly Todd – Artist

    A yet so simple idea but brilliant. I need to get my other half to build me one!

  2. Simple means you still have to do it yourself. That is not simple. Ready made is.

  3. Of course the problem with ready made is, as Charley noted, they are not always ideal. I have done the same but ready made is always just enough off to irritate. I spend the time modifying it only to realize I should have just started from scratch in the first place.

  4. Charley,

    Just a quick note to say thanks for crediting my original post on how to build an art storage rack. I’m always looking for new ideas on how to improve on this idea, and in the process ran across your post.

    Wow, what an impressive blog you’ve created. My website has a blog within it, but it doesn’t have the neat archive dates and topics on the side like yours. I’m debating whether I need a separate blog. Check out my site here: Look under the news tab for the “blog”. I’m open to suggestions on what would work best. I created my website using

    I look forward to checking out more of your blog.

    Matthew Lee

    1. Matthew, Thanks for the great inspiration for making the rack. It’s worked out great for me.

      I think the question of the usefulness of categories and archives for a blog depends on how large it gets. It you’re just using it lightly, your current format works OK, though I would flush dates, titles and comment links left, so the eye finds them more easily. Also the line spacing in the title is much too large, if the title runs two lines long, the second line looks completely divorced from the first. I don’t know how much control Squarespace give you over that. (Current nonsensical linespacing setting for the titles is 3.5em, should be more like 1.5em.)

      Nice work, by the way, particularly the landscapes.