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If you’re painting outdoors, do yourself a favor and get yourself a pochade box: a portable carryall for brushes, paints, and mixing palettes to help you stay organized when you’re out in the field. First adopted during the 19th century by French Impressionists, for whom natural light was essential, pochade boxes often feature brackets built into the case to prop up small pieces of paper or board for rendering sketches—which the French call pochades—as you hold the box on your lap. Some larger versions even have collapsible legs and function as a true easel (these are often referred to as French easels). To find the one just right for you, check out our list of recommendations. Note that many tripods are sold separately, so budget appropriately.
Richeson Sienna Plein Air Pochade Boxes
Sienna’s handsome and tripod-compatible pochade box is finely crafted from premium poplar, maple, and Baltic birch and is quick to set up without any fussy parts. The lid opens to become an easel, with adjustable clamps that can extend up to 17 inches in height to support both panels and stretched canvases. A pull-out tray accommodates brushes, and a removable glass palette—which makes cleanup a breeze—comes standard. (For more storage, consider getting Sienna’s additional supply case.) Ergonomic star knobs make adjusting the lid to different positions effortless, while superior construction and a cherry finish mean this item will look good for a long time. Weighing under five pounds, this pochade box is comfortable to carry even when full.
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Mabef Pochade Box and Tripod
If you like the look of light wood, consider this beech box, which offers lots of storage space, though it weighs nearly eight pounds when empty. Like a briefcase, it opens flat to reveal its contents: The bottom half contains a slide-out palette (made of wood) that conceals a lower compartment with built-in divisions for paints and brushes. The top half features a built-in easel that pulls out to stand at an angle; featuring adjustable clamps, this board can secure paper or canvas panels with maximum measurements of 9 by 12 inches. Under it is more storage space, this time to store wet panels. Additional details include five holes spaced along one edge of the palette for vertically propping up paintbrushes and beautiful brass hardware throughout.
ANOTHER GOOD OPTION
New Wave u.go Plein Air Anywhere Pochade
If you don’t mind a more modern look, consider these sleek pochades, whose ultra-slim profiles are reminiscent of a laptop computer. Precision-built in Kimberton, Pennsylvania, these made-in-the-USA beauties are individually fashioned from Baltic birch to give each box a unique grain pattern coated in a durable, non-yellowing proprietary finish that is water- and solvent-resistant as well as chip- and crack-proof. The lid opens to double as a panel/canvas holder, while the bottom half features a palette. These boxes don’t have any storage, but painters are drawn to them for their solid structure and smooth operation. They’re available in three sizes, with the small impressively weighing less than 1.5 pounds and measuring six by eight inches—perfect for chucking in a tote.
Soho Urban Artist Pochade Box
We recommend this pochade box for students in particular because it is the least expensive on our list, but it’s also great for storing lots of supplies and carrying to and from classes. In other words, it allows you to have what you need at hand to grow as a plein air painter. The box’s lid opens to become an easel that can accommodate canvases and panels up to 17 inches high, and it is fully adjustable to stand at your chosen angle. The wooden palette features a foldout tray to hold lots of brushes, and it slides out to reveal a spacious interior to hold paint tubes, mediums, and more. Finally, slots on the box’s exterior are meant to hold six dry panels or two wet ones. The entire box weighs just over six pounds and features detachable shoulder straps.
Guerrilla Painter Guerrilla Box and Accessories
Guerrilla Painter’s pochade is a neat little box that you can customize to suit your painting style. The base box is made of durable basswood laminate and finished with stainless steel hardware. It holds only 9-by-12-inch media, but you can purchase a slip-in easel with adjustable metal fingers for smaller panels. You can also add on palette extensions with integrated vertical brush holders. Most of all, we’re fans of the box because it offers an impressive amount of storage capacity—more than most others on this list—and weighs just five pounds. It’s also well built, with all parts fitting together beautifully and hardware moving smoothly and steadily.