For artists, painting en plein air, or painting outdoors, can be one of the most rewarding and inspiring experiences. It really forces you to take the time to slow down and be fully present to appreciate every detail that nature provides. To capture the beauty of nature when painting outdoors, you'll need a reliable and compact painting box, also known as a pochade box. With so many options available, it can be overwhelming knowing which is the right choice. Luckily, I've complied a list of the top 5 plein air boxes that should hopefully make the decision making process a little easier.
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The top 5 plein air boxes for artists
The Guerrilla ThumbBox is a popular choice among plein air painters, and for good reason. This compact paint box is made from lightweight basswood laminate and it can hold two wet 6" x 8" panels. The box itself measures just 9" x 7" x 3" and weighs only 1.5 pounds! It has a storage compartment (1 and a 1/2" deep) under the sliding palette for all your supplies and has an adjustable lid that can lock in any position over a 180 degree range with just one knob. It also features a universal camera tripod mount installed on the bottom of the box which comes in handy for times when you don't have a solid surface to paint on. They also offer small and convenient cups for your mediums and brush cleaning. The Guerrilla ThumbBox is perfect for artists who want to travel light and paint on the go. If you're looking for more sizes, Guerrilla offers pochade boxes in 5x7" and 9x12" as well.
The Sienna Plein Air Pochade Box is another solid option for professional artists and for those just starting out. This painters box is made from poplar, maple, and birch woods. It measures 12" x 16" x 6" and weighs about 4.5 pounds. The canvas mast can hold stretched canvases or panels up to 15" tall with no limits on width. This box features a removable tempered glass palette that is ideal for acrylic and oil painters, adjustable knobs to paint from any angle within 180 degrees, a brush tray that can hold 7 brushes as well as your palette cups, and a universal tripod mount.
The New Wave u.go plein air box is a quality and compact pochade box that is made from baltic birch wood with stainelss steel and aluminum accents that are non-corrosive. The finish on this box is non-porous, dense, and resistant to water and solvents. The finish is also crack resistant, chip resistant, and non-yellowing. This box measures 8.4" x 11.23" x 1.25" and weights 2.1 pounds and the maximum painting surface is 9" tall with no limits on width. It also features magnets for closure, panel/canvas holder, removable slide wall for palette cleaning and an accessory side tray attachment.
There is a 180 degree range of motion to allow you to position the box as vertical or horizontal as you'd like. A 1/4" universal tripod mount makes it perfect to use with a tripod easel and for painting on the go.
This compact and versatile pochade box is another option for oil, acrylic, and watercolor plein air artists. It's made from high-quality beechwood and has a large 10x12" palette area and can hold canvases or panels up to 17" tall. There are adjustable compartments convenient for storing paints, brushes, and other supplies. The box is on the slightly heavier side, about 9 pounds, but still easy to take from spot to spot with the carrying handle. The drawbacks of this box are the weight and it may not be as durable compared to other pochade boxes on the market.
This plein air box is a basic outdoor painting set up that any artist can use. It's desighed to carry your supplies all within a lightweight (5.4 pounds), elegant looking box. It can hold panels up to 9x12" and close entirely or it can also accommodate panels up to 12" wide and 18" tall. The sliding wood palette is 9x13" and comes with a removable, clear acrylic palette, this makes mixing paint and clean up a breeze. There is a fold-out side tray for extra painting space and it even comes with a convenient 6-space brush holder. Storage compartments under the palette means that you can safely store all your supplies as you take your plein air box to different locations. A handle and carrying strap are included to make transitions easy.
Choosing the right plein air box can make all the difference when it comes to outdoor painting. Each of the boxes mentioned above has their own unique features and benefits, but they all share a common goal: to make it easier for artists to capture the beauty of nature. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced painter, investing in a high-quality paint box is a smart decision that will pay off in the long run. So, hopefully this post can help you to get out there quicker so you can start creating beautiful works of art en plein air!
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I'm Chuck Black, landscape and wildlife artist based in Southwest Montana.