Sick of painting indoors? Then try doing it outdoors! For that, you’ll need something called a pochade box: a portable carry-all for brushes, paints, and mixing palettes, first adopted during the 19th-century by French Impressionists, for whom natural light was essential. Sometimes, brackets are 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.) Pochade boxes are available today at different price points and levels of quality. To find the one just right for you, check out our list of recommendations.
1. Sienna Plein Air Artist Pochade Box Easel Large
Finely crafted from premium hardwoods such as poplar, maple, and Baltic birch, Sienna’s adjustable pochade box weighs 5 pounds and comes with easel clamps that can extend up to 17 inches in height. A pull-out tray accommodates brushes, and a removable glass palette comes standard. (For more storage, consider getting Sienna’s additional supply case.) Ergonomic star knobs make adjusting the lid to different positions a breeze, while superior construction and a cherry finish means this item will look good for a long time.
2. Mabef Pochade Box, MBM-105
This sturdy box made of beech opens flat to allow easy access to its contents and functions. The bottom half contains a slide-out palette that conceals a lower compartment for paints and brushes. The palette has five holes spaced along one edge for vertically propping up paintbrushes. A board with adjustable clamps flips up from inside the case’s upper half to secure paper or canvas boards with maximum measurements of 9 by 12 inches. Under this board is more storage space, this time for additional panels. This extra capacity does come at a cost, though: The box weighs nearly 8 pounds when empty, making it potentially unwieldy for some.
3. Guerrilla Painter 102.08AOKIT Artist Painting Kit
Measuring 6 by 8 inches this kit gives you just about everything you need to paint outdoors besides paint: Four flat brushes, a composition finder (a sort of cardboard viewfinder with built in color chart and grayscale), a palette with an attachable cup for holding solvents, a brush washer, a how-to notebook, a gessoed panel and a compartment for paints. Plus, the underside of the lid has clips for holding paper or board. Made of basswood, the box weighs 3.35 pounds, making it easy to carry in the shoulder bag that comes included.
4. Mont Marte Multi-Purpose Wooden Art Box
This Swiss Army knife of a box opens this way and that to create three storage levels in a package measuring just 9 by 11 by 6 inches. The top of the box is divided lengthwise into two compartments (each with a slide-out lid) that swing out to uncover additional cubbies underneath. Beneath that level, a pull-out drawer offers even more space to put stuff in. Constructed from beech and fitted with brass screws, latches, and knobs, this bargain-priced case also has a faux-leather handle for easy carrying. Deceptively small on the outside, it seems almost big enough to tote an entire classroom’s worth of art materials.
5. New Wave u.go Pochade Box
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. Stainless steel, aluminum, and noncorrosive hardware provide added durability, while rare earth magnets ensure firm yet smooth opening and closing with a 180-degree range of motion. The panel/canvas holder also operates magnetically and accommodates material thicknesses from 1/16 to ¾ inch; a high-density white plastic palette is also included. The ultra-slim profile is reminiscent of a laptop computer.