It took me many years to find the perfect, portable watercolor painting setup.

After searching, I became increasingly disappointed with the commercial offerings for watercolor painters. Finally, I chose to create my own design. It’s defined by portability, compactness, and versatility.watercolor-painting-easel-.jpg

As a watercolor painter, I have found that most easels and plein air pochade boxes that are currently on the market are designed for oil or acrylic painters which are merely “labeled” as being compatible with watercolor techniques and materials.

The reality is that these products always seem to be lacking some key elements that watercolor artists require because our painting surface is often positioned horizontally. Plus, we frequently need to tip our substrate in order to control the flow of washes and pigments.

A horizontal position rather than a vertical position is often necessary and reaching over a palette or drawer like many French easels or pochade boxes have can be awkward for watercolor painting.

I have often seen easels made of tripods that are commonly used for photography but they always seem to limit the movability of the substrate and seem to strive for more of a traditional non-adjustable easel in functionality.

The key piece that most of these tripod-modified easels lack is the addition of the “ball-head.”  The ball-head was developed to allow photographers to quickly and easily adjust the position of their cameras in order to capture the perfect shot.

Because of its amazing range of motion, however, the ball-head can be the perfect positioning device for a watercolor board.

Here are 5 Steps to the Perfect Portable Watercolor Painting Setup

  1. I combined a Guerilla Painter Watercolor board with a built-in tripod mount or an aluminum Flex easel from Judson’s Art Supply to clamp an array of Otto Watercolor stretching boards.
  2. Either choice of watercolor paper mounting surface sturdily attaches to the ball-head of the tripod using a quick release plate.
  3. I can adjust the tension of the ball-head to allow the watercolor board to be twisted to virtually any angle or orientation which allows for excellent control of the flow of paint.
  4. By attaching a small side supply box which doubles as a shelf, all my artist materials are handy. My palette sets on the shelf and a small collapsible water bucket hangs in front.
  5. The setup collapses to an incredibly portable size and everything can fit in a small satchel. 

I have finally created the perfect system for my painting style!


Guest author/artist: Ken Powers lives in Tacoma, Washington. His still life paintings can be found in numerous public and private collections throughout the United States and abroad.

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