I have recently posted an article on how I made my plein air watercolour painting easel. It is designed to be very lightweight yet still quite functional. My previous easel was too heavy and I had to lean forward when using it which was putting too much strain on my back.
My old gear consisted of a wooden box easel used for oil painting which rested on a tripod. The box stored my pallet and even some spare paper along with a couple of trays that were attached to the tripod and on which I rested my pallet, water container and brushes. It worked well however it was not something you could easily carry while travelling abroad.
An additional problem with the old set up, apart from the weight (3.7 kg / 8.16 lb) was that I had to lean over the bottom tray to get to my painting surface. This was putting more strain on my back than I wanted. Figures 1 and 2 are of my old set-up. As you can see I also used to paint on a watercolour block which meant carrying a lot more weight than I needed.
Because of the weight of the box on top it required a stronger and heavier tripod. It was also a bit awkward to fix to the tripod.
Here is what I wanted in an ideal plein air easel for watercolour painting:
Plein air watercolour painting easel – essential features
Here are the key requirements I wanted for my setup:
It had to be as light as possible while being sturdy enough to support my paper and palette without undue motion.
Everything had to be at a comfortable working height once I started my watercolour painting.
The palette should be close to the height of my watercolour paper so it could be accessed very easily.
The water container had to be convenient as well.
I required something to hold my brushes, and spray bottle, while painting without them rolling away and falling onto the ground.
The easel should be able to be set up very quickly with a minimum of parts that could go missing if they fell onto grass i.e. not too many extra nuts and bolts.
The mixing areas in my palette had to hold plenty of watercolour paint.
Below is a pictures of the plein air painting watercolour easel I made taking the above requirements into account. If you would like to read the full article with details of my easel you can find it on my Painting With Watercolours website here: Light weight outdoor watercolour easel.
Hopefully it will assist you in producing a outdoor painting easel for your own watercolour needs.