A Guide to Plein Air painting & what you might need

What is Plein Air Painting?


The French term ‘plein air’ means “outdoors” so the plein air painting is the act of painting outdoors. This theory first started to develop and grow around the late 1800s, mainly due to the introduction of paints in tubes. Now, there is a popular demand for plein air painting due to the invention of portable canvases, easels and other equipment. 

It has enabled artists to gain a better understanding of the landscape and capture the changing details of the weather and light. It is also, the best way for an artist to see the true colour of nature and capture the mood that surrounds them. 

What Do I Need for Plein Air Painting?


Field Easel 

Loxley has a range of field easels ideal for plein air painting but our most popular two are the Highland, and the Wiltshire

The Highland full size sketch box easel for painting outside is a more robust version of the French style easel designed for painting en plein air. The easel has a carrying handle and shoulder strap, extendable legs that fold out and a slide out, metal lined drawer with adjustable dividers and a wooden painting palette. The three legs of the easel have telescopic ends which can be individually adjusted so that the easel is stable on uneven ground. Allows The wood used for the easel is seasoned beech wood and the fittings are brass plated. The painting support can be used horizontally or vertically and fixed at any angle in between. The easel height when fully extended is 1800 mm, with a maximum picture height with easel extended of 850 mm, the dimensions at the base of the easel when easel is set up for painting are 770 mm W, 1020 mm D, and the easel dimensions when folded for storage are 570 mm H, 440 mm W, 162 mm D. The easel weight is 5.2kg.

The Wiltshire’s lightweight half size sketch box easel makes a great workstation for painting outside as well as in the studio. The easel has fold out telescopic legs, a handle and carry shoulder strap, a slide out drawer with a foldable wooden palette. The three legs of the easel have telescopic ends which can be individually adjusted so that the easel is stable on uneven ground. Only the finest seasoned beech wood and quality base plated hardware is used for this easel. The easel height when fully extended is 1800 mm, with a maximum picture height with easel extended of 850 mm, the dimensions at the base of the easel when easel is set up for painting are 660 mm W, 1020 mm D, and the easel dimensions when folded for storage 656 mm H, 300 mm W, 170 mm D. The easel weight is 4.05kg.


Stretched Canvas

For plein air painting, either small to medium sized stretched canvases are easily to use, as they are lighter and more transportable. Our field easels can be adjusted easily so you can fit different size canvases in. 

Check out our Loxley Stretched Canvas range.


Primed Panel or Board 

Primed panels or boards are ideal for plein air painting as they are transportable yet strong and stable. Our most popular panel is the Loxley Artists Panel which is a superior rigid board which is universally primed on both sides with an acid-free ground, to give a choice of two painting surfaces and greater stability. One side is Ultra- Smooth and the other side is slightly textured. The surface is suitable for acrylic, oil, pencil and other media including resins and is great for use with palette knives. Available in 6 sizes & each board is 6mm thick. 


Oil Colour 

Loxley Artist Oil Colour is made from the finest binders and pigments to give a paint with great handling properties and covering power. Each colour can be used with other brands of oil paint, mediums and varnishes. Available in 55 colours in 45ml tubes as well the 200ml whites.


Brush Set

It it important to select a range of brushes that are suited to your style and technique. Our Loxley Hog brushes are ideal for oil painting as they a balance of both stiffness and spring. 

Loxley ‘Uni’ Hog Flat Brush

Loxley Short Handled Hog Round Brushes


Palette knife 

Palette knives and Painting knives are useful tools when working with oil paint as they can be used for mixing paint or to apply thick paint directly on to the canvas. 

Palette knives are very useful for mixing paint and many artists use them to paint with. You can either buy stainless steel palette knives which are ideal as they do not rust, or plastic palette knives, which are made specifically for oils. 

Painting knives are used to apply paint to the canvas. They come in different shapes and lengths, allowing you to create a range of strokes, marks and unique effects. The three different areas of the blade allow you to use the tip for detailed work, the flat surface for broader, wider strokes and the edge for lines.


Oil Painting Mediums

Oil Painting Mediums are used to alter the transparency, consistency, or drying time of oil paint. It is important to know when and how to use mediums, as they can help to control your paint and develop your painting techniques. 

Depending on which mediums you use, you can achieve a variety of different sheens and and either shorten or extend the drying time of the paint. 

When using the mediums you can either mix them with the paint directly on your palette, or dip your brush into the mediums like you would do with water. 

Loxley Artists Fast Drying Oil Medium



Traditionally a thin wooden palette (often a kidney shape) was used by oil painters, but you can also use either a white palette or a pad of disposable sheets to lay out your oil paints or mix the colours together. Our Loxley tear-off palette is ideal for plein air painting as they provide a great mixing surface that can be torn out of the pad and disposed of after use saving valuable time when cleaning up. The pad has a card base that give rigidity and a thumb hole for holding when painting. Two sizes available.


Brush Washer 

It is important to have something to clean your brushes in. Our Loxley Stainless Steel Brush Washer is ideal. It is constructed from solvent and rust resistant metals. Well finished, this beautifully presented cleaning tub can be used with all sizes of Artist’s brushes. The handle doubles as a brush holder for small to medium brushes. A perforated residue separator allows for gentle massaging of the bristles and keeps debris out of the way. A loose-fit lid prevents excess evaporation and dust when not in use. 



Double Dipper with Lid 

Dippers with lids are very useful when plein air painting as they clips securely onto the edge of a flat palette to hold solvents and mediums for artists during painting. Our Loxley Artists’ Dipper is made from stainless steel and the screw-on lids with their rubber seals prevent the contents evaporating or leaking when not in use. Each of the two dippers measure approximately 35mm in diameter at the opening and 27mm in depth and the overall dimensions are 90 x 45 x 35mm deep including the lid and clip.


Masking Tape

Many painters use masking tape for either creating straight lines or masking off areas while they are painting.  It is a pressure sensitive paper tape that can be smoothly applied and removed without leaving marks or damage.


Top Tips For Plein Air Painting

  1. Lightweight – It is very important to consider the weight of the equipment you will be taking with you, as some of the most beautiful places are the hardest to get to. 
  2. Consider the location – It is important to walk around the location so you can find the best stop that will give you inspiration to start painting. 
  3. Experiment with different mediums – Be creative and experiment with a number of different mediums, to find out what works best while painting outdoors. Some of the slow-drying oils that you may use in your studio may not be appropriate for you to use when painting outdoors. 
  4. Time – When painting outdoors, you have to make decisions quickly, which can give energy to your artwork. It is important to set a time limit for the painting so that you do not rush it. 

Tag us on social media at #loxleyarts to share your Plein Air Painting Experiences.