Art horses are popular in schools and figure drawing classes. They’re also a good solution for a home studio where you don’t have enough space for an easel. The basic models can also be much less expensive than a regular easel.
There are advantages to using an art horse easel over a traditional easel which I describe in further detail at the end of this post. I also include some FAQs and considerations regarding art horse easels.
But first, I review what I believe to be the best art horse easels for different uses.
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Table of Contents
Art Horse Easel Recommendations
Below are more top 3 art horse recommendations which are followed by longer summaries of why I think they’re worth having.
- The best traditional art horse – Richeson Caballitto
- The most versatile foldable art horse with wheels – Best Caballo
- Sturdiest art horse easel (for sitting or standing)– Klopfenstein Steel Art Horse
Richeson Caballitto – A Traditional Art Horse and Best Value
Weight: 16lbs (This is the shipping weight from Richeson website)
Size: Base Width 29″ (74 cm), Base Depth 13.5” (34 cm), Bench Height 17.25” (44 cm)
Materials: oak plywood, oak
Additional Information: The legs are hinged and can fold in if you remove 2 screws from each side. It can accommodate a drawing board or drawing media up to 24″ × 30″ (61 cm × 76 cm)
If you’re looking for a traditional art horse then you can’t go wrong with the Richeson Caballitto art horse.
The shape and the design of it brings back memories of drawing classes. This style of art horse is popular because it’s affordable and sturdy.
The Richeson Caballitto art horse is made from oak plywood which is strong and should last for years.
The wood legs of the bench are attached with hinges. If you remove the four screws that hold in the support piece under the bench the legs will fold inwards for storage.
I believe this is more for long term storage as this would not be convenient if you need to fold it up after every use.
This feature may come in handy if you need to store it out of the way for a couple of weeks. You can fold it up to make more room in your studio.
Schools that are short on space may find this attractive, especially if they’re only going to be used for short term projects or workshops. They can be stored out of the way when the workshop or semester is over.
The bench has two grooves in it so there are two angles that you can position your drawing board at. For the steepest angle, you want to place the bottom of your drawing board in the groove farthest away from you.
Here is a link to the assembly instructions for the Richeson Caballitto which should give you a better idea of how easy it is to assemble. The pictures show where the hinges are on the legs.
If you’re looking for a similar art horse with a storage compartment, you may be interested in the Creative Mark Belgian Art horse. It has 3 grooves that are deeper than the Caballitto.
For even more features you’ll want to check out the Best Caballo below. It has folding legs, a storage drawer, a built in easel, and wheels.
Best Caballo – The Most versatile art horse
Price: $$ (moderate)
Weight: 29 lbs (13 kg)
Size: Bench Height 18″ (46 cm), Bench Width 13.5″ (34 cm), Bench Length 21.5″ (55 cm)
Additional Information: it’s made in the USA, It’s a combination of easel and art horse bench, it has wheels and foldable legs for easy transport. Maximum Canvas Height 27″ (69 cm)
This art horse is made from oak and has plenty of features. It’s basically a combination of an art horse and an easel.
The top part has an easel mast that you can use to clamp in a canvas. The bottom painting tray is the horizontal wood piece that your painting rests on. The top painting tray is what holds the top part of the painting in place and prevents it from falling forward or moving around.
Both trays slide vertically to accommodate canvases of different sizes. It also allows you to adjust the height of the canvas.
The easel feature is really nice because it allows you to work on smaller canvases. A small canvas on a regular art horse would be resting on the bench and might be too low to work on comfortably.
The painting tray allows you to move a small canvas up closer to eye level so it’s easier to work on.
Having the easel built into the art bench gives you plenty of room to grow as an artist. You may only have an interest in using an art horse for drawing but you may eventually take up an interest in painting.
The legs easily fold down flat for storage or for traveling. This is useful if you want to take it to a class or workshop. You can just fold the legs down and wheel it out to your car.
You can leave your essential supplies in the drawer so you won’t have to worry about remembering to bring them to a class or workshop.
The drawer is in the back of the bench. This is useful for storing your supplies such as tubes of paint, pencils, and some paint brushes.
There’s also a storage area in the front of the bench.
This art horse weighs approximately 30lbs (13.6kg) but the built in wheels make it easy to move.
Here’s a link to the assembly instructions for the Best Caballo art horse.
The Sturdiest Art Horse – Klopfenstein Steel Art Horse
Price: $$$ (Highest price of the group)
Size: Top is 18” x 24” (46 cm × 61 cm), Base 24” x 30” (61 cm x 76 cm)
Materials: Steel (welded for strength), and ¾” MDF with Melamine laminate surface
Additional Information: You can use it standing up or sitting down. The tiltable top can tilt away from the bench so you can stand on the other side and draw standing up. There are steel stops on top and bottom edges to prevent paper from slipping off, and can slide down and out of the way. It’s not foldable.
This has got to be the sturdiest art horse of them all. It’s made from 2” square steel tubes and the joints are all welded for additional strength.
The height of the top can be adjusted from 31” to 48” high so you can use it sitting or while standing.
One unique aspect of this art horse is the top can tilt 180 degrees. This means that you can tilt it away from the bench and stand on the other side and draw while standing up without having the bench in your way.
I think this feature makes it a very versatile art horse. Sitting for extended periods can be tiresome so having the option to be able to stand is great for longer drawing sessions.
Drawing while standing up allows you to draw more from your shoulder, where you can move your entire arm.
This may not matter as much when you make smaller drawings but it’s a nice feature to have when you’re working on larger drawings.
Standing desks are becoming more popular among office workers and this standing horse will allow you to choose between sitting and standing.
There are metal stops along the top and bottom edges of the drawing board so the paper won’t slide off if you tilt the top. They also slide down and out of the way if you need to get them out of the way if necessary.
I believe the metal slide on the top is for when you tilt the board 180 degrees and work from the other side while standing up.
In other words, when you tilt the top to use it from the other side, the top edge now becomes the bottom edge.
The wood top and the bench are ¾” MDF which is nice and thick. The surface is a white melamine surface which is durable. The edges of the bench and the drawing tops are rounded for comfort.
While the legs don’t fold and it doesn’t have wheels to make it easy to move, the essence of this art horse is durability.
It would work in a classroom environment where it should hold up to plenty of abuse. Or maybe you just want a rugged art horse for your home studio.
Leg levelers will ensure that you will be able to level it off so that it doesn’t wobble. Most art studios and homes don’t have perfectly level floors so this is a nice feature.
Klopfenstein has been making steel easels since the 1950’s. They’re made in the USA from recycled steel and they’re built to last.
Art Horse Frequently Asked Questions
You want to pay attention to the different features and spend some time thinking about the features that you need.
Below, I answer the frequently asked question regarding art easels that should help you to make the right choice.
Do Art Horse Easels Come With a Drawing Board?
Most of the time art horses are used for drawing on paper which requires you to attach the paper to the board by taping it down or by using binder clips.
Of the art horses I recommend, only the Klopfenstein Steel Art Horse doesn’t require a drawing board. The top board is the drawing board.
The other art horses require some sort of drawing board to tape the drawing paper to.
While I suppose you could just prop a large drawing pad against the end of the art horse, the cardboard backs are rather flimsy. It may be frustrating to draw on it while it flexes.
If you don’t have a drawing board you can buy a piece of ¼” hardboard from the local home improvement center.
Once you attach the drawing paper to the board, you then prop it up against the taller end of the art horse. There are grooves in the bottom of the bench that will prevent the drawing board from sliding as you draw.
Can You Use an Art Horse for Painting?
If you’re like me, you would also want to use an art horse for painting as well as drawing. Painting on paper is relatively simple if you just tape the paper down to a board.
However, painting a canvas on an art horse easel is a little trickier.
The simpler art horses won’t allow you to move the canvas vertically. This may be a problem if you want to work on smaller canvases. A small canvas would sit too low on the bench to work on.
Fortunately, there are art horses that have a built in easel mast that will allow you to clamp a canvas into it and adjust the height such as the Richeson Caballitto.
The metal lip on the Klopfenstein Steel Art Horse should be tall enough to prevent a canvas of the traditional ¾” thickness from sliding off the top.
If painting is the main activity that you’ll be using the art horse for, then I think the Best Caballo will give you the most options which I discuss next.
Art Horse Features
Another thing to consider is how many extra features do you want. I believe my top 3 picks cover the bases.
The Richeson art horse is a no brainer if you’re just looking for a solid and simple art horse like the one you used in school. It’s made from plywood and it’s easy to assemble. It’s great for students or for artists who are looking for a simple, well made, traditional art horse.
The Best Caballo is what you want if you’re looking for the most options. It has a built in easel so you can use it for holding canvases and it allows you to move the canvas up or down.
The legs fold flat for easy storage. It has a storage compartment and a drawer for some basic supplies like brushes and tubes of paints. The built in wheels will make it easy for you to move around the studio or if you want to paint outside.
If you want an art horse easel that’s built to last and allows you to use it while sitting or standing, the Klopfenstein Steel Art Horse is your best bet.
What Is an Art Horse?
An art horse is a simple wood bench that you straddle like a horse. The end that you’re facing has a wood board that you can use to prop up a drawing board against. Most art horses have grooves in the bench that prevent the drawing board from slipping.
Art horses are sometimes called art benches or a painters donkey.
What’s the Difference Between an Easel and an Art Horse?
An easel has a center mast that has clamps which hold the canvas in place. These clamps allow you to move the canvas up or down. This allows you to work standing up or sitting in a chair.
Art horses are usually just a bench that you straddle like a horse. You face the side that has the taller vertical board, which your drawing board rests against.
Some of the more elaborate art horses are more like a combination of an art horse and easel. The Best Caballo art horse has a built in easel that will allow you to clamp a canvas in place, and adjust it up or down.
What Are the Benefits of Using an Art Horse Instead of an Easel?
The bullet points below are the main advantages of using an art horse instead of an easel. The benefits vary depending upon the model. For example, some art horses don’t have folding leg or wheels.
- Art horses can be less expensive than easels. Since the construction of an art horse is relatively simple, they’re usually cheaper than a full size easel. The simpler art horse designs have three wood boards and don’t really have any moving parts. The less expensive art horses start at about $100. I would be skeptical of an art horse that costs less than that.
- An art horse takes up less space. Some of the art horses fold flat for storage. The legs simply fold under and then you can store it in a closet or under a bed. This is a good solution if you don’t have much space to work with.
- The art horse provides a built in seat. Since an art horse is basically a modified bench, it has a built in seat. If you buy an easel and you prefer working while sitting down, you’ll have to buy a chair. You may want to purchase a pad to place on the art horse so that it’s more comfortable to sit on for longer drawing sessions. A cushion is still more affordable than having to buy a separate chair.
- Art horses are good for demonstrations. If you’re a teacher or give workshops, you may want to consider using an art horse for your demonstrations. Since you’re sitting down it allows your students to stand behind you and look over your shoulder while you work. This is a much better experience for the class because it allows more students to see what you’re doing. By comparison, standing at an easel means that the people standing directly behind you won’t really be able to see much of the canvas.
- An art horse allows you to look over the top of your artwork. One of the benefits of using an art horse is that you can look over the top of it. An easel has a large vertical mast that forces you to look to the side. With an art horse, you can set it up so you’re directly facing the subject. This feels like a faster way to work because you can just look directly up and then back down to see the drawing. You may be ale to do that just by moving your eyes. With an easel, you often have to turn your head to look at the subject if it’s to the side.
Art horses are a special variety of easel that have some unique benefits over a traditional easel. They’re also available with a wide variety of options that you may find invaluable.
You may find that an art horse easel suits all of your art making needs or perhaps an art horse is going to be an addition alongside your regular studio easel.
However you prefer to work, there’s probably an art horse easel that suits your needs and perhaps one of the three that I recommend here will work for you.