Tips for painting en plein air

Outdoor painting

Anyone who has ever painted outdoors will tell you that there’s nothing quite like it. The fresh air, the beautiful light and colours—it’s all inspiring. But if you’re not a professional painter or artist, you may be wondering how to get started with outdoor painting. While there are plenty of tips out there for artists who paint on location, I’ve found that they don’t always work well for artists who are just getting started. So here are my top ten tips for painting en plein air:

Get an easel that works for you

It’s essential to find an easel that works for you.

Howth Head, Dublin Plein Air Painting Festival
  • Stable: You don’t want your painting knocked over by a gust of wind or someone walking by. A stable easel is also important so that you can paint quickly with confidence.
  • Portable: You may not always be able to carry a heavy piece of equipment with you, so look for something portable that’s easy on the back and shoulders!
  • Set-up time: Even if the easel has wheels or is foldable, it should still set up quickly and easily without any fussing around with parts or screws.
  • Adjustment options: The height should be adjustable so that artists can find their most comfortable standing position when painting outdoors in various settings like hillsides or sitting on beaches—not everyone is built alike!

Find a place to sit (or stand) while you paint

Plein Air Painting at Howth Head

If you’d prefer not to stand then it’s important to find a good place to sit while you paint. If you’re lucky, there will be plenty of benches or chairs available for visitors to use at the site.

First off: look for an elevated surface where there is no risk of sitting in any water or mud (if possible). Make sure it’s comfortable and stable enough not just for yourself, but also anyone else who might come along later.

Use the right canvas size

The size of your canvas is a major factor in how you’ll approach any given painting. A small canvas can limit your options, but it can also keep you from getting carried away with too much detail and colouration.

Keep you kit compact and light

  • Use a small backpack.
  • Use a small fold-up chair.
  • Use a small easel.
  • Use a small paint box, palette, and water container.
  • Use a small brush and/or paint knife to apply the paint and clean up any mistakes you make (as long as they’re not too big).

Protect yourself from the elements

Howth Head can be very windy!

The most important thing you can do to protect yourself from the elements is to wear a hat. Not only will it keep your head and face shaded, but it’ll also keep long hair (if you have any!) out of your eyes. You should also be sure to bring along sunscreen and sunglasses so that you don’t get sunburned or temporarily blinded by the sun as you paint.

Additionally, long sleeves and trousers help to prevent sunburn. Consider wearing trousers instead of shorts to avoid bug bites. Bring comfortable shoes with thick soles because en plein air paintings can take a few hours to complete. Bring along snacks for energy boosts—and water!


The most important thing to remember is that painting en plein air is fun. It’s a great excuse to get out of the studio and explore your surroundings, and it’s also a chance to be creative in new ways. Remember that you don’t have to be perfect, so long as you are enjoying yourself!

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