How To Use A Pochade Box, And Where To Get One

What is a pochade box?

Unless you paint, you’ve probably never heard of one, but the term ‘Pochade’ is derived from the nineteenth century French verb Pocher, meaning to sketch. A pochade box is essentially a small box, usually made of wood, that has 3 unique properties.

1. It has a hinged lid that acts as an easel and holds your canvas or board or other support, for painting on.

2. It has a palette contained within it for laying out your paints.

3. It has storage space within for all of your brushes, paints, thinners, e.t.c.

How A Pochade Box Works

There are many sizes of pochade box available, from tiny pocket-size ones, to ones much larger than my own, but they all work in basically the same way. The one below, I have had for many years, and it can take up to three 14 x 10 inch painting boards, which slide into slots in the lid section. It’s an excellent pochade box, and was hand made by Rowley Abbey of Abbey Easels.

Update 2019: Sadly due to ill health Rowley Abbey has stop making these beautiful pochade boxes. See the bottom of this post for alternative places to buy a pochade box.

See me using my pochade box painting outdoors here.

pochade box

My pochade box, empty.

The palette slides in and out, in a slot build into the main body, and is designed with enough gap that when the lid is closed the paint on the palette doesn’t touch the paintings slotted into the lid.

open pochade box

3 grooves in the lid to hold painting boards.

The hinged top opens to reveal three slots that your painting boards slide into. As you paint on each board, you can rotate the order, moving the back board to the front, front board to the middle e.t.c, ..and there is enough separation between each of the boards to ensure that they don’t touch and damage your wet paintings.

pochade box easel bracket fitting

Pochade box with camera tripod adaptor bracket fitted.

If you want to attach your pochade box to an easel or  tripod, you’ll need one of these brackets. I bought this camera tripod adaptor bracket from Ken Bromley art supplies, and fitted it to the underside of my pochade box myself. It’s just 4 screws and a bit of glue, dead easy ( see this bracket in use in the video toward the bottom of this post ).

pochade box tripod bracket

Pochade box 1/4 inch threaded camera tripod adaptor bracket.

Here’s the bracket on it’s own, with the tripod fast-fix taken out. In the image above this one you can see the black plastic piece, which is actually a part of my camera tripod, and it’s the piece that has the 1/4 inch threaded screw attached. 1/4 inch is the standard size for tripod adaptors worldwide ( as far as I am aware ) so the bracket should fit any tripod.

painting in garden

Painting in my garden.

Here’s the whole set up in use, taken when I was doing a little painting in my garden last summer. If I have a nice surface like this table to paint on I tend not to put my brushes e.t.c away in my pochade box, as you can see. I didn’t need to use my camera tripod here either of course.

pochade box painting plein air

Painting with my pochade box in the West Wales.

I paint all over the UK using my pochade box, sometimes from the comfort of my car, painting with my pochade box on my lap, as in the above image. Sometimes using my comfy painting chair as you can see here.

In this video I’m painting high up in Pembrokeshire’s Preseli mountains, here in west Wales, and I attached my pochade box to my tripod using the bracket system described above. As you’ll see in the video, it was a bit windy up there, in fact, it was blowing a complete gale, so my whole setup was blowing about a bit ..but it was still great fun.

In this video I’m painting from the comfort of my car, just sitting in the passenger seat to make room for my pochade box to sit on my lap. You’ll notice I have a pot of thinners ( white spirit ) sitting in my pochade box in this video, it sits snugly in one side, then I slide the palette across to secure it.

Watch more painting videos here.

The Advantages

For smaller outdoor work or painting plein air a pochade box is much more flexible than using a outdoor painting easel. The number one advantage is that there is very little equipment involved: a few brushes, 4 or 5 tubes of paint, some thinners, a couple of MDF boards… and you’re good to go. With this small set-up, if you’re going on holiday or a road-trip, you can just throw your fully stocked pochade box in the back of your car, and should the mood take you quickly grab it and make a painting.

Where To Get Your Own Pochade Box

There are lots of places online to get a good pochade box, but below are a few links to UK suppliers I know and trust to get you started:

Amazon pochade boxes

Jackson’s Art pochade boxes

Ken Bromley Art Supplies Pochade Boxes

Art Discount Pochade Boxes

If you’re in the U.S try these:

Dick Blick Pochade Boxes

Judson’s Art Outfitter Pochade Boxes

Amazon U.S Pochade Boxes

Happy outdoor painting.

Chris

13 thoughts on “How To Use A Pochade Box, And Where To Get One”

  1. Hi Chris,

    I’ve been after a pochade box like yours for some time but have been unable to locate one. I’ve visited GOOD art shops, ‘Googled’ it and not found anything.

    Hopefully you can give some suggestions.

    1. I like the one for pastels (or watercolour pencils or what-have-you) I’ve just bought on Amazon.com. Designed in California and made in Taiwan. Has an adjustable easel, and foam protection for pastels, etc. (I love all the water-soluble media and rarely draw/paint with only one.) Very reasonable in my opinion at roughly $139 USD.

  2. Hi Chris,
    This is a really helpful post thank you! I am currently deciding between buying the Mabef 105 pochade box and one like yours from Abbey Easels and really like that the Abbey Easels pochade box is so lightweight. I am hoping you can help with a couple of questions. Please could you advise on how sturdy the chain is – is the pochade lid affected by strong wind or easily knocked? And how easy it is to adjust the angle? Also, does slotting the panel into the grooves mean some of the painting space is lost, if so how much?
    Thanks.

    1. Hi Ella, I have never used a Mabef 105 pochade box, but the Abbey Easels ones are super.
      1) The chain is very sturdy, unbreakable in normal use I’d say. The lid is also very stable, however in high wind it would be possible for it to blow shut, should the wind be in the right ( wrong ) direction. This could be remedied by propping a spare paint brush against it I dare say.
      2) The angle of the lid can be adjusted by shortening the chain, by placing a different link over the retaining hook/eye, although this may have to be worked out at home first ( When you order from Abbey you can state which side you’d like the chain fitted, I’m left-handed and so hand my chain fitted on the right ).
      3) The lid hold 3 panels, very little room is lost when the panels are inserted as you can put the panel you are working on, in the front slots, moving the other panels to the rear.
      Hope that helps.
      Chris

  3. Hi Chris,
    Just invested in a pochade box like yours from Abbey Easels. It’s great, but a quick question. Do you paint on other size boards with it other than the 14″ x 10″ than it takes. Not sure how the wedges come into it.
    Regards Steve Paterson.

    1. Hi Steven, the wedges can be placed under the boards, in the bottom slot, to raise the boards up. So you can have the board poking out the top of the lid, so to speak. This method allows you to use less tall/panoramic shape boards, but… the width still has to fit the lid to be held securely in the side slots. A way to paint smaller is to tape a smaller size piece of canvas/canvas paper onto your 14×10 inch painting board, as if using watercolour paper. For that matter you could even use a dog-clip or some such to fasten a smaller board to the 14×10 inch board, and paint on that. Hope that helps, enjoy your pochade box! ~ Chris

  4. How do you paint the side edges – the bit that goes into the grooves ? Else, I imagine you would have two white strips on either side of your canvas

    1. Hi Geraldine, there’s a couple of things to consider: One, you need to fix the mounting on a strong part of the pochade box. Two, the box need to be balanced on your tripod. You’ll probably end up fixing the mount off-centre toward the back of the box, as the back is usually where most of the weight is. If the bottom of the pochade box is a bit flimsy, you may need to put a piece of plywood on the inside of the box to mount through too, to strengthen that area ~ Chris.

  5. Hi Chris,
    Can you advise on a Pochade box for pastels. Not done any plain air painting as yet as never know what to take and how . If I could arrange everything in a workable way I might be tempted to try outdoor painting.

    1. Hi Rita, I’m not familiar with any particular pastel pochade boxes, so can’t recommend one I’m afraid. A quick search on google has lots of options though, try Youtube also, there are some helpful videos on the subject there ~ Chris

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