10 Steps for Easy Indoor Easel Painting

Some of us are totally comfortable setting up the easel and letting our kids have a go, but I know others who want to hide under a freshly laundered sheet at the thought of setting up what’s essentially a painting extravaganza. And you may be surprised to learn that I can easily fall into both camps!

I don’t leave our easel out all the time because our house is small, it quickly blends with the scenery if my children see it all the time, and lately I get a little stressed when my kids request paint. This is mostly because my one year old is learning her boundaries, and I don’t trust that the furniture and walls are yet beyond her consideration as potential canvases. However, once the painting station is up, I breathe easy knowing that the painting area is as organized as it can be, which will help keep my youngest focused on the task at hand. And it’s worth the effort! Through easel painting, children learn how to hold a brush, they learn to have control over their marks, and they can experiment with color mixing, paint thickness, and variations in pressure (to name a few). The way art teacher Nancy Beal explains the experience of paint mixing emphasizes the importance of learning through doing.

“The paint is in charge. The paint is teaching them. You can’t teach someone to dive into a pool by saying, ‘Walk to the end of the board and jump in.’ He has to get on the diving board himself. He has to do his belly flop into the water and keep doing it until his body teaches him. It’s the same with mixing colors. You have to do it until you know that you can’t get orange by using equal amounts of yellow and red; you have to use more yellow.”

-Nancy Beal, The Art of Teaching Art to Children in School and at Home (pp. 83-84)

Can you imagine only learning colors through a color wheel or crayons? The nuance of color that can be achieved through paint is so varied!

Like following a recipe and making something that actually tastes good, the trick to successful easel time lies in planning ahead and having all of the ingredients ready.


  • Drop Cloth
  • Easel
  • Paint Cups
  • Fat, round brushes
  • Tempera Paint
  • Large sheets of paper + Bulldog clips (if your easel doesn’t have clips) or a Roll of Paper
  • Apron
  • Music


  1. Set up the drop cloth and easel in an open space, away from furniture and walls. Move furniture if needed.
  2. Clear an area or make room outdoors for completed work
  3. If using sheets of paper, clip as many as you can to the easel so that you can easily peel completed work off and your little artist can keep right on painting without too much fuss. Remember, they will be holding at least one paint-loaded brush!
  4. Fill paint containers with a small amount of paint (about 1/3 cup). You can always add more. I like to limit the number of paints with small children. In this case (above), I gave my 16 month old two colors: one for each hand. It was perfect. She likes to paint with more colors, too, but fewer choices makes clean-up easier too!
  5. Place the bottles of paint on a high shelf near the painting area so that you can reload as necessary.
  6. Cover your child in an apron, smock, or old clothes.
  7. Play some music to inspire your little mover/s with rhythm.
  8. Go!
  9. Step back and enjoy the process. Snap some photos. Drink a cup of tea. Email your best friend. Do some online shopping. Okay, dreaming just a little bit here, but it will be fairly stress-free.
  10. When your child is done, pick up the paint buckets + brushes and place them in the sink, wash hands, wash brushes + buckets, wipe down the easel, wrap up the cloth, and put it all away for another day.

What camp are you in? Do you love easel painting or does the thought of it stress you out? What’s in your recipe for easy indoor easel painting?



  1. says

    Great post! Beautiful pics of your kids painting. i have tons of pics of my daughter painting.   The easel has been in the basement for a while and hasn’t been used in a long time…..time to bring it up! It seems when kids are older easels are not used as much,  but yet Painters use them all the time….hmmm? What do you think? 

    • says

      My daughter will tell me if she wants to paint at the table or the easel. For ages now, she’s chosen table, and I think it’s because the variety of paints is greater at the table. The easel is always tempera, always the same size paintbrushes–I’m guessing if we figured out a way to change it up at the easel as much as we can at the table, she might be more interested again. And my older kids, I think, see the easel as mostly a little kid tool, because it’s set to her height–and also because there’s no variety there.

  2. says

    Well, I’ve evolved. When my older kids were younger, we didn’t have a good place for the easel, so it wasn’t out much, and that frustrated me. I ended up setting up a painting space in a corner of a room, with a drop cloth on the floor and a big sheet of cork (the kind you can buy in rolls at an office supply store) nailed to the wall. We could tack a big piece of painting paper to the walls, and the paints were on a table right there. My middle child explored tints and shades there, learning for himself what happens when one color is mixed with white and black. So–that’s to say, if you don’t have room for a big easel, be flexible and work with what you have.

    Now, the easel is available all the time. My youngest used it much, much more when she was more toddlerish, and I loved that it was always set up, because often she’d paint only for 10-15 minutes, and the set-up and clean-up were minimal (and she helped as well).

    • Rachelle says

      Thanks for sharing your perspective, Amy. I think I’m in a similar place to where you were. We used to have the easel out all the time, but it just didn’t seem to have a real home and my older daughter had no interest in it. Easy decision to pack it away. I also think that some children naturally gravitate to easels more, making it more appealing to keep them up all the time. My youngest is definitely that child, and my challenge is to find her some room or hope for good weather!

  3. says

    This is a great post – tomorrow I’ve written about a painting just for painting sake and in it I talk about needing an easel. I’m off to link up to this post. I love Easel painting but agree that it needs a recipe to get it to work effectively.

    Unlike in my teaching rooms where I have had space to have easel’s and chalk boards available constantly at home this isn’t so, space is limited and like everything at the moment it’s a case of take out and put away so the recipe really works for those circumstances.

    I’m looking forward to the summer though where in the garden I will be able to have the easel out and in constant use there it doesn’t matter if the grass gets painted as long as we’re using washable paints.

    • Rachelle says

      For more than one reason, I look forward to summer too 🙂 Thanks for sharing this with your readers. Look forward to reading your post.

  4. Cathy @ NurtureStore says

    At home we have our easel out all the time – it fits just right beside the fridge in the kitchen – but we always use it with pens, pencils and crayons. I some times draw something on there myself to give the kids an invitation to notice it again: maybe just some circles with a face in just one of them. At our creche where the kids are 1 1/2 – 3 years old we have the paint easel out all the time and despite their young age we never have spills on the floor. I think a shelf with deep edges to hold in the paint pots really helps.

    • Rachelle says

      I’m glad you chimed in, Cathy. If we had room in our kitchen, the easel would most definitely live there. Proximity to the sink and easy-wash floors make this the ideal spot. 

  5. Anonymous says

    Cheap Linoleum floor in the kitchen + steam mop and painting is stress free at our house. Easy access to the sink and lots of counter space for artwork to dry.