What is the Difference Between a French Easel, Guerrilla Painter and a Traditional Paint Box?

Small, Medium or Large, there are a variety of art supply boxes that will cater to any artist. Here are three of the most popular. From left to right: Guerrilla Painter Box 9×12, a traditional paint box and a French Easel.

Three styles of art boxes. Which do you choose? 

Let us first go through the sizes. Small and stout, medium and wide, or large and tall. 

Paint Boxes


All of the boxes are pretty heavy by themselves, so don’t think just because the Guerrilla Paint Box is the smallest that it doesn’t break your shoulder. It weighs five pounds empty. All of the boxes can weigh about fifteen pounds or more filled up. You need to take into consideration the actual weight of the paint. A five-ounce tube can weigh more than a pound by itself, and if you have a full set of them–ouch!

Support Sizes

If you tend to paint small pictures and still want to paint anywhere, then consider the Guerrilla Painter Box. It holds up to five panels in the lid, or variations of canvas, panels and paper. If you paint larger or in a variety of sizes, I definitely recommend the French Easel. The traditional paint box doesn’t really hold canvases, but it can hold some panels and paper once dried. You can rest a picture against the lid while you paint, but you’ll need to transport any wet canvas outside of the box.

The Guerrilla Painter Box Size 9×12 inches

Guerrilla Painter Box 9×12

The stubby Guerrilla Painter Box in the 9×12” version can hold many art supplies, but not as much as the other two. Because it is compact, however, it makes it more portable, at least in theory. You can modify this box to your hearts content to get it to your liking. There are a zillion accessories available from the manufacturer, which does add to the final cost. In fact from the get-go, it is the most expensive box shown. 

The Traditional Paint Box

Traditional artist’s paint box

The Paint Box is a briefcase-sized box, and depending on which manufacturer you buy from either comes with metal lining with inserts, or wooden inserts. It varies on cost and quality. All of them come with a wooden palette. It is the most affordable paint box shown, and costs less than twenty dollars at Hobby Lobby with a coupon. Other higher quality ones will cost about forty-five dollars.

The French Easel

Well loved and used French Easel and shelf help, with an 18×24” painting by Anawanitia

Now for the largest all-in-one, no additional costs, ready to go everything, the French Easel. All French Easels come with legs and a wooden palette. You can store two wet canvases up to 25 to 30 inches depending on the manufacturer of the box easel. Some even have wheels and a handle so you can roll it to where you want to go. They are notoriously long lasting and durable. There are accessories you can buy if you really need it.

The Sins

The Guerrilla Painter

Guerrilla Painter Box and all of the screws on the lid.

Expensive and Ugly. It starts at about one hundred and fifty dollars bare bones basic so you need accessories to customize it to work for you, and each accessory is hard pressed to find under twenty dollars! It is durable, but you’ll need to carry wood glue and a screwdriver to fix chips and tighten screws. It is ugly, with all of the screws holding the lid, it looks like parts of an Erector Set. But, given that this is a workhorse, it wasn’t meant to be part of the living room like that of the French Easel. 

The Paint Box

Traditional paint box with clips holding a painting in progress.

It holds everything but your painting. It doesn’t have legs, so you will need to find a spot with a table, or modify it, or bring your own table.

The French Easel

French Easel Mechanic

Hire me if you need an easel mechanic and in my area. While this is one of the most durable and versatile easels, sometimes you’ll get a chip, a splinter or even breakage. You’ll need to carry wood glue and a Swiss Army Knife for tightening in loose screws and shaving off the splinters, and tweezers to remove the splinters from your hand!

In Conclusion

Guerrilla Painter with an iPad Pro, sketchbook and oil paint.

The Guerrilla Painter Box is perfect for those artists who want to paint, but be incognito in public. It is great for smaller works, but it does have capabilities with accessories to hold larger canvases. It is expensive and more so with the accessories. 

Mighty Max King Kong closed, similar to the Guerrilla Paint box closed. Ugly, hahaha.

Now a personal story. For the the past near decade with this box I was considering selling it because by itself it was a boring tiny useless paint box that was very expensive. What changed my mind was when I purchased the brush tray and palette extention kit. Those two items made it feel as though it was one of those magical 1980s toys like that of the old school Hello Kitty boxes or the 90s Mighty Max toys where you open them and there were tiny worlds to play with. It was the game changer. You know, the awesome toys with the choking hazard warnings that paranoid moms would never let you play with until you were a teen? It really made the Guerrilla Paint box much more fun to play with.

Mighty Max King Kong world open. Playing with the Guerrilla Painter Box with the accessories feels similar to this!
My childhood, I love Hello Kitty. Very early 80s, perhaps late 70s toy. I miss it! Hahaha

The Traditional Paint Box is great for the at home artist, and those who have a traditional easel. A paint box is also great just to have around for excess bits and pieces that you don’t want to carry around often in your French Easel or Guerrilla Box.

Paint box as accessory holder, a junk drawer.
Selling tiny treasures of art in Portland. French Easel turned backwards, an Art Comber, plein air umbrella. No rain checks here! I was working on a picture in the other side of the easel. Very versatile set up, hahah!

Nothing says “I’m an artist” to art enthusiasts as a French Easel. While French Easels are no longer manufactured in France, this easel still conjures up dreams of the Montmartre in Paris where artists such as Renoir, Monet, Picasso, van Gogh, Pissarro and many others came to paint and show their off their skills. A French Easel is lovely to look at, it is durable, and can be taken everywhere. It can hold many supplies, including two canvases or panels. It is affordable. You can find one for less than one hundred dollars. And better yet, you do not need to purchase any additional accessories to use this easel!