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Wednesday, May 02, 2018

How to Make a Cheap Plein Air Box for Pastels

'Feel the Wind'         9x9       pastel plein air         ©Karen Margulis
available $145

This month is a great month to start painting outside! Over on my Patreon page we will explore the ins and outs of successful and fun plein air painting. Consider joining us for the month or longer! Check it out www.patreon.com/karenmargulis  It isn't necessary to spend a lot of money on expensive equipment. For years I used my own homemade boxes. Here are the directions form the archives:


When I want to travel light a cigar box makes the perfect box for my pastels. I have shared a few of my cigar pastel boxes on the blog but I have had requests for more specific directions for making the boxes. Let me start by saying this is just a very simple box for pastels. I have friends who have made small pochade boxes for pastels which include a support and a place for paper....truly an all in one solution. I will be sharing directions for these boxes in a future post.

I love making these little boxes. They are so easy and inexpensive that I have several in use. I have a few boxes that store some of my favorite sets. When I am looking for a challenge, I will take out one of these boxes and paint exclusively with the colors in the box. When I am making a box for a plein air trip I will fill it with pastels that I think will suit the landscape I will be painting.

The Making of a Plein Air Pastel Box

Here are the supplies needed to make a box:
  1. Cigar Box. I look for a lightweight wooden box that is not too thick. This box is 12 x 8 x 2.5 which is perfect. If you scour second hand shops you can find cigar boxes and other boxes that can be used. You can also find cigar boxes at your local cigar shop. Many times they will sell you empty boxes or even give them away. I did a search on ebay for empty cigar boxes and found a big selection.
  2. Foam: I use a square of Poly Foam that I get at Hobby Lobby. You can get a 1" x 14" x 14" square for under $5. Any fabric store should carry the foam. 1" is the perfect thickness. You need enough for the bottom and inside the lid of your box.
  3. Glue: Any craft glue will work. I use Elmer's Craft Glue.
  4. Brass Hardware Catch: This is optional but for security I like to replace the flimsy cigar box catch with a more substantial catch. You can get these at any hardware store. I found mine at Big Lots!
All you do is measure the foam to fit snugly in the bottom of the box. Cut with exacto knife or scissors and glue into place. For the lid I cut the foam about 1/8-1/4" smaller than the lid so that the lid will close. Test it before you glue the foam in place. Let glue dry. Replace catch and fill the box with pastels!
If you want to get creative you can decorate your box. I am thinking of putting stickers from my trip on my box. It would be fun to collage or paint the box too!

My finished cigar plein air box that I have filled with Terry Ludwig's Arid Landscape set and a variety of other colors I think I might need for the Southwestern Landscape. These boxes are so easy to make I have several filled with pastels for various landscapes.

6 comments:

Rhonda Marineau Fine Art said...

Great pochade box Karen.....I just made on myself this week for acylic. I used a little wooden box I got at a craft store. Works perfect~!!

theoboy said...

Karen I have no idea and can't find a translation what does Brass hardware catch is or mean?

Karen said...

It is the piece that holds the box closed. I used one made of brass.

ART-TRAVELLER said...

Very wonderful seascape painting !!!

LadyPicker said...

I have a couple of cigar boxes so I plan to make one of these. Do you use the lid to do your painting or is this simply to transport the pastels. I would think it might be a bit unsteady to use to actually paint. Marge

Karen said...

Ladypicker, I don't use the lid. It is just a box to transport the pastels. I usually bring a piece of foamcore and some clips for my support.