I was creating my new studio and wanted a new easel. The stand-a-lone units I have used are too wobbly and can't take large canvases, so I designed the following one. Very strong, cheap to make, and very flexible.
It is a 4 x 4 ft, 5/8 dense particle board, mounted so that it can be set up at any angle between fully vertical to almost horizontal. Cost is less than $50 and takes less than a day to make.
It is mounted fairly high so that I can stand and paint. It could be mounted lower for those who like to sit.
It can handle any size canvas up to 4 x 6 feet and maybe even larger.
For the bar that holds the canvas I decided to just hold it on with clamps. This is strong enough and can be adjusted to any height. The bar could also be cut so that it supports different types of panels and canvas. For example, a small groove for panels, and a wider section for deep canvas.
I'll draw some horizontal lines once I paint it so that it is easier to set the bar level.
I usually work on an angle and a top brace for the canvas is not needed. I tend to paint the sides of canvas so it gets in the way. If you want a top brace, just add another horizontal bar with clamps.
The result is a very stable easel - one of my main requirements. It also folds out of the way if I want more space in the room.
Easel in full vertical position
One of the working angles. So far I have only two positions, but I can add as many as I want. Will do that as I start to use it more.
So far simple screws hold up the working surface. In future I will probably replace them with wood blocks, mostly for esthetic reasons, but for now this works well.
These brackets need to allow the arms to swivel, and I have used some old brackets from a garage door opener. You could use simple "L" brackets that are about 2" wide.
This view shows how it is mounted to the wall. A simple 2x4 mounted to the wall with 4 screws. Screwed right into studs provides a very strong support.