The x-y Easel

Posted: March 29, 2012 in Overview: The x-y Easel


What is it?  It’s an x-y easel – an easel that moves up and down, and side-to-side by remote, wireless control (either hand-held or from the computer).  For artists, it’s the ultimate in ease and convenience.

For photographers it allows predictable, repeatable stepping of the painting, moving the work, not the camera.  The x-y Easel holds the painting safely and securely, and by moving the artwork on a horizontal and vertical axis, requires you to only light the shooting frame of the camera.  This gives you the ability to light more precisely, more evenly, and control the quality and resolution of the capture as never before.

To learn more about the advantages of the X-Y Easel, take a look at the video below.

We build the x-y Easel by hand, in two models: the x-y Basic, which you move up and down, and side-to-side manually.

The x-y Power is motor-controlled, allowing remote positioning while viewing through the camera or with the computer through tethering software.

The x-y Easel is a classic H-frame artist’s easel design.  It holds paintings up to 60 lbs safely and securely, with or without a frame.

  • Painting mounts securely to support bracket using classic artist’s easel top/bottom support.
  • Motor drive will raise and lower paintings up to 60lbs. effortlessly.
  • Precise screw-feed raises and lowers precisely and safely – manual on Basic version, motorized on Power version.
  • Maximum painting dimensions without repositioning: Studio/shooting space-limited width x 80″h on Basic.
  • Compact, portable design allows use in-studio or on-site (Basic).
  • Total weight of Basic: 50lbs.  Power: 100lbs.
  • Suggested capture frame dimensions: 24″w x 16″h (optimum, dependent on resolution requirements).


Models and styles available

We build every x-y Easel to your custom specifications, with several options available.

The x-y Basic:

  • The same sturdy construction as the x-y Power
  • Front mounted hand crank for raising and lowering the art
  • Manual horizontal movement on virtually unlimited sectional track
  • Natural wood or ebony finish (add $150 for ebony)
  • A perfect solution for x-y capture on a budget

The x-y Power:

  • Sturdy hand-rubbed oil finish, Baltic Birch plywood construction
  • Remote control wireless operation
  • Horizontal movement on virtually unlimited sectional track

The x-y Power can be controlled with a simple, (Windows only, at this time) software package and USB wireless controller.

For more information, see the x-y Basic here, and the x-y Power here.


I have done some comparisons with the Betterlight and the Pentax K1 +(x-y Easel) with the same art. While I still need to work through choice of lighting, lighting technique and raw conversion settings, I’m pretty certain that I can get a nicer and better refined image with the Pentax K1 +(x-y Easel) option… I know, you’re not surprised 😉

Certainly, larger paintings (40″x60″+) will be better with the Pentax K1 +(x-y Easel) approach…lens and lighting are troublesome at this scale… Yes. I could use a combination of the Betterlight +(x-y Easel)…at this time I’m just not interested. I’m more interested in exploring the newer sensor technology with the expanded color space, dynamic range etc…

Even now, this capture combination (Pentax K1 +(x-y Easel)) has reduced my proofing time. I can’t point my finger to just “one” thing that is making printing easier. Really it’s the combination of newer camera sensor, technique (Pentax K1 +(x-y Easel), change of lenses, and lighting technique that when pulled together is making printing easier and better looking.

I’m very happy with how the (x-y Easel) is working out for me. I’m especially thankful for the help with getting started and the follow up help you have provided. Thank you!

Kind regards,

Mark Niznik, BAMBAM GRAFix


The x-y Basic

Posted: March 28, 2012 in The x-y Basic


This is the x-y Basic easel configuration, with manual vertical and horizontal movements.  Using a classic H-frame artist’s easel design as a starting point, the x-y Basic has unlimited horizontal movement, can accommodate up to a 80″ vertical dimension, and an industrial feed screw controlling vertical movement safely and precisely, both up and down.

The work is held securely, with or without a frame, and can handle up to a 120 lb painting with ease.

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The x-y Basic measures 30 x 30″ at the base, weighs 50lbs, and folds to 30 x 80 x 12″.

The x-y Basic sells for $600 (plus shipping).

The x-y Power

Posted: March 27, 2012 in The x-y Power

The ALL-NEW version of the x-y Power is now available!

The x-y Power is controlled from a handheld remote or from the computer, and allows accurate and repeatable positioning of the art from behind the camera or at the workstation.  Featuring a robust ball-screw drive system with full linear bearings for vertical rise, and a tracked drive for horizontal movement, it can handle artwork up to 60″ high, with the width only limited by the expandable track. The drive is powered by a cordless, rechargeable power supply.

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The x-y Power with the cordless hand-held interface is $2200 (plus shipping).

Add $200 for the x-y Easel Control, a simple, easy to operate, user-configurable wireless computer control (Windows only).

Contact us here for information on configuration and availability.  (Normal delivery time is 4-6  weeks.)

x-y Accessories

Posted: March 26, 2012 in x-y Accessories


The x-y Dolly


The x-y Dolly allows you to convert your favorite easel to horizontal-capable movement in a precise, repeatable way.  It can handle any standard H-frame artist’s easel up to 25″ deep and 26″ wide, and up to 150 lbs.  The Dolly can be adapted for smaller-based easels with a simple panel mounted to the inside frame.

The x-y Easel Dolly is available in a non-motorized or motorized configuration.  (The motor drive is a 12VDC brushed motor, no power or control hardware is included.)

  • x-y Dolly Standard – $85
  • x-y Dolly Powered – $150
  • Adapter panel (3/8 birch plywood, with varnish finish) – $50

Direct-drive 12VDC motor detail from x-y Dolly Powered

x-y Track


The x-y Track system ensures accurate, repeatable tracking of your easel whether your floor surface is uneven, rough or even carpeted.  Additional tracks are available in 4′ and 10′ sections, and is joinable to yield a virtually unlimited horizontal movement.

  • x-y Track (4′ section) $25
  • x-y Track (10′ section) $60

Dynamic Scale

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The workflow we’ve come to use with the Basic model is to position the easel such that the first row of captures is along the top of the painting. thus placing the easel at it’s lowest position of the session.  This insures that the camera will not need to be moved, if perchance the initial positioning of it was too low.

As a result, because paintings are different heights, using a fixed scale to indicate the vertical stepping is confusing, and requires constant calculations to get the step distance right.  The Dynamic Scale solves that problem by allowing repositioning.  You set up the painting, confirm the view through the camera, and then simply slide the scale up or down to zero out your starting point.

Newer models of the x-y Easel are equipped with the Dynamic Scale as a standard feature.  Upgrade kits are available for $30.

X-Rite Colorchecker Passport


One of the secrets to getting near-perfect color results is the X-Rite Colorchecker Passport.  It’s really, really easy to use, and it profiles your camera and lights at the RAW processing level.  Find that here, on Amazon.

The zig-align System


Getting the camera perfectly square to the painting helps immensely when processing the stitching through Photoshop.  For this we recommend zig-align.

Simply, you hang a small mirror flush with the painting.  (We add a soft backing, to protect even the most delicate work.)  Now, imagine, if you simply point the camera at the mirror and look through the viewfinder, you know you’re centered on the work when you see your lens looking back at you in the mirror, right?  But how do you know your camera is square to the painting?  That’s where the zig-align magic comes in.


By placing a mirror over the lens, with a small aperture to look through in the center, you see the reflection of the mirror in the mirror.  It ends up looking like a series of concentric circles, shown above.  Simply aim the camera such that the circles are even, and you’ve done it – your camera is perfectly parallel to the painting.

The zig-align system is adaptable to virtually any camera/lens combination, and we use the ZC8-H/V with a 52mm adapter for our Nikkor 105mm “Micro-Nikkor” lens.

Order your zig-align here, and be sure to tell them it’s for the x-y Easel system:


PO Box 750064, Arlington Heights, MA 02475
(781) 521 6973,

Magnetic Whiteboard



This was an addition that we needed for a particular assignment, and turned out to be something we use almost daily.  Using this magnetic board and magnets allows you to position the most delicate works safely and securely.  Simply place the board on the easel, and position the art on the board.
Viz-pro Magnetic Dry Erase Board, 36 X 24 Inches (on Amazon)

Viz-pro Magnetic Dry Erase Board, 48 X 36 Inches (on Amazon)


Super-strong Neodymium magnets – 10mm (diam) x 5mm (thick) on Amazon

(These particular magnets are the best.  They’re thick enough so you can get a grip on them to pull them off, but not so thick that they cast a large shadow on the work.)

TTi Vacuum Easel


Not all the work we do with the x-y Easel is on paintings.  We’ve had many jobs that involve photographing delicate fabrics, paper materials, subjects that need to be held flat without a glass platen.  (One of the more interesting jobs involved magazine fashion illustrations from a private collection – from the original 1920s spreads!) 

We use the 30 x0 40 TTi Vacuum Easel system, and have had the design specially modified for use on the x-y Easel.  We suggest it with the corner magnets, to help with positioning the work. We also use the Neodymium magnets shown above.

See the whole system here: TTVacuum Easels

TTi is a name familiar in pro-photo circles for 20 years or so, and every easel is custom-built to the user specifications (which is why we went to them).  Besides that, they’re just the best available – the highest suction, quietest, most reliable system.

The basic 30 x 40 TTi system prices at $3595 with the pump and the footswitch.  For ordering information, contact TTi directly, but be sure to specify you need the easel for the x-y Easel system it ensure it will fit securely and work perfectly for you:

Tarsia Technical Industries, Inc., 93 Marcus Boulevard, Hauppauge, NY 11788




Posted: April 16, 2010 in Contact

Contact the x-y Easel via email here.

We are a small, independent shop based in the Boston, Massachusetts area.  Every easel is hand-built to your specifications.