For many, easels are an essential part of the painting process. Artists have used them for millennia: One of the first recorded uses of an easel dates back 2,000 years to the Romans; medieval monks used them to display precious illuminated manuscripts. Easels gained popularity during the Renaissance as artists created fewer paintings directly on walls and more on canvases. Today easels usually are made of wood, aluminum, or plastic. They are adjustable to fit a variety of canvas sizes; many also can be raised or lowered so artists may sit or stand comfortably while painting.