My Favorite Art Supplies!click to open each section for links
I prefer to use watercolor in tubes that I squirt in to small pans that can be transferred between palettes. Once you squirt them out, they will dry hard and can be reconstituted with water! I typically use a dual-primary palette, meaning I have a 'warm' and a 'cool' of each of the primary colors )yellow, red and blue. I also keep some earth colors, yellow ochre, raw sienna, and a burnt sienna. I add in a buff titanium and some grey shades. From there, I customize my palette depending on what I'm working on where I am traveling to. Having your colors in pans makes it easy to switch out between palettes!
Click on any image below for a link to resources.
Most of my paints are Daniel Smith Brand, but there are a few colors that are from different manufacturers. Try a few at a time until you find what you like best!
These little plastic cups come in half and whole 'pans' and fit snugly in your palette. I always write the name of the color and manufacturer on the side of the pan for reference. Fill your pans from the tube and arrange in your palette. The paint will harden after a few days and will reconstitute with water.
These metal palette boxes are perfect for filling with pans of watercolor. I have several in different sizes to accommodate from 12 to 36 colors. I can move the colors around and change them out depending on where I am traveling and what colors I need. A little dab of tacky putty on the bottom of each pan holds it in place but can also be removed easily.
French Ultramarine - Warm Blue
Yellow Ochre - earth tone
Raw Sienna - earth tone
Burnt Sienna - earth tone
Payne's Gray - I use this as a 'visual' black
Buff Titanium - great neutral color, mixes well with others
Grey of Grey's - opaque color and great for things like statues and stone
Bronzite Genuine - granular color and has a bit of sparkle, perfect for sand
Venetian Red - great earth tone and perfect for Italian & Spanish tile
Potter's Pink - granulated and excellent for stone and brick
Janet's Violet Rose - favorite pink, blends perfectly in skies
Lavender - mixes with almost everything for beautiful skies and shadows
Sleeping Beauty Turquoise Genuine - luscious skies, seas and mixes beautifully with most everything
Sap Green - I usually mix blues & yellows, but this is a perfect green for quick 'on the go' sketches
Shell Pink - perfect for sunset skies, beaches and light on stone buildings - plays well with others
Permanent Orange - sometimes you just need that perfect orange, already mixed
Quinacridone Gold - transparent and glowing warm yellow
Shadow Violet - bluish, purplish, greyish - love it for shadows and mixing in skies and mountains
I feel like a paintbrush is an extension of your own hand and as such, it is important to find what works for you. I have tried dozens of brushes over the years, but I always come back to these listed below. They are tried and true, express the way I want to say things in my sketchbooks and they are reasonably priced and easy to carry along. Having said that, if you have a cheap brush that is not designed for watercolor, you will not get the results you are expecting. Take your time and figure out what makes your art sing! Click on any brush image below for a link to resources.
My absolute favorite go-to brush is the Loew Cornell Ultra Round brush. I use sizes 6, 8 & 10 the most. They hold plenty of water for washes, yet come to a very fine point at the end for more detailed work. They take a beating, and are reasonably priced.
This is a squirrel mop brush and holds so much water! This brush is essential for wetting down large areas and creating gradient washes.
A dagger brush is handy for doing lots of duties like washes, details and straight lines. I also love to use it for caligraphy style painted lettering.
A flat brush is perfect for washes and defining architectural elements and making straight lines.
A rigger is essential for detail work like power lines and train tracks. I also use it for caligraphy and final details at the end of a painting.
Hake brushes are great for large areas and good, wet coverage, although I have seen artists even do detail work with the Hake - definitely not me!
Every once in a while, you need to erase something in your painting. This little "scrubber" can sometimes help, although a gentle touch is best so as not to destroy the paper. Emergency use only!
Writing & Sketching implements are a very personal choice and I have sampled many over the years. These are my preferred sketching tools. I suggest you sample many until you settled on the ones that "just feel right" to you. You can click on each image for a resource to the item.
GraphGear 1000 Mechanical Pencil - I prefer a .7 lead - this is my go-to pencil
Palomino Blackwing Pencil - perfect for rich, dark lines and value studies
Stabilo Aquarellable - soft deep black lines and is water-soluble. Perfect for quick black and white sketches that you can hit with a water brush to create values and shading
Prismacolor Erasable Colored Pencils - I keep a small assortment with me, usually earth and skin tones for under-sketches
Lyra Rembrandt Aquarell Colored Pencils - soft and luscious color, I carry one or two of these for quick outlines or sketches in monotone colors. Water-soluble so they blend beautifully with watercolors or on their own
Staedtler Pigment Liner Pens - assorted sizes. This is my latest, favorite pen for sketching! I love the different size nibs, writes smooth with a crisp line and the ink is waterproof when it dries
Faber Castell PITT Artist Pen - this is another pen I love for sketching and always keep a few in different sizes in my bag. Softer black lines, waterproof when dry
Lamy Safari Fountain Pen - I have several! They are good quality, affordable and refillable. Comes in several colors and you can select the nib size that's right for you. Ink cartridges are included which are not waterproof so I use a converter to put my preferred ink in my pens (see ink below)
Pilot Namiki Vanishing Point Fountain Pen. This is my splurge pen and my absolute favorite. The nib is 18k gold and trust me, it makes a difference. I love that it is 'clickable' and the nib disappears into the pen behind a trap door. No need for a cap! I use an extra fine nib and to fill it (converter inlcuded) with my preferred waterproof ink (see ink below). The pen is heavily weighted, which I love. Try out a lot of pens before you make a big investment and choose what is just right for you
Dip Pen with Caligraphy Nib - I love a dip pen, especially these holders that allow you to interchange the nibs to suit your desired size and style
Caligraphy Pen Holder & Nib Set - this is an inexpensive set that is great for introducing yourself to using a dip pen and ink
De Atramentis Document Ink - Urban Grey - I love this ink and fill all of my fountain pens with this product. Waterproof when dry and the dark grey blends well on the page and isn't as stark as black
A converter is needed to fill your fountain pens with ink. Most pens come with pre-filled disposable ink cartridges, but they usually are not waterproof ink. I like to buy my own ink in different colors and fill the pens myself. They work with a piston system so you literally are suctioning ink up into the barrel of the converter. Once empty, simply refill again!
Once you fall in love with fountain pens as I have, you may develop the bad and costly habit of collecting them! This is my favorite, and I picked it up at a lovely shop in Florence, Italy. It is made by Stipula and writes like spreading creamy butter. It is encased in gorgeous green shell to match the colors found in the Duomo. You would have to go to Italy to find this exact pen, but that's the fun part, right?
I bounce around all the time with sketchbooks. I wish I could say I had shelves lined with identical books from my 20 years of sketching, but that's not the case. I get bored easily and am always switching sizes, types of paper or I just create my own. Here are my current favorites for travel sketching, but mind you, they are always changing! The only thing I am consistent about is that it has to be a minimum of 90lb watercolor paper! If you want to learn to make your own hand-bound sketchbook journal, you can find the details HERE.
Hand.Book Paper Company Square Journal
Fabriano Watercolor Landscape Sketchbook
Moleskine Art Watercolor Notebook
Arteza Watercolor Spiral Bound Sketchbook
Below are my favorite papers for either creating my own sketchbooks or for use in my studio for paintings that are framed and not bound. I prefer cold-pressed paper (the rougher the better) and I like more of an cream tint than a bright blue-white. For sketchbooks I will use 90-140lb paper and for paintings, I use 300lb paper.
Fabriano Artistico 300lb Cold Press Block, Traditional White
Fabriano Artistico 140lb Cold Press Block, Large Sheets
I travel as light as I can when I am sketching and only carry the bare essentials. Here are some of the items I like to have handy - all compact and very lightweight. And they all fit in a small pouch I can toss in my backpack! It's important not to carry too much, otherwise you are tempted to leave it all behind. Never miss an opportunity to sketch! Click on the images for resources. Years ago, I created a little video about my travel kit and even though it has changed over time, the basic information is still handy. You can watch it HERE
This is a masking fluid pen and comes in a few different sizes. It is the perfect tool for blocking out the white space in watercolor sketches. You can block out even the tiniest spaces with the tip of this marker. Once the paint is dry, simply rub it with a Lifter (below) to remove the masking fluid without tearing your paper.
Just touch this rubbery block to your masking fluid and it lifts instantly
This is the ultimate white pen for art journaling and watercolor sketches! The paint is opaque white and comes in several sizes, perfect for a little touch of white any where you need it!
I always keep a roll of artist's tape with me in my kit. The 1/4" size works best for blocking off grids in my sketchbook. It lifts easily and won't tear your paper. It's also nice to have to adhere things in your books.
I keep several of these bulldog clips in my bag in a few different sizes. They hold my pages down while I sketch outside and won't leave marks on the paper. Also handy for clipping a paintbrush in place or securing your paint palette to an easel.
I carry a pair of 2 1/2 inch scissors in my art kit - that's the size allowed by TSA for airline carry-ons. Super lightweight and very sharp!
This is a permanent glue stick I use for traveling so I don't have any liquids. It holds tight and dries quickly!
This is the ONLY eraser I use on watercolor paper and sketchbooks. It is soft and won't destroy the paper. Squish and 'knead' the eraser to clean it.
I love this graphite stick for creating thumbnail sketches and creating deep shadows in my work. It is also water soluble so creates some cool effects with watercolors!
Always keep a sharpener handy for those pencils!
This tiny mister is the perfect size to fit in my travel kit so I can wet my paint before I sketch.
A 6-inch metal ruler is handy to have for measuring out pages, drawing straight lines and marking off grids in my sketchbook.
A collapsible water container is a must for Wandering Artists. Here is an updated version from the one I have.
I try to carry the smallest metal folding palette that I can when I travel. This one linked holds 12 half pans, however if you removed the metal pieces inside, you can squeezed in an additional 6 pans.
I prefer using white half pans instead of the clear ones so I can write the name of the color and the manufacturer on the sides.
I love to share the cool things I find along the way to make travel easier and art more fun! Below is a collection of useful items: some are "wants" and others are "needs!" You decided for yourself, but everything listed here I do use!
This is my actual gear that I use for travel sketching. The vintage suitcase is a prop, but the canvas and leather backpack and pouches are from Peg & Awl and I love them! Everything, including my sketchbook fit easily into the backpack. They are great quality, fairly lightweight, and so versatile. Sometimes I will just grab the pouch or the Artist's roll, depending on where I am heading for the day. The backpack has two side pockets, one holds my tube with paintbrushes and the other holds my water bottle. Beautiful and practical!
My favorite all-in-one reference tool for travel sketching! A composition finder, value scale, color wheel with explanations: all on a lanyard which doubles as a ruler! The cards are plastic-coated and wallet size.
This palette is great for travel! Although larger than my usual square, metal set, it holds plenty of paint and has a rubber gasket that seals so it is leakproof. It is also made of a plastic so doesn't add weight.
This portable easel has been great for teaching, but also when I am out on my own and have a long period of time to study and paint. Lightweight and sturdy, it packs up into one small nylon case with shoulder strap.
This little Tri-fold Portable stool is fantastic for the urban sketcher! It weighs less than 2 lbs. and collapses flat. Comes with a carrying case and little zipper pouch attaches to the side for supplies. Very sturdy and stable!
Nalgene water bottles are leakproof and lightweight - I use them to carry water to sketching locations and I can just pour out what I need.Brush and water holder hangs nicely from a portable easel. It comes apart and containers can be used individually.
This template is super helpful for penciling in straight lines for writing in my journal.
For use in my studio, I love this battery operated eraser! It will remove the tiniest speck of pencil mark yet is gentle on the paper.
Spreading this Watercolor Ground over nearly any surface makes it 'paintable' with watercolors! Perfect for Journal covers!