[Note: As you put together your supplies and equipment to paint outdoors, think lightweight and portable, find creative ways to simplify everything you carry with you on a painting trip.]

These are my recommendations for drawing on site. I emphasize a very lean streamlined set-up, where all materials fit in a travel bag. This enables both ease of transport and set- up, and adaptability. These are my suggestions, by no means do you have buy them all, you can simply draw with any medium you choose.

Mechanical Graphite Pencils

I prefer 0.5mm sized lead for smaller than (9 x 12 in.) and 0.9 for larger (9 x 12 in. and up) drawings. I like HB lead. I find softer smudges, and harder digs into the paper. I love the fact that I don’t have to sharpen them!
  • Pentel Mechanical Pencil-0.5mm | purchase
  • Pentel Mechanical Pencil-0.9mm | purchase
There are water-soluble graphite pencils that I also use.
  • Derwent Water Soluble Sketching Pencils | purchase


The Prismacolor Kneaded Rubber Eraser is my choice it doesn’t have the stickiness the other brands have. The Kneaded Rubber Eraser is my “go too” eraser you can squish into points for small erasures, or blot and roll for overall lightening and it doesn’t leave shavings. I also use a retractable polymer eraser tougher marks.

Ballpoint Pens

I’ve been using a ballpoint pen for sketching since I was a teenager. I love the fact that it can simulate the variety of a tonal mark like dry media. Of course, it is a great travel companion because it doesn’t smudge. The Parker pen was always the pen of choice. Today I find the Caran d’Ache is the best on the market. Make sure you have the black fine refill point.

Fountain Pens

I like fountain pens for their rapid smooth drawings, and the line variation you can get with a flexible nib, plus the ability to refill it yourself. They cost more than a disposable pen up front, but you regain the cost in re-usability. To clean a fountain pen, just unscrew all the parts run it all under tap water. Here are some suggestions:
  • Lamy Safari Fountain Pen-Fine | purchase
  • Pilot Prera Fine-Nib | purchase
  • Platinum Carbon Desk Fountain Pen-Super Fine | purchase
  • Noodler’s Ahab Flex Nib-Fine | purchase

Bottled Ink

There are so many choices. Here are some suggestions:

I dilute the ink water to make to make at least four values and put them in small bottles.

  • Clear Plastic Refillable bottles-2 oz-Set of 8 | purchase

I also bring two small tubes of watercolor whites. Titanium white for opaque layers and Chinese white for semitransparent layers.

Here are some light weight mixing trays:


You don’t need a lot of brushes for sketching in small or mid-sized books, I carry two to four brushes. Some companies make travel brushes with caps to protect the brush head and lengthen the handles. Here are some suggestions:
  • Raphaël Le Voyageur Travel Brush Wallet Set | purchase
  • R0 Pocket Pure Sable Pointed Size 4 | purchase
  • R1 Pocket Pure Sable Pointed Size 6 | purchase
  • R10 Pocket Pure Sable Pointed Size 8 | purchase
  • Escoda Versatil Synthetic Kolinsky Round Set | purchase
A ¾ in. to a 1 in. brush is effective if you want to lay wide washes:
  • Princeton Velvetouch #3950 Synthetic Wash-Size 1 in. | purchase

Brush Pens

A brush pen has a synthetic fiber brush on a fountain pen body. I find them better than the rubber tipped disposable brush markers. You can get better line variety, and have finer control of small tip work. Here are some suggestions:

Sketchbooks & Papers

Picking the right sketchbook can be dizzying with so many options, not to mention different sketchbooks excel at different things. Here are some things to look for. The common denominator for any sketch book is that it must have a hardcover. A softcover does not give you the stability required without a board underneath. The next thing to consider is the size, I suggest a middle road not smaller than 5 x 8 in. and no larger than 9 x12”. For larger paper sizes I suggest getting buying individual sheets and cutting them to several different sizes and shapes and placing in folders that can act as a board to support the paper you choose to draw on. I use two Coroplast plastic boards cut larger than your largest format taped together on one side so it acts as a folder. Coroplast is ideal because it is light and reasonably rigid and is water resisting. I like having a variety of different papers to experiment for the different conditions. The other things to consider in selecting a sketchbook is the orientation (portrait or landscape) I tend to prefer the latter when I am outside. Then you have a choice of spiral bound or journal. I would avoid a glue bound sketchbook because the paper could separate from the binding which will cause havoc on the go. Of course, people who plan to use multiple applied washes can buy Arches blocs 7 x 10 in., 11 x 14 in., or 9 x 12 in. The weight of the paper should be too thinner than 90pd. if you plan to do a wash or two. If you think you want to use more washes look for at least 120pd. Paper. Watercolor paper comes in cold pressed (rough) or hot pressed (smooth) surfaces, I like working on both surfaces to achieve the different results. The last thing to consider is the tone of the paper white or toned and again I like working on both. The toned paper should be a middetone not too dark, a light gray or blue, rose or tan. Buying several different sketchpads or having different papers in a folder allows one to experiment with all these varieties.
Here are some suggestions for sketchbooks:
  • Speedball Travelogue Artist Journal 5-1/4 x 8-1/4 in., 140lb | purchase
  • ETCHR Mixed Media Sketchbook | purchase
  • Travelogue Drawing Landscape 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 | purchase
  • Paul Rubens Watercolor Paper, Watercolor Journal | purchase
Here are some suggestions for papers:
  • Canson Colorline Art Papers 300 gsm (184lb) | purchase
  • Arches Watercolor paper HP & CP 140lb | purchase
  • Fabriano Artistico Watercolor paper HP & CP 140lb | purchase

Travel Watercolor Kits

For those who want sketch in color I suggest buying a watercolor travel kit. These will come in a tin (or plastic) box with around 12 watercolor half pans colors. Here are some suggestions:
  • Winsor & Newton Professional Watercolor Field Box, 12 Half Pans| purchase
  • Schmincke Horadem Aquarell Half-Pan Set of 8 Colors| purchase
  • Rembrandt Watercolor Metal Set of 12 Half Pans | purchase

Tote Bag/Messenger Bag/ Backpack

A bag that will comfortably fit all your gear. Here are some suggestions:
  • Canvas Tote Bags| purchase
  • Creatvo Messenger Style Art Bag| purchase
  • Martin Universal Design Messenger Bag | purchase
  • TIMBUK2 Especial Stash Weatherproof Messenger Bag | purchase

Necessary Accessories

  • Coroplast white plastic boards, cut size for backing board and/or a portfolio folder approx. 14 x 18 in. or smaller | purchase
  • 8 large binder clips | purchase
  • Small misting bottle | purchase
  • White artist tape | purchase
  • Knitting Needle or Straight Skewers | purchase
  • Faber-Castell Clic & Go Artist Water Cup | purchase

Optional Accessories

  • Traveler Series Watercolor Package | purchase
  • Jack Richerson Italian Field Easel | purchase
  • MEEDEN Artist Watercolor Field Easel | purchase
  • GCI Outdoor Quik E-Seat Chair | purchase
  • Travel Chair Ultimate Slacker 2.0 | purchase
  • Best Brella | purchase
  • Artwork Essentials Umbrella | purchase