My Sketchbag and Plein Air Supplies

What to Pack and How To Carry It All

If you are new to watercolor plein air sketching, you may wonder what supplies to purchase and how to carry them conveniently.  There are so many options available and everyone has their preferences but I thought I would share what works for me.  

I don’t get any compensation from these companies, but want to share the links for your convenience.

First, I need to thank Brenda Swenson for introducing me to this great bag for holding all of my sketching supplies:  the Canvas Rigger bag from Harbor Freight tools.  I removed some of the stitching as Brenda suggested to make a larger pocket on the outside that is big enough to hold my sketchbook.

I also decided that I wanted to add a shoulder strap, and that has turned out to be a wise decision.  I found one that matches the canvas on my bag with a leather reinforced area.  In order to attach the strap, I had to insert grommets into the sides of the bag.  Then, I purchased two Quick Snaps to attach the shoulder strap.  I like several things about this bag:  it is sturdy, holds a lot, and best of all, it stands up on its own and never slouches over.

Now that my bag was ready to pack, here are some of the goodies that I put i side:

The palette I use is the Heritage Folding Palette (another suggestion from Brenda) as you can see in the photo, it holds eighteen colors.  It has mixing area not only in the lid but also on a clear removable tray in the lid.  I actually painted a sample of the colors in this palette and inserted it under the clear tray in the lid.

I have tried different travel brushes in the past, but the Jack Richeson Travel Set is my favorite.  These brushes hold a lot of paint, keep their points, and are lightweight to carry.  They are in a great little case that you can stand up when using, and that folds really flat for storing in your bag–probably folds to about a one half inch depth.

This little collapsible water bucket is great!  It holds a lot of water but takes up very little room in my bag.

As far as ink pens, I usually carry three:  The Pilot Metropolitan Extra Fine Nib in Black (to hold gray ink):

The Pilot Metrpolitan in Bronze (to hold brown ink):

and the Platinum Carbon Pen:The Pilot Metropolitans are so smooth and just glide across the paper.  The Platinum Carbon gives me a very, very fine line.

In addition to the pens, I carry around an extra cartridge for the Platinum Carbon pen and two small sample bottles of ink that I (purchased from Goulet Pens) for the Pilot Metropolitan pens.  One ink sample is Noodlers Lexington Gray and the other is DeAtramentis Document Brown.  These sample bottles are so small they fit in a small plastic bag.  Once when I was out sketching my pen went dry.  Now I never have to worry about my pens running out of ink when I am in the field.

The pencil I use is a Pentel mechanical pencil.

I also carry a angle ruler (which helps when sketching roof angles) and my favorite eraser:  the Moo eraser.

My pens, pencil, eraser, ruler, and ink samples all fit very nicely into this zippered pencil case.  You can see my homemade value scale peeking thru the mesh pocket.

Last, but certainly not least, is my chair (also recommnded by Brenda).  It tis called a Roll-A-Chair and comes in several heights.  I chose the 16″ height as I am short. It comes with a shoulder strap for carrying and is very lightweight. You don’t even notice you are carrying anything on your shoulder as it only weighs 2.5 pounds. When folded, it is 23″ long and 4″ in diameter.  The most important thing about it is that it has a back on it and is so comfy.  I have sat in that chair for two to three hours at a time in total comfort.

Here is my bag all packed and ready to go at a moment’s notice.

I hope you find some of these ideas helpful in your search for plein air supplies. Happy sketching!

12 Replies to “My Sketchbag and Plein Air Supplies”

  1. I have that brush set & totally agree with you. A fantastic set for the price! Thanks for the angle ruler tip. I didn’t know about those and am off to order one. How useful!

    • Hi Tonya! Yep, those are the best little brushes. Glad you liked the angled ruler tip. Thanks for commenting!

  2. Oh! Very timely for me. I just joined a plein air group. Needed a chair for sure. Also the collapsible water holder. Also, that angle ruler tip – Great!

    • Glad it was helpful Robin. I love my chair as it is so lightweight, sturdy, and comfy! Thanks for the comment.

  3. Thanks so much for your tips …. they are really helpful for a newbie like me!

  4. I’d love to know where you found the strap for your bag, I have the same bag and really love it… now I want a strap too 🙂