Rebecca Z’s Basic Watercolor Supply List for Classes, Travel and Painting on Location:
If you’re coming with me on an Art Adventure, then you’ll want to refer to this watercolor supply list! These will be items I have with me and routinely take with me when I plan to paint outside the studio. Plein air painting is a chance to combine the inspiration of travel with your creativity!
If you’re my student and carrying your materials back and forth to class, you may also enjoy referring to this list for my basic supplies.
After many visits to Italy and Europe, I have found quite a few favorite spots to paint and draw. When I bring a group to Tuscany, I usually have prints of my sketches available on Arches watercolor paper for you to paint. I bring these for students to use if they wish. I also bring photographic references from past visits. These will often be available to you in order to speed up your process of painting. Drawing can be the thing that really slows down a painter’s ability to get paint on the paper. Using my sketches might help you get over the drawing and get painting sooner. However, doing your own drawing is always encouraged.
If working in Watercolor These Supplies are the ones I use
Paper- Bring one of these
- My favorite painting surface while traveling is a good sketchbook. Moleskine watercolor journals are great- my favorite size is 5×8 and (fits in your purse easily) They have a hard bound cover which can make them awkward to paint on in the field, but the paper is lovely and the books are well bound. I’m gravitating to using the Bockingford 9×12 spiral bound journals. These fold back on themselves and are not too big, allowing for nice sized landscape or portrait work on location. Click to order: Bockingford 9 x 12
- Arches Watercolor block or ¼ sheets of Arches watercolor paper
- if you plan to paint on loose paper or loose canvas, you’ll need a firm, flat support. (I like using a piece of foam core board covered with clear packing tape to make it waterproof as described in the picture below.)
- Do-It-Urselfers can try this portable folio for paper or unstretched canvas (an idea from my friend Karlyn Holman): Cut 2 pieces offoam corea bit larger than your ¼ sheet of paper…about 12X16 or 12.5 X 16.6. Cover with plastic shelf liner (Contac Paper) or with Clear plastic packing tape to make them waterproof. Create straps from velcro tape to hold the two pieces of foam core together and form a carrying case for your loose sheets of watercolor paper. I cover the sticky backs of the velcro tape with fabric. All this can be avoided if you just resign yourself to using a sketchbook. 😊
- I like taking notes as I travel, so having a small notebook handy at all times helps me make that happen. These are my favorites sketchpads for that purpose, because I can also paint on the paper if I get the urge 5×8 Pentalic 140 lb paper small sketchbook with pocket
Other Incidental “Must Have’s”
- Bulldog Clips or large binder clips to keep your paper from blowing away (one clip attached to your sketchbook is sufficient)
- tan masking tape or white painters tape
- Automatic Pencil– these are always sharp
- kneaded eraser
- Salt in a plastic ziploc bag or Rx bottle
MY TRAVEL ART PALETTE:
- As a minimum, I recommend you bringing at least 3 reds (Permanent Rose, Permanent Alizarin Crimson and Scarlet Lake), 3 blues (Cobalt and Antwerp and Manganese), 3 yellows (Winsor Yellow, Quinacridone Gold, Raw Sienna), Burnt sienna and Permanent Magenta. I use professional quality artist colors. Avoid student grade pigments. These are the colors currently on my palette: (W/N= Winsor Newton Brand DS= Daniel Smith brand HWC= Holbein AJ= American Journey from Cheap Joe’s)
- Reds: WN Scarlet Lake, W/N Winsor Red (opaque), W/N Permanent Alizarin Crimson, AJ or W/N Permanent Rose, W/N Perylene Maroon, Opera Pink
- Violets: AJ Permanent Magenta, AJ Janet’s Violet Rose, Schmincke Ultamarine Violet
- Blues: W/N Indigo, W/N Ultramarine Blue, HWC Cobalt Blue, AJ Sky Blue, W/N Manganese Blue, W/N Cerulean Blue, W/N Antwerp Blue, W/N or DS Cobalt Teal
- Greens: HWC Leaf Green, W/N Phthalo Green, W/N Hookers Green Light
- Yellows: W/N Winsor Yellow, W/N New Gamboge, DS Quinacridone Gold, W/N Burnt Sienna, W/N Raw Sienna, W/N Winsor Yellow Deep, W/N Naples Yellow-opaque
- Oranges: W/N Cadmium Orange- opaque, W/N Vermillion, DS Quinacridone Coral
- Watercolor palette. Small folding palettes are ideal for travel. Artist quality tube watercolors are my favorite, but pan colors can avoid mess while moving. Bringing your tubes of paint and filling your palette once we get there is one option. If you fill it in advance, then I would suggest traveling with your palette in a ziploc bag just in case the paints decide to flow. (I love this portable palette, which is sold empty at THIS LINK) You could also make a palette out of an Altoid container and small inserts which I have at my studio. Another option is using Trident gum packaging as shown here:
JUST FOR FUN- Lately I’ve been having a good time with iridescent paints while sketching on trips. I use these shimmery pan paints for playful results. Click here for Amazon: Palette 1 Greens and purples and Palette 2 Sunset Colors
- Speedball Elegant Writer calligraphy markers in black or brown (the brown marker comes as part of a set that includes black- you can order the set via this link- set of Elegant writer markers)
- Water-soluble Tombow markers (in gray N 75, N 79 or burnt sienna 967) can be great for pen and wash or sketching.
- Permanent markers can also make a nice combination with watercolor. I suggest a very fine point archival pen. My favorite is Micron Pigma 05 in black or sepia. A nib of around .4-.45 is my favorite. No sharpies. Order set of 6 Micron .05 pens here
- I love the Uniball white gel pen. I recapture lost “whites” with it. You can order it here: Uniball white signo pen
- Another white pen that is helpful to have with you is the Posca White paint pen
- Stabilo Black Woody Crayon– this useful little guy is great for creating a quick study in black and gray on location. Later on, you can watercolor over it to capture more colors and detail.
- Container to carry water: Collapsible bowls work well.
- Something to hold water for painting: water bags are my favorite, but a plastic water bottle can be used.
- As an alternative, you can use a “water brush”- a brush with a water reservoir in the handle. This way you don’t really need a water container. Any brand is fine. purchase a water brush via THIS LINK
- Travel pack of Kleenex (my favorite) or paper towel for water control.
- optional folding chair
- I love having a lightweight chair for sitting while painting. I find it very helpful for working on location. GCI Outdoor has a sturdy chair that folds up to a small size that weighs only 26 ounces and is priced at around $20 on Amazon. Here is the link GCI Outdoor Packseat purchase on Amazon with this link. Or go to THIS LINK for the GCI Outdoor Pack Seat or call 800-956-SEAT (7328).
- Hat, umbrella and/or shirt for sun protection
- Phone Camera
- Lightweight backpack (I use one on wheels.) Click this Link to Amazon for Backpacks which I use
- If you’re shy and do not want to speak to people on the street as you paint, I recommend a set of ear buds. People are much less likely to engage you if it looks like you are listening to music.
Special notes for watercolors:
- If you don’t have room in your bag for paints, Water-soluble crayons can be substituted for watercolors. You can lift the pigment from the crayon with a wet brush to paint, and they can be fun to use in conjunction with acrylics. I like Caran D’arche or Pebeo Stabilo brand.
- Water-soluble pencils can be fun to use, and some use them as a substitute for paints. I generally reserve them more for special effects (which I’ll be glad to show you 😉
- Photographers can certainly bring a real camera. If you do, I’d bring an extra SD card,
- You can also bring your iPad or tablet to take photos with. (These can help you with composition on location.) You may need an SD card reader or adaptor for quick transferring of photos from your camera to your iPad or tablet.