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A Cafe in L’Isle sur la Sorgue, Provence, France – Les Terrasses 12×16 watercolor on paper

Traveling with Watercolors

I see lots of great art supplies in the travel totes of my plein air friends and the artists I follow in the urban sketching movement. While packing for a trip to Provence with,  I tested light-weight, small watercolor sets to cajole my affinity for art-making on airplanes, in hotel roomson sailboats, and in gardens. Are you thinking about drawing or painting on an upcoming trip? Here’s a list (below) of the supplies I keep handy for roaming, with links.

(Note, some of the links are affiliates, so if you make a purchase, I receive a small commission. It doesn’t cost you a penny, and I thank you for your support of this blog! XO)

Mini Watercolor Palette

Winsor & Newton Cotman Water Colour Sketchers Pocket Box

This tiny box of paint tucks into a pocket, or a purse, so it’s easy to take on a hike, a walk through a city, or a flight. W&N’s Cotman line is a grade below their professional series (hence the affordable price), but don’t let that deter you; I use these pigments all the time with no issues; they’re bright, saturated and they mix well.  The little case holds paint, travel brushes and a mixing area, which makes set up quick and easy with a moment’s notice. TIP: Toss an old wash cloth for dabbing at drips and a silicon cupcake liner in your bag to use as a rinse cup.

using a grid to transfer a drawing
Preparing a grid on a watercolor block, and folding the reference photo to match the grid lines

Watercolor Sketch Pad

Moleskine Watercolor Album, Black, Hard Cover (5 x 8.25)

I have Moleskines in different formats (vertical and square, with a variety of papers), and I love to travel with them because the quality is wonderful and the binding is hardcover, which keeps the pages pressed flat. I see these in bookstores and office supply shops now, in addition to art supply stores, so they seem to be readily available these days. Have you ever tried one? What did you think?

field sketch supplies for watercolor painting
Traveling Light: a moleskine watercolor pad, pencil, cup and watercolor travel palette

Watercolor Brush Pens

Pentel Arts Aquash Water Brush Assorted Tips, Pack of 3

Water brushes make it easy to add washes of pigment to pen and ink or graphite sketches, without a rinse cup.  The water is carried in the reservoir of the brush handle. Dip into your paint, lay color down, and then pass the brush over a paper towel to clear most of a previous color before dipping into another one. If you’ve never seen one in action, look at this little demo video.

Using a grid method to draw from a photo
Folding the reference photos so only one or two sections of image detail are visible.

Sakura Pigma Micron Pens

Sakura 30062 6-Piece Pigma Micron Ink Pen Set, Black

I have a set of Sakura pens in my studio, and another in my travel bag. I love the variety of tips, and they don’t re-wet under watercolor washes, or blur under layers of scumbled colored pencil. Give them a go if you plan to jump into the upcoming Inktober drawing challenge.

arches watercolor block hot press paper
Laying transparent washes on Arches Hot Press Watercolor paper-block

Empty Watercolor Palette

Empty Metal Watercolor Box: will hold 12 Half Pans

If you have tube watercolors already, you can make your own travel box by squeezing the colors you love best into this little metal paint tin for travel.  Squeeze a garbanzo bean sized dollop of your favorite pigments into the pans in your preferred arrangement. Ideally, lay them out similar to your studio palette to encourage muscle memory. Leave the cover open in a dust free location to let them dry fully before you head down the trail in search of butterflies and hummingbirds to paint.

Artist’s View Finder

Artist’s View Finder

This little tool makes finding a great composition *so much easier*. If you get distracted by visual stimuli (I have my hand up), and every scene in front of you looks like a painting, the simple trick of blocking the periphery to help you focus on a square or rectangle of paintable goodness is helpful. The outer-frame of the viewfinder is just wide enough to block out surrounding distractions of shapes so I can focus easier on which elements of a composition are most appealing.

painting in provence
I found the use of a viewfinder to be beneficial for selecting scenes in Provence. Everywhere you look, there’s a painting!

Travel Watercolor Brushes


Retractable Travel Brush Set for outdoor Painting

I searched online for a small travel brush set that had a case around it, so I’d be able to grab and drop a single parcel into a duffle bag, without worrying about bent brush tips. This 3-brush set is perfect for that, even though the case is fraying – it still does the trick. The set has a round, a flat and a filbert brush, in about a size 10 or 12 – they’re unmarked – and I keep the pouch in a zip lock bag so I can toss it into luggage or the moist environment of a boat locker. They’re synthetic, so they’ve got some spring, which I prefer, and they hold enough pigment to get the job done. They’re also weighted nicely, so they feel balanced in my hand.

Retractable Travel Watercolor Brushes

What’s in Your Stash?

So, there are some of my Go-To travel art supplies. Everything fits neatly in a zippered fabric pouch, and spontaneous drawing or painting can be done with hardly any setup or prep. Art-making at a moment’s notice. What’s in your travel art set? Do you have any tips or tricks I should add to my arsenal? Please leave your recommendations in the comments.

Thanks for stopping by today, and I’ll see you in the next post!


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Art Quote
In 1947, the acquisitive American illustrator and collector, Thornton Oakley, wrote to his friend Charlotte Harding Brown and asked if she had any of her original illustrations which she would be willing to sell him for his collection of American illustrator art. Her unfortunate reply was that, outside of a few drawings that had personal meaning, “everything else went into the bonfire. I had no reason to keep anything, for that phase of my life had ended years before.” Such a tragic loss of an important illustrator’s work only reaffirms the need to reconsider the ridiculous pretension that art is art, and illustration is illustration, and ne’er the twain shall meet.
~ S. Michael Schnessel, in his book Jessie Willcox Smith

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6 thoughts on “Tips for Supplies – Travel Watercolors – and the cafe Les Terrasses”

  1. Hello Belinda, thank you so much for your blog posts they really got me out of my doldrums as I have found it difficult to start my painting again. I really admire your watercolours which are full of life and transparency.

    1. Hi Sally, Thanks for the note. As a matter of fact, the next post-draft *is* about printmaking. You’re a mind-reader! Is there any particular printmaking you’re looking for in future posts? Don’t hesitate to make a request! There are likely others out there to mirror your wishes, so don’t be shy!

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