traveling with watercolors

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Traveling with Watercolors

Have you assembled a watercolor painting travel kit to take with you, outside your usual painting space? Here are some tips to put one together now, with a few variations.

Don’t discard the idea of a small watercolor kit if you’re not the traveling type. Packing watercolors into a compact kit makes you ready for watercolor painting at a friend’s house or a quick watercolor practice study at a local park.

You can also make an evening at home *much more enjoyable* by painting small watercolors with your kit while seated on the couch or at the kitchen table with your family after dinner.

My watercolor travel kit is small and simple. A watercolor sketchbook (this one <– I love it), a small, cloth pencil pouch of supplies, and a lightweight travel palette.

Watercolor Painting Travel Kit

A watercolor painting travel kit doesn’t have to be expensive, or bulky to assemble. It’s best to keep it simple. Lots of supplies and complexity in your kit just guarantees a long setup process or indecision about which tools to use, and that will steal your painting time.

My latest iteration of a mobile painting kit is an 8X8 inch bound watercolor sketchbook, a small watercolor palette with a rubber gasket seal to prevent leaks, and a zippered cloth pouch with 3 brushes, 2 pencils, an eraser, and a ruler. I also carry a shallow rinse cup and a paper towel for blotting.

watercolor travel set
Another watercolor travel kit I’ve taken on long flights cross country: a watercolor sketchbook, two travel brushes, a mini watercolor palette by Winsor & Newton, and a shallow cup recycled from the frosting compartment of a cylinder of pop-n-bake cinnamon rolls.
Clover Leaf Watercolor Palette
This inventive little clover-leaf travel palette has plenty of color mixing areas, room for 13 full-pan colors, or more if you insert half-pans. The entire palette closes up to fit in the palm of your hand. (You can check it out here.)
Zippered cloth pouches are super handy for art supply travel storage.

Zippered Pouch Art Supplies

My lovely stepdaughter – Melanie Ham – makes beautiful zippered pouch sewing tutorials on her YouTube channel. We are the lucky recipients of her prototypes and demo creations.

Before we started collecting Melanie’s pouches, I bought a few on Etsy from this maker. I *love* putting my brushes, pencils, a ruler, and eraser into colorful cloth pouches to take my watercolor supplies on our travels. Filling a pouch with basic art supplies to give as a gift is also a fun thing to assemble.

You can see the zippered pouch I’m using these days in the first photo above, just behind the watercolor sketchbook on the right.

a zippered pouch with painting and watercolor supplies inside
If you’re using a tiny Winsor & Newton Travel Watercolor Palette, and a 4×6 inch watercolor block, you may be able to fit everything you use to sketch and paint into one good-sized zippered pouch for traveling.
art supply tote bag for spontaneous watercolor painting
I took this jute tote bag of travel watercolor supplies on a trip to Arizona a few years ago: a Uni Kuru Toga drawing pencil, a shallow rinse cup, a metal field watercolor palette with travel brushes inside, a moleskin watercolor sketchpad for small studies, and a larger Hahnemule Watercolor block.
an artist's adjustable viewfinder
This is a gray, plastic View Catcher. (I got this one —-> on Amazon.) It helps to frame the composition of your scene before you begin to sketch the shapes onto your paper. I use this during Plein Air painting and sketching, and to look at complex reference photos for the “sweet spots” of a good composition.

Using a View Catcher

This handy little View Catcher helps adjust the subject you’re going to paint so it matches the aspect ratio of your paper (square, rectangular, etc.). It’s so small and simple, but it has a big impact.

Before you even start to sketch, use this View Catcher tool to frame and “block out” the stuff around your preferred subject.

It helps me to focus and identify simpler, more shape-oriented aspects of a scene. Sometimes, *everything* looks like a potential painting! What to paint, what to paint?! Using the View Catcher helps me feel less overwhelmed when too much information is yelling at my eyeballs.

The little hole on the slider panel also helps with identifying values: looking at a patch of color through the hole – you can ask yourself – is it lighter than the middle-ground, neutral gray color of the plastic slider, or darker?

Painting water, on a boat, with watercolors. 🙂
watercolor set for traveling
This zippered pouch from Melanie holds my ruler, pencil, pen, eraser, travel brush, shallow rinse cup, and paint palette. An 8×8 inch watercolor sketchbook (shown above, underneath a Winsor & Newton Travel Palette), and the pouch fit into my luggage easily.
This is my new favorite travel watercolor palette. It’s lightweight plastic, with a rubber gasket around the enclosure, so my paint won’t drip into my tote bag if the wells are still wet when I pack up after painting somewhere. (I got it here —> on Amazon.)
Here is the interior of the sealable travel watercolor palette. The extra mixing tray is clear acrylic, so you can expand your mixes, or create a pool of big, juicy pigments for larger washes. The mixing area was a big plus to me, compared to my tiny Winsor & Newton travel palette (shown in a photo above).
My stack of watercolor supplies for traveling these days. The square 8×8 inch watercolor sketchbook on the bottom, the sealed plastic watercolor palette in the middle, and a zippered pouch of pencils, brushes, ruler, eraser and rinse cup inside.
  • Here is another post about traveling with watercolors, from the archives, with a focus on plein air paintings, easels, foldable chairs, and a few homemade, DIY workarounds for a rinse cup.
  • This post has more tips about packing watercolors for travel, along with a bit of encouragement on your mindset, and links to other artists who post their travel watercolors for your inspiration.
  • If you’re traveling internationally, and you have to list the contents of an art supply bag, it’s a good idea to list your paint as Artist Colours, not paints. Here’s more on that.
Tube Watercolors squeezed into the wells of my sealable travel watercolor palette. So far, I’ve really enjoyed using this – both in my travel watercolor kit, and at the kitchen counter for quick watercolor studies on the fly.

Watercolor Tutorials

If you get overwhelmed with questions about how to proceed in your watercolor painting adventures, here is a 20-minute video to address some of those questions.

The video linked above is also an essay in praise of watercolor tutorials since the guidance of your tutorial instructor leads you step-by-step – even if the process is foreign to your own. That’s the point of a tutorial, though, isn’t it? To help you stretch and grow and try things you wouldn’t normally attempt on your own.

I hope feel inspired to assemble a watercolor painting travel kit with the tips in this post. If you already have one, and I’ve missed something you love in your own kit, please let us know what you’ve added in the comments.

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


P.S. Watercolor painter extraordinaire, Shari Blaukopf has a great video course on luminous color in watercolor sketches. Have a look at the details here.

Art Quote

Every day I walk myself into a state of well-being and walk away from every illness; I have walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it.

Søren Keirkegrard (1813-1855)
a cat asking the question: Are You Missing Your Art Supplies?
Visit this free online mini course – Six Tips to Paint More
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4 thoughts on “Watercolor Painting Travel Kit”

  1. Hi Belinda, hope you’re good, I really liked this post. I love exploring new watercolor kits that I take with me when traveling :). What kind of sketchbooks are the ones you are using here? Do you recommend them? I can see one of them is a Moleskin, but not sure about the grey ones. Thanks!

    1. Hello Joana! It’s good to “see” you again. I hope you and yours are doing well too! For travel watercolor, I do enjoy using the watercolor moleskin, but I also love the Speedball (formerly Global Art Supply brand) watercolor sketchbooks like these: The paper is sturdy and the book feels nice in your hands. Happy painting to you!

  2. Donna Thibodeau

    I love the same Handbook sketchbook in square. I sometimes do a panorama if I have more time outside painting. The paper is excellent for watercolor. I am on number four so I have a library of memories. I write the dates on the spine. I might have picked up the suggestion here from you in the past.

    1. Hi Donna, I agree! The square format works well as a single page or a rectangle double-spread. And the paper takes a beating, and still illuminates color beautifully! However you discovered these watercolor sketchpads, I’m glad we are both enjoying them. Happy painting!

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