A collection of mismatched but well loved art tools is best discovered and collected over time and I firmly believe the best tools are the ones closest to you right now. However because I’m fascinated by lists from artists like this too, I have compiled some of my recommended art supplies to share.
What works best for me might not work best for you, but regardless if you’re a veteran looking to expand your toolbox or a beginner looking for some friendly guidance, these are all products that I can personally vouch for and have had success using. I hope you find this information useful so let’s dive in!
Mini Sketching Kit
I prefer to sketch using a mechanical pencil (0.5) then ink my drawings with a set of black Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pens (F, B) and Uniball White Gel Pen. I absolutely adore this skinny set of 18 pan artist grade watercolours from Cass Art coupled with a water brush pen, it’s just the right size for adding a splash of colour to any doodle on the go.
A round tipped Tombow Mono is a convenient option for an eraser. along with a 6” ruler and a roll of washi tape for masking. It’s all held snugly in a Belroy pencil case which folds open into a tray! Wild!
My preferred medium and brands are Winsor & Newton or Holbein Artist Gouache Paint, both of these brands are traditional designer’s gouache and reactivate with water. I love the consistency and quality plus they’re readily available in the majority of my local art stores. I recommend an introductory or primary set and Daler Rowney Brush Set of brushes if you’re just getting started and slowly growing your collection over time as needed. This will keep costs lower while also helping you learn your pallet and how to mix colours correctly before branching out.
My core palette currently contains:
- Lemon Yellow
- Permanent Alizarin Crimson
- Cobalt turquoise Light
- Prussian Blue
- Perylene Black (which is actually a green)
- Permanent White
Synthetic Watercolour and Gouache Brushes
I use a lot of brushes and my favourites are changing all the time, however sometimes all you need is a well balanced set. This roll of 10 Watercolour Brushes from Etchr have been an absolute workhorse for me so if you’re working in watercolour or gouache, a simple roll like this will serve you very well.
Paper & Painting Surfaces
Good quality paper makes a huge difference because it will eliminate frustrations like buckling or pilling should you add too many layers. 300g/m heavyweight watercolour paper is thick enough so it does not warp very much and at the same time can be a pleasure to paint on allowing for smooth transitions and really flat, even washes. Cold Press if you like texture, Hot Press if you prefer smooth, I like Aquarelle Arches Watercolour block (Rough 100% Cotton 20 Sheets) because it’s somewhere in between.
Protectafile A3 Mountboard 1500 microns
I always cut large sheets of paper down into smaller sizes to get multiple paintings out of them and a lightly gessoed sheet of mount board can be a relatively inexpensive solution if you want something thicker to work on. I really enjoy painting wide panoramas and this is how I can create more bespoke sizes.
Coasters and Postcards
- Pulpboard coasters (like beermats) can be a fun way of creating adorable pocket sized artworks, but wooden coasters are the way to go if you want them to stand the test of time. Both should be primed with layers of gesso before you start but they sure are cute once you’re done!
- Postcards pads of good-quality watercolour paper are particularly handy when you’re out and about and don’t want to lug a larger pad around.
- Handbook Travelogue Drawing Journal (5.5 x 5.5″) for everyday pocket sized sketching adventures.
- Etchr Hot Pressed A5 Sketchbook is a very popular artists choice for good reason.
- Stationery Island A5 Dotted Notebook for my Bullet Journal. I don’t draw or decorate it but I’d never be organised or get anything done without it!
Pochade Boxes and Paint Pallets
- U.go Plein Air Pochade Box (Medium, 8.4×11.25”). Although at the higher end of the price range, it is beautifully crafted, can be mounted on a tripod and is a pleasure to work on. When closed it is the same size as a laptop so will carry nicely in most backpacks on the go. That said, If you’re looking for a more affordable solution, a simple drawing board will absolutely work. I’m also a sucker for converting old cigar boxes into portable art kits. All work great, but there’s an undeniable cool factor to crafting your own truly unique equipment the pricey stuff can never match.
- Meanwhile in the studio, I mix my paint with this great a porcelain dish. It’s small and compact, and easy to clean. However, an old dinner plate or biscuit tin lid works just as well!
- I’ve used the same A3 sized Stay Wet Palette when painting with Acrylics since I was at school. The cost of paper refills can add up over time so often I’ll use baking parchment and kitchen towel as a cost effective alternative. Although looking a little battered, it is still going strong.
- An old charity shop/thrift store glass picture frame is ideal for an Oil Paint pallet. Coupled with a 3¾” No Nonsense Window Scraper to remove any dried paint, you’ll be all set!
Nice to Have!
- MT Washi Tape – available in a range of widths this decorative tape is a clean and convenient way to tape the edges of your artwork without damaging it. Alternatively I use Scotch Delicate Surface Masking Tape for when I want to mask slightly larger areas held flat on a wooden board.
- The Masters Brush Cleaner and Preserver cleans, conditions, and restores your paint brushes, helping to keep them in great condition. Look after your brushes and they’ll last a lifetime.
- Winsor and Newton Masking fluid mainly for special effects like clouds, highlights or white text applied using an old, small brush.
- Big Wipes make bigger paint splattered clean ups easy.
- A chopstick rest – they hold brushes too!
- To help mix colours, plan compositions or measure the size of things I use a colour wheel, view finder or a proportionate divider.
- Salsa jars, yoghurt pots and novelty mugs all work perfectly well as water containers. Although a little indulgent, I saw Hayao Miyazaki using this ceramic brush cleaning tank and just had to buy it! It’s big, heavy and ideal for studio painting. Perfect for any water based painting and easy to clean even when using acrylics. (筆洗 in Japanese, my size is 18.0cm)
- And finally, a Paint Squeezer, put every last drop to use!
For further reading about Plein Air painting click here, or check these tools out in a product list here.
Let’s both have fun being creative!