View Full Version : Watercolor sketching kits - survey and ideas

07-06-2006, 11:52 PM
What do you use for watercolor sketching?

Show us your set up.
How do you make it more mobile?
Paper, pen, and watercolor selection.
Ideas and tips.

After we're done, we'll put this in the "Hall of Fame", as a resource for anyone else interested in a light, mobile kit.

07-06-2006, 11:59 PM
I'll start off. Watercolor sketching provides lots of opportunity. It appeases my "painters itch" when the timing won't let me take the oils and the whole easel, or I only have an hour. It would be overbearing to take all the gear to a picnic with the family, but I can get away with this.


Here is my watercolor sketch kit. It's designed to be light and small enough to throw in a backpack along with everything else, or to stuff under to carseat :)

1. Cotman field watercolor set. Has 14 pans and comes with one tiny brush.
2. Snub nosed half inch flat brush. Self modified to fit in the Cotman set, I sawed it off with a hack saw. I do most of my painting with this brush
3. Paper towels. I used to worry I'd run out. But I find they dry out by the next time, so I've used the same wad for months.
4. Ziplock baggie for the above

5. Mechanical pencil -- I tend to use pencil when I'm drawing people or shapes that must be exact, and use a pen when doing landscapes where mistakes aren't as noticable.
6. Waterproof .001 sharp tip pen
7. Kneaded eraser
8. Ziplock baggie for the above

9. Little water bottle. Usually water is not a problem, since I usually have drinking water. This is just in case.

10. Water color paper cut in 6x9 sheets. These are packed between to pieces of 6x9 foam core to keep them from bending. A black clip holds the paper to a foam core if it's windy. Usually I just balance them on my lap. All this goes in another baggie.

11. (Not shown) I also have a regular 6x9 spiral bound sketch book. Very ordinary paper. Sometimes I'll sketch pencil first and then wash if I like it.

Cheap. Only about $26 for the whole set up. ($20 Cotman on sale, $4 brush, $2 bottle, $2 pencils etc.) Light. Easy to stuff in a backpack with whatever else is getting hauled about.

07-08-2006, 11:56 PM
Brian: Gee, I don't really have a tiny sketch set up... although in my stash are maybe enough bits to build one. One thing I have is a little W&N travel brush kit, (the brushes with covers you swap around as the handle). I mention this because one is a flat about 3/8" wide. I'd always wondered why they were not made but it turns out they are, (or were); Difficult to close-up without catching hairs unless very carefully handled. I suspect a cut-down 1/2" flat would work better with less cost.
have fun, Dave

07-09-2006, 11:38 AM
I'll have to post mine one at a time as I use them and take photos, but this is the one I'm using most these days. To give you an idea of scale, the little bag in the first pic that holds all the supplies is only 6x5". It is kept in my purse and goes everywhere with me!

This kit contains:
Winsor Newton Field Kit, Cotman half pans removed (I couldn't stand those) and replaced with Van Gogh half pans (still student grade, but far superior, IMO) When those half pans are used up, I'll refill the empty pans with artist grade tube paints. I'd recommend that if you purchase this kit, you get it with the artist grade paints to start with.

Small Moleskine sketchbook (3.5x5")

Niji mini waterbrush

Mechanical drafting pencil with soft lead

G2 mini pen (though I prefer the Uniball Vision)

Also in the little bag, but not shown are a small piece of a kneaded eraser, a plastic viewfinder, and a small cotton rag.


With the field box open, you can see that it has a few mixing surfaces, one of which doubles as a small water bottle. I've discovered that by depressing the barrel of the waterbrush, placing it tightly into the cap of this tiny bottle, inverting the bottle, and then releasing the pressure on the brush barrel, I can refill my waterbrush on the run with barely a wasted drop. If you prefer to use a traditional brush, the end cap of the kit clips onto the top to serve as a water holder, and the kit does come with a tiny travel brush (not shown here).

The small Moleskine book provides a 5x7 painting area when open, which more than suits my needs when I'm sketching on the run with this small setup. I set the palette/field kit on my lap and hold the sketchbook. There is a thumb ring on the field kit to hold it standing, but mine broke off early on. :(


I've also found that carrying a small, cotton rag serves me much better than a wad of paper towels. A rag absorbs much more pigment and water, and will last me a day of small sketching.

If I'm walking around and don't anticipate having chairs available, I pop the kit into one of the pockets of this pack stool, which is extremely lightweight and has a shoulder strap. It can hold drinking water, my lunch, cellphone, etc.

Usually I take a larger kit when I bring the stool, and the small kit stays in my purse. I'll show the larger-but-still-small kits soon. :)

Brian, I've been admiring the little kit you have in the stores. I'm going to have to add that one to my collection someday. LOL


07-09-2006, 06:47 PM
Check out the Watercolor Handbook:

Field Kits Part 1 (http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=318468)

Field Kits Part 2 (http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=318471)


07-09-2006, 07:04 PM
Doug, thanks so much for the links. Our focus is on small, lightweight "sketching kits" rather than big setups, but it's nice to see how the other half lives! ;) (I do see a couple with my WN field kit in there.)


07-09-2006, 07:16 PM
Here's another idea (http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showpost.php?p=4773545&postcount=111)using Caran d'Ache watersoluble crayons.


07-09-2006, 07:28 PM
I've a wide variety of w/c sketching kits. The very most minimal (goes everywhere) is a blue plastic translucent cylindrical pencil case with 19 assorted w/c pencils, Prismatic sharpener, Pentel ColorBrush, Escoda #10 travel brush, clear film cannister full of water, paper towel, and one of the blue auto shop (paper) towels, accompanying 4"x6" Aquabee Super Deluxe (93lb.) sketchbook.

This minimal kit is supplemented (anytime I might actually hope to be out sketching, instead of just going to grocery store) with
a couple flat 1/2" waterbrushes (Niji, AquaFlo),
Arches block or 11"x14" Aquabee sketchbook,
small natural sponge,
plastic viewfinder (slide film removed) with 'half' marked on each side,
my old Cotman Field Kit in which 13 half pans hold my own made-up tube paints, plus a couple tiny mint tins holding my less frequently used pigments,
another tiny water container that fits in a flat box that fits in the top of that Field Kit (so I have 2 water cups for it -- this is the one for clean water and the sponge),
and at least one tiny porcelain palette. I have these in 3 sizes.

Quite often I take Masquepen & rubber cement pickup along, and a sort of 6" ruler thingie that also measures angles. Rarely, I take another set of 24 Fantasia w/c pencils, with a couple more Escoda travel brushes (#6 & #12).

Whenever my walker is going along, my new Artbin brushbox sits in the bottom of its basket. (What can I say, it's a perfect fit. :p ) The brushbox holds a toothbrush (for spattering), and a fairly wide assortment of brushes, all the way up to a #30 round da Vinci Cosmotop Mix -- including a few very good sable rounds and a couple quills (the Isabey sable quill and #6 Cosmospin).

If the walker is coming along and painting is actually likely, I also bring a bag with equipment including a large water bucket (with over a pint of water inside in a bottle), plus my Integra easel. One huge advantage of needing a walker, obviously, is that weight is no longer a factor in a plein air kit. :D

When I get a camera, I'll show off my various kits from smallest (very tiny & light) to the whole caboodle. ;)

07-09-2006, 07:36 PM
Here's another idea (http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showpost.php?p=4773545&postcount=111)using Caran d'Ache watersoluble crayons.


Great idea! This certainly qualifies as a light setup. I have some of the Caran D'Ache Neocolor II crayons, and never thought to just use them like a pan set of watercolors. I guess that would give the flexibility of either drawing with them like crayons, or using them like a watercolor set, or any combination of the two.


Cristy A
07-09-2006, 07:54 PM
Brand names on the waterproof pens? Seems like everything I've tried smears.

07-09-2006, 08:00 PM
Cristy, the Uniball Vision pens don't smear. They also come in different point widths. There are lots of different types of Uniballs; just check the back of the package to be sure it's water resistant. I get them at Staples, but I'm sure other office supply stores also stock them.

The G2 pens (by Pilot???) are supposed to be water resistant, but the colored ones aren't at all, and the black ones do smear if you don't wait a loooong time before using watercolor over them.


07-09-2006, 08:00 PM
There are various - I use Edding 1800 amongst others. Fadeproof, waterproof, pigmented ink.


Cristy A
07-10-2006, 01:26 AM
I'll try those - I just got a superfine sharpie I've been going to try... I'll see how it works out. I didn't mean to hijack the thread - here's my pack, fwiw...
I like the Kokuyo kaddy bag... zips and folds down and stands up - cute little velco pocket that will hold an eraser and sharpener.




07-10-2006, 07:58 AM
Cristy, don't you just LOVE those aqua totes? I alway bring one along if I'm not using a waterbrush. The fact that they can double as a brush holder with their six little side pockets is such a plus.

The sharpies are great and they don't run. However, they do bleed through my paper, sometimes even the heavy Moleskine cardstock, so be careful that there's nothing important on the other side!

Where did you get that beautiful Fabriano journal? Are the pages heavy watercolor paper?


07-10-2006, 09:31 AM
What isn't pictured are the two yogurt cups for water.
The pill boxes give me the convenience of adding water to soften paint if I don't get out there everyday. All this fits in a square restaurant bucket that can double as a seat or a table.


07-16-2006, 01:51 PM
This is my favorite so far for when I'm doing a more serious painting and can carry something a little larger. This is the smallest watercolor palette that comes without paints that I've been able to find so far. It measures only 4x8" when folded shut and is very lightweight. I fill it with artist grade tube colors the day before going out, and refill it at night when it's running low. You can see that there's plenty of space for lots of colors as well as mixing, or you can split it with one row of watercolors and one row of gouache. I've been just using a watercolor block and waterbrush with it, but I think I'm going to start carrying a couple of regular brushes with me too for darkest darks and line work. This painting is only 7x10, so that gives you an idea as to scale.

I have a larger palette just like it that I've split 50/50 gouache/watercolor, but I prefer the smaller one for convenience in carrying. I use the larger one around the house.


07-16-2006, 11:27 PM
Brian, what type of painting easel to you use, in refernce to your time crunch to oils? I am wondering becuase I use a OPen BoxM and most time lay paint in it and let it stay most time for days then just slap it in a bag and go, one bag traveler as Christensen says, I am very sure you can do the same with watercolors, heck you could even make it more simple and eay then the oils.


08-05-2006, 07:51 PM
Great Thread, it died quickly though, hmm..

JamieWG asked me to post my sketching supplies, I'm sorry it took so long ( between family vacations in July to digi cam not working right).
So, here are my sketching supplies, I mix and match what I think I might need, and it all fits in my Jansport Travel Bag (awesome & rugged, have had it for 10+ yrs.)
This first pic is my smallest set up, it consists of a small Daler Rowney sketchbox with six hps, a mech pencil, micron pen, and a med. Pentel Aqua brush.
The second pic is my favorite paintboxes, I have more but they are old/wooden and packed away, besides I use these the most. [Clockwise from top left]
W&N 12 WP Heavyweight metal sketchbox, Daler Rowney 6 HP aluminum sketchbox, W&N 16 HP Heavyweight metal sketchbox, and W&N Cotman Pocket Sketch Kit (which has since been replaced with artist tube color). I have added additional pans of color in the middle row of the sketchboxes for more of a color selection and to try new colors. I have used a few different brands of wc paints but I just like W&N the best so far, I would like to order some Daniel Smith colors though.
Here some of my sketchbooks I have collected (and I am always looking for more! Some with different papers, but I prefer some I can sketch on with dry and wet media) [Clockwise from top left]
Homemade 4"x6" sketchbook with Arches MBM Ingres laid tan & buff paper, Romano soft leather cover 4"x6" sketchbook with Italian off white chain laid paper, Fabriano 6"x9" Artists Journal with Ingres laid cream & white paper, Various 300# Artists WC paper torn to 5.5"x7.5" size (like postcards), Montval 7"x10" WC sketchbook with 140# paper (the one with the bridge painting), Moleskine WC 5"x8" notebook with cp wc paper, and finally, Arches Travel 6"x10" sketchbook with 140# cp wc paper.
This third pic has some misc equipment in it. [Clockwise from top left]
Jansport Travel Bag (approx 7"x10"), Bamboo brush roll (sometimes I don't include this, my bag holds pencils and brushes if needed) with various brushes which includes W&N series7 #1, #3, & #6, Daler Rowney Diana Kolinsky #6 & #10, W&N synthetic rigger #1, W&N Sqiurrel wash brush #3, W&N Cirrus 1/4" Flat and Aquarelle synthetic mix 3/4" flat, Pentel Aqua brushes (favorite brand!) and a Niji travel brush, Various pencils, pens, and pencil sharpener in a tin pencilbox (favorite pens are the Pitt Artist Pens in Black and Sepia!!), Wax resist crayon, Small water bottle, and plenty of paper towels tucked away. NOT SHOWN: Empty slide pic case for comping/cropping, bulldog clips and coroplast boards to store/hold paper onto.
This last pic is of my basic sketching kit I take with me everywhere.
Whew, thats it I think, well at least thats all I could take pics of before digicam died again! If you have any questions just ask.

08-11-2006, 03:23 PM
Where did you get your W&N whole pan sketchbox set? I can't find whole pans anywhere.

08-11-2006, 03:55 PM

I got it from here:
Ken Bromleys Art Supplies (http://www.artsupplies.co.uk/index.php)
Hope that helps:)

08-11-2006, 07:35 PM
Jeff, thanks so much for that post of all those pan sets. I love that tiny 6 pan set! I don't think I've ever seen that one before. Is it still available somewhere? Lovely bridge painting!

I have a few more to post also...'Just need time to take pics and upload!


09-28-2006, 03:44 PM
Hi - looks like we've both got the same box Jeff.:thumbsup:
This is the simplest one I carry everyday in my bag - and what I took to Charmouth. The current sketchbook is a Pink Pig, with a Bic-matic propelling pencil tucked into the spiral, a Pentel washpen (large) and my wonderful Rowney paintbox which holds 6 artist colours - enough for most things! I got it in London in early '90s( it cost about 17 then ) and used it since then replacing the pans as they emptied.
Oh and theres the smallest sponge in the box for brush wiping, washes etc.

09-30-2006, 10:51 PM
Jamie, can you tell me where you got your pack stool? Do you know what brand it is? It looks like exactly what I am looking for!!


09-30-2006, 10:54 PM
Jamie, can you tell me where you got your pack stool? Do you know what brand it is? It looks like exactly what I am looking for!!


Here ya go, Leslie:



09-30-2006, 11:43 PM
Thanks so much, Jamie!! :)

03-13-2007, 10:58 AM
Has anyone tried this watercolor sketching set-up: http://www.vilppustore.com/Portfolio.htm

It uses that "rollabind" binding system. I'm wondering how sturdy it is. Anyone have any experience with it? Or even seen it?

Thanks in advance!


Mad Scientist
03-13-2007, 06:15 PM
I just chuck what I want in a backpack and go.
I have a piece of plywood fitted with a nut fastened in place with epoxy. The nut fits the standard thread on a photography tripod. This is my easle.
I usually take a couple of blocks of 140 lb watercolour paper one cold press the other rough. My palette is the same one I use in the studio. It is round, made of plastic with wells for about 15 colours. (I use mostly Holbein and Winsor & Newton Artist grade that I purchase in tubes. I keep fill the wells when I am finished and allow the paint to dry in the wells.) I carry a few tubes of the colours I use most in a plastic box.
An assortment of brushes are bundled in a canvas roll with pockets that keep the brushes safe.
A bottle of water and empty tuna fish cans supply the water although I usually just take water from the nearest lake, pond or stream. A part roll of paper towels and the painting kit is complete.
I also keep sunscreen insect repellant, Gorp or other trail food, A can of non-alcoholic "beer" and a few other outdoor necessities such as a broad brimmed hat, polariod sunglasss. As I said, it all fits in my backpack along with my cameras, still and video, and supplies for them.
If I am travelling by car or canoe, I take along a small folding table for convenience but not if I am walking.
Note that the tripod does double duty both as an easle and for use with the cameras.
The entire pack weighs about twenty pounds but at least I am not frustrated by not having the right equipment with me.
If I am travelling by car or canoe, I take along a small folding table for convenience but not if I am walking. I often take my acrylis set which is comletely contained in a tool box except for the Sta-Wet Palette and the canvases which I will add to the backpack.

04-16-2007, 04:29 PM
Since this is such a good thread, I figured I'd add this one link to a "small palette" thread from ZanBarrage in the WC forum:

small palette (http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=372166)


04-22-2007, 11:48 PM
Here's another idea (http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showpost.php?p=4773545&postcount=111)using Caran d'Ache watersoluble crayons.


My setup is similar to this. I have a prismacolor sketchpack. I replaced the colored pencils with watercolor pencils, added a waterbrush, and changed the sketchpad out for a cotman watercolor pad.

04-23-2007, 09:43 AM

I got it from here:
Ken Bromleys Art Supplies (http://www.artsupplies.co.uk/index.php)
Hope that helps:)

Kremer carries a tin box for $11 and you can get empty 1/2 and whole pans there to fill with your tube paint.
The tin box is not partitioned like the expensive enameled boxes, so you can have a combination of i/2 and whole pans.

(Kremers watercolors are too runny to carry on trips...believe me!!!)


01-04-2009, 10:47 PM
Hello all,

I see Winsor and Newton seems to be the overwhelming presence here in this watercolor sketch kit thread. :) I guess I will continue the trend.

Here is my little kit; I usually tuck it into my shoulder bag and take it with me everywhere. I needed a rather simple one since I don't want to lug around a lot of stuff, and I'm usually out running errands and need a rather small bag to carry with me.


Pictured above is :

-my little black pencil pouch which holds:
- a wash cloth for waterbrushes and if I make a mess.
- an assortment of pencils: HB,2H,H,B.
- erasers: Staedtler mars plastic, Papermate tuff stuff eraser stick for details and an kneaded eraser.
-2 blending stumps: one small homemade one of rolled paper, and another larger one.
-Pens: staedtler liners in 0.7 and 0.5, Microns in 01, 03, 05
- protractor and a ruler for measuring perspective.
- sharpener: a brass bullet style one I found years ago at a local art store.
- waterbrushes: a small koi brush (topmost) and a Pentel medium brush. Both are rounds. These are very easy and fun to use.

- The most important thing: the sketchbook. I use a square Hand-Book by Global Art brand because I like the format and the paper holds up pretty well. I'm just using this for small sketches anyways.

The picture is from the IRL here and I painted it to show you how this book (and the waterbrushes) handle.There is some buckling of the paper but all in all it serves its purpose. For the price (like $6 a book) I say it's rather nice. I do have a large Moleskine sketchbook and a watercolor sketchbook from them as well but I hardly ever take them along in this kit unless I'm going on a trip and need variety.

Well that is it, whew.

P.S JamieWG, I see you have a folding palette :) I have several of those and they are great. I use them at home for my tube watercolors and gouaches. The folding ones are good since I have a pesky cat nosing around in my supplies when I'm not looking. It keeps the paints nice and safe.

I hope to see more of these kits everyone has got. Show and tell is too fun :)

01-09-2009, 11:09 AM
A Few Ideas on Kits. Our local Cigar Store almost gives away beautiful wooden boxes--- ideal for use as a paint kit box. (empty cigar boxes in all shapes and sizes)
Our book store sells a soft zipper bag, with pockets. Made to carry a book . Ideal for filling with art supplies On The Go.
A friend of mine uses a kids "lunch box" for hers

Capt Elaine
01-19-2009, 11:00 AM
Here's mine, bought the bag at Wal-mart, it's original intended use was a makeup case. It is the exact size to hold my 5" x 8" sketch books.

Capt Elaine
01-19-2009, 11:03 AM

Inside I have a Global arts pencil holder, that my little Cottman watercolor box, a water brush, pencils, eraser, and pitt pens.

Capt Elaine
01-19-2009, 11:05 AM
Also inside, Tombow pens, my moleskine, and another pencil/pen holder... also with a spray bottle of water and some paper towels....
This goes with me everywhere

07-11-2010, 01:17 AM
Heres my sketch kit. A Franklin Covey daily organizer I took out the organizer stuff. It measures about 10" x 7", very reliable, zips up nicely. Two brushes on the left a 10 and a 6 round synthetic/sable Winsor&Newton Sceptre Gold 2. Note the tube protector on the 6 round nice to have, not sure what hppened to the protector for the 10 round. A place to put some paper towels, napkins I use mostly since there free. Place to put pens and pencils, some pockets I put a foldable clip for clipping paper down so it won't blow around, a putty eraser, and pencil sharpener. My water bottle has cap to keep it from accidently spraying inside the case, and its a mister great for wetting the pan colors, to clean the waterbottle I use a toothbrush and a solvent brush for getting the bottom(only used for cleaning the waterbottle). A tube of chinese white I've been carrying, used to have a white guache in there but seem to have misplaced it hence a tube of chinese white, lol. Watercolor sketch pads. I use a 5" x 8" Moleskine molstly. The paper is about a 94lb which is good for front and back. Sometimes I have a W&N Cotman 140lb watercolor pad its nice also but doesn't hold as many pages as the Moleskine. Winsor&Newton 12pan watercolor kit loaded with W&N Artist quality watercolors. All closes up nicely.

I use this kit everywhere. Even on my bike on rides around the countryside, I rest it on the handlebars flat and works out ok but not sturdy in a wind for sure. I sometimes use the clip to secure the sketchpad on my backpack while riding to dry the sketch faster, works great and haven't had a slip up yet.

You can also fit a small 3" x 5" moleskine in there with all the other stuff as well. I reload my 3" x 5" moleksine with fabriano watercolor paper, works great but somewhat time consuming task, takes about an hour to do. Although its a tight fit with the 5" x 8" Moleskine in there also, but fits nicely with the cotman sktchpad.

I've inluded a pic of me holding the 5" x 8" Watercolor Moleskine with paint, waterbottle, and napkin. It takes getting used to and I only do it when standing in the middle of nowhere land and I have an itch to sketch something. Sometimes sitting down takes the vantage point away so standing would be better. I use this kit in restaurants, in the car, took it on kayaking trips and keeps the stuff inside from getting wet which is nice. Have fun!!!!!







07-11-2010, 10:27 AM
I reload my 3" x 5" moleksine with fabriano watercolor paper, works great but somewhat time consuming task, takes about an hour to do.

Kirby, do you have anything posted about how you reload the Moleskines? I am just dying for a watercolor book (non spiral) of Fabriano paper.

Thanks so much for your post. I'm supposed to go sketching at the zoo on Thursday, and I really haven't figured out how I'm going to hold all that stuff. The last time I went, I took a folding stool with me, but it was cumbersome to carry so much, and they don't let folding stools or other bulky items into many of the exhibits. Your post is helpful to me in determining what to bring.


07-11-2010, 02:03 PM
Heres a link on rebinding a moleksine or any other book for that matter or make your own cover.


If you can manage holding a small palette and small mister bottle while holding your sketchpad your in good shape. Jsut depends on the size of your sketchpad and how your painting on it, vertical or horizontal. Holding a Landscape Moleskine like the way I did is not that hard but any other way becomes difficult. If you wanted a full length landscaped sketch that would be real hard.

Have a look at this site which has lots of really good advice for sketching easpecially in the field.

Let me know how your day at the zoo went!! Have fun!!


07-24-2010, 12:30 PM
If you can manage holding a small palette and small mister bottle while holding your sketchpad your in good shape. Jsut depends on the size of your sketchpad and how your painting on it, vertical or horizontal.

If you scroll down my first post in this thread, you can see how I used one of the clip-on double medium cups to hold water while working with your Moleskine or sketchbook.

LINK (http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=552457)

Also shows how I created my Altoids paintbox and my plein air watercolor kit.


09-06-2010, 07:23 PM
Here's another great tutorial on re-loading a moleskine:

Also I got a great little empty metal watercolor pallette at Wetpaint. Comes in a couple sizes.


09-23-2015, 08:06 AM
Brand names on the waterproof pens? Seems like everything I've tried smears.

Fabre-Castel Pitt pens for dark defined lines.
Micro-Line pens for thinner more delicate lines, these come in various sizes, 0.001 on up.:wave: