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The 4 basic art supplies you need when travelling!

Updated: Sep 13, 2021

Travelling is the best time to get inspired and take pictures of places and new things and experiences we definitely don't want to forget. Very often when I travel, I face the issue of preparing my backpack in an optimal way to avoid visiting new places with an uncomfortable heavy bag.

Space needs to be optimised to make sure I can get my basic art tools to keep drawing /painting also when I am travelling.

Here it's my list of 'non-negotiable' art supplies.

1: linework tools

First of all, pencils are essential! I never travel without 2 types of pencils. As pencils are dividend into 4 main families:

  • Soft pencils are identified with B, which stands for 'black'

  • Hard pencils with H, stands for 'hard'.

  • HB stands for 'hard black', which means 'medium hard'

  • F stands for 'firm'

I use a HB pencil, which is a compromise in terms of graphite effect, and which is perfect to sketch on the go.

Additionally, I have a H pencil, which is the hard type of grey colour, that I find optimal for composing the main line references of a watercolour work, since it's very subtle and you can easily get rid of the pencil marks to make the paint pop even more.

Example HB pencil for composition reference

2: painting tools

As painting tool, although my preference goes for gouache, which is a water based colour mix, watercolour is much more handy while travelling. This last one comes into either small tubes of colour or dry colour disks, and they fit also into the smallest bags. Most of the time you also get a palette of wood or ceramic with it to spread and mix colours.

The great thing about watercolour is that since it is a water based mix, you can recover the colour also when it dries out by just pouring some drops of water on it. This technique, for instance, is impossible with acrylics.

In terms of colours, I would favour the primary ones (yellow, red and blue) plus black and white to make shades/tones for more variations.

As for paint brushes, most of them can be distinguished into 2 main types based on the bristle material: natural and synthetic. The natural ones are made from animal's hair and are best for oil based paints. The synthetic ones, which are the ones I use the most, are perfect for water based paints such as watercolour tubes or gouache, since they can retain the right amount of water while spreading the paint.

You can find here in skillshare my favourite classes on painting tools and techniques.

Example watercolour (light blue) and gouache (dark green and salmon pink)

3: paper & sketchbook

Obviously you need to paint/draw somewhere! As per paper types, it really depends on what effect you want to achieve and pair it with the right painting tool. As per linework like with pencil and ink, a simple white recycled paper sketchbook would do the work! Mine is an A5 size and the paper colour is kind of beige. I honestly don't use it for big pieces of artwork, but I expect to simply track the inspiring things I see while travelling in order not to forget about florals, animals, places or simply to relax while drawing.

If you plan to make quite some watercolour work on the go, I would recommend a thicker paper sketchbook, at least between 200 gsm-350 gsm to avoid the pages to buckle and ruin the final artwork. The thicker the paper, the more expensive the sketchbook would be generally. You will come across to 2 main types of texture for watercolour paper:

-cold pressed paper, which is more textured and 'deep', it absorbs more colour than hot press paper. It has an uneven finish.

-hot pressed paper, which is less textured and absorbent; therefore, the colours are more vivid and it pairs well with ink work.

Example sketchbook A5 'landscape' with recycled lightweight paper (on a beach in Portugal!)

4: Ink & fine liner black pens

Ink pens or black fine liners pens are great on their own or paired with watercolour, not to mention that they are so easy to carry around!

Personally I love linework with a mix of different sized ink/micro pens which can very simply give depth and character to a piece of artwork. Also in this case you need to choose the size you would use the most, going from fine to thick nibs. I always use quite fine micro pens in a range between 0.2- 1.00, which helps creating a varied textures and contours.

Example fineliner with nibs 0.8 (Micron)

This is my compact list of art tools to have fun while travelling, without incurring in a heavy luggage due to dozens of colour tubes, paper notebook etc.

Obviously don't forget to get a water cup easily recognisable from your coffee cup and some kitchen paper to absorb the paint.

And have lots of fun!


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