IMPORTANT MISC STUFF: Backing Boards: Coroplast plastic boards cut to a size slightly larger than your sketchbook. As shown above – it’s very handy to have a backing board supporting your book and tools.
Coroplast is light and reasonably rigid. Beats a wooden board hands down. This setup, I call the Palm Desk, can be used on the lap or while standing. Bulldog Clips: (6-8) large bulldog clips (also called binder clips).
Handy for holding the book open in the wind, or while wet. Also for clipping on the paint box and ‘clamping’ damp books overnight. Water Containers: I suggest a few 125ml / 4oz HDPE plastic bottles from Nalgene.
I carry more than one, so when the water gets dirty I can pull a clean bottle out of my bag. Paper Towels: Very important painting tool! Tiny Atomizer Spray Bottle: For misting your watercolors to prime the pigments.
Q&A / FAQ:
This is my list of sketchbook drawing supplies. You can read more about watercolor painting over here: Watercolor Supplies
“I am from urban north London, but now live in urbane Davis California. I sketch, I write, sometimes do things and go places and my name is Pete.When not Davis, I sketch Sacramento, San Francisco, London, or anywhere else I happen to be.
I tend to erase people and cars from my cities, but I’m starting to get over this. Davis: calm, old-fashioned, progressive, quirky, very very hot in the summer. I use micron and copic pens, with watercolour.
“• Pete’s blog.• Pete’s art on Flickr.
I recommend artist quality watercolor half pans. These will come in a tin (or plastic) box with around 12 colors. I have used Winsor & Newton Artists’ WaterColor Half Pans in the past. They’re great for tinting sketchbooks. Make sure you find the W&N artists’ quality watercolor *not* the student grade Cotman line.
Q: I notice in your sketches that you leave a lot of large spaces of white (blank page) is this for artistic effect or because you haven’t come back to finish the sketches off yet. I ask because I notice that most water color paintings don’t cover the page in paint.
A; Most often, I’m doing it for a combination of design reasons, (because I do like negative space and the ‘sketchy’ look – that’s definitely intentional) – but also practical reasons. For instance – I do a lot of white skies. This is sometimes simply because if you want a detailed horizon – say – trees or radio towers, or a city skyline against the sky. If you choose to paint a flowy bloomy wet sky you MUST wait for that to completely dry before you put in those details. A: I’m an impatient person, and B: working on location, sometimes waiting too long means losing the sketch. Things happen – you run out of time, a truck parks in your face, your friends get fed up. Bascily – with field sketching, sometimes finishing fast is is better than not finishing at all. So – white skies. — In the studio, doing a piece for a gallery – I’m much less likely to do that white sky (or white foreground shape). Even tho’, I kind of like them.
Meet the Correspondent: Marina Grechanik > Tel-Aviv, Israel$show=/search/label/Marina%20Grechanik
You’ll also need a wooden or plastic nib holder. A simple device with a slot or groove to insert the pen nibs.
Starter Fountain Pens: Lamy Safari, Fine Nib: I mainly use a Fine, but often carry an Extra Fine as well. Lamy Joy Calligraphy Fountain Pen, 1.5mm Nib: Chisel tip allows drawing with the edge for fine work, or the width for broad strokes.
Longer body is nice for expressive drawing. I use this long body with F and EF nibs as well. Lamy Replacement Steel Nib, Fine: You can get any size Lamy nib, and put it on any Lamy pen body. If you want to swap around line weights and body styles.
Lamy Black T10 Ink Cartridges: For convenience of disposable cartridges. This ink comes in about 8 colors and is water-soluble. Lamy Safari Ink Converter Z24: For refilling custom inks. This can be any color, and might be water-proof, or not, your choice).
Other Fountain Pens: Platinum Carbon Fountain Pen, Super Fine Super fine line, great for detail or small drawings. Platinum Carbon Black Ink Cartridge: Disposable Platinum Fountain Pen Converter: Refillable Noodler’s Ahab Flex Nib Fountain Pen: Clever piston filler, needs no converter cartrige.
Flex nib makes expressive lines. Great drawing pen, but not as well made as a Safari. My personal favorite despite cheaper build quality. Noodler’s Ink Nib Creaper Standard Flex Fountain Pen: Internal twist-fill piston, does not require cartriges or converters.
Flex nib is great for expressive drawing. A very small pen suitable for people with smaller hands. Take care posting cap on the end, due to the twist mechanism. BRUSH PENS:
You don’t need a lot of brushes for sketching in small or mid-sized books. I used to carry too many sizes – now it’s pretty much just two:
Meet the Correspondent: Luis Ruiz > Malaga, Spain$show=/search/label/Luis%20Ruiz
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Can’t say how long the points will last, as they are new to me in 2015. Update: The points lasted about a year of use. They’re pretty blunt now so I’ve downgraded my set to use with India Ink. (Which is harsh on nice brushes).
Fine Nibs: You get the finest lines with crowquill nibs. They’re tiny tube shaped nibs with sharp little points. They use their own size of holder that fits the cylindrical profile. You can’t fit them in an normal ‘flat,curved’ pen holder. The easiest to find seem to be the Hunt #107 and 102. I actually can’t tell them apart, but one must be meant for slightly more flex.
#3/4 DaVinci Artissimo, Quill (Quills have strange numbering. This is really almost the same size as a #14 pointed round). #7/8 Winsor and Newton Artist’s Watercolor Sable Pointed Round. These seem to come in long hair (my choice) and shorter hair, with no visible difference in the labeling, so you just have to compare.
The long hair is almost a rigger. It’s great for sharp details and linear work (tree branches, wires, etc). SYNTHETICS:
I like fountain pens for their rapid smooth drawings, and the line variation you can get with a flexible nib. Plus the ability to refill it yourself with different color ink, or switch from water-proof to water-soluble inks. They cost more than a disposable pen up front, but you regain the cost in re-usability. Most pen makers sell parts, so your pen will last forever, given moderate maintenance. To clean a fountain pen, just unscrew all the parts (paying some attention to how they go back together), and run it all under tap water.
Pentel Graph Gear Mechanical Pencil 0.7mm Pentel Graphgear Mechanical Pencil 0.3mm Kneaded Rubber Eraser
I prefer 0.7mm sized lead for larger (9×12″ and up) drawings. It doesn’t break as often when drawing. I like HB lead. I find softer smudges, and harder digs into the paper. For a very small book (pocket-sized) I’ll sometimes use 0.3mm lead. I never use a wooden pencil. Sharpening is a constant messy chore, and plus you don’t acutely want a lot of graphite on a drawing you plan to ink or watercolor later. If you’re doing soft tonal drawings, that might be different, but that’s not my thing for travel sketching. Too slow!
If you go for synthetic, rather than sable, you might want to go with one more smaller brush – as they won’t anywhere near as fine a point. I would bring a #1 or 2 for detail, and a go with a #4-6 for the alternative to my #7-8 W&N Artist’s Sable Pointed Round.
Meet the Correspondent: Tina Koyama > Seattle$show=/search/label/tina%20koyama
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“Sketching is one of my passions. I don’t feel comfortable when I leave home without a sketchbook and some pens in my bag. I think that my way to put things in my memory is to draw them. And taking pictures isn’t the same thing.
I live in a very dynamic surrounding — Israel is a warm country with warm weather and warm people. Of course, we have seashores, which calm us a little bit. I love to sit in a corner of some Tel-Aviv coffee shop and explore relationships: between people, their environment, between myself.
All this unique local mix of cultures, languages and styles is always a great source for inspiration. You need to be fast, because, as I said, everything is very dynamic. But that’s why I love it so much.
Sometimes, I look around, and I find some usual items like sugar bags or napkins. I use them in my drawings to show the atmosphere. Sometimes I draw directly on placemats.”• Marina’s art on Flickr.• Marina’s website.
Meet the Correspondent: Suhita Shirodkar > San Jose, Calif.$show=/search/label/Suhita%20Shirodkar
A real brush pen has a synthetic fiber brush on a fountain pen body. They are much nicer than the rubber tipped disposable brush markers. You can get better line variety, and have finer control of small tip work.
“I was born in Guayaquil, Ecuador, where I studied architecture. I moved to Kassel (Germany) in 1999 to accomplish a master degree. Although I have always drawn and paint, it was not until I started studying in the Uni-Kassel, that I started keeping a travel sketchbook.
I had a teacher there who used to do a lot of sketches when he travelled on university excursions. When he retired, I helped to organize an exhibition of his sketches. He brought a huge box full of sketchbooks he had filled since he was an architecture student.
I spent a whole day selecting the most interesting drawings. It was a wonderful experience that opened my eyes to a new world. In the last 10 years I have the feeling of being in a long journey. I like to discover the cities where I live, to understand why a place is the way it is and what makes it different and unique from others.
Drawing is for me a way to learn to love a place, to become part of it. I like to draw architecture but I am more attracted to urban scenery, portraying how people live in the city. Since I’m a foreigner, everything that locals find normal and taken-for-granted, for me is exotic.
I always carry a small watercolor travel set from Windsor and Newton and my sketchbook in my bag. I always thought that drawing was a solitary experience until I found Urban Sketchers. It was amazing to find so many people doing the same thing.
It is a great place to share!” • Omar’s blog. • Omar’s art on flickr. • Omar’s website.
Q: You mention several times that you prefer to pack light for the field, but I don’t see you using water brushes at all – any particular reason why not? I’m new, but my understanding is that they are brush and water contained in one.
A: There are some people out there (Jenny Adam) who can do amazing things with water brushes. They’ve never worked for me. I don’t like the cheap nylon synthetic brush tip. I like a very sharp fine line, when I need it – (and a scrubby splayed out brush when I need that) and I just don’t trust them to deliver the range. Also – I like to control how much water is on the brush – am I trying for a tea wash, or do I need juicy honey. I find the waterbrush puts random amounts of water into the paint. You can’t really know how much you get each squeeze. Then finally, I use the water to clean my brush tip. You need to be able to go from black, to bright red, or yellow, and not have a dirty brush. So, there’s just not enough water in the barrel to properly clean the brush between. Water brush aficionados all have a grotty sponge around to clean the tip 🙂 That’s my thinking on the cursed water brush!
I don’t really use synthetics any more – but they were good enough for many years. They’re perfectly fine for learning on, and are getting better every year.
You’ll also want a Kneaded Rubber Eraser. The grey rubbery kind you can squish into points for small erasures, or blot and roll for overall lightening. These don’t damage paper surfaces like white or pink erasers.
I’ve also used Princeton Neptune synthetics, and found them decent enough for the price.
I am just now trying a new synthetic fiber by Raphael called Soft Aqua. They claim it is engineered to hold more water. The fiber is spiraled, rather than smooth like a nylon strand. They come in quill’s that are working very well for me as a cheap alternate to the DaVinci Artissimo.
“The dictionary says that a hobby is “an activity or interest pursued for pleasure or relaxation.” Although urban sketching certainly provides both pleasure and relaxation, I don’t think of it as my hobby.
I think of it more as a way of life – something that has become such a normal part of my everydayness that it shapes how I view the world. For most of my life I had both the fear of drawing as well as the desire to draw.
In 2011, inspired by Gabi Campanario’s Seattle Sketcher column, I finally decided to overcome the fear. His drawings of Seattle – my birthplace and lifelong home – were of sights that I had seen many times, yet had never truly seen.
I wanted to learn to see, and therefore experience, those locations (and any new ones that I travel to) more completely. Part 8 of the Urban Sketchers Manifesto, to “show the world, one drawing at a time,” has a flip side: Sketching enables me to see my own world, one drawing at a time.
In the last four years, it is not an exaggeration to say that Urban Sketchers has changed my life. I have met and sketched with many wonderful people around the globe, either at symposiums or during other travel, because the USk network brought us together.
I sketch almost weekly with my local group, sharing sketches, art supplies and friendship. Even when I stay home and enjoy sketches online, I am still a part of that rich network, learning with every sketch about other people’s lives.
In May, my husband Greg and I went to France for the first time, and I sketched the Eiffel Tower. Sketching one of the world’s most famous icons felt like a dream come true – the ultimate in urban sketching.
But although I can’t resist sketching world-famous icons whenever I’m fortunate enough to see them, for me, urban sketching is much more than that. Urban sketching is a tree with its middle chopped away to accommodate Seattle’s ubiquitous power lines.
It’s about a couple of women chatting over coffee, or about workers roofing the house next door. It’s about an excavator filling a hole where a cherry tree once stood. Or the Tibetan monastery I drive by frequently that I couldn’t resist because it’s bright orange.
Urban sketching is a string band performing at a local farmers’ market – or perhaps in Villefranche-sur-Mer. Celebrating the mundane as well as the famous is what urban sketching is all about. My sketches are not necessarily about “special” moments; they are moments made special because I sketched them.
“Tina has been editor of Drawing Attention since 2013 and now serves on the Urban Sketchers editorial board. See more of her sketches on her blog, on Flickr and on Instagram.
As well, there is more info about my personal color choices over on my watercolor supplies page.
[By Don Low in Singapore] “Painting is damned difficult – you always think you got it, but you haven’t.” – Paul Cezanne What Paul Cezanne has said is so true, even for an artist like him who painted relentlessly and unceasingly.
I gave up almost every time a problem crapped up. Probably that’s why Paul was a great artist and I am not. He worked like a machine, usually in recluse. It gets too lonely to paint alone. That’s why I turned to sketching.
I could sketch alone because it could be done much faster than painting. A friend of mine agreed with me. Sketching yields a faster result, but it done in pen or pencil.Recently I have returned to using pencils and preferred charcoal pencil over graphite pencils.
Both are good, and they are different. I find graphite pencils too reflective on paper and it becomes difficult to judge the tones as a result. After trying out several types, I nailed down to 2 that I like a lot.
The first is Pierre Noire of Conte a Paris. It comes in different grades: B, 2B and 3B. Depending on the paper you use, it gets too sticky on some cartridge papers, but all work very well on newsprints and doesn’t flake.
I love it because it is not that “smudegable”, if there is a word for it.The second type of charcoal pencil that I like to use is Nero of Cretacolor. The available grades are shown below. Nero Extra Soft works like a charm, smooth on paper and smudge proof as it is a type of oil charcoal pencil.
It works well on all paper types.I carry these pencils with me these days when I go out sketching. To hold them together, I use a Derwent cloth or canvas pouch which folds nicely into a nifty package that can be snugged into any small space in a bag.
I bring along a sander too just in case I need a point for details. The Nero used up pretty fast so I would recommend someone to purchase a bunch if he or she is a hard worker. Strangely the local supplies actually sell out the Nero pencils all the time.
That makes me wonder whether the art schools are also recommending the, to the students. I would but I thought pencil drawing is not popular among the schools anymore.This is a sketch/ drawing I did at Little India, Singapore with a Pierre Noire 2B on an Ingres charcoal/ pastel pad.
The pencil did not run very smoothly but in terms of making dark marks, it is packing a punch. I started the sketch with light lines and then heavier ones later. The wide tonal range of the pencil never disappoint.
The other pencil that I brought along this time was Cretacolor’s Sepia Dark Oil Pencil. it works pretty well too on the paper I brought. Smooth and doesn’t flake. Here’s the result. I have touched up with Instagram filter to make it look nicer with the contrast and crop.
Cretacolor’s Sepia Dark Oil Pencil Clive Street, Little India with a Cretacolor Nero Pencil
Meet the Correspondent: Omar Jaramillo > Berlin$show=/search/label/Omar%20Jaramillo
SKETCHBOOKS: Travelogue Watercolor Journal by Hand Book My all-around favorite sketchbook. I use the 10.5×8.5″ Grand Portrait size, when I can’t find my preferred 8.25” square format. For whatever reason the square book is hard to find.
I like the weight of these slim books (not too heavy to hold and draw), and the paper is reasonable for any kind of drawing or watercolor painting. Stillman & Birn Epsilon (5.5×8.5″): This is an excellent sketchbook for ink and wash.
It doesn’t take water quite well as a Hand Book, but is an ideal multi-purpose book. The smooth surface is wonderful for detail in pen. If you want to go larger There is the Stillman & Birn Epsilon Series (8.
5 x 11″). But this can be too heavy for some sketchers. If you like a slightly toothy-er paper surface try out the S&B Alpha series: 9 x 6″ and 8 .5 x 11“. For everyday pen and ink doodling, I do like the classic Moleskine Art Plus Sketchbook (5 x 8.
25″). This heavy, waxy paper is great for pen and ink, and will take light washes with only mild buckling. It’s not a true watercolor paper however. For that they have the Moleskine Folio Watercolor Album (11.
75 x 8.25″). This is a larger sized book, big enough to do multiple sketches on a page spread, or make an ultra-wide panorama. These books are also available in more convenient sizes: Notebook (5 x 8.
25″) and Pocket Album (3.5 x 5.5″). For little spontaneous portraits on the subway, or a quick street corner drawing that I don’t intend to color, I carry a Moleskine Cahier Journal (3 x 5″).
These are ideal for everyday carry, so I am never without. Very cheap paper. Only for doodles. WATERCOLOR TRAVEL KITS:
“I was born in Mumbai (Bombay) and lived in different parts of India until I moved to San Jose, California, where I now live.Travel inspires my art, but, traveling or not, I try to view the world around me as a traveller would; so whether I’m capturing a moment of calm on the banks of the Ganges in India, or sketching over coffee at my local coffee shop, I aim to look deeply, and with wonder, at both the everyday and the exotic, the old and the new.
I love color. My sketch kit consists of Extra Fine Sharpies (the fact that they bleed into the paper as soon as they touch it works really well for me—it forces me to work super-quick), a small set of Prismacolor pencils and a little watercolor travel set”.
• Blog• Flickr
Pentel Arts Pocket Brush Pen: Inexpensive, widely available. You will pay back the cost of the pen in only a few refills, comparerd to a disposable brush marker. Uses it’s own brand of cartridges – labled FP10.
These are water PROOF ink and are a dark, solid, black. You get two cartridges with the pen, then can buy them in little boxes of six extra. They don’t make an ink converter sadly – but you can refill the empty cartridges with a syringe.
(Ask at a pharmacist, or at medical supply store, you can get blunt needles for dispensing medicines). Kuretake Sumi Brush Pen: A very nice brush pen. A little more expensive for a fancy metallic body design.
The name-brand Kuretake ink cartridge comes loaded with water SOLUBLE ink. If you want to use water PROOF ink, the Platinum Ink Converter will fit the Kuretake pen. So use one of those with Platinum Carbon Black ink.
One last nice thing, if the brush tip wears down, you can replace just the brush part: Kuretake Sumi Brush Pen Replacement Nib. You can also order natural sable hair replacement nibs! Splurge for an anniversary.
BOTTLED INK: There are so many choices, you’ll have to do some experimenting to see what you like. Here’s some suggestions to start: Platinum Carbon Ink, Black: Reliably waterproof, reliably black ink.
Despite rumors online, I have not found it clogs pens in normal use. I am not an obsessive about cleaning my pens either – just every so often. Overall, a reliable, safe ink. PLEASE NOTE: You are looking for Platinum Carbon Ink, (black) not just Platinum Ink, (black).
The box and bottle labeled ‘Carbon Ink’ (gold text) is the water-proof stuff. The bottle labeled simply ‘Black’ or ‘Ink’ (in white lettering) is water-soluble. Some people have had bad experiences due to this small confusion – and some discount online retailers will also make this mistake when shipping to you.
So double check your order! Thanks to Larry D Marshall of Quebec city for solving that mystery. Lamy Bottled Ink (LT52BK): A water *soluble* black ink. Nice for making softer, tonal sketches out of your drawings – just paint over with clear water, or watercolor to ‘melt‘ the ink.
Noodler’s Ink Red Black: My favorite color alternative to black. This is a highly reactive water-soluble ink even when dry on the page. Noodlers Ink Rome Burning: A dark gold color, nice antique feel.
Also water-soluble. Higgins Sepia Ink: I like the color and the amount of water soluble flow – and it’s inexpensive. Here’s a post about what’s so cool about water soluble Ink and another one about colored ink.
And a sketchbook project done with Lamy ink cartridges and watercolor. DIPPING PENS:
Meet the Correspondent: Pete Scully > Davis, Calif.$show=/search/label/Pete%20Scully
Bold Nibs: You can get chisel flats in sizes like 2mm or 5mm from Brause, Speedball or Tachikawa. They call them C nibs – usualy they will say C-0 or C-3, depending on size. The C-0 is the biggest I have. These are great for laying in broad strokes. You can also draw wiht the corners, or the edge held thin-wise, making it possible to do an entire drawing with just this nib.
General Drawing: I’m liking the general purpose Tachikawa G nib or the a bigger, more flexible Brause 361 Steno also known as The Blue Pumpkin for its round ink reservoir and gunmetal blue finish.
There’s lots of reasons *not* to draw with these. They’re messy and scratchy-er, and you run the risk of ink drips. However – you can’t really get the same ‘organic’ quality of line any other way. Plus – they allow you to quickly change ink color without bringing a lot of pens. Though you do need a lot of small in bottles. (Here’s an article on why I like dipping pens). Plus, they’re pretty much the cheapest art supplies you’ll every buy. Next to drawing with a stick.
If you want to try a bottle of ink in the field, don’t bring the manufacturers glass bottle. A: it’s too big. B: you cannot rely on the seal not to leak in your bag. I recommend leak-proof 5 ml HDPE plastic bottles from Nalgene. Here’s a shot of how I’m holding the tiny Nalgene bottle while doing a larger drawing in a museum.
I’m going to start adding in commonly asked questions (when I remember). We’ll see if this section becomes important 🙂 For now, these are in no particular order and might stray from being about sketching supplies.