Stephanie Bower

Stephanie Bower | Architectural Illustration: | Sketching Workshops: | Sketches: on Instagram at @stephanieabower & | Urban Sketchers Blog Correspondent | Signature member of the Northwest Watercolor Society

Sunday, April 23, 2017

TRAVEL SKETCHING ESSENTIALS, my favorite supplies for globe-trotting

Thanks to everyone at Daniel Smith's Seattle store for the opportunity yesterday to share my best supplies and tips for travel sketching! In travel sketching, the name of the game is LIGHT and SMALL! It has to be BOTH to work.

I've bought and tried pretty much is the list of supplies I use, developed over years of trial and error. I now only take carry-on luggage (small suitcase and a backpack), no matter where I am going or for how long.

Thanks also to Joe Bosch, store manager extraordinaire, for all his hard work and everyone at Daniel Smith's mother ship here in Seattle. Thanks also to the 50 (!!) people or so who turned up, it was great to meet you all.

General Sketching Supplies
-- Sketchbook: Pentalic Aqua Journal (my favorite sketchbook because it has true 140lb. CP watercolor paper), Handbook (8" x 8"), 
         Fluid watercolor blocks (I use 8" x 16").
-- Mechanical pencil: .5mm size lead, with extra B or 2B lead
-- Eraser: Kneaded eraser & white plastic eraser
-- Pen: Felt Tip -- Faber Castell, PITT artist pen
            Fountain Pen -- Lamy Safari with Platinum Carbon permanent ink, or Sailor Bent nib pen
-- Straight Edge: 6” clear plastic architect’s triangle (30/60 degrees is easiest to use) or small plastic ruler
-- Binder Clips: 3-4 binder clips to hold down your paper
-- Bag: Backpack or bag for carrying your supplies when sketching outdoors, that can be secured
-- Small portable stool: “Tribe Provisions Compact Field 3-leg Stool, Coleman Event Stool, or Walkstool (different heights.)
-- Portable travel painting easel: I use the “En Plein Air Pro” surface that is carefully cut down to fit in my
       backpack, mounted onto a small AND light tripod I purchased on Amazon, the “Sony VCT-R100 Lightweight Compact Tripod”
-- Bags: small plastic zip bags for holding your supplies, one for wet and one for dry supplies
-- Also: sun screen, hat, bug repellant, snacks, water

Watercolor Supplies
-- Palette: “Winsor & Newton Sketcher’s Pocket Box”, (Refill with higher grade artists paints, just use the box.)
                   “Heritage Artist Palette”, 18 color wells, (doesn’t leak)
                    Lukas metal half pan box, take out the holders and replace with your own half pans, taped into place

-- Paints: Watercolor paints, half pans (pre-made cubes of paint) or tubes (squirt fresh paint onto palette)
              Brands: Winsor & Newton Artists/Professional (not Cotman, poor student grade paints) or Daniel Smith (DS)
              Colors:  Blues: Ultramarine Blue, Cobalt Blue, Manganese Blue or Cerulean Blue
                            Reds: Permanent Alizarin Crimson, Burnt Sienna
                            Yellows: New Gamboge, Yellow Ochre, Winsor & Newton Raw Umber
                            Also: Pyrrole Orange, Sap Green, Daniel Smith Quinacridone Burnt Orange
                            Recommended: Aureolin (yellow), DS Quinacridone Burnt Scarlet, DS Quinacridone Gold
-- Brushes:
             1) Round: Escoda Reserva Sable travel brush, size 10; Escoda Perla Synthetic travel brush, size 12;
                Richeson travel brush set; Winsor & Newton University Series 223; Cotman synthetic brushes
2) Angled or flat brush, sizes ¾” or 1” in synthetic or sable mix

Other Supplies
1)    Paper towels, a few sheets
2)    Small scraps of watercolor paper for testing colors
3)    Water holder while painting, such as the “Faber-Castell Clic & Go” collapsible water pot, around $5.
4)    You can also make the small holder I use, cut from corrugated plastic. It uses medicine bottles for water and clips to hold the
           Pocket Box palette and scrap paper in place. It works great!  Do-it-yourself template is on the following page.
5)    Water bottle with water

Other Resources

Online Classes:        “Perspective for Sketchers”
50% Discount on Craftsy:

“The Essentials of Sketching Architecture”
50% Discount on Craftsy:
The Urban Sketching Handbook, Understanding Perspective


  1. Hi Stephanie,
    Thanks for posting this for those of us who couldn't be there!
    I've noticed your sketches have a lot of lovely purple and lavender. Do you mix them from Ultramarine and perm crimson since you don't include a ready made purple in your palette? And do you prefer DS burnt sienna or Winsor Newton?

    1. Hi Dory!
      I'm glad you like seeing this list, thanks for writing.

      As far as a purple, I am indeed using either French Ultramarine with Permanent Alizarin Crimson, or if I'm underpainting or wanting a softer purple, I will use Cobalt Blue with the Aliz. All are Winsor & Newton. I do love some Daniel Smith colors, but there are some that I don't like for various reasons, including: DS burnt sienna is a dull red compared to W&N and doesn't mix as well, and I also don't like the weird granulation that some times happens with DS ultramarine blues (I can spot it a mile away when someone uses it.) Also, the DS Raw Umber is dark and gray (which some people like) but I like the W& N which is more yellow and more "Umbrian" for Italy.
      The purple in this demo painting is W&N Cobalt Blue with a molecule or two of Perm. Alizarin Crimson.
      Hope this helps! Thanks for viewing the blog!

  2. Hi, Stephanie,
    Thanks for posting! If I ever win the lottery, the Escoda Reserva sable brush is high on my list. :-) Glad you mentioned other round brushes; I'll check them out.

    One of these days you must share your packing tips. I'm impressed that you can fit all your clothing, essentials, AND art supplies in a small suitcase and backpack. I've watched lots of videos on packing, but most require a wardrobe based on black lycra stretch pants and tank tops. Would love to hear how you do it, even though it's not art-related.


    1. Hi Avitalp, thanks for your comment here! I hope you can get the Escoda some day, it is such a beautiful tool to use! Like the difference between driving an old beat up car compared to a Tesla. Both get you from point A to point B, but wow, what a difference!

      In terms of packing, I put heavy stuff at the bottom, light stuff at the top. I roll my clothes in very tightly. I wear my heaviest shoes on the plane. I lighten everything I can, even taking pills out of bottles and putting them into tiny plastic baggies. And I put everything in a carry-on suitcase with four wheels (WAAAY better than two wheels), and also in my backpack! I always consider weight and bulk with everything I take...I love the planning part, it's a fun challenge!

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  4. 50% off for "The Essentials for Sketching Architecture"

    I tried this link and it does not work. Can you help? I already have your other class. Thanks

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