Thursday, 13 June 2019

My sketching tools

I do a lot of travelling and take my sketching supplies with me all over the world. I've often been asked to do a blog about what I carry with me, so here it is. I'm packing it up to take to Cairns today!

It wouldn't be the same kit for everyone, but may give you some ideas. Feel free to add other suggestions in the comments section :-)

I try to keep my kit as compact as I can, while maintaining a good range of tools to work with. I've sketched each tool here using my new Daniel Smith Jane's Grey watercolour.

The sketchbook is The Perfect Sketchbook B5. It was a kickstarter project but apparently it will be available again through It is made with Fabriano Artistico paper, 200gsm cold pressed. This is the 5th of these books that I've used so far and I really like them. The cover is recycled leather and the paper is a joy to use.

I love to begin each new book with swatches of one of my palettes. I'll talk about those below.

The tools are, from left, a 0.7 2B clutch/propelling pencil. I like the 0.7mm as it is not too fine for sketching but is also excellent for writing. I use either B or 2B leads - dark enough to do finished drawings or just light initial sketches, soft enough that it doesn't damage the paper.

Mottler - 1" size. I love this little brush. I use it for pre-wetting the background for sky washes or larger areas or for when I want more of a geometric shape.

Waterbrush. They are especially useful on planes or in galleries where it is difficult to manage a separate water container.

Uniball Broad white pen. For adding highlights or lost whites to a sketch or for writing on darker paper or darker washes.

Rosemary & Co Eradicator small sized. Great for lifting out fine details such as white window sills or for making minor corrections.

Post Office Nib in a cut down nib holder. I use this to draw or write with watercolour, loading the colour into the nib with a brush.

Small Scrubber brush - another correction tool. For cleaning up small splatters or softening parts of a wash.

Pilot custom Fountain pen (fine) with black De Atramantis Ink.

TWSBI 580 AL fountain pen (Extra Fine) with brown De Atramantis Ink

Pilot Custom Fountain pen (fine) with Urban Grey De Atramentis ink.

Porcupine Quill - for stirring paint in a palette or for scratching or denting the damp wash on a sketch to add fine details.

Da Vinci Maestro Travel Brush size 6

Faber Castell water-soluble graphite pencil 4B - I usually begin my sketches with this. If used lightly, the lines will wash into the watercolour and disappear. No need for erasing.

Da Vinci Maestro Travel Brush size 8.

The swatches on the page on the right is my usual sketching palette. This is a Herring Compact set up with 24 half pans. It includes my basic 15 Ultimate Mixing colours as well as some lovely convenience mixes and great granulating pigments. The full details are here. The Herring Compact palette is available in half pan or full pan models from Jackson's in the UK. I've adapted it slightly to hold the 24 colours and waterbrush.

The swatches on the left page are of my Pocket Palette with my plein air extras - special pigments that I may not often use but are lovely at times. The details of those colours are also found here at the bottom of the page.

I use two plastic Nalgene bottles for my painting water. One clean, the other dirty.

I also carry a water bottle with drinking water. I love the A4 and A5 bottles as they fit into my Messenger Bag - a bike bag I bought in Canada.

I use a travel stool - the Helinox Chair One - as it is light (less than 1kg), compact and comfortable. The low height of this stool means I can have my water bottles on the ground next to me - one less item to have the juggle - and also that I can work with my sketchbook in my knee.

I have a few sheets of paper towel and a few very small Nalgene bottles to carry the inks I use - De Atramentis Document Inks. Black, Brown and my own mixed grey or Urban Grey.

I have a compact raincoat, a compact down jacket, fingerless gloves, sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses, and umbrella and a very fine woollen scarf available, depending on the season, so I can be out in most weather. Rain and snow are of course rather too challenging!

As I mentioned, I'm off to Cairns today and will take all this with me. I'm teaching a 5-day 'sketching with watercolour' workshop in the botanic gardens. I'll be posting on Instagram - Janeblundellartist

Happy sketching!


  1. So kind of you to share what you travel with, I enjoyed considering each item. I think most artists love to see what other people pack. Do you ever use tape to tape down a paper or to leave a border free of paint around the edges? I find most tapes tear the Etchr sketchpads when I remove them. Even if I remove tape the same day I put it on.

    1. I often use tape - sometimes to mark my paper up into smaller areas, sometimes to avoid having a large wash drop over onto other pages. I use the painting tape from Bunnings - a hardware store. It is marked as 'sensitive' and I haven't had any problems with it on any paper. I often reuse the pieces of tape, storing them at the back of the sketchbook.