What’s In My Sketchbag

So many people have asked what I use to sketch and what I took on my trip to Italy. It just seems best to show you and I’ll try to list everything below. This is what works for me. It is sort of like trying to choose your wardrobe, though. You might want different things and that is fine. Go with what works for you. Here is what I like:


The bag is a Franklin Covey organizer bag. I bought it to get organized and found a better use for it. I took a larger bag to Italy, but this one would have been a better choice. Some people like backpacks, but I don’t like to stop and take off the backpack to begin sketching.

Two palettes, but I mostly use the little one. It is a tin that came with water-soluble wax pastels. I filled empty plastic pans with watercolor paint from tubes and let them dry, then used double-sided tape to stick them in. I painted the inside of the lid with gesso then acrylic white paint. Spray paint would have been better, but I didn’t have any at the time. The nicest thing about this little guy is that it sits happily on one page while I paint on the other. The larger palette is a Heritage Palette. It has a rubber gasket to keep it from leaking. I use it if I’m planning on larger sketches.  I use the sponge to dab water out of the brush. Lots of time I use only the blue Ninji, large water brush. It isn’t great for details, but works really good for quick, small studies.

Sketchbooks. Well, this is interesting. I loved using the Stillman and Birn Beta sketchbook for the trip to Italy. Excellent paper and the pages lie flat when it is open. The one below it is my favorite square format, made by HandBook. The paper buckles more than I would like and it is only five inches square. I’m planning on making a seven-inch square book using Strathmore’s Aquarius 2 paper. I just love that paper! I’ve taken some sheets and cut them to 6×9 , then had the UPS Store in the Valley spiral bind them for less than $5. I’m just not too fond of spiral bindings.

The blue blob is blue tack for hanging posters. I put a little water container on it and it keeps it from tipping over.

The little folding stool is 17″ high and I love it! It went to Italy. When I sketch in the wilderness I usually just take a piece of packing foam and sit on it. Not the kind with the bubbles. The pops would scare off all the wildlife. I use the kind that is about 1/4 inch thick and has tiny bubbles running through it.

The gray square is a viewfinder and the gray blob is a kneaded eraser. My go-to pen is the .01 or .02 Pigma Micron pen in black. They have a nice sepia, too. My favorite pen is the Carbon with Carbon Black ink. The nib just sings on paper. I use a cheap mechanical pencil, the kind that comes in sets of about eight. .5mm or .7mm. Just don’t use the eraser. I take an 8″ ruler my kind husband cut from a 12″ ruler. There is a rubber band around it holding my paint brushes. They are Escoda #10 Perla and the #2 with short handles. The long handles are for oil, I think. They aren’t very expensive, but they don’t keep a point for very long. That way I don’t mind if I lose one or allow someone to use it and they use it to scrub paint. I do have a little scrub brush that I forgot to put in the photo. It is just an old #2 flat oil or acrylic brush cut down to about six inches long. The hairs are stiff and splayed like the hair on a mad cat. Works great for splatters too.  The short, red brush is fairly new to me, but I really like it. It is a daVinci series 5080 #20. I get both brands of brushes from Dick Blick.

The miscellaneous stuff is a little spray bottle, Viva paper towels, a Neocolor 2 water-soluble wax pastel in white, pencil sharpener (if I happen to take a blue or sepia watercolor pencil with me)

The camera is a Canon PowerShot SX260 HS.  It has a 20X zoom. Very nice.

In the summer I add a can of pepper spray for bears. A harmonica might be more useful.

I’ll do a post on the why and how I sketch too, but this will answer some of the questions in the comments.

6 thoughts on “What’s In My Sketchbag

  1. Beautifully put together collection, makes me want to start water-colouring again. What do you do for water, how do you carry it? That was always my biggest bugbear having to lug a bottle of water with me. Tony

  2. Thank you so much, Suzie! Some ingenious ideas here! I really appreciate you sharing.

  3. Tony, you are so right! The water is so very heavy. The little waterbrush uses such a tiny amount of water. It takes a bit to get used to it, but I love it. I paint with it on airplanes. If I’m hiking I take along water anyway. Otherwise, I just have a small bottle for painting that fits in the bag. Six ounces is plenty for me to use for painting. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Nice post sharing your travel kit!!! Blue Tack is wonderful, isn’t it? So many uses one can put it to. I even use it to steady photos on the wall, electronics on my desk so they don’t get easily knocked off, etc. etc. I like that square format sketchbook. I’ll have to try one!! You are like me……..I prefer non-spiral sketchbooks but I guess it’s better than nothing. Wish I could find a class here on binding sketchbooks like I’ve seen others do. I know there are loads of videos out there but not quite the same as sitting in a class and asking for help if one needs it. I’ve never tried the paper you mentioned. Might have to check that out too. I’ve always used Fabriano Artistico.

  5. Susan, I would sure like to attend a class too! I tried to learn origami with a kit and just about went crazy. I’m sure bookbinding will be SO much easier 🙂

Post your comments and thoughts here.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s