Travel art supplies are my adult Wubby. If I’m going to leave the house for an outing or a night away, I always throw them in the car.  They are essential gear, packed year-round, and always at the ready. Here’s my compact system that works great for mixed media art on the go.

Travel Art Supplies Video

Backpack Cooler Camping Stool

I originally bought this stool to use as my travel art supply bag in 2017 and I would buy it all over again today. Features that make it awesome include: it’s durable, waterproof, roomy, allows for hands-free carrying, and you always have somewhere to sit. Through the years, I’ve also found it’s convenient to leave open as you work so all of your supplies are accessible and contained.

cooler backpack stool art bag

As an added bonus, it’s easy to quickly pick up and carry off at a moment’s notice … like the time homeless men began to fight next to me and my sister as we sketched on a Chicago street.

My all time favorite sketchbook is a Pentalic Aqua Journal sized 5×8 inches. It contains 48 pages of 140 lb (300 gsm) acid-free, European-made watercolor paper. The paper is the perfect weight and texture to hold up to multi-layered mixed media work. Six signatures are sewn into the beautiful landscape-format hardcover journal so the pages lie flat when the book is open. An elastic brush holder is attached to the top of the book, perfect for holding a travel brush.

Pencil pouches keep supplies organized inside the cooler bag. Most of my pouches are Blue Q brand. Woven from 95% recycled polypropylene, they are easy-to-wipe-clean and have some awesome designs. Check out all their designs and sizes on Amazon.

TIP: Make a paper tag labeling the contents of each bag and tie them on the zipper pulls. It helps when you can’t remember which bag holds which art supplies.

Water Considerations

Water is necessary for the creative process and sometimes when you’re creating on location, it isn’t available. If I know that will be the case, I put a small water bottle into my pack. Obviously, water is heavy, so I take a 10 ounce leakproof bottle and don’t completely fill it.

When it comes to creating with a lot of water soluble media, a tiny spray bottle comes in very handy. Having the bottle tucked into the outside pocket makes it easy to access. Also in the outside pocket, I keep a folding water cup called an aqua tote. I recommend it as it folds flat and has outer pockets you can tuck art utensils in as you create instead of letting them roll to the floor. If you can’t find it, though, Faber Castell’s collapsible cup is a great second best.

Pencil Roll

Having a pencil roll solves a lot of problems when you’re arting on the go. It keeps all of the utensils from rolling away and it enables an organized view of everything. Although I have some extra stuff, the vital items in the pencil roll for me include: a mechanical pencil, a Stabilo All pencil in black, a white Uni-ball Signo pen, and waterproof black fineliners (Micron and Uni-ball Vision).

In the “nice to have” category, I also carry a set of black Pitt artist pens in various sizes, a fountain pen, a uni-ball silver & gold set, and some monolith shading pencils.

Pencils, Chalk, & Rulers Pouch

Items that don’t fit in the pencil roll go into this pouch. First, it has a view finder that I received in an urban sketching class. The window measures 4.5 by 3 inches. Holding it up helps with composition when sketching plein air. It also serves as a template to create lots of thumbnail composition sketches before starting the final piece.

A tin with a basic Cretacolor sketching pencil set also lives in the bag. Honestly, I’ve never used them. They were free at a Usk convention, and this became their home.

Additionally, I carry a 6 inch right triangle ruler (similar to this one). It helps with perspective and angles, has a few different sized circle templates on it, and, of course, has a measured straight edge which can help with scale. I also carry a kneaded eraser and a clic eraser. For sharpening, I have a sharpener that can sharpen 5 different sized pencils. Lastly, I carry a smudge stick and 2 Lyra graphite sticks for large area coverage or marks (one water soluble and one not).

Watercolor Pouch

In my watercolor zipper pouch, I carry paints and brushes. There is a travel tin palette with 14 half pans. The tin holds mostly Daniel Smith colors from the Essentials set and the Primatek set. Additionally, I keep a book of Peerless Watercolors on hand which is similar to these Vivia Watercolors.

Nine brushes grace my watercolor pouch:  4 travel watercolor brushes and 5 aqua brushes. All of the travel watercolor brushes come in the handy, protective reversible cases. I have an Escoda Kolinsky round size 6 that I adore. It’s the most expensive paint brush I’ve ever bought. I bought it in 2015 and it is still the first brush I use (and sometimes the only one). I also picked up 3 assorted sizes of Rosemary & Co travel brushes. They’re also squirrel hair brushes and hold pigment beautifully.

I have both Kuretake and Pentel Aquash aqua brushes. The only difference between the two is how you load them with water. I prefer the Pentel Aquabrush which comes apart so you can drip water into it. The Kuretake pens suck water into the barrel. Two of the Pentel aqua brushes always remain loaded with an inky water mixture for shading. The other three I keep handy for general needs.

Liquid Inks

The liquid inks pouch holds tiny little plastic squeeze bottles. Unlike watercolors, these remain permanent when dry. Because the squeeze bottles come in an inexpensive bag of 50, I created one for each color of my liquid inks for travel. Both Dr. Ph. Martin’s Bombay India Inks and Daler-Rowney FW Acrylic Artists Inks fill these little 10ml bottles. They work great and remain drip proof after 2 years of use and travel.

Paint & Markers

Because the travel supply kit is typically for plein air art, I often paint landscapes which incorporate shades, tints, and tones of green. For this reason, I include a few small tubes of acrylic paint, including: two tubes of green, a tube of brown, and tubes of white and black paint.

materials for painting a pumpkin

For markers, I include a full set of small Posca markers. Full of acrylic paint, they are permanent, opaque, and work great over most media including watercolors. Then, I include a yellow, red, and blue Tombow marker. Tombow markers are water soluble. Having the primary colors suits all needs since they can be blended with a wet brush to create other colors.

Crayons & Colored Pencils

Topping off all the other travel art supplies, I carry 3 tin sets. I carry a basic set of  Neocolor II water soluble wax pastels. Essentially, they are watercolor crayons. I also carry a set of 12 Derwent Inktense watercolor pencils.

Lastly, I carry a set of Tri-Tone colored pencils with multi-colored leads (pictured to the left). The Tri-Tone set is not water soluble, so they work great for fine details and the multi-colored tips add real depth to the artwork.

Weight & Distance

There you have it. Those are the travel art supplies I carry with me whenever I have an outing. I feel like some people might be concerned with the weight of the pack, so I weighed it and it is exactly 10 pounds. I’ve carried it long distances before with no problem. Also, I have taken this through TSA checkpoints countless times with zero issues.

Let me know if you  have any additional questions or provide other brilliant travel art supply ideas in the comments!

Tags: art supplies, gift idea, ideas, mixed media, organization, sketch, storage, urban sketch

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