My Sketching Materials

Reviewing my sketching kit in preparation for our Travel Sketching workshop in Puglia in April 2020. My most important consideration is to keep my kit as simple, compact and lightweight as possible.  All the items below, except for the sketchbook fit in a small pencil case.


My preference is for a hardback watercolour sketchbook in a size A5 which is compact, while allowing for a larger spread across 2 pages.  These are my favourites:

Stillman and Birn Zeta 5.5 x 8.5in

Stillman and Birn Zeta Sketchbook

Stillman and Birn have a wide range of sketchbooks offering a choice of paper surface – cold pressed or smooth, lightweight or heavier.  My preference is the Zeta range – the smooth hot pressed paper is best suited for pen drawing and heavy enough for watercolour washes. The stitched hardbound book allows for painting across 2 pages

Available from

Watercolour Book A5 from Evans Art Supplies

Compare sketchbook layout

Photo shows the Hahnemuhle Watercolour Notebook on top, the Zeta Sketchbook below, to compare the format. I prefer the Zeta format which is better suited for drawing tall structures like buildings.


I like to use a small set of 12 half pan colours, and  there are many brands to choose from.

Highest artist quality is probably the Schminke Horadam range available from Kennedy Art, Harcourt St (€65 for 12 half pan set)

Schminke Horadam Half Pan Set

A more affordable alternative especially if you’re starting out, is the widely available Winsor and Newton Cotman sketcher pocket box priced around €20.  I’m currently trying out a Derwent Inktense pan set


These are a handy alternative to a paint set, and there are many brands and options available. You use them like colouring pencils, then add water with a water brush (see below)  Depending on the quality they will be more or less soluble, but may leave some pencil lines that won’t completely dissolve.


Available in most art stores, a water brush has a barrel that can be filled with water and squeezed to release water onto the page. Super handy for immediate use with watercolour pans or pencils.


Most watercolour pan sets will include a small brush.  I carry 2  brushes,  one a flat watercolour brush with a short handle, about 1cm wide for laying in washes over larger areas of the page, as well as a compact folding brush that fits in my pan set.


I carry a selection of waterproof pens in sizes from 0.1 to 0.5.  Widely available in art or stationary stores such as Easons. There are several brands – Pitt, Micron, Staedtler, Unipin, and some are available as a set of 3 or 5 pens – just check that it says “waterproof”, so the ink won’t run when you apply watercolour on top.

My favourite pen right now is the Unipin Fine Line in Dark Grey, size 0.5. It marks like a pencil but won’t smudge.  I start all my sketches with this, so first marks are light, then add stronger, darker lines later on.

UNIPIN fine line, dark grey, size 0.5

A white gel pen is useful for adding white detail like windowpanes to your sketch.


Pencil case

Small dipper for water, to attach to your paintbox

Paper Tissues

Bulldog clips to hold your page in place

Water bottle, sun visor, sun screen

Backpack or cross body bag

Optional three leg folding camp stool

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