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Sketching Supplies List


This is my list of sketchbook drawing supplies. You can read more about watercolor painting over here: Watercolor Supplies


I prefer 0.7mm sized lead for larger (9×12″ and up) drawings. It doesn’t break as often when drawing. I like HB lead. I find softer smudges, and harder digs into the paper. For a very small book (pocket-sized) I’ll sometimes use 0.3mm lead. I never use a wooden pencil. Sharpening is a constant messy chore, and plus you don’t acutely want a lot of graphite on a drawing you plan to ink or watercolor later. If you’re doing soft tonal drawings, that might be different, but that’s not my thing for travel sketching. Too slow!

You’ll also want a Kneaded Rubber Eraser. The grey rubbery kind you can squish into points for small erasures, or blot and roll for overall lightening. These don’t damage paper surfaces like white or pink erasers.

PLEASE NOTE: I don’t endorse any particular online vendor. These pages use Amazon Affiliate links for product descriptions. If you do order an item from these links, I get a small rebate from Amazon (starting at 4% of your order). So thanks for supporting my work on CitizenSketcher! But please feel free to support your local retailers too :)



I like fountain pens for their rapid smooth drawings, and the line variation you can get with a flexible nib. Plus the ability to refill it yourself with different color ink, or switch from water-proof to water-soluble inks. They cost more than a disposable pen up front, but you regain the cost in re-usability. Most pen makers sell parts, so your pen will last forever, given moderate maintenance. To clean a fountain pen, just unscrew all the parts (paying some attention to how they go back together), and run it all under tap water.

Starter Fountain Pens:

Other Fountain Pens:


A real brush pen has a synthetic fiber brush on a fountain pen body. They are much nicer than the rubber tipped disposable brush markers. You can get better line variety, and have finer control of small tip work.

  • Pentel Arts Pocket Brush Pen: Inexpensive, widely available. You will pay back the cost of the pen in only a few refills, comparerd to a disposable brush marker. Uses it’s own brand of cartridges – labled FP10. These are water PROOF ink and are a dark, solid, black. You get two cartridges with the pen, then can buy them in little boxes of six extra. They don’t make an ink converter sadly – but you can refill the empty cartridges with a syringe. (Ask at a pharmacist, or at medical supply store, you can get blunt needles for dispensing medicines).
  • Kuretake Sumi Brush Pen: A very nice brush pen. A little more expensive for a fancy metallic body design. The name-brand Kuretake ink cartridge comes loaded with water SOLUBLE ink.  If you want to use water PROOF ink, the Platinum Ink Converter will fit the Kuretake pen. So use one of those with Platinum Carbon Black ink. One last nice thing, if the brush tip wears down, you can replace just the brush part: Kuretake Sumi Brush Pen Replacement Nib. You can also order natural sable hair replacement nibs! Splurge for an anniversary.



  • There are so many choices, you’ll have to do some experimenting to see what you like. Here’s some suggestions to start:
  • Platinum Carbon Ink, Black: Reliably waterproof, reliably black ink. Despite rumors online, I have not found it clogs pens in normal use. I am not an obsessive about cleaning my pens either – just every so often. Overall, a reliable, safe ink.
    PLEASE NOTE: You are looking for Platinum Carbon Ink, (black) not just Platinum Ink, (black). The box and bottle labeled ‘Carbon Ink’ (gold text) is the water-proof stuff. The bottle labeled simply ‘Black’ or ‘Ink’ (in white lettering) is water-soluble. Some people have had bad experiences due to this small confusion – and some discount online retailers will also make this mistake when shipping to you. So double check your order! Thanks to Larry D Marshall of Quebec city for solving that mystery.
  • Lamy Bottled Ink (LT52BK): A water *soluble* black ink. Nice for making softer, tonal sketches out of your drawings – just paint over with clear water, or watercolor to ‘melt‘ the ink.
  • Noodler’s Ink Red Black: My favorite color alternative to black. This is a highly reactive water-soluble ink even when dry on the page.
  • Noodlers Ink Rome Burning: A dark gold color, nice antique feel. Also water-soluble.
  • Higgins Sepia Ink: I like the color and the amount of water soluble flow – and it’s inexpensive.
  • Here’s a post about what’s so cool about water soluble Ink and another one about colored ink. And a sketchbook project done with Lamy ink cartridges and watercolor.



There’s lots of reasons *not* to draw with these. They’re messy and scratchy-er, and you run the risk of ink drips. However – you can’t really get the same ‘organic’ quality of line any other way. Plus – they allow you to quickly change ink color without bringing a lot of pens. Though you do need a lot of small in bottles. (Here’s an article on why I like dipping pens).  Plus, they’re pretty much the cheapest art supplies you’ll every buy. Next to drawing with a stick.

Fine Nibs: You get the finest lines with crowquill nibs. They’re tiny tube shaped nibs with sharp little points. They use their own size of holder that fits the cylindrical profile. You can’t fit them in an normal ‘flat,curved’ pen holder. The easiest to find seem to be the Hunt #107 and 102. I actually can’t tell them apart, but one must be meant for slightly more flex.

General Drawing: I’m liking the  general purpose Tachikawa G nib or the a bigger, more flexible Brause 361 Steno also known as The Blue Pumpkin for its round ink reservoir and gunmetal blue finish.

Bold Nibs: You can get chisel flats in sizes like 2mm or 5mm from Brause, Speedball or Tachikawa. They call them C nibs – usualy they will say C-0 or C-3, depending on size. The C-0 is the biggest I have. These are great for laying in broad strokes. You can also draw wiht the corners, or the edge held thin-wise, making it possible to do an entire drawing with just this nib.

You’ll also need a wooden or plastic nib holder. A simple device with a slot or groove to insert the pen nibs.

If you want to try a bottle of ink in the field, don’t bring the manufacturers glass bottle. A: it’s too big. B: you cannot rely on the seal not to leak in your bag. I recommend leak-proof 5 ml HDPE plastic bottles from Nalgene. Here’s a shot of how I’m holding the tiny Nalgene bottle while doing a larger drawing in a museum.

5ml Ink Vial Thumb Grip.



  • Travelogue Watercolor Journal by Hand Book My all-around favorite sketchbook. I use the 10.5×8.5″ Grand Portrait size, when I can’t find my preferred 8.25” square format. For whatever reason the square book is hard to find. I like the weight of these slim books (not too heavy to hold and draw), and the paper is reasonable for any kind of drawing or watercolor painting.
  • Stillman & Birn Epsilon (5.5×8.5″): This is an excellent sketchbook for ink and wash. It doesn’t take water quite well as a Hand Book, but is an ideal multi-purpose book. The smooth surface is wonderful for detail in pen.
  • If you want to go larger There is the Stillman & Birn Epsilon Series (8.5 x 11″). But this can be too heavy for some sketchers.
  • If you like a slightly toothy-er paper surface try out the S&B Alpha series: 9 x 6″ and 8 .5 x 11.
  • For everyday pen and ink doodling, I do like the classic Moleskine Art Plus Sketchbook (5 x 8.25″). This heavy, waxy paper is great for pen and ink, and will take light washes with only mild buckling. It’s not a true watercolor paper however.
  • For that they have the Moleskine Folio Watercolor Album (11.75 x 8.25″). This is a larger sized book, big enough to do multiple sketches on a page spread, or make an ultra-wide panorama.
  • These books are also available in more convenient sizes: Notebook  (5 x 8.25″) and Pocket Album (3.5 x 5.5″).
  • For little spontaneous portraits on the subway, or a quick street corner drawing that I don’t intend to color, I carry a Moleskine Cahier Journal (3 x 5″). These are ideal for everyday carry, so I am never without. Very cheap paper. Only for doodles.



I recommend artist quality watercolor half pans. These will come in a tin (or plastic) box with around 12 colors. I have used Winsor & Newton Artists’ WaterColor Half Pans in the past. They’re great for tinting sketchbooks. Make sure you find the W&N artists’ quality watercolor *not* the student grade Cotman line.

As well, there is more info about my personal color choices over on my watercolor supplies page.


You don’t need a lot of brushes for sketching in small or mid-sized books. I used to carry too many sizes – now it’s pretty much just two:

  • #3/4 DaVinci Artissimo, Quill (Quills have strange numbering. This is really almost the same size as a #14 pointed round).
  • #7/8 Winsor and Newton Artist’s Watercolor Sable Pointed Round. These seem to come in long hair (my choice) and shorter hair, with no visible difference in the labeling, so you just have to compare. The long hair is almost a rigger. It’s great for sharp details and linear work (tree branches, wires, etc).


I don’t really use synthetics any more – but they were good enough for many years. They’re perfectly fine for learning on, and are getting better every year.

If you go for synthetic, rather than sable, you might want to go with one more smaller brush – as they won’t anywhere near as fine a point. I would bring a #1 or 2 for detail, and a go with a #4-6 for the alternative to my #7-8 W&N Artist’s Sable Pointed Round.

I am just now trying a new synthetic fiber by Raphael called Soft Aqua. They claim it is engineered to hold more water. The fiber is spiraled, rather than smooth like a nylon strand. They come in quill’s that are working very well for me as a cheap alternate to the DaVinci Artissimo.

Can’t say how long the points will last, as they are new to me in 2015. Update: The points lasted about a year of use. They’re pretty blunt now so I’ve downgraded my set to use with India Ink. (Which is harsh on nice brushes).

I’ve also used Princeton Neptune synthetics, and found them decent enough for the price.



  • Backing Boards: Coroplast plastic boards cut to a size slightly larger than your sketchbook.  As shown above – it’s very handy to have a backing board supporting your book and tools. Coroplast is light and reasonably rigid. Beats a wooden board hands down. This setup, I call the Palm Desk, can be used on the lap or while standing.
  • Bulldog Clips: (6-8) large bulldog clips (also called binder clips). Handy for holding the book open in the wind, or while wet. Also for clipping on the paint box and ‘clamping’ damp books overnight.
  • Water Containers: I suggest a few 125ml / 4oz HDPE plastic bottles from Nalgene. I carry more than one, so when the water gets dirty I can pull a clean bottle out of my bag.
  • Paper Towels: Very important painting tool!
  • Tiny Atomizer Spray Bottle: For misting your watercolors to prime the pigments.

Q&A / FAQ:

I’m going to start adding in commonly asked questions (when I remember). We’ll see if this section becomes important :) For now, these are in no particular order and might stray from being about sketching supplies.

Q: You mention several times that you prefer to pack light for the field, but I don’t see you using water brushes at all – any particular reason why not? I’m new, but my understanding is that they are brush and water contained in one.

A: There are some people out there (Jenny Adam) who can do amazing things with water brushes. They’ve never worked for me. I don’t like the cheap nylon synthetic brush tip. I like a very sharp fine line, when I need it – (and a scrubby splayed out brush when I need that) and I just don’t trust them to deliver the range. Also – I like to control how much water is on the brush – am I trying for a tea wash, or do I need juicy honey. I find the waterbrush puts random amounts of water into the paint. You can’t really know how much you get each squeeze. Then finally, I use the water to clean my brush tip. You need to be able to go from black, to bright red, or yellow, and not have a dirty brush. So, there’s just not enough water in the barrel to properly clean the brush between. Water brush aficionados all have a grotty sponge around to clean the tip :) That’s my thinking on the cursed water brush!

Q: I notice in your sketches that you leave a lot of large spaces of white (blank page) is this for artistic effect or because you haven’t come back to finish the sketches off yet. I ask because I notice that most water color paintings don’t cover the page in paint.

A; Most often, I’m doing it for a combination of design reasons, (because I do like negative space and the ‘sketchy’ look – that’s definitely intentional) – but also practical reasons. For instance – I do a lot of white skies. This is sometimes simply because if you want a detailed horizon – say – trees or radio towers, or a city skyline against the sky. If you choose to paint a flowy bloomy wet sky you MUST wait for that to completely dry before you put in those details. A: I’m an impatient person, and B: working on location, sometimes waiting too long means losing the sketch. Things happen – you run out of time, a truck parks in your face, your friends get fed up. Bascily – with field sketching, sometimes finishing fast is is better than not finishing at all. So – white skies. — In the studio, doing a piece for a gallery – I’m much less likely to do that white sky (or white foreground shape). Even tho’, I kind of like them.

118 Comments leave one →
  1. Peter permalink
    December 20, 2014 1:40 AM

    Which hardness of lead do you prefer in your mechanical pencils?

    • December 20, 2014 12:27 PM

      Oh, good point – HB – I find softer smudges, and harder inscribes the paper. Let me add that to the text – thanks!

      • February 8, 2015 8:06 AM

        Hi, marctaro, I like to do my drawings with a HB pencil, after some corrections I end it with 2B and shading with 3B or even 6B. HP point in essencia. XXX

        • February 8, 2015 10:29 AM

          That sounds like it would get you solid dark’s. One fellow I know uses Generals Charcoal pencils instead of the 6B – to get darks even darker.

    • March 25, 2017 1:28 PM

      Could you write about Phciyss so I can pass Science class?

      • mlaiuppa permalink
        May 31, 2019 7:59 PM

        You’ll never pass Science until you learn to spell Physics.

  2. February 10, 2015 1:44 PM

    Hi, Marctaro, there is a little problem about mixing graphite with charcoal. Graphite is luminous, bright and charcoal is mat, opaque.

  3. Rene Wojcik permalink
    March 27, 2015 8:12 AM

    I’ve been watching your Craftsy lesson’s on “Sketching People in Motion”, it is excellent !!!!
    This folding booklet is exceptional….thank you for sharing. I’ve been painting in watercolors since the early 1990’s and I am always interested in learning from other artist’s like yourself. Your book on Urban Sketching is exceptional as well. I recommend it to all my Urban Sketchers – Austin. My Urban Sketching experience is just a couple of years but I love it.

    • March 27, 2015 12:35 PM

      Hey, thanks for the good words Rene, and glad to be of help :)
      I used to live in Dallas and my one or two trips to Austin – I always thought I’d rather live there :)

    • April 12, 2016 11:52 AM

      Hey Rene – I met a sketcher here in Montreal who actually lives in Austin. So I told her to look you guys up when she gets home. Someday you might hear from a ‘Laurence’. (Feminine of Laurent).

  4. March 30, 2015 12:35 PM

    Hi Marc. I admire your work very much. I grew up in the San Francisco Bay area. When I was in my early teens, there was a courtroom artist by the name of Howard Brody that chronicled cases in San Francisco and vicinity. At that time, cameras were not allowed in the courtroom. Brody’s work showed up frequently on the afternoon news channels when there was a high profile trial in the works. His work was really great! You can see some online. Your technique is similar in many respects to his and that is probably why I like it (besides the fact that is finely done). I have your Urban Sketching book and have learned much from it. Thanks. If you ever have anything scheduled for northern California please let me know where I can find that.


    Robert Bowden

    • November 17, 2015 4:19 PM

      To Robert regarding seeing the works of Howard Brody, also one of my “sketching” heroes.
      I am currently at work on my “coffee-table-book” about my over 45 years as a courtroom artist in Philadelphia, PA.
      One of my earliest memories was the morning I was in court (early 70s) and we artists could sit in the Jury Box, because we were covering a Bail hearing, so no need for a jury.
      Howard Brody sat only a few chairs away from me. At one point the judge looked over at the artists in the Jury box, and said, “Mr. Brody, would you mind taking a different seat?.
      The sunlight is bouncing off your (bald) head, into my eyes!”
      Everyone smiled, and Brody found another seat.
      He was very famous for his images during the Second World War, and Korea, as a Combat artist. What a guy! And role model.

  5. JFF permalink
    May 2, 2015 8:09 PM


    Love your book/work and the site. Thanks for making them available, they’re all lots of fun.

    I appreciate you identifying some tools, but I’m also wondering if you have any recommendations for bottled ink (black/sepia/etc.) that can be used in converters (to fill Lamy/Pilot Metropolitan/etc.).

    If possible,both waterproof and water-soluble ink recommendations would be great.

    Thanks for any suggestions you can offer.

    • May 2, 2015 10:25 PM

      Hey J – I buy Platinum Carbon Black for my go-to waterproof ink. It’s ground ultra fine so will never clog, even my fine point pens. For Black water-soluble I have used Lamy Black – but these days I’m preferring colored ink’s for watersoluble work. I’m very much liking Noodlers’s Red Black and Rome Burning. I don’t have any other favorite colors yet, but you can get ink samples in little vials from Goulet Pens for only a dollar or so. That’s the best way to try out ink colors.

      • JFF permalink
        May 10, 2015 1:59 PM

        Hi Marctaro,

        I just saw your reply. Thanks; I really appreciate the information. I’ve built a significant collection of fountain pens over the years, but never used them for sketching. Most will probably stay in the house, and I’ll start over with pens more suitable for sketching.

        There are so many inks out there, and finding good information on light-fastness, water solubility, fountain/dip pen compatibility, etc. can be a real challenge.

        I’m searching for a good black and sepia right now. For the black, I had been thinking of trying Noodler’s Black waterproof fountain pen ink, and then something like Higgins Eternal or Fountain Pen India for a water soluble option because they’re easy to get, but perhaps I’ll substitute the Platinum in there instead. I’ve heard good things about it.

        The Sepia option is wide open with little research on my part so far, but Rome Burning looks like a great solution, and I’ll probably start there.

        A little off topic for inks, but I’m wondering if you’ve tried the Pilot Metropolitan pens. They’re a great option, $15 in Fine or Med nib (medium is like a Lamy Fine, and Pilot’s Fine is like a Lamy EF) and very competitive to the Lamy Safari/Al Star (but without the easy change nibs). Just a thought if you’re (or anyone else, is looking for an excellent tool at a very affordable price).

        Thanks again for the suggestions and advice. This is going to be a fun adventure.

        Regards, Jim

  6. July 22, 2015 9:13 AM

    What on earth do you carry it all in?

  7. Toni cummins permalink
    July 30, 2015 4:50 PM

    Hello, Marc, I’m enjoying all the FB photos of USK Singapore and Cambodia. I noticed that you use an easel, that looks very lightweight but solid. Please tell me what it is and where I can purchase it if possible
    Hoping you will come and visit us in Sydney Australia cheers Toni

  8. August 20, 2015 11:34 PM

    Hi! I’ve been watercoloring and sketching for years, but it hasn’t been until more recently that I’ve started doing plein air/on-site sketching. I was wondering where the tin for your watercolors (and the slide tins for other supplies) came from? I’m pretty happy with all the materials I’ve been using, now I’m just trying to package them to move a little easier! Also wondering how the nalgene bottles fare on leaking?

    • August 21, 2015 9:09 AM

      Hey Katie – yes, the kit I use is all about packing light :) So the 24 color tin box is by Winsor and Newton – but you can get the same size box from Lukas or other manufacturers. You have to take out a 12 color tray that comes with it, and pack the half pans in tighter to make 24. I use blue tack to hold the half pans down. You can buy empty pans separately, or just buy a lot of pan colors and use them up :) If you can’t find these supplies at home, there is always Dick Blick or Amazon to order from. The nalgenes – they are in fact perfect. They never leak – and last a long time. I’ve had one crack after a few years of carrying it around – but that’s rare, and they’re not expensive.

  9. Margaret Hunt permalink
    August 30, 2015 9:59 PM

    Ok what is blue tak?! Keep reading about it. Both you and Lynne Chapman use it so I mist “need ” some lol! Thanks.

    • August 31, 2015 7:22 AM

      hahaha! It’s the blue gummy substance (sometimes you’ll find it in white) that you might use to stick posters to the wall? You can get it here at stationery stores :)

      • Margaret Hunt permalink
        August 31, 2015 8:37 AM

        Ah. Ok. Thanks. Will look for some! 😃

  10. September 27, 2015 10:55 PM

    Wonderful to have your supply list organized for us. Thanks. I just found a set of Coit’s Ball Bearing Lettering Pens. Loved this info written on box, “Universally used by storekeepers and students.” Can’t wait to try them. Cheers-Darlene

  11. October 2, 2015 1:27 PM

    RE: Pentel Arts Pocket Brush Pens–you can refill the cartridges with ink by using a blunt needle syringe!

  12. Abby permalink
    October 16, 2015 12:26 AM

    Marc, it looks like your link to the Platinum Carbon Black ink on Amazon links to something that is not the real product, according to the reviews. Can you help confirm whether that’s the case?

    • October 20, 2015 11:28 AM

      Thanks Abby – this was great to know. I followed up on your link, and you are totally right, some customers had reported this vendor had shipped the wrong product. We don’t know if it was an honest mistake or actually counterfeit ink. (What is the world coming too that there would be counterfeit ink! hahah!) But either way the seller had not done much about it (no apologies, no refunds I could see) – so I switched the link to a different vendor.

      Please everyone – these links are just in here as the easiest way to help you find things – well, and because I’ve started participating in the Amazon Affiliates plan. But I don’t know every vendor first hand (am working on it as I need things) – so if you do spot problems like Abby did – it’s good for everyone if you let me know. Thanks very much!

  13. Cathy Inzer permalink
    November 5, 2015 10:31 AM

    Hi, I really like the Kuretake brush pen too, and use the Platinum Carbon cartidges in them with no problem. I also wanted to say how much I am enjoying your classes on Craftsy! You are a wonderful teacher and have the capability to translate a complicated subject into bites of information that you lead a student through to the end. Would you explain in a future post about your use of color? You seem to not use a warm/cool method, but ? Not even sure of how to ask the question! Thanks!

    • November 5, 2015 10:57 AM

      It’s true, I tend to use warm and cool together, in different proportions. The shortest answer is, I take the local color of a thing – like sky is blue, grass is green – then add a complement or a harmony – often I’ll inject oranges, reds or browns in to green foliage. Each ‘home color’ can have some variety from a neighboring color. I don’t have a strict system, some of it is just play :)

  14. NIKHIL permalink
    November 16, 2015 9:55 PM

    Hi Marc, I came to know about your art from and I really loved the concept that you created using the three step process of pencil-ink-watercolor. I even bought your book after that, and I’m planning to start of with a series of Urban sketches of my city (Pune, in India). Thanks a lot and please do keep up with the good work!

    • November 16, 2015 11:11 PM

      Great to meet someone from India. We will be going there in 2017 if we can raise enough interest in the workshop. I’ve always wanted to see the country! Looking forward to it already:)

      • Rae Ecklund permalink
        June 11, 2016 2:35 AM

        I so enjoyed both stories. I, too, am from SF Bay Area and know the history of this famous artist, Howard Brody. Thanks for sharing his story. In later years Jim Swearing took over as a well-known court room artist. What a great guy and always a thrill to see his work on Channel 7.

  15. David Ballantyne permalink
    February 23, 2016 7:48 PM

    Hi Marc, I’ve been thinking about getting a fountain pen but as I am left handed I’m not sure if the regular fine or the extra fine Lamy nibs would work well for me. I see they have a LH nib but it is wider than the regular fine nib. Have you any info regarding my dilemma. I see you are right handed but perhaps some of your fellow sketchers are lefties and you’ve gleaned some info from them. I’m not in a very big centre so I will have to order a pen online and therefore won’t be able to try one out first.


    • February 24, 2016 10:07 AM

      I don’t really have any insight here – let me ask around, possibly I can find a Sinister Sketcher :)

    • February 24, 2016 2:20 PM

      Hey Dave – I have a bunch of answers from FB – people as a whole seem to think regular nibs are find for lefthanders. Here’s some responses:

      Larry D. Marshall: My view, as a left-hander, is that too much is made about it. I’ve never seen a need to use different tools from right-handed people when sketching. Probably a bigger deal when you start using broad nibbed calligraphy nibs, though.

      Felipe Dieguez Vercellino In my opinion, as a left handed and a drawer… There is not limitation at all. Not like handwriting which is always from left to right a drawing have no structure in way of making, that allows you to organize the lines in the correct sequence so the ink can dry.

      Karla Beatty It’s not the fountain pen tips, which are symmetrical, it’s the writing from left to right that smudges for left handers. As Felipe just stated, in sketching that is not an issue.

      • Ellen Koehn permalink
        March 15, 2017 11:27 PM

        Being a lefty..this is very timely as I too am looking to buy a couple of sketch pens. Thanks

        • Lawrence gottlieb permalink
          April 23, 2017 12:46 PM

          Look at left handed oblique nibs if you are going wild.
          Alternativley just use the same pens that right handers use, Basic pens have round ended nibs and the chisel/ calligraphy pens are chisel cut.
          Try out some of your friends pens

  16. David Ballantyne permalink
    February 24, 2016 4:23 PM

    Thanks very much for your quick response… I’ll go ahead with an order now and hope for the best. I did wonder if the LH nib was more for writing than for sketching.

  17. lana permalink
    February 24, 2016 9:24 PM

    Thank you for all the information, and especially for your beautiful work!
    Where do you find the small 5 ml HDPE plastic bottles from Nalgene?

    • February 24, 2016 10:04 PM

      I get them from camping supply stores. They sell them to backpackers for sunscreen, etc.

  18. Jackie permalink
    May 17, 2016 9:20 AM

    Thank you for the inspiration. I I’m going to pass some of these ideas on to my art students. Also your drawings are very good you’re very talented. Keep up the good work.

  19. May 23, 2016 2:33 PM

    Awesome…would love to to do this

  20. June 4, 2016 5:12 PM

    Do you attach the coroplast board directly to your easel? If not, what do you use.

    • June 4, 2016 5:52 PM

      Hey Cynthia – I just clip it on with large bulldog clips. You can see them in a some of the photos.

  21. June 4, 2016 6:37 PM

    Hi Marc, I have a question for you, do you work at an easel? I’m having trouble finding a good ink pen or dip pen nib that works when I draw at an easel and the paper is vertical. I’ve tried dip pens and ink; micron pens and Faber Castell Pens.

    Is gravity the problem?

    I do have your book and follow your blog; I find them both inspiring. Thanks!

  22. July 21, 2016 7:42 PM

    Hi Marc, Nice post about materials. Thanks for sharing. I have a question about your Craftsy classes. How did you connect with them & did you film it at their location? Curious how that works? Thanks is advance for your reply.

    • July 22, 2016 3:58 AM

      Hey Robert – re the classes – That was a classic networking situation. I was teaching at a USK workshop, and met some people already working with them. Based on that connection I had a phone call with a producer, sent in a pitch and was accepted :) As far as filming, they have an excellent setup. A very professional studio with a talented crew. Instructors fly to Devener and shoot in their shop. Unless there’s a location shoot involved – but that is much less common for practical reasons. If you watch a few clases you’ll quickly see, it’s always on the same set :)

  23. naruas permalink
    August 3, 2016 2:02 AM

    Hello ~ Marc, I’m enjoying your lesson so I’m very exciting because I’d like to go out to draw something right now. I appreciate your teaching. Actually I have one question. I read an information about your drawing gears so that I’d like to get your portable ink bottle that it looks like a kind of a can but also being able to be portable. Could I know it’s name and Where could I get it?
    If you give me the ink can information, I’ll be pleasure :)

    • August 3, 2016 2:10 AM

      I use Nalgene bottles for ink – just the small ones – 5ml. You can usually find them at outdoor hiking type of stores.

  24. Maggie Mardis permalink
    January 11, 2017 8:12 PM

    I saw you using your Lamy Pens in a UTube video. After your drawing was dry you added watercolor and it looks like these inks did not bleed. The scene was a church or monument flanked by two trees. My question is do you ever use non-water soluble inks in your Lamy pens? If so what ink do you use.

    • Maggie Mardis permalink
      January 11, 2017 8:17 PM

      I just saw your answer to this question in another section of your site. Carbon black it is and use the pens! For $40 for a Lamy we can shorten the life of the pen!

      • January 11, 2017 9:20 PM

        Hah! too fast for me – you found the answer already :) Very good! Thanks for digging :)

  25. January 27, 2017 3:45 PM

    hi marc, i have a question. is there an option to insert a ink cartridge from a specific brand to a fountain pen from a different brand? i would like to use the platinum carbon ink cartridges and not the bottle (due to price also and outside uses) but inside the lamy safari pen. is it possilbe? (i didnt buy the cartridges yet, therefore i am asking if you know). thx!

    • January 27, 2017 3:53 PM

      To be honest I’ve never tried. The Platinum cartridge is a different shape, so I’ve always assumed it won’t fit directly in the Lamy. BUT wait! I see Goulet Pens says on their blog that the Platinum ink converter DOES fit into the Lamy pen – at least some of them: to quote Brian Goulet: “Platinum converters will fit on the Lamy Vista and Safari, but not on the Al-Star, as you’ll see in the video! I still have that trim ring from the Platinum converter stuck in my Al-Star!”. SO – if the Platinum converter fits the Safari, then the cartridge will fit as well. – again I have not tried – (I’ve used bottles from pretty much day 3) – but this stands to reason. Good question!

  26. Randall Laue permalink
    February 9, 2017 2:41 AM

    Really nice!

  27. Lawrence gottlieb permalink
    April 22, 2017 1:54 PM

    You mentioned that you like the travelogue 8.5 inch square books.
    I like the stillman birn books, the a4 size can be to big and the a5 to small. My simple solution was to buy the A4 book and cut it down to size. Works really well and i have an 8.5inch square book.
    I also have lots of books 8.5×3.5inch being the leftover bits:-)
    Before you do it though i would check the binding and contact travelogue as the binding may come apart if it has not been stiched and glued.

    • April 22, 2017 2:06 PM

      Out of curiosity – how did you cut it? Band saw?

      • lawrence gottlieb permalink
        April 23, 2017 12:04 PM

        I did/ do book binding occasionally so bought a paper guillotine cutter that will go through a telephone directory.
        Have a look on ebay to give you an idea:-
        High Quality A3 Heavy Industrial Paper Cutter Trimmer Machine Guillotine

        I got one for £70 I think. As I don’t use it a lot you don’t need a fancy/ expensive one.
        Alternatively you must have a printers or stationary shop that does letter printing or stationary. Ask them nicely and they may do it for free (or make a small charge).

        • April 23, 2017 1:04 PM

          Ah yes that’s right, a printer – I’ve used those two button cutters but it’s been so long I forgot:)

  28. nate4117 permalink
    June 28, 2017 8:15 PM

    hello marc that red black noodlers ink is a wonderful color but do you know of anything similar that’s waterproof?

    • June 29, 2017 8:39 AM

      I don’t in fact. Have not found one in my travels. Noodles has a bright red called Fox, which I have mixed with black, but it’s not the same beautiful oxblood color.

      • nate4117 permalink
        June 29, 2017 6:47 PM

        fyi, after a bit of searching I just ordered a red from super5 that looks a bit like a light oxblood. kind of reminds of the flat red dr martins of high school. heard good reviews of the waterproofness of it so I figured its worth shot.

    • July 30, 2017 7:33 PM

      Jane Blundell did a neat post about mixing the De Atramentis document inks (waterproof and they’re reported to be well-behaved in pens) to your own custom colors. There’s a whole page of color swatches here:

      I’m waiting on some samples from Goulet …

  29. nate4117 permalink
    July 1, 2017 3:30 PM

    hello again marc, I’m having trouble finding the small 5 ml Nalgene bottles, could you please tell me where you found yours?

    • July 1, 2017 4:43 PM

      I get them from camping stores. In Canada we have Mountain Equipment Co-op. They sell them for sun-screen I think?

      • nate4117 permalink
        July 1, 2017 9:19 PM

        the smallest I can find anywhere seem to be 30 ml… seems like they could work tho

        • July 1, 2017 10:01 PM

          The 30ml are great for gumming or magnetizing to a palette lid for a mini-water. I also use them for ink, but only black and sepia, things I carry loads of. I’d never use that much blue for instance! :)

          • nate4117 permalink
            July 2, 2017 4:25 PM

            I hear you, but you really have 5 ml? they sound perfect but apparently are my unicorn

  30. nate4117 permalink
    July 3, 2017 7:51 AM

    The platinum carbon fountain pens lines are amazingly sharp! Love it :) Just wondering how long they last and if you just replace it as a whole or replace nibs or..?

    • July 3, 2017 8:02 AM

      I have more that one, so I can have multiple colors of ink (or both soluble and waterproof ink). So I end up just replacing the whole pen, or cannibalizing parts. But, now I am into dipping pens, so I don’t expect to need new fountain pens anytime soon :)

      • nate4117 permalink
        July 4, 2017 8:29 AM

        Really?? I have and like my dipping pen but I couldn’t imagine being able to transition primarily to it. What is your primary nib? I have G nibs by zebra which I think I actually used your link for and was wondering if dipping nibs are suppose to be as sharp as these seem to be? I think I need to develop the right hand because they catch and scratch on me..

        • July 4, 2017 9:06 AM

          I quite like the scratching :) it makes neat hitches and little sprays sometimes. But bit of you use a hot press. As for nibs I sort of start with a crowquill and move up through a variety till finishing with a steel brush.

          • nate4117 permalink
            July 6, 2017 7:54 AM

            I think they are really neat and I’m certain I need more practice which I plan on getting around to. About my fountain pens tho. I have about ten in which four are Lamys and the one that doesn’t seem to have as good a flow is the only one that I use the stock cartridges in. The rest I have z24’s in but the one safari I’ve kept for soluble ink just doesn’t keep up. Do you think that that is my problem? Have you ever just had a bad pen?

            • July 6, 2017 9:10 AM

              I have yes, I have two Noodlers Ahabs for instance, one of which is super juicy and the other scratchy and stingy. There are people with videos online about pen tweaking and some fellows you can hire to get a pen running perfectly (more for your grail pens than for Lamys).But all that is part of why I like dipping nibs :) They’re closer to my level of mechanical aptitude:)

  31. Mark Newell Ph.D. RPA permalink
    July 6, 2017 11:39 AM

    Neat to see your are a fan of Lamy pens -I love them wish I could I could extra fine nibs more often. Love your work – thanks for such an informative post.

    • July 6, 2017 4:15 PM

      You can order EF nibs – just the little steel nib – (I like the black ones over the chrome, no reason why) – and then just refit them in any existing F or M pen. I even have some 1.2mm Lamy Joy calligraphy flats riding on my Lamy Safari bodies.

  32. Lisa permalink
    July 20, 2017 12:41 PM

    Have you tried a water brush instead of bringing water and watercolor brushes? I’m just starting out, and am wondering if a water brush would make it easier, or not work as well.

    • July 20, 2017 1:57 PM

      In my opinion the waterbrush is a red herring. They have poor quality synthetic fibers (blunt points) and you can’t control the amount of water. Often, I’m flicking my brush to remove excess water. Usually after the first pass, you don’t want diluted pigment anymore.

  33. Pekka permalink
    August 31, 2017 11:08 AM

    Excellent blog, …but I don’ t have time to real everything, so if someone can help me and find a good article about ” what Chair to use while sketching out doors ” ? I wonder how and where other live sketchers take a seat…thanks

  34. Julie Grm permalink
    November 8, 2017 11:01 AM

    Marc, I do not know where to ask this question so I am asking it here as I cannot find an answer anywhere. I have an old Koh-I-Noor Artpen complete and used once and cleaned. Can I use different inks in this pen, like colored inks or the carbon black permanent? Thank you.

    • November 10, 2017 12:24 PM

      I remember those. The Art Pen had a fairly generous feed, so I think you’d be fine using any ink that works in pens. A lot of the colored inks are dyes and are therefore very pen friendly. Stay away from any India ink and any acrylic ink and it should be OK. That being said, of course I’ve never tried it myself. Let us know if it goes great or terribly :)

      • Julie Grm permalink
        November 10, 2017 8:41 PM

        Thanks Marc, I will let you know.

  35. December 23, 2017 3:47 PM

    Love the mobile backing board set up.
    Do you adhere something on the bottom to connect it to your tripod ?

    • December 24, 2017 11:28 AM

      I have a tray with a tripod mount (Eric Michaels Plein Air Pro) and I clip the drawing boards to that. (If I’m bothering with an easel at all that is :)

  36. Tom waggoner permalink
    January 14, 2018 9:44 AM

    Please advise about your travel case w 1/2 pans. Altoid type container.

  37. Kevin permalink
    February 16, 2018 1:35 PM

    I also want to know how to draw like you.. What can i do

    • February 16, 2018 4:24 PM

      All you need to start is a pen (or pencil) and paper, and just head out somewhere and start to practice! I know it sounds crazy, to do it without any plan -but really, practicing looking and seeing is all it takes. We are about to start a fun drawing event in the first week of March – check out last year’s posts for OneWeekOneHundredPeople for an idea about how to get started!

  38. rebeca permalink
    April 21, 2018 12:47 PM

    hi, whats the exactly sketchbook youre using in the pics for watercolor???

    • April 21, 2018 1:18 PM

      On the page for sketching gear, that is a Stillman and Birn book. I can’t be sure if it’s the 90lb or 140lb. Both are good examples of their thickness of paper.

  39. June 4, 2018 9:31 AM

    I agree with how you feel about the water-brush. I have tried a lot of them, and never liked them as much. And it’s not too terrible to find a disposable cup at a coffee shop on the go.

  40. Gina Bisaillon permalink
    October 4, 2018 7:48 AM

    Be careful with the Platinum Carbon pen. Mine is only a year old and I have to use it only for rough sketches now because twice it has ruined my work by dropping a huge blob of ink without any reason whatsoever. (I use the genuine ink cartridges.) I am very disappointed because I like how it feels on the paper.

  41. Randall Laue permalink
    October 6, 2018 3:54 AM


  42. December 27, 2018 3:03 AM

    I wood like to buy this kind of pen for my work

  43. April 7, 2019 1:17 AM

    I like your way of explaining, keep it up your great work
    Thanks for sharing information

  44. Bernard Lahey permalink
    January 2, 2020 9:44 AM

    I bought your book and appreciate your input. I would love to see you get a commission from my purchases on Amazon but as a Canadian, I would need links to

    • January 25, 2020 10:27 PM

      Hey, thanks for the comment Bernard – it’s cool! To be honest, it’s kind of cumbersome keeping those links updated – so I only put in the effort for the almighty US dollar! Not to downplay us up here in Canada – but there just aren’t enough of us to make the difference! Sorry! Thanks for buying the book(s) – that is really the best thing a fellow Canadian can do :) Take care and happy sketching! ~marc

  45. Nige Brown permalink
    April 16, 2020 2:29 PM

    Hi Marc I’m looking through your supplies blog and want to ask please what are the silver sliding lid boxes you are using in the first picture and what metal paint pallets are you using which are attached to your books with bulldog clips please? Thanks very much.

    • April 18, 2020 5:04 PM

      Hey Nige – I picked up those tins at a little independent stationary store in Montreal. (Nota Bene). I use them for kneaded eraser and pencil leads as you can see :) I think you can get similar tins at Muji (the Japanese department store) if you have on of those near you. Otherwise they’re available on Amazon etc but you have to be careful to get the size you actually want!

      The metal palettes – I had some Winsor and Newton tin palettes that were excellent. The one clipped to the book is called the ‘Bijou Box’. But – this is an expensive way go about it. I bought the pre-made palettes they sell with half-pans already in them, and then I take out the perfectly good winsor pans and refilled the box with my own tube paints :) Kind of wasteful – but A: I like my own colors better and B: you can get quite a few more of your own paints in if you throw out the tray they provide and just stick empty half pans in with blue-tac. I did this simply because it’s what I found at my local store, but the Winsor and Newton tins were top quality. My main one lasted at least 7 years of constant use. Finally it began to rust after the enamel wore off in the corners, and I bought a knock-off, again, from Amazon. But it’s really not the best quality. The hinges are cheap etc, so I don’t expect it to last even a year. I think Holbein also sells these black tins with the white interior, though they don’t have the little squarish one, only the more 3×5″ sizes. Thanks and best of luck finding the right stuff!

      • Nige Brown permalink
        April 20, 2020 12:22 PM

        Thanks very much Marco appreciated.

  46. Lynn permalink
    July 31, 2020 1:59 PM

    What is your recommendation for art supply bags for use onsite. I’m interested in something that will hold sketch pad, Coroplast plastic board, pens, pencils and watercolor stuff. I’m a beginner and don’t think I need professional grade (money issue) at this point. Though I do use all professional paints and papers.

    • August 4, 2020 12:28 PM

      Hey Lynn – I have a couple of local-made messenger bags – here’s a post about them :

      The main idea is, start with your sketchbook or drawing boards, and work from there. If that doesn’t fit, that bag is out. If the panels fit, then you can move on and think if you like the straps and such.
      My main thoughts are – the smallest possible bag! Otherwise it get’s too heavy and your day gets cut short because you can’t be bothered carrying all that junk :)

      You may not be able to get the exact bag I use, but I think companies like Timbuk2 make very similar messenger bags?

      My last note is this picture:

      This is a little cube shaped bag meant for carrying camera lenses. You can get bags for small video cameras as well. The advantage of these little bags is – they are little! You can’t overload a tiny bag :) It’s actually good to force yourself to take less stuff! When I go like this, I carry the panels under my arm, which is only a bit of an annoyance. This day I had a brush case clipped onto the bag, but now I wouldn’t do that – I use folding travel brushes from Raphael or Rosemary and Co.

      Anyway – the good thing about camera bags – they have a flat bottom usually, which is a MUST for me, so I can carry my watercolor palette – flat – (weighted down my water jars), which avoids (too much) paint water leaking into the bag. The bad thing about camera bags is they tend to be expensive. But if you know anyone who’s a camera buff – they absolutely have spare bags! Because they change their gear and need different sized bags.

      If you’re crafty you could consider making your own bag! But that’s a little bit over the top for me. I’m not crafty that way.

  47. Lynn permalink
    August 4, 2020 12:55 PM

    Wow thanks for the comprehensive answer. You so much of your time for us. I appreciate it. Going shopping.

  48. Laura permalink
    December 29, 2020 2:53 AM

    Hi Marc, I watched a course from you on craftsy and really enjoyed it! I really loved the brown ink that was water soluble. Can you please tell me the exact pen and colour you used? It looks so beautiful!
    Thank you in advance!

  49. Lori Pullman permalink
    April 8, 2022 10:37 AM

    Wonderful list. I have your one book. I will get the second. Thank you.


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