Tips for Outdoor Watercolor Painting & What to Pack

Spring and summer are such perfect seasons for outdoor painting. Whether I’m on vacation or at a local park, here are some of my go-to supplies and tips when it comes to mindful and relaxing plein air watercolor painting. You can see how I take my studio outdoors here in this short video.

  1. Forget perfection. This is my rule for all watercolor painting but especially for any time you are away from your regular painting environment. The light is always changing, the wind could be blowing, your table surface (which might be your lap) is uneven, and you don’t have all of your usual supplies on hand. This is a chance to do things differently and retrain your brain to go with the flow!

  2. Pick a comfortable spot. Bring a blanket or chair to your favorite outdoor location. Don’t forget a water bottle and snacks. Comfort is key!

  3. Keep your supplies to a minimum. This is not a time to paint your next masterpiece but rather a time to play and experiment.

  4. Don’t force it. If you feel like stopping, just stop. You could even set a timer for 5 or 10 minutes and then take a break. Some of my favorite sketches are quick and abstract. This will help you capture the essence of a place rather than focus on too many details. 

My go-to supplies are:

  • 2b pencil and eraser

  • Black pen, preferably one that is permanent so the water doesn’t smudge the ink.

  • a small travel watercolor set (the lid becomes a small mixing tray)

  • a pocket journal filled with watercolor paper

  • one or two plastic watercolor squeeze brushes (see below)

  • a small rag or sponge to blot your brushes and clean your mixing tray

  • a mini spray bottle

Below are links to some of the specific supplies I like to use. They, and similar items, can all be found at craft stores, DickBlick.com, and CheapJoes.com. For convenience, I found these links on Amazon.

Coldpress travel watercolor journal (This is just one example - the key is to make sure the paper is meant for watercolors) https://a.co/d/7JQI94u

Molotow Aquasqueeze pens (pictured below) https://a.co/d/5sd7gkv

Staedtler 0.2 pigment liners https://a.co/d/duoJURb

Portable painter’s palette (pictured below) - this is if you want to fill your own palette with your favorite tubes of watercolors. https://a.co/d/5sd7gkv

or…

Pocket watercolor sets (these include a perfect set of pre-filled paint pans):

Koi: https://a.co/d/10lSNtC

Cotman: https://a.co/d/czBPEEf

 


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