Watercolor Sketching Tools:  Sketchbook focus and more

December 07, 2022

Tips and Tricks! 

Watercolor Sketching Tools:  Sketchbook focus and more
One of the things I love about watercolor sketchbooks is the potential.  I can fill them with little notes, small details, or full sized paintings.  When full they become a visual reminder of where I was as a person and an artist.

Finding the right tools for your art makes a difference though.  Here are some thoughts that may help you choose what works best for you:

  • type of paper: do you have a favorite brand that you like to use?
  • size of book:  small means I am more likely to take it along, but may limit the options for larger work.  Open it up and hold the book in your hand or lap, does it feel right? does it feel awkward? Can you imagine looking forward to filling it up?
  • weight of paper:  140 lb is standard, 90 lb will warp more but also will have more sheets per book
  • Cold Press is the standard finish of paper - but feel free to experiment:  Hot press is smooth, rough is often used for traditional landscapes, but makes detail more tricky
  • Binding is a big deal
    • spiral: easy to use and also hold in one hand, can fold flat to use both sides of the page,
    • gummed doesn't usually hold up to travel - the pages often will fall out (but you can always glue a finished piece into another book)
    • sewn (like a traditional book): usually won't fold it back on itself for 1 page work, BUT works great for painting across the fold which opens up all sorts of options when working. 
    •  accordion: one long sheet of paper folded accordion style between two covers.  This style gives you the opportunity to work panoramic, but there are fewer "pages" in each book.

How to work on the go with ease:  keeping it simple but having what you need!  First of all think of the tools you use most, then the easiest way to have them accessible when you are away from home.  A comfortable sketchbook and pencil with eraser are the minimal on the go tools.  Remember, often less fuss means more chance of actually making art!  If your tools are making the experience complicated, ask yourself if they are worth the effort of bringing them.  Forcing yourself to work in a minimalist way can be a good exercise.  Once you decide to add color to your on-the-go tools it can get more complicated, but it doesn't need to become an ordeal!  

Here is my minimalist watercolor on the go list

  • Sketch book (for pencil sketching)
  • watercolor sketch pad (or two!)
  • pencil and eraser
  • pen - if you wish
  • my "Portable Painter" paint palette which includes 12 paints that I added, a short round brush, mixing areas, and  2 water cups
  • a container of water to fill the cups (can come from your drinking water if you will have enough for both)
  • a couple of binder clips (to hold paper down in the breeze)
  • and at least a couple of rags/paper towel/tissues
  • Don't forget something to carry it all in: consider ease of access to the materials as well as comfort (for this class I will use a tote so I can see what I have and reach it easily for the demos, on a hike I would choose the outside pocket of a backpack, so it is accessible enough for me to want to unpack it and use it.

Also handy:  water for the artist to drink, something to sit on if desired, a hat if needed.

But remember your tools are as personal as your art.  Find what works for you, and then use it!  I like to think of my outdoor sketching as a visual journal, it makes it more of a relaxed and personal experience.

If you are interested in receiving my (sometimes monthly) newsletter with more information just let me know:  katrina@mind.net