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My favourite Urban sketching tools 

These are some of the things that I take with me when urban sketching or sketching while travel. You can find most of these items on Jackson's and if you are a new customer you will receive 10% off with my affiliate code YV1GLIOMYFDP. Even if you are a regular customer clicking on this link will help fund my projects that I hope will help others. That being said I fully encourage you to visit your independent art stores if you have them. They should be your first port of call. 

And if you are into urban sketching and you haven't already, check out the Urban Sketchers where you can meet up with like minded individuals and meet up to sketch. There may be a chapter in your city. If you want a taste of what they do you can check out the symposium we had in Toronto . And you will be able to see my tools at work with my sketchbook tours or on Instagram. 

urban sketching supplies

Fountain Pens

I am using less regular fountain pens (I do have two Kaweco pens with fine nibs). Instead I have been mostly using Fude pens with a bent nib (55 degrees). I have also been using Pilot parallel pens and a Pentel brush pen. All of these have refillable cartridges that you can fill yourself.

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Fineliners are always useful. I have Micron pens but I tend to favour Winsor and Newton fineliners in grey, brown and black usually with a fine nib .1 -.5



I prefer using automatic pencils just because they always stay sharp. I tend to use .5 and a soft-ish lead. H leads will leave too much of an impression on your surface and will be more difficult to remove if you want to.



I make my own watercolours but these are two palettes that I usually take with different brands. The first one is a gift card case that I converted and put 1/4 pans in. The little one is an Art Toolkit mini palette. Both fit in my pen case.

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Coloured pencils

I tend to just have certain colours in my pen case although I do have two sets of coloured pencils in two separate cases. I have a mixutre of Caran d'ache Luminance and Pablo and Derwent Lightfast and Drawing pencils. I also love these Koh-i-noor tritone pencils for their affect especially for foliage and brick. They give get texture. 



I tend to just bring travel brushes with me although I have some small brushes that are not travel brushes like the Jackson's Raven mop and the Princeton Neptune 1" mottler for washes but they are short handled. My favourite travel brushes are Tintoretto 1337 brushes but Escoda Ultimo and Rosemary and Co. are excellent too.


water brushes

While I prefer proper brushes I like to have water brushes in my case for the times that I can't bring out a tub of water. There are different brands and sizes and shapes of brushes so choose what suits you. Here are Faber Castell, Caran d'Ache and a Pentel.


water and pencil


A container for water that doesn't leak is necessary. I like to have something that I can take away with the dirty water as you can't always dump the water. I have a Faber Castell collapsible water container but I only take that if I know how I am going (say by car) and the situation that I can paint in. For pencil sharpeners I like ones that also contain the shavings. Again you don't always have somewhere to get rid of them.



Clips are always useful when you are painting outdoors or have a sketchbook that doesn't lie flat or you're working with loose sheets. I have a pair of foldable scissors, a thin eraser (this one by Derwent), and a kneadable mini eraser. Not shown is a rag that I always keep in my bag. It's always good to have tissues too because if you want to lift watercolour and not leave texture (and don't have a free brush to do this), it's the best.


watersoluble markers

I sometimes put in permanent markers like the Faber Castell Pitt pens that use India Ink and are permanent. But I tend to use watersoluble ones for doing shadows (like these Royal Talens Ecoline brush pens) or Tombow brush pens. They are great for laying down colour quickly. 




I've just started using these chunky acrylic markers for laying down quick colour as I often have a time constraint if I'm with my significant other. I love the colours of the Edding range, but there are also Molotow, Amsterdam, Liquitex and Posca. 


Adding white

You may want to add highlights to your work and here are some options: gel pens, Posca (various nib sizes), coloured pencil (one of the best is the Derwent Drawing pencil in Chinese White) or gouache (I carry a mini tube of Holbein).


Watersoluble crayons

I don't always take watersoluble crayons but they can be great for adding texture. Caran d'Ache Neocolor II and Lyra have great ones. Neocolor I are permanent and they have their place too like adding a resist. 





I am relatively new to these gouache/tempera sticks. They are like makeup sticks and are watersoluble and dry quickly so I like laying down colour with them and using the texture they create. I have bought them on Amazon and Ali Express. They tend to be aimed for kids so they are not lightfast but sketchbooks will be fine.


Pen Case

A good pencase is the ultimate goal but also a personal thing. I love this one from Lihit lab that is just packed with stuff as you can see. My watercolour palettes fit in the outside pockets and everything else I always use are contained within it. Perfect for me.


I don't always bring gouache with me but here are some that I sometimes bring along depending on how much I want or can carry. Acrylic gouache would have to be carried in tubes and you would need a mixing palette as they dry quickly and permanently like acrylic paint. So I don't use these for urban sketching.



I love these Holbein cake pans and have been using them in the studio as well over the tubes of gouache I have. There is just something so great about them and they are heavily pigmented. They are a bit bulky so I wouldn't bring them on a plane trip.



I have my tubes of designer gouache in this stay wet (sort of) palettes with a rubber seal. You don't have to put half pans in here but I was worried I would change my mind about the colours and would have a difficult time cleaning just one compartment out. I also put Nicker paint in this "palette" that I found at a Japanese dollar store in LA. 


Art toolkit

w Mijello

Titanium paints

These Mijello Titanium gouache paints are new to me. I bought them as they said they won't crack and I wanted them for a plane trip. I also bought another Art Toolkit palette for them with wide pans as I feel you need that with gouache (probably why I love the Holbein pans). 


I don't like spiral bound sketchbooks, I like them to lay flat as much as possible. I also don't usually like hardcover books as they add weight (although I kind of like them when I'm travelling so they don't get damaged). I also like to have sketchbooks that can handle wet media. Mixed media books tend to work and are a bit cheaper than full on watercolour paper especially 100% cotton.

I have taken to making my own sketchbooks and you can too. That way you get the paper you want and the satisfaction of making it. Check out the demo here. 

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Stillman and Birn

These sketchbooks come in a range of sizes, paper weights and colours (white and off-white). I particularly like the 3.5x5.5" size as it is a nice easy size to put in a small bag thus making sure you get out there and sketch.

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Seawhite of Brighton Travel Journal

I bought two of these journals for trips as I thought I might need something more robust as they are hardcover. They are watercolour sketchbooks but with a bit different texture that I'm not sure I quite liked but maybe you will. See my sketchbook tours of NYC and L.A.

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Royal Talens Art Creations

These are a great low cost, hardcover textbook. However, they cannot take too much wet media. They come in different coloured covers and a very cream coloured paper inside. They comes in several sizes and formats.

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Moleskine are great and have both hard and soft covers and regular paper and watercolour paper (ivory and white). They are a bit pricey, though. 

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I used these Mixed media sketchbooks really for my studio work. They come in hard cover and soft. There is a Watercolour version but this one is cheaper and can still take wet media. They have been difficult to find for a while so I moved on but I think they are more readily available now.

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SMLT is a small Lithuanian company doing incredible paper products. I really loved this softcover watercolour sketchbook. It doesn't have many pages so it makes for a slim, lightweight item to pack in your bag.


I use water resistant ink in my pens. mostly because I tend to use watercolour and I don't want it to bleed. My favourite are DeAtramentis Document ink in Urban grey and Urban Sepia. For black I love Platinum Carbon Ink. You can buy empty cartridges for many fountain pens that you can fill yourself but you can also refill an empty cleaned out cartridge with a syringe filled with the ink of your choice. Simple.



Bags are a totally personal thing but this Fjällräven HIGH COAST TOTEPACK has served me well for 2 years and is still going strong. I like that I can carry it by a shoulder strap, handles or by its backpack straps (that can be tidied up when using the straps). Very versatile. It is well made with Light, water-resistant recycled nylon so there is some protection from water outside (rain) and inside (water escaping my container). It has even stayed relatively clean (I got the navy colour but it is light coloured inside so it makes it easier to find things). I've used it on trips and around town. You can even fit a laptop inside the inside pocket. 

Fjallraven bag


Sometimes you don't always have somewhere clean and dry to sit so you may want to consider a portable stool or a folding lightweight mat like this. 

foldable stool


I have made my own art board using a piece of masonite that I picked up cheaply at the art store and a more expensive t-nut inserted through it so it could attach to a tripod or just leave it on your lap.


A far more expensive alternative is this easel by u.go that I picked up in the clearance section at Hyatt's in Buffalo (see video here). If it hadn't been discounted I wouldn't have been able to justify it. It is very well made and you can add attachments to the side. I only haul this out when I know I am doing something for a long set-up. I plan to use it more when I work in oil.. They come in 3 different sizes and can fit on any tripod.

u.go travel pochade easel
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