Travelling light – my ultra-portable painting kit

Here’s one simple idea for an ultra-lightweight plein air sketching kit.

I recently took just these few items with me as I travelled around the Mediterranean and sketched and painted all over the place. For me it was important to carry only the smallest and lightest of kits, so I honed everything down and left behind the kitchen sink!

I was trying not to take an easel or pochade box with me, so I came up with what I think is the simplest and lightest device that anyone can make at home and that makes sketching a real joy. I can set up the kit in less than a minute and it all packs away into a small bag.

Take a look at the video below to find out what it is, and how to make one yourself!

My must-have materials

  • Mechanical pencil (always stays sharp!)
  • Black waterproof fineliner pen
  • Travel Brush – Escoda Versatil #12 round. This holds lots of paint yet has a fine tip for details. It folds away for easy transporting.
  • Titanium white gouache paint in a tube. I use this for making opaque colours and covering over darks (and mistakes!)
  • Water bottle
  • A couple of clips
  • Tissues
  • Hahnemühle A5 watercolour sketchbook
  • Portable Painter Palette filled with my favourite colours ( )
  • Wooden board made from 3mm (1/8th inch) plywood. Mine is cut to 13.5 x 20cm size (5 1/4″ x 8″)

Extras (non-essentials)

  • Travel Brush – Escoda Optimo #4 round brush. This is a pure sable brush and is used for back-up (although to be fair I hardly ever use it, as I can do everything I want with the Escoda Versatil #12.
  • Washi tape (or masking tape). I sometimes use this to tape off a border for the sketch, so that when it is peeled off it leaves a nice crisp edge to the painting.
  • Orange watercolour pencil. I use this sometimes to draw out the sketch. The lines dissolve a little in the paint giving a pleasing effect.
  • Pencil sharpener to sharpen the watercolour pencil. You could use a sharp knife for this, but the airplane companies don’t like it if you are flying!

Please click on the thumbs up below if you have found this useful.
Happy painting!


  1. Andy, I would love it if you would talk about the paint colors you choose when you’re doing your landscapes. I see some greens…just wondering which you pick. Also, do you use a different palette for urban / city sketching? I see turquoise, peach tones …. some colors that dont seem possible with your recommended basic eight colors. I would love to hear what colors you use in your minimal kit and how that differs from your studio set up…


    • Hi Mel. You must have read my mind! I began to write my next blogpost last night and it is about the colours I use in my watercolour palette. I’ll try and address your specific colour mixing questions either in that post or in another. It should be ready to post in about a week.


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