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Current Sketching Tools

My daily sketching kit as of October 2015
If you are interested in seeing how this has changed since June 2014 check out this summary.

This page contains a lot of information and is updated regularly. As well as the general listing I also discuss these topics in details with links to further posts and details.
- Using these tools on location
- Using signboard for support while urban sketching
- Extra Details
- My favourite pen
- Ink
- Flying with a fountain pen?
- Problems with your Lamy pen?
- Paint Tin (and how I set it up)
- My Current Palette
- Recommended 12 colour palette
- Recommended minimal 4 (or 6) colour palette
- How I store my paints
- Watercolour Pencils

Interview on Parkablogs
You might be interested in a detailed interview I did on Parkablogs about my art tools here


Pens and Pencils (listed from L to R)
- Lamy Joy pen with a gold nib (once was EF but now more like a F-M in thickness) with De Atramentis Document Ink black - please refer to note below for more details.
- Hero M86 fountain pen with Fude nib (55 degree turned up nib).
- Green Sailor fountain pen with 55 degree fude nib filled with mixed grey De Atramentis Document Ink (approx 50:50 Document Blue and Document Brown with a little Dilution Solution).
- Blue Sailor (short bodied - not sure of the model no.) fountain pen with 55 degree fude nib filled with  De Atramentis  Document Brown Ink.
- Blue Sailor fountain pen with 45 degree fude nib filled with De Atramentis Document Fog Grey Ink (note: Fog Grey would be more accurately described as like Fog Blue).
- Blue Sailor fountain pen with 45 degree fude nib filled with De Atramentis Document Fog Grey Ink (note: Fog Grey would be more accurately described as like Fog Blue).
- Another Blue Sailor fountain pen with 45 degree fude nib filled at the time of this photo with mixed dark green De Atramentis  Document Ink (a mix of Document Dark Blue and Document Green ). For the record I prefer the 55 degree nib but just happen to have two of these 45 degree nib pens.
- Kaweco Classic Sport Fountain Pen (medium nib) with mixed raw sienna De Atramentis Document ink (a miz of Document Yellow and Document Brown).
- White Gel Pen. I do not have the best brand yet but this one is a Sakuri Gelly Roll. For further information there is a great review here.
- White Chinagraph pencil (various brands). The most readily available in Australia is the Staedtler Lumocolor Permanent White pencil.
- Faber Castell Graphite Aquarelle 2B: this is a water soluble graphite penicl that doesn't smudge too much and makes lovely black marks if you dip the tip in water first.
- Watercolour pencils: Faber Castel Albrecht Durer. Selection: Cadmium Yellow 107 Deep Scarlet Red 219 Middle Purple Pink 125 Dark Indigo 157 Ultramarine 120 Colbalt Green 156 Permanent Green Olive 167 Brown Ochre 182 Burnt Sienna 283 Walnut Brown 177 Warm Grey IV 273 (or warm grey V). Refer below for more details.

- Pentel Aquash Waterbrush in large
- Rosemary Brush #8 travel sable brush
- Rosemary Brushes 1/2 " sable blend dagger with sharpened end(a stick to draw with and means it fits inside the toothbrush container (with blu tack at the base)

More about my dagger brush here

Fast Tools:
- Winsor and Netwon Watercolour Marker (colour: burnt umber)
- Pentel Pocket Brush Pen - great blog post by Roz Stendahl on brush pens is found here.

Refer to below for the latest listing of paints and more details!
I carry two kits with me generally - my standard kit of 16 half/full pans and a tiny Pocket Palette  with a few extra colours that I occasionally need. Need to share an updated listing of these but it contains pigment such as Cad Yellow and Red, New Gamboge, Indiian Red, Pthalo Green, Perylene Green, Lunar Black, Sodalite, Burnt Quin Orange, Coblat Blue Deep, Coblat Blue, Quin Magenta....

- A plastic card for scraping
- Sandpaper
- Sharpener by Faber Castell
- Two small water containers
- Double sided tape -  I am still researching the best brand! I only ever use ones that are labelled permanent and acid free but are discovering that many of them are not that!
- Missing in Action at the time of this photo: Small spray bottle for moistening my paints before I start  - if I don't have it handy use my waterbrush to add a drop of water to each pan.
- Black wrist band for wiping my brush

Using these tools on location

My tools in the ready to go configuration (this photo needs to be updated when I finally get around to making a newer version of my pen holder).

The paint stuff  on the left side go into one front pocket in my current sketching bag and the pen holder (this is not the ultimate version.. but a trial run) goes in the other front pocket.
I nearly always use a cross body bag with two front pockets. (The perfect sketching bag is another topic totally and probably needs another page. Including my walk stool portable stool etc etc)

Using signboard for support while urban sketching

Recently I have starting using a board to support the spine of my landscape sketchbooks and hold my paint tin (inspired my Marc Taro Holmes). Full explanation is here.

Extra details

My favourite pen:

Lamy Joy pen (this is a calligraphy model as opposed to the standard Lamy Safari pen) with a convertor (so I can fill with my own ink) and an 'once EF' nib (see more details below). The black nibs are reportedly better than the silver (I have not had a problem with any of my silver ones but when I have had a choice have asked for black as I do think they are slightly nicer to work with)
Why the Joy?
- There is NO difference between any of the lamy pens in terms of performance… the reason I use the Joy pens are because I love,  absolutely LOVE the balance of the longer tail. The lid does fit on the end of the pen but I never put it on when using since it changes the balance and weight of the pen in my hand. Surprisingly I have never lost the lid!
- I love the name 'joy' … just expresses my feeling when I have the pen in my hand!
- The Joy pen is Lamy's calligraphy model so normally comes with a calligraphy nib…so you have to either buy your pen at a pen shop where they can replace the calligraphy with an EF or buy an extra EF nib.
- I prefer the black or white Joy to the AL version as they are a fraction lighter.
- I am currently using a gold nib (3 x the price of the pen!) I bought it years ago when I was more extravagant. It is more flexible that the standard nib but it is not really worth the expense.
- Most people like an EF nib (extra fine), and my gold nib was originally EF (well if fact it was a F nib that the pen shop ground down to EF) but after all the use I have given it, it is more like a F or even a M nib with a bit of pressure. I moving away from EF nibs these days... but more later on about this!

All about Fountain Pens...

Check out my comprehensive 7 part series about using Fountain Pens for sketching!


This is a huge topic for discussion. There are a number of water based permanent inks that are suitable (more or less) for use in fountain pens and that become permanent once dried so that you can paint over the top.

Note: DO NOT put other permanent inks (such as indian inks) in your fountain pen as they will ruin them. Only ink that says it is for fountain pen (or google it first!) and even then putting any pigmented ink into your fountain pen is a risk - make sure you use and clean you pen regularly!

- I use De Atramentis Archive Ink or Document Ink (I can not really tell the difference between the twobut haven't done extensive testing to see if there is a difference). I LOVE this ink so much. It flows beautifully. Please note that it is not as 'solid' a black as the noodlers - depending on the pen you are using (ie. the width of your line) you might find some translucency in the ink.
- I also love Super5 ink. Read my first review here
- For many years I have used Noodlers Bulletproof black ink and rarely had any issues. I used my pen daily so the ink was always flowing and don't ink over graphite pencil lines.  I would never leave this ink sitting in a pen that isn't used regularly and have known of numerous people that had pens that have clogged as a result of Noodlers.
- Another ink that people use is Platinum Carbon Ink. I haven't tried it but it sounds like another ink that you need to keep moving and regularly clean your pens.

- De Atramentis has brought out a range of coloured Document Inks(permanent) and I am using multiple coloured ink lines a lot in my sketches since November 2014. Here is a link to some of my work on the blog or if easier a set on Flickr.
If you are interested in mixing these coloured inks make sure you check out Jane Blundell's DeA ink mixing charts.

Flying with a fountain pen?

More details here

Problems with your Lamy pen?

The first thing I always do is to clean the pen - check out this great video from Goulet... and get totally distracted watching Brain Goulet's other Ink Nouveau videos! Also this amazing page over at Goulet has video answers to many many questions. He knows much much more than I ever will! Check it out here.
I have found that De Atramentis works best in my pens. I have had a number of pens that were not flowing smoothly with Noodlers ink but as soon as I switched to DeA they started to work like a dream.

Paint Tin:

 I used a small Schmincke metal tin that has a fold out mixing area and a three sectioned lid for many years . For those in Australia you can get a similar tin made by Art Basics from the Art Sceneand this is what I now use.
I have removed the metal clips (correction: my dad removes the metal clips for me) and then secured the pans of paint with blu-tac.
Dad's description of the process: To remove the steel clips from paint trays, place tray in vice (or clamp down) and drill out the four punched fixings from the clip side. Use an electric/battery operated drill with a twist drill bit slightly larger than the punched fixing area, then use a file to remove any burrs around the hole on the reverse side of the tray.
Detailed description of setting up my paint tin is here.

My Current Palette:

I use mainly Daniel Smith paints (with some WN) in empty full or half pans. I am continuing tweaking and trying new alternatives although the basic principles are the same but at the time of updating this they were:

Note 1: DS= Daniel Smith WN = Winsor Newton SCH = Schmincke
Note 2: I am listing them as I think of them from right to left (as I am a leftie) so please excuse that this list doesn't relate to the way you are probably read the above image!

DS Hansa Yellow Medium - PY97
DS Transparent Pyrrol Orange - PO71
SCH Translucent Orange - PO71
WN Potters Pink - PR233
DS Quinacridone Rose - PV19
DS Ultramarine Blue (not French!) - PB29
DS Cerulean Blue Chromium - PB36
DS  Indanthrone Blue - PB60
WN Cobalt Turquoise Light - PG50
DS Buff Titanium - PW6
WN Naples Yellow - PW6 PBr24 (this changed on 14.10.15 to Holbein Marine Blue PB16)
DS  Quinacridone Gold - PO49
DS Monte Amiata Natural Sienna - PBr7
DS Transparent Red Oxide  - PR101
DS Van Dyke Brown - PBr7
Steels Grey III (a pre mix of WN Cobalt Deep Blue with a little DS Quin Burnt Orange and a touch of DS Quin Rose)

I do not recommend anyone to rush out and buy all these colours… but that is what I use - or was using at the time of the photo.

Recommended 12 colour palette:

Below is my standard palette of 12 colours that I do recommend for my sketching classes and workshops. …and even in that list there are some personal quirks.

Refer to this updated blog post for more description.

Recommended minimal 4 (or 6) colour palette:

I have also developed a minimum palette of 4-6 colours (Daniel Smith preferred but with W&N and Schmincke alternatives. More details here

How I store my paints:

My amazing dad made this incredible wall  unit for me to store my paint tubes. Read the full details here.

Watercolour Pencils:

More details about my watercolour pencil selection here

As for sketchbooks.... 

I have a separate page  here

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