Previously I’ve written about my favorite supplies, but when it comes to travel- especially international travel, the rules are different!
In July 2017 I set off on a 25-day solo trip journeying from iconic spots in Italy, across the Adriatic and down the Croatian coastline and venturing into the mountains of Bosnia and Herzegovina. My itinerary and a recent back injury demanded I pack light, but the call to use my solo time to create meant art supplies were a must. Below is my list of curated “Must Have” art supplies for travel journaling- it’s a compact and lightweight kit balanced enough to provide all the travel journal essentials without the waste of unnecessary or oversized items.
1. AN PEN CASE WITH POCKETS
I’m devoted to this Portfolio Style Pen Case because 1. it has a massive capacity but small size, 2. it zips easily even when stuffed, and 3. it unzips to flat, with a “centerfold” of pockets, making it really easy to keep all supplies at hand even if I’m sketching on my lap or a small bistro table.
I do all my primary sketching with a non-photo blue pencil. These were popularized back in xerox-days when the color wouldn’t reproduce, and they’re still good way to move your art to computer without the hassle of erasing (just drop the blue channel once scanned) but I love them because they don’t smear like graphite pencils and they always erase clean.
This watercolor kit is tiny and the pigments are powerful- it’s my go-to for travel painting. (I do recommend popping the white pan out and replacing it with black, which is essential for shading and oddly missing from this set.)
It’s so helpful to have a pair of scissors while traveling. Just make sure the blades are under 4″ and you should be able to clear TSA security even if they are sharp. Pair these little scissors with a glue pen, and you’ve got an easy way to cut receipts, tickets, brochures, etc down to size and add to the pages of your travel journal.
5. Sharpie Pens
MultiLiners are a little better for precision, but I’m a nib-squasher so Sharpie’s cheap disposable Fine Tip Pens work well for me with no smudging.
Bonus Tip: When you buy new soft-tip pens, encircle the end with washi tape and the first time you notice the pen writing not-quite-as-smooth, remove the tape. This system helps make sure I’m using my best pens for art and not-so-perfect pens for normal writing.
Way, way better than a glue stick to apply glue precisely, this pen stays in my bag 365 days a year. It’s the best for creating mixed-media journal entries on the go.
I’m typically a sucker for professional products, but I have searched art stores high and low for good erasers and my favorite remains the gummy, scented erasers from Daiso
I picked this up on a whim in a tiny art supply store in Rome, and when I returned to the states I started seeing it in all the art stores- for nearly 3X the price! Don’t get duped- Amazon has it for half the price of art stores in Seattle! A masking pen allows you to, before you start painting, place a thin waterproof barrier over places of your art that you want to remain white. Once the fluid dries (about 1 minute) you can paint like normal, then when your paint dries the dried fluid rubs off revealing solid white. This was perfect for painting seas and fountains on the road. There is a bit of a learning curve so be sure to read my Tips for Using Molotow Masking Pens.
9. HP Sprocket Printer
My biggest art investment for the trip was SO worth it. I am the WORST at editing photos and printing photo books after a trip so for my Summer 2017 travels I decided to try HP’s portable bluetooth Sprocket printer that would print photos from my phone. I LOVED it. It’s not something I need to carry daily at home, but I’ll never take an international trip without a portable printer. It was lovely to be able to print selfies from exciting moments, print shots of the scene I’d just sketched, or (my favorite) print a photo of my painting held in front of the scene I’d drawn. The Sprocket prints photos with a peel-and-stick back, which was extra convieient.
A travel printer is an extra bonus if you are strictly a travel journaler rather than a travel art-journaler. Printed photos add imagry to a journal and are easy to do in a more limited space. I could print and stick photos in my journal in spaces where painting or sketching would be impossible (like on a ferry, plane, bus, etc)
COST TIP: This printer isn’t cheap, so to fit within my budget, I purchased new (I don’t totally trust used technology, and this felt too important to gamble) then sold the printer on eBay following my trip. Total cost including paper: About what I would have paid for a photo book following the trip, but without all the post-trip work!
10. Watercolor Pens
If you haven’t tried watercolor pens, travel is the best excuse to get your hands on some.
For 100 reasons these are the go-to for travel watercoloring, but here’s reason 101: These pens make it easy to paint with natural water sources. I love knowing that my paintings of Plitvice Waterfall Park in Croatia were painted with water dipped from one of the blue pools of Plitvice, my self-portrait in the Adriatic sea is painted with water taken from the sea, and my paintings of the monuments of Rome were painted with a pen filled from one of Rome’s iconic ancient-aquifer-fed drinking fountains.
I like having one very fine tip pen (.1mm nib) for adding fine line details like hair or wood, and I enjoyed on this trip having a grey pen for a more subtle look of my lined watercolors.
12. GREY COPIC MARKERS
Non-essential if you have a watercolor kit, I still like my Copic grays. They can be used in place of watercolors or combined with watercolors once dried (since copics are alcohol based and watercolor is watercolor based, they won’t smudge each other). Grey shaded art markers make it super simple to add depth, and have a transformative effect especially on architectural paintings.