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Important Tips For Plein Air Painting Gear

Updated on February 20, 2017

What to take for plein air painting

What to take when painting outdoors

When planning to go painting outdoors it is important to plan ahead what to take and how to prepare. There is a big difference when going to paint on an urban scenery or going into the wild off track hiking trail to paint on a mountain peak. The main difference is that when you are out in nature, you have only what you take with you.

Water - If you are a watercolor artist you may know you can't paint without water, fresh clean water to dissolve the brushes to pick up pigment and to paint. you will need to refresh the water once in a while so you keep picking clean colors and not muddy pigment with a dirty brush.

If you are painting with acrylics, than you MUST know that the brushes need to be cleaned right after you finish panting or the paint will stick and dry on your brushes and ruin them.

So taking enough water is essential when painting outside. If you plan to paint in an urban environment than you can count on many places to get clean water, so there is no need to carry too much with you. If you go to paint by a river or water stream, than you can use these water too for cleaning after you finish painting.

Shade for vivid colors and UV safety

There is something exciting to paint outdoors. Part of it is to manage. Manage to paint without being at the 'comfort of the studio'. This requires to manage with less brushes and less gear focus on the important stuff which is capturing the scene of mother nature.

With this said, it is important to be comfortable. You will be outside for hours and painting is a relaxing hobby. So you need to be just comfortable enough to enjoy but not too comfy to miss the idea of painting outside.

Shade - When painting outside you want to be in the shade. The sun glazing on your canvas or paper usually means it will reflect and will 'burn' any chance to see colors in a vivid way. Unless you have shade on your canvas, you will never really know how the painting will look once you go indoors. You may need a sun umbrella or to plan to paint under a tree or other shade.

Another aspect you may want to consider is your own sun UV safety. Being in the sun or outside for hours means getting lots of UV. The shade will protect you too. Make sure to take a hat with wide rim and visor to protect your eyes from the sun blaze.

When you are prepared you can enjoy the painting

Don't forget to pack these items and a lightweight folding palette

Don't forget to pack some extra accessories when you go painting outside.

  • Take water to drink!
  • Rags to dry and clean your brushes.
  • Lightweight water jar for brushes
  • A folding chair
  • Insect repellent
  • Pencil sharpener
  • Penknife
  • Your sketch book

Take 4-6 brushes!

No need to carry dozens of brushes, it will make you life more complicated. Make sure you have brushes in different shapes.

You will need a folding lightweight palette!

Lightweight because you will be holding it most of the time. Spacious palette to hold all the tones you need.

Folding palette is best for plein air because you are traveling and need to carry it nice and clean. The porcelain palette tray is too heavy too bulky and too delicate to take outside.

Take only what's essential - Folding palette & Few shapes brushes

Having the right gear helps you concentrate on your art

Shop for Artists Set For Plein Air Painting - Travel Folding Palette and 6 Brushes

Rigger Art Professional Painting Set - Large Folding Palette Box + 6 Watercolor Paint Brush + Zippered Carry Case for Plein Air, Paintbrush for Acrylic Oil & Craft, Painter Pallet Tray With Lid Cover
Rigger Art Professional Painting Set - Large Folding Palette Box + 6 Watercolor Paint Brush + Zippered Carry Case for Plein Air, Paintbrush for Acrylic Oil & Craft, Painter Pallet Tray With Lid Cover

When going to paint outside one of the most important accessory a painter has is their folding palette. It should be light weight because it is held by hand, it should be spacious to hold enough colors and the wells should be deep and separated so colors don't mix.

I recommend the Rigger Art painters set which has a folding palette and six brushes with different shapes. Don't carry dozens of brushes when going to painting outdoors, it will make your life complicated and messy. Take the 4-6 brushes which you are more likely to use.


Did you ever paint outside?

Do you paint plein air - outside?

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Plein air painting means planning ahead

How to carry brushes safely when you travel with them

Rigger Art's Large Durable Paint Brush Holder Organizer - Canvas Paintbrush Roll Up Wrap for Artists - 22 Slots Case Protection for Watercolor/Oil Brushes + Zippered Pouch Bag | Dark Navy Blue
Rigger Art's Large Durable Paint Brush Holder Organizer - Canvas Paintbrush Roll Up Wrap for Artists - 22 Slots Case Protection for Watercolor/Oil Brushes + Zippered Pouch Bag | Dark Navy Blue

When you travel you will need your brushes with you. The best way to keep your brushes protected when painting plein air is by keeping them rolled up in a canvas wrap. This way they are not meshed and cramped in the bottom of your backpack.

The roll up case has enough pockets for all your plein air gear - pens, pencils, palette knife, penknife, erasers, scissors and what ever you plan to take outside. The long straps are well secured and the thick canvas is very durable so you can place it on the ground near you.

When you are done painting, clean the brushes and place them in the jacks, roll them up and place the canvas brush holder in your backpack.


Plein air painting gear - Conclusion

As mentioned above going plein air painting is fun and exciting for every painter. Since you may want to walk deeper to the exact spot where your scene is perfect, you do not want to carry dozen of brushes and useless gear. It is important to travel light and not to carry the whole studio with you into nature.

Plan ahead what you will need. What are the items you like to use more than others? Where will you paint, will there be shade there? will there be water source near by? Will you paint sitting down or standing up? How will you carry your painting gear to the location you have in mind?

Answering these question will help you be prepared. Don't forget to take 4-6 brushes and your palette. Without them there will be no plein air creation at all.


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