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Sketching Resources to Make You Happy!

Updated on April 8, 2016

Tips and techniques to make your sketching experience a happy one

Here's where you can learn about all the really fun stuff that makes sketchbook artists happy. I'll share with you...

INSPIRATION plus my personal favorites and recommendations for....

books on sketching

sketchbook kits

pens, paints, brushes

sketchbook brands

mixed media

“The sketch hunter moves through life as he finds it, not passing negligently the things he loves, but stopping to know them, and to note them down in the shorthand of his sketchbook.”

— Robert Henri
Artist's Journal Workshop: Creating Your Life in Words and Pictures
Artist's Journal Workshop: Creating Your Life in Words and Pictures

A wonderful, inviting book packed with loads of information, tips, techniques and examples of beautiful sketches. Highly recommended.


Books about Sketching that will Make you Happy - these selections combine inspiration, examples and instruction

Mastering Sketching: A Complete Course in 40 Lessons
Mastering Sketching: A Complete Course in 40 Lessons

This is one of my favorite, possibly the favorite book on sketching that I own. Judy Martin's philosophy about sketching has greatly influenced me.

The Urban Sketcher: Techniques for Seeing and Drawing on Location
The Urban Sketcher: Techniques for Seeing and Drawing on Location

I've recently finished reading this book and can highly recommend it for those looking to use watercolor in their sketchbooks. Marc Taro Holmes is the author of the Citizen Sketcher blog and I love his clear,easy to follow instructions that in general break down sketching techniques into a three step process which is easy to grasp and gives great results for sketching on location.

Urban Sketching: The Complete Guide to Techniques
Urban Sketching: The Complete Guide to Techniques

This is a book you'll want , especially if you're just getting started. It includes some very solid and necessary instruction on perspective, figure drawing, composition and even digital applications. It's very accessible, easy to read and has artwork from some of the truly great urban sketchers of today.

Keeping a Nature Journal: Discover a Whole New Way of Seeing the World Around You
Keeping a Nature Journal: Discover a Whole New Way of Seeing the World Around You

I love this book. It's the one that really got me started keeping a nature journal. Claire Walker Leslie is a gem ! She will get you involved in loving the natural world and recording it with joy. If you find yourself always sketching outdoors, looking at plants, animals, clouds, rocks, feathers, the sky and weather this is most definitely the book for you.


"Sketching is about versatility, about trial and error, about serendipitous discoveries, that surprise, absorb, energize, and please you."

— Judy Martin, from Mastering Sketching (find it in my recommended book list)

Supplies that Make me Happy

There are lots and lots of great drawing and sketching supplies out there. These are the ones that I use, love and recommend. These are all beautiful, quality art supplies. Don't be afraid to invest in the good stuff, you'll be happier if you do. Trust me on this, better to have fewer quality supplies than a bunch of cheap stuff that will frustrate you.

Zeta Hardbound Sketchbook 8.5X11
Zeta Hardbound Sketchbook 8.5X11

Beautiful smooth, 180 lb paper that takes it all from pencil to mixed media! No bleed through or buckling. The hardbound lays flat so you can work a double page spread. I also like the spiral bound version. The textured 180 lb papers in the Beta series (white) and Delta series (ivory) are also favorites of mine and come in both hardbound and spiral.

Pentel Arts Aquash Fine Point Water Brush, Medium (FRHMBP)
Pentel Arts Aquash Fine Point Water Brush, Medium (FRHMBP)

So convenient! The water is in the brush handle, so no spills! I use these all the time and would not be without them.

Platinum Carbon Desk Fountain Pen, Super Fine (DP-800S#1)
Platinum Carbon Desk Fountain Pen, Super Fine (DP-800S#1)

A beautiful pen, that writes smoothly, doesn't clog and makes a variety of expressive marks. My current favorite and the price is right. Takes cartridges of Platinum carbon ink or you can buy a converter and use bottled Platinum Carbon ink which dries quickly and is completely waterproof.

Platinum Carbon Black Ink
Platinum Carbon Black Ink

This is the ink for the Platinum Carbon Fountain pen. Jet black, dried quickly, absolutely waterproof.

Mint Tin Watercolor Box
Mint Tin Watercolor Box

How to make you own inexpensive watercolor travel kit - being thrifty, inventive and creative makes you happy

The traditional watercolor travel kits in metal boxes are essential for sketching on location. However, they can be pricey but they're a must have. So here's a way to inexpensively make a beautiful watercolor travel kit which you can totally customize and that will make you happy!

NB: You can also use a mini size mint tin, 5 half pans will fit inside and that makes an awesome, ultra-lite paint kit you can take anywhere.

* You can also use gouache paint, which is what I've used in this demo

Time required: 2 days due to dry time for the paint

Difficulty: easy

Cost: minimal cost


  • empty Altoids mint tin
  • painters tape
  • empty watercolor pans (half pan or full)
  • your choice of tube watercolor paints
  • white appliance epoxy spray paint
  • magnetic adhesive tape or double-sided sticky tape


  • no tools are necessary


1. Empty the mints out of the tin, and wipe it out with a damp paper towel

2. Arrange your empty watercolor pans inside the tin and decide how many will fit. You may want to leave space for a bit of sponge or a pocket size paint brush.

3. Remove the empty plastic pans and select you colors. Squeeze the paint out of the tube into the pans. Set them aside to dry for a few days.

4. Use painters tape to cover the sides of the lid, the hinge, and the entire other half of the tin to protect it from the spray paint.

5. In a well ventilated area, or outside on a day that's not windy or breezy use the white appliance epoxy spray paint to paint the inside of the tin lid. Follow the directions on the spray can for dry time and give it at least two coats. This becomes you palette/paint mixing area. When completely dry carefully remove the painters tape.

6. Cut small pieces of the magnetic adhesive tape (you can get this at a craft store) to fit on the bottom of the watercolor pans. Apply the tape and then arrange your filled paint pans in the tin. When you use the magnetic tape you can easily switch paint pans in and out to change palettes for different seasons or subjects.

Viola! You're done! You've saved money, recycled, and created a custom watercolor travel kit, and I bet you're happy!

Watercolor paint brands that make me happy

There are several different brands of watercolor paints that I use. Each of them have unique qualities that makes them perfect for certain subjects and seasons giving me the ability to create the kinds of sketches that make me happy.

Attack the drawing. Think of it as play. When jumping into a sketch, on location of in the studio, avoid the temptation to erase and correct. This is a trial and error process. Simply draw over the original line, adjusting an refining with each successive stroke, until it "looks right" -- a practice artists call "restatement". That blank sheet is your private sandbox -- suspend judgement, avoid over-thinking, and jump in. "

— James Richards, from Freehand Drawing & Discovery (find it in my recommended books list)

Markers that make me happy

Markers are just so much fun! Generally inexpensive, and encompassing a broad range of types, including everything from a ball point pen to high end illustrators markers in every color under the sun.

uni-ball Vision Rollerball Pens, Fine Point (0.7mm), Black, 12 Count
uni-ball Vision Rollerball Pens, Fine Point (0.7mm), Black, 12 Count

A fantastic waterproof, fade proof, smooth writing pen for sketching.

Faber-Castel PITT Artist Brush Pens, Basic, 6-Pack
Faber-Castel PITT Artist Brush Pens, Basic, 6-Pack

This is a basic set, but you can buy much larger sets or open stock. These are lightfast, waterproof, and transparent and so can be layered like watercolors.

Stylo Sketch Pen 1/Pkg-Black
Stylo Sketch Pen 1/Pkg-Black

This is a really interesting marker with a tip that is something like a cross between a fountain pen and a felt tip marker. The tip flexes for an expressive line, and the ink is water soluble so you can use a brush and water to make tonal washes. Refills are available, so its also economical.

Pilot Lettering Pen 10, Black Ink (S-20DRLN1-B)
Pilot Lettering Pen 10, Black Ink (S-20DRLN1-B)

This is a nifty broad tip pen (like a calligraphy pen). I find the smaller sizes excellent for making a wide variety of lines and marks.


Sketching with Brush, Ink and Watercolor Demo

Join Jan as she shares tips and techniques o how to use marker, brush pens filled with ink and watercolors to create fresh, lively, energetic sketches.

Learn how to sketch so you can be happy

If you're just getting started or need to brush up your drawing and sketching skills these are the books I recommend.

Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain Workbook: The Definitive, Updated 2nd Edition
Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain Workbook: The Definitive, Updated 2nd Edition

This version of the classic instruction book is great to have. Go through all the workbook exercises and you'll be well on your way to sketching happiness.

Keys to Drawing
Keys to Drawing

One of my favorite drawing instruction books. Again if you work through the exercises you'll gain most of what you need to know.


Other Sketching Supplies to Make You Happy - the ideas and materials used in a sketchbook journal are endless

  • Pencil ( graphite or Ebony)
  • colored pencils ( I love Caran d'ache Pablo, Faber-Castell Polychromos )
  • watercolor pencils (I love Caran d'Ache Museum Aquarelle, Faber Castell Albrecht Durer)
  • Cretacolor drawing leads (Nero, sanguine, sepia oil base)
  • Inks (
  • Daler-Rowney F&W acrylic inks
  • Dip Pens (crow quill, Speedball makes many different nibs)
  • bamboo dip pen
  • fountain pens
  • Pentel Pocket Brush Pen
  • Faber-Castell Pitt Artists Brush Pens
  • Sharpies
  • Gelly Roll pens
  • Copic Multiliners
  • Sakura micron pens
  • Sarasa Zebra gel pens
  • watercolors
  • gouache
  • fluid acrylic paint
  • high flow acrylic paint
  • White pens (UniBall Signo, Sharpie white poster paint, Gelly Roll)
  • calligraphy markers
  • Sumi-e brushes
  • ModgePodge (for collage elements)
  • Montana acrylic paint markers (the sell colors or you can get empty ones to fill w/ fav colors)
  • Preppy Sign Pen ( I particularly like the brown one)

New Guestbook Comments

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    • profile image

      Susan King 20 months ago

      Wonderful! Amazing that you did that all in less than 7 minutes

    • profile image

      Diane 20 months ago

      Truly enjoyed the video of you sketching and using the markers. Will you do an online class sometime?

    • John Dyhouse profile image

      John Dyhouse 3 years ago from UK

      Love the idea for the mini travel kit, thanks