Sketching Gear

Here is my sketching kit at the moment ... I have a few drawers of materials in my office, but this is what I'm currently traveling with for a summer in Rome. For pencils, I'm carrying three Staedtler-Mars (B, 2B, and 4B), a Derwent Venetian Red, a Derwent Chocolate, and a General's Medium Charcoal ... and a pencil-extender one of my teachers gave me a very long time ago. I also have a kneaded eraser for basic cleanup - as a rule, I never erase any lines, so this is just for accidental smudges - and a Mars plastic eraser for major accidents, like if a pigeon should happen to dump on my sketch. A small General's sharpener has been working fine, but I need to replace my little pocket knife - it was confiscated by TSA as I was on my way to Rome a couple years back, and I just haven't found a new one yet. For pens, I have a Uniball Vision Exact Micro (although I haven't been using it very often), a Lamy Safari with an extra fine nib, and an old Yafa fountain pen my dad gave me many years ago. I like the Lamy because it's so rough-and-tumble, but the Yafa is easier to draw with - it feels softer and much more fluid. Noodler's Lexington Gray ink is in both fountain pens. I had searched far and wide for a dark brown (sepia) ink that wouldn't bleed when adding watercolor to a sketch ... but no such luck. So I followed Nina Johansson's lead and went with the Lexington, and I like it very much - thanks, Nina! My watercolor palette is the same one I bought as a student about 25 years ago - a good, solid, hinged enameled-metal one, with a removable plastic piece that has the wells (makes it very easy to clean, and I like a clean palette!). My colors are all from M.Graham, and I really can't recommend them highly enough. The specific colors are, top-to-bottom on the palette, in some cases with two colors in the same well: Sepia, Burnt Umber, Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Gamboge, Cadmium Yellow Light, Hooker's Green, Viridian, Prussian Blue, Cerulean Blue, Ultramarine Blue, Dioxazine Purple, Alizarin Crimson, Quinacridone Rose, and Cadmium Red. Finally, my brushes ... I use a Koi waterbrush for small, on-the-go subjects, and one of two other brushes for larger watercolors, and for when I have more time. The red-handled one is a Princeton synthetic sable #6 round, and the clear-handled one is a Connoisseur Kolinsky sable #6 round (this is my favorite brush). Not pictured here is a small brass water reservoir that clips to my sketchpad when I'm not using the waterbrush. Also not pictured here are the paper towels essential for watercolors and the pencil case I use to carry all this stuff around. Portability is the prime limiting factor ... I have to be selective to get it all in the case, and being selective is good!


  1. Hi Mathew, I see you on Urban Sketchers. I was just looking at Noodlers website and read about #41 Brown - " dark, deep sepia brown...bulletproof" and reformulated polar brown - "bulletproof". Maybe these would work?

  2. Great info, thank you.
    I use this sepia waterproof: Faber Castell PITT Artists' Pen

  3. Interesting info, I find really intriguing to look at people's gear.
    I'm looking for good waterproof sepia ink myself but haven't got any luck so far.

  4. Thanks for the feedback folks! I've seen the Pitt pens, but I'm looking for fountain pen ink ... and I have tried Noodler's Walnut, Standard Brown, and #41 Brown (and about 10 other inks from them and other sources). As far as I'm concerned, all three are identical - and the "#41" thing seems like it was simply an excuse for the Noodler's guy to spout off on his political views: same ink under a new label with political significance (to him, anyway). All three are beautiful, rich sepia when they hit the page, but all three bleed an orange-red as soon as the water hits - no matter how long they are left to dry first. So I kind of gave up looking ... for now, at least.

  5. Interesting post, thanks a lot for providing such a detailed description. It's always interesting to me to see what materials other people are using, although it often leads to me spending a lot of money at the art store.

  6. Very interesting topic. But, unfortunatly, it's not so simple to find out some ink's brand here in Italy. In Rome, you can find Lamy pen, in a pen shop close to Pantheon (on the way from Piazza della Rotonda to the Parliament, besides Tazza D'Oro). One more place to visit is Pggi Fine Arts shop, this too very close to pantheon in Piazza della Minerva (the ones with elephant obelisc). And, just talkin about ink, take a look at this video of emmanuel guibert (a french comics artist) :


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