Whether you’re traveling to find new inspiration or you’re on a deadline and need to keep your supplies close, it’s helpful for any artist to have a travel art kit that can easily be packed and brought along.
We asked artists from around the globe to tell us about their own traveling artist kits and the most important items they pack in their bags when they travel. Whether they’re road-tripping with friends or hopping on a plane for work, almost every one of them said that travel days were some of the best times to get creative. Long waits offer a chance for the imagination to run wild, while limited materials provide a fun challenge.
With their help, we put together this guide to portable, convenient art supplies for jet-setting creatives, from painters to photographers and everyone in between. Tuck them in your carry-on, and bring them out whenever inspiration strikes.
17 Items For Your Art Travel Kit
- Winsor & Newton Promarker
“I always carry with me some pieces of the paper I work with, pencil, rubber and a small selection of my most-used color palette markers,” freelance illustrator Ana Jarén says. “The ones I use are Winsor & Newton, and of course I always have my portable scanner and my laptop with me. With this first aid art kit, I can manage and work while I’m away from my studio.”
“I always bring my iPad with me, and I have the Procreate app installed on it,” Slovenia-based illustrator Alja Horvat tells us. “It’s almost the same as using my Wacom tablet and Photoshop, only it’s more portable.”
3. Copic Multiliner Pens
“I always take my sketchbook and graphite pencils, kneaded and pen erasers, plus my ink Copic multiliners,” illustrator and painter Lyn Alice explains. “I have several lead weights of my pencils and thicknesses of my inking pens. Having this all in my closable case makes them convenient to have, plus protects them from getting lost. It slides in my purse for convenient access as well.”
4. Winsor & Newton Designers Gouache
“In addition to my notebooks, pencils, and brushes, I always bring my Winsor & Newton gouache with me when I travel, in case a new project with a tight deadline comes up,” Spanish illustrator Helena Perez Garcia tells us. “I love these gouaches because the pigments are very rich and intense. They also come in small tubes, so the portable sizes are very handy when traveling.”
5. Koh-I-Noor Mechanical Clutch Pencil
“I use a Kho-I-Noir clutch pencil when I’m out and about,” London-based illustrator Rachel Morris tells us. “It’s really versatile because you can use the point and the side of the lead, and it’s weighted nicely. You can get different color leads for it too, but I tend to take double-ended colored pencils with me, like these ones.”
6. Moleskine Japanese Album
“I always, always, always have a sketchbook of some sort with me while I am traveling,” London-based printmaker and illustrator Aleesha Nandhra says. “Usually, I like to have a couple of sizes with me, but I prefer something relatively small with a hard cover, as I am quite bad at throwing my sketchbook around in my bag. A hard cover is also great for solid support if you are drawing or taking notes on the go, as well as being weather protection.
“Moleskine’s sketchbooks are a great size, and sometimes I like going for the Japanese concertina style sketchbooks, so I can choose the size of the spread I’d like to work on. You can also unravel the whole thing once you are back home and see the course of your journey.”
7. Uni Ball Kuru Toga Self Sharpening Mechanical Pencil
“If I’m traveling, I’m traveling with my husband and three children, so we already have tons of stuff to lug about, and I just take the minimum,” map illustrator Bek Cruddace explains. “Typically, I’ll bring my very ancient pencil case (20p in Woollies almost 30 years ago) containing a few pencils—I favor the Uni Kura Toga because it’s self-sharpening with a good narrow tip that you can retract for traveling—erasers, BIC Biro, and an A5 drawing pad (this one is ring-bound, which makes it easier to use and small enough to pack).
8. Winsor & Newton Cotman Water Colour Paint Brush Pen Set
“I love sketching on the go, so assembling a mini art kit that can fit into the smallest of bags is a must for me,” UK-based illustrator and designer Anna Bortsova explains. “This usually includes a travel-sized watercolor set. This one fits into a pocket and contains a waterbrush, which makes it super easy to mix colors.”
9. SketchBox Subscription Box
“When I travel, I’ll make room for a few supplies from my monthly SketchBox service,” wildlife artist Tiffany Miller Russell explains. “I love the challenge of the 30 days (give or take) I get to use the materials.
“Sometimes I surprise myself by using the supplies at hand in ways I didn’t deliberately anticipate. For instance, I recently took a set of water-soluble graphite pencils from the box on a trip to an animal park. I used a different color to draw each species and was able to fit a lot more visual information legibly onto one page. It was great for rapid sketching, and I’ll be incorporating this technique into my drawing sessions in the future.”
10. Fabriano Venezia Drawing Book
“My mini kit also includes a small sketchbook,” Bortsova continues. “As much as I enjoy working on a large scale, anything that doesn’t fit into a small bag or pocket usually stays at home. I love Fabriano journals or any small notebook with thick watercolor paper (anything over 200g).”
11. Adobe Creative Suite
Brooklyn-based illustrator Nicole Rifkin, admittedly, does not travel light. “I bring a red pencil, blue pencil, mechanical pencil, small grid sketchbook, iPad, Apple Pencil, MacBook Pro, and a Wacom Intuos 3,” she tells us. When she’s stuck in transit, however, she tries to keep it to a minimum. “The iPad and Adobe Fresco are great tools that I use on the plane,” she says.
The paid subscription to the Adobe Fresco app comes with thousands of brushes, all designed to work in concert with the Apple Pencil and Photoshop. “I think every illustrator should have access to the Adobe Creative Suite, especially Photoshop,” Rifkin adds. “That feels extremely basic, but I genuinely feel like it’s a career-necessary tool at this point.”
12. Canon CanoScan LiDE 300 scanner
“My whole setup is really compact because I’ve been pretty transient for most of the last few years,” artist and illustrator Tallulah Fontaine tells us. “I bounce between Canada and LA often, and it’s really important that I can bring everything with me. My favorite tools are my laptop, a portable light table, and my scanner. I’ve had an older model of this scanner and have thrown it into the bottom of so many suitcases, and it just never fails me. Also, I love these small sketchbooks because they lie flat and are super simple.”
13. 2nd Generation Apple Pencil
“My favorite thing to travel with is my iPad Pro and Apple Pencil,” New Jersey-based illustrator Jon Reinfurt says. “It’s just so much fun to draw on, and I can do anything from quick rough sketches to highly polished finished illustrations without having to cart around a lot of extra supplies.
“I upped my iPad game by purchasing a second Apple Pencil so that I always have one charged and ready to go, and I also upgraded to a 10-foot long cable for the charger, which allows me to comfortably work just about anywhere.”
14. Samsung Portable SSD
You’ll also need something to back up all your work, like this SSD from Samsung. “I always have my iPad Pro and pen with me,” Amsterdam-based illustrator Asia Orlando tells us. “This is my main working tool. Having it with me makes it possible to illustrate any place I want. My usual carry-on for any trip is a small bag with the iPad and pen, my notebook, and finally, my 1TB SSD to back up my work and photos from the trip, just in case. Having this small portable studio with me at all times helps me to register everything when inspiration kicks in.”
15. Kelly Moore Camera Bag
“I love my Kelly Moore camera bag,” Whidbey Island-based photographer Kara Chappell says. “It looks like a purse and holds everything a purse holds, but it also has a padded insert for my camera, lens, batteries, and cards.”
16. Think Tank’s Airport International Rolling Bag
“I like to keep travel really simple, so I fit all of my camera gear and lenses into a Think Tank Airstream roller bag, which is the perfect carry-on size,” Auckland-based photographer Aimee Glucina explains. “It goes with me everywhere for client work!”
17. Large Palette German Silver by House of Hoffman
“Whether I travel for work or just enjoyment, I always take my painting gear with me,” artist and architect Thomas W Schaller tells us. “In addition to my travel palette by House of Hoffman, my travel watercolor brushes by Escoda, my sketchbook by Stillman + Birn, my sketch pencil by Faber-Castell, and my pigments by Daniel Smith are almost always with me.”
FAQs For Traveling With Art Supplies
- What Art Supplies Are Allowed on Planes?
For those taking their traveling artists kits on a plane, there are many questions to consider for travel art supplies. Can you bring markers on a plane? Can you bring pencils on a plane? Can you bring colored pencils on a plane? What about paints? Or modeling materials?
While you’ll have no issues getting your pencils, pens, and markers in the cabin with you, paints are a bit of a different story. TSA limits travelers to only 3 ounces of liquid and liquid-based goods in a carry-on, which makes it difficult to bring a full paint set, and many airlines prohibit paint and painting-related materials because they contain flammable chemicals. With this in mind, it’s best not to bring any oil or acrylic paints with you for airplane travel (though watercolor paint palettes should be safe).
Modeling materials, such as clay, are authorized for both carry-on luggage and checked bags, but carefully consider the additional tools you plan to bring in your art supplies bag. Exacto knives and other sharp metal tools are a major no for TSA, and you will not be able to bring these items in either carry-on or checked luggage. A good guideline for packing your art travel case is this: If the item could potentially be wielded in an unsafe manner, it needs to stay home.
Basic travel sketching materials and sketch artist supplies—pencils, pens, markers, sketchbooks, and electronics with digital art apps—are considered to be art supplies every artist should have, and you’ll have no problem getting these items on the plane. But double-check all of your add-on items as well to ensure that your travel plans run smoothly when you get to the airport.
2. How Do You Pack Art Supplies For Travel?
The short answer is: carefully! When packing your travel art kit, be sure that all of your art supplies will have a designated place so that they aren’t damaged in transit.
Start by selecting your art travel case—you can use anything from a tote bag to a specific supplies case —and critically assess the space within. From there, choose your best drawing supplies or the art materials most necessary for your work, and pack those items first. If you have delicate pencils or paint brushes, consider adding bubble wrap or soft packing materials so that they don’t break en route. Once your necessities are packed, you can fill any remaining space with whatever fits—an extra sketchbook, mini art supplies for trying new mediums and styles, or additional protective packing materials.
3. How Do You Make a Travel Art Kit?
Making a travel art kit is easier than it sounds! To begin, think about the type of art that you do and which supplies are most important to your creative process. If you’re an illustrator, for example, you’ll want to make a list of the best art supplies for drawing and plan your travel sketching kit around those items. If you’re a painter or a photographer, you can follow the same thought process within your creative specialty.
Next, you’ll want to find or purchase a travel art kit that will not only hold all of your supplies but will also keep them safe along your journey. The best art supplies for artists will vary from artist to artist, but the most important thing to keep in mind is that your travel art kit needs to be set up in a way that allows you to work as soon as creativity strikes!
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