Current Favorite Art Materials

Updated July 2017

After nearly a year of trying out many art materials, sketch kit setups and bags, in 2012 I simplified my system to one bag (and the occasional ultra-minimalist kit). I’ve updated this page to reflect my current favorite materials, but the former page still remains as an Archive.

Please see these posts for my reviews or commentary of some products listed below. This list is much shorter than it used to be because I realized that many products had not been my favorites in a long time, but they were still on the list. To keep this page relevant as my "current favorites," I deleted them, but reviews for all products can still be found by using the "Product Review" label or using the search box at right to search for the specific product name:

Kuretake Zig Clean Color Real Brush Markers
My favorite fountain pen inks (2012)
A Second Look at Inks (2013)
Pilot Iroshizuku Take-Sumi ink
Sailor fude ("bent" nib) fountain pen
A Word (or Two) on Brushes
Comments on various watercolor papers
Pilot Petit1 fountain pen
Caran d’Ache Museum Aquarelle water-soluble pencils
Sailor Profit Fude De Mannen fountain pen
Comparison of three waterproof inks
Canson XL Mix Media 98 lb. paper (my favorite for making pocket-size sketchbooklets)
Field Notes Workshop Companion edition
Pilot Custom Heritage 912 fountain pen with posting nib
Comparison of seven (hairy) brush pens
Comparison of seven (non-hairy) brush pens
Modified Pilot Parallel pen
Stillman & Birn Softcovers: New and Improved
Waterproof and refillable non-hairy brush pens
Comparison of water-soluble colored pencils and techniques
Reviews of six colored pencil brands
Tran Portfolio Pencil Case

My Rickshaw Bagworks Zero messenger bag has sketched with me on
four continents.

Here are other related posts that you might find interesting:

Tina's 2016 Top 10
Tina's 2015 Top 10
Tina's 2014 Top 10
Tina's 2013 Top 10 (my favorites as well as my most-used products of the year)
Tina's 2012 Top 10 (my favorites of the year)
Tina's Bottom 10 (including reasons for detesting these products)
Catching Up with the Catch-All Sketchbook 
The Sketch Bag: An Update
Putting My Bag on a Diet (getting down to the bare essentials to lighten the load)
My Bag Gets 15 Minutes of Fame
Travel Sketchbook Issue: Resolved!
What I Learned About Travel Sketching (2013)
More Things I Learned About Travel Sketching (2014)
Post-Travel Follow-up and Sketch Kit Refinement (2015)
The Hand Bookbinding Groove (my bookbinding process)
Lightfastness is a Philosophical Issue (and a Longevity Test of Zig Markers)
Cheap, Idle Pen Throwdown: Petit1 and Preppy with Carbon Ink
The Search for the Holy Grail Continues (seeking the perfect travel sketch bag)
Hooked on Handbound Sketchbooks (my post on the global Urban Sketchers blog)
Ink + Waterbrush: The Dynamic Duo
Rhodia Rhodiarama Notebook (my favorite travel notebook because the paper holds up to writing, collage and even a little sketching)
Epic Pen Search and Discovery (my multi-part series on my search for the Grail of variable-line-width fountain pen nibs)
The Grail Has Landed: Sailor Naginata Fude de Mannen (the result of my search)
Colored Pencils Are Taking Over (why I prefer them to markers)
What I've Learned from Field Notes
How Many Colored Pencils Do You Really Need?

(Note: For your convenience, I’ve included links below to online resources for my favorite art supplies, but please shop around for the best value. I am not affiliated with any of these retailers and will not receive a kickback, even though I should, since I give them so much of my money.)

Sketch Bag

This waterproof version of the Rickshaw Bagworks Zero messenger bag is my wet-season bag. It's the same size and style as the original -- just a different fabric.

Since 2012, I've been using a "small" size Rickshaw Bagworks Zero messenger bag, carried with me at all times the way I used to carry my purse, containing the following:

The contents of my everyday-carry Rickshaw bag (photo updated 9/16)

  1. A hand-stitched signature of 140-pound Canson XL paper
  2. KUM pencil sharpener (the only one that seems to accommodate my favorite Caran d’Ache Museum Aquarelle colored pencils (see No. 7 below)
  3. Waterbrushes filled with warm and cool gray inks for shadows; and sky-blue Iroshizuku Tsuyu-kusa ink (still my favorite way to make a quick streak of sky)
  4. Water spritzer
  5. Two Sailor fude fountain pens (one with waterproof ink; one with water-soluble ink)
  6.  One small and two large waterbrushes and one traditional brush (which I use only to spread sprayed water with)
  7. An expanded but still carefully selected palette of colored pencils 
  8. A red Field Notes notebook
  9. A white colored pencil I like using with the red Field Notes (No. 8 above)
  10. A hairy brush pen
  11. A white Gelly Roll gel pen (again, for use with the Field Notes)
  12. non-hairy brush pen with waterproof ink
  13. A non-hairy brush pen with water-soluble ink (currently a Zebra double-ended brush pen)

To keep my colored pencils fully upright, accessible and organized inside my bag, I use a Tran Portfolio Pencil case:

Tran Portfolio Pencil Case

Bird's eye view of bag contents (photo updated 7/17)

When fitness-walking, I never used to take sketching gear of any kind. But ever since I wanted to capture an elusive gray heron I spotted at Green Lake, I’ve been taking my ultra-minimalist sketch kit.

Travelon bag and contents (photo updated 9/16)

This kit is currently housed in a Travelon Convertible Travel Wallet, which has (though barely) enough space for my smart phone, wallet and keys too, so it’s actually a serviceable bag. It contains:

When I am in my studio (alas, the wet, dark and cold winter is long in Seattle), I have at my disposal all of the above, plus:

  • Stillman & Birn sketchbooks 
  • Van Gogh watercolors (travel set of 12, which I received at the USk Barcelona symposium)
  • Winsor & Newton watercolors
  • Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Big Brush Pens
  • Tombow Dual Brush Markers
  • Faber-Castell Polychromos colored pencils (oil based)
  • Caran d'Ache Pablo colored pencils (oil based)
  • Tombow Irojiten colored pencils (wax based)
  • Caran d’Ache Neocolor II water-soluble wax pastels
  • Winsor & Newton sable brushes (sizes 0, 1, 4)
  • Escoda Reserva sable travel brushes (sizes 2, 4)


    1. I love your gear> Everything!
      Probably I will ask you some suggestions on some of your equipment later, especially the marker and the Stillman & Birn sketchbooks.
      And what an ordered and clean desktop... I will never had something like you! :)


    2. Love your kit! Have you ever tried the Cretacolor water-soluble coloured pencils, "Aquamonolith" series? (I don't know if they're available in U.S.). They're fantastic. Good thing is they are made all-graphite, there's no wood around the graphite. Bad thing is, if they fall they will break in two pieces.

    3. I always love reading about your gear and bags. So interesting.

    4. Dear Friend Tina,
      A fab blog with many things I like so much. I will watching all works.
      Best regards,

    5. Hi your blog. So much great information. Can you please advise the size of your Rickshaw bag? I've looked over your blog but can't see any sizing...unless my eyesight is worse than I thought! 🤓 Thanks again for a great blog.

      1. Hi Jeannette! I have the "small" Rickshaw Zero bag. You can find all the dimensions and other info here:
        If you explore the site, you'll find info on the other sizes, too. Have fun, and happy sketching!

      2. Thank you Tina....just need to decide between the small and the medium 🤔😀

    6. Oops...darn eyes are bad. "Love" not live 😜

    7. Hi Tina,
      Very informative blog! Thanks, came to know so many new art supplies which I can explore. It's a pleasure to read.


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