Tuesday, December 15, 2020

My Rainy-Day Sketch Kit


A simple kit for inclement weather.

A while back I mentioned that I had been refining my rainy-day sketch kit. It’s so simple that it’s hardly a “kit” (would that my entire sketch kit were this simple!) – it’s just a subset that I carry with the rest of the kit in case of drizzle.

The sketchbook is a pocket-size Field Notes Expedition made of waterproof Yupo paper. When I was reviewing this notebook a few years ago, I discovered that my favorite drawing material on it is a super-soft graphite pencil. It glides like butter on a hot pan (but nearly soundlessly!), and the marks come out looking as dark and rich as a marker. The graphite pencil changes according to whim (I have many to choose from); currently it’s a Tombow Mono KM-KKS in 6B. Usually graphite is all I need and want for a hasty, inclement-weather sketch.

Not insoluble after all.
Every now and then, however, it would be nice to have a touch of color, even in the rain, and that can be trickier. Most markers and other inks will work on Yupo paper when it’s dry, but even a waterproof or indelible marker like a Sharpie will wash away if used on a wet page (see my review of the Expedition for the full test results). The only material I’ve found to work on wet pages is colored pencil – but of course, not water-soluble colored pencil! You’ll recall from that previous post that a bicolor pencil I thought was insoluble turned out to be less so in the drizzle (at left). Better research was necessary!

I still wanted the compactness of bicolor pencils, so I went through my better non-soluble bicolor sets to test for solubility and refresh my memory on their softness and pigment quality. The set that made the cut was DOMS Zap Bicolour Pencils (unfortunately, I couldn’t find them on Amazon anymore, where I bought them a couple of years ago inexpensively). Made in India, probably for children, these bicolors are not what I would choose as my only colored pencils, but they are among the best of the bicolors, which are typically seen as novelty pencils and not of the highest quality. Like some DOMS graphite pencils I’ve used, Zap bicolors look well-made and are an excellent value. They are softer than bicolors from Staedtler and an India-made set from Faber-Castell. (Here are a few other bicolor sets I would recommend.) I tested the Zap pencils for solubility, and they hardly budged when I applied water. They also applied just fine on a sopping wet Expedition page.

DOMS Zap Bicolours
Expedition page was sprayed with water, then Zap
bicolor pencils were applied.

I picked out two pencils containing red/blue and orange/green, which would cover most of my quick coloring needs when I don’t want to get drenched. On the morning that I sketched the blow-up lion spotted on my neighborhood walk (below), the drizzle had mostly stopped, so perhaps it wasn’t a thorough field test. As you can see, it’s not possible to get deep, rich color on Yupo paper using colored pencils, but I don’t expect drizzle sketches to be among my best works. In any case, this combination of graphite, colored pencil and waterproof paper gets the job done.

By the way, you’ll be seeing this sketch of the blow-up lion again later on a different topic. (Editorial comment: These inflatables are my least favorite holiday decorations! But the lion served its purpose of being a colorful subject for this test.)

12/9/20 Maple Leaf neighborhood


  1. I'm glad you found materials that work in the drizzle. I've painted with watercolors and alcohol inks on yupo, so I can't imagine anything staying put on that surface.

    1. I remember you using Yupo to make those cool abstract patterns! It is definitely weird paper, but it seems to work this way!


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