Essential Plein Air Watercolor Supplies

Plein air painting is an exciting and rewarding experience, but it requires some preparation and planning. The first step is to choose the right art supplies that will work best for your painting style and needs. In this article, we will provide a comprehensive guide to help you select the essential watercolor art supplies you need to create stunning plein air paintings.

watercolor plen air

Essential Plein Air Watercolor Supplies

  • Watercolor paint
  • Watercolor brushes [full guide]
  • Watercolor paper [full guide]
  • Watercolor palette
  • Water container
  • Easel or support
  • Sunscreen and hat

Choosing the Right Watercolor Paper

Choosing the right watercolor paper is crucial for creating beautiful watercolor paintings. The paper’s weight, texture, and quality will affect the final outcome of your painting. Here are some factors to consider when choosing watercolor paper:

  • Weight: Watercolor paper comes in various weights, such as 90 lb, 140 lb, 300 lb, and more. The weight indicates the thickness of the paper, and the heavier the paper, the more water it can handle without buckling.
  • Texture: Watercolor paper comes in three textures: hot-pressed, cold-pressed, and rough. The texture determines how the paint will react to the paper, and each texture creates a unique look.
  • Quality: High-quality watercolor paper is acid-free, archival, and made from 100% cotton fibers. It will not yellow or deteriorate over time.

Types of Watercolor Paint

Watercolor paint comes in two forms: tubes and pans. Tubes are more convenient for plein air painting because they are easier to transport and use. Here are some factors to consider when choosing watercolor paint:

  • Transparency: Watercolor paint can be transparent, semi-transparent, or opaque. Transparent paint allows the underlying layers to show through, creating depth and luminosity in the painting.
  • Lightfastness: Lightfastness refers to how well the paint will resist fading over time when exposed to light.
  • Color range: Choose colors that you will use frequently and that work well together.

Little-Known Pieces of Information About Plein Air Watercolor Art Supplies

  1. You can use a spray bottle to keep your watercolor paints moist while painting Using a spray bottle to mist your watercolor paints can help keep them moist while painting, which can make it easier to work with them and prevent them from drying out too quickly. This is especially useful when painting in hot or dry weather conditions.
  2. You can use a sponge to create interesting textures in your watercolor paintings Using a natural sponge to dab your watercolor paints can create interesting textures and patterns in your paintings. This technique is especially effective when painting rocks, trees, and other natural objects.


What are the best watercolor paints for plein air painting?

The best watercolor paints for plein air painting are those that are portable, easy to use, and high-quality. Some great options include Winsor & Newton Cotman Watercolor Sketchers’ Pocket Box, Daniel Smith Extra Fine Watercolors, and M. Graham & Co. Artists’ Watercolors.

What is the ideal size for a water container?

The ideal size for a water container is one that is large enough to hold plenty of water but small enough to be portable. A 12-16 oz container is a good choice for most plein air watercolor painting sessions.

What are usually forgotten when painting plen air?

The weather conditions, it is highly recommended to wear sunscreen while plein air painting as you will be spending extended periods of time outside in the sun. Protecting your skin from UV rays is important for your health and well-being.
Having water both for your watercolors but likewise yourself is important.

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