This is the first question to ask yourself when building your mobile studio. If you are looking for quick recommendations they are listed with the section titles.
Let’s look at some options and recommendations.
140lb, Acid-free, 100% cotton, Quarter sheet, Cold press, Pad
Paper types – The normal paper types are Cotton or rag paper and wood pulp or cellulose.
100% cotton paper will give you better results and withstand more work and is considered the professional-grade paper. It’s normally archival, or acid-free, as well. I prefer to use 100% cotton when possible.
Wood pulp is less expensive and great for students and practice but only holds up with some techniques.
Typical formats – Watercolor paper can come in sheets, blocks, and pads.
Sheets come in sizes up to full imperial, 30” x 22”, A1 size paper in Europe is slightly larger at 33” x 22”. These can be cut into half or quarter sizes. If you’re using sheets make sure you have some kind of support board to secure the paper.
Blocks are glued on the edges with a stiff backing making them easier to use. They come in various sizes but I prefer 16” x 12” or smaller for painting outdoors. This is comparable to a quarter-size sheet which is 15” x 11” and European A3 or 16.5” x 11.7”
Pads, or sketchbooks, come in various sizes like pads and can be both soft and hard bound. These can be more convenient to carry with you.
Paper weight – For watercolor, you’ll find 90lbs, 140lbs, and 280lbs (180gsm, 300gsm, and 600gsm.)
90lb is good for sketching and ink and wash paintings, but anything more than a light wash will not hold up.
140lb is the most common weight used. Stretching the paper is expected when using larger sheets.
300lb is more expensive but doesn’t normally need to be stretched.
Surface types – You’ll find watercolor paper in Hot press, Cold press, and Rough surfaces.
Hot Press is smooth, good for detailed work, and light washes.
Cold Press is medium textured and works well with all techniques. This is referred to as ‘Not’ in the UK
Rough surface allows for maximum granulation.
Professional, warm and cool reds, yellows and blues, tubes
Prefilled pans and tubes – These are the basic options with additional variations, such as crayons and pencils, being available. I recommend buying tubes and filling your own pans. This can also give you the option of using fresh paint whenever you need it
Professional or student grades – I recommend using professional-grade watercolor. it contains more pigments and therefore requires less paint and provides a cleaner color
Color palette – The basic color palette of 3 colors red yellow, and blue can create any color you need. My recommendation would be cyan magenta, and yellow. You can also create a 6 color palette by having a warm and cool version of reds blues and yellows.
One round, one flat, one rigger(detail), travel size
Size – The size of the brushes you use is based on the size of the work. Normally you want to start with the largest brush you can use and work down to smaller sizes. Determine what the best size brush for each type is before buying additional sizes. I would recommend looking at a size 12 and adjusting based on your preferences.
Type – There are different types of brushes. Start with a round brush with a good tip. You can also get flat brushes and detail brushes. A round brush with a sharp tip will function well for almost any situation as a single brush to start with.
Portability – You can get travel brushes that are more portable but you’ll be limited in size and may be more expensive. If using regular watercolor brushes make sure you have something to protect the tips of your brushes while traveling.
Water Brushes – They can be used effectively when creating line and wash drawings or adding simple colors to a sketch however it will be it will be more difficult to use all the watercolor techniques available with normal watercolor brushes.
Portable, 6-12 wells, large enough mixing areas
Number and size of wells – The size of the brushes can affect how large or small the size of your wells can be you want to make sure that you have wells large enough to use brushes with without destroying the brushes and also the number of color hues affects how many wells need
Mixing areas – The number and size of mixing areas obviously are affected by the size of your paintings as larger washes will require a larger amount of water and a larger mixing area to hold it. You can also have separate mixing areas for your paints other than just the palette.
Mid-tone gray color, adjustable store-bought
Purchased or crafted – There are several options available and If you have a 3D printer you can also find files to download the 3D print on your own. You can also create one using a mat board and frames
Free – you can also just use your fingers to create the frame in the viewfinder for free
What to do next?
Pack up your studio and your essentials and go outside and play with your equipment. The best way of finding out what works is by using it in the environment.
As always email me with any questions or concerns.