Today I will share how I setup my Etchr Slate Mini for watercolor, gouache and drawing outside. I’ll show you the ways I customize it for maximum stability and efficiency. It took me a few months of use to figure out the various ways I like to set it up and acquire tools for customization, which are mainly just cheap magnets and clips! That’s the beauty of it. It’s nearly perfect from the start (at least for me).
I am not sponsored by any companies, I bought everything you see here with my own money and I don’t get credit for saying any of this.
Why I Use the Etchr Slate Mini
I paint outside a lot, so much so that sometimes I’ll take a sketchbook on my daily lunchtime walk just so I can sketch something interesting I saw the day before. In Scotland the weather changes dramatically fast, especially during rainy season (that was a joke…it’s always rainy season). So over the last 4 years I got into the habit of standing while sketching, to dodge the rain but also to keep going down the trail. To me drawing and painting outside is not about the final painting but more about the experience of communing with nature. I’m an artist, but in another life I believe I was a botanist. But standing and painting is a pain, in more ways than one. A couple years ago this caused a repetitive stress injury in my wrist due to holding a sketchbook and balancing a palette on the same hand. I was clutching that thing like my life depended on it, white knuckles and all. So what’s a girl to do who likes to sketch for 5 or 10 or 15 minutes and then move on down the trail?
I searched far and wide for a sketch setup that allows me to stand and paint, hands-free.
When I discovered the Etchr Slate Mini, I only briefly hesitated due to the high price tag, but future Sarah is happy that past Sarah made the purchase, because it changed everything.
This is currently my favorite plein air setup and I’m excited to share it. It takes me about 30-60 seconds to swing it around, open, setup and start sketching. I can close it up just as fast, and bonus, it’s waterproof.
I’ve been trying to stick to one setup. My goal is to get so comfortable and familiar with my setup that I would be able to go for a three week road trip in Europe and paint every single place we stop or walk without hesitation. That’s always been my problem…I hesitate. When everything is stuffed into my hiking backpack, I’m less inclined to make the effort to dig it out and paint. Instead I’d just take pictures. Anyways, let me show you how I setup my Etchr Slate Mini!
Feel free to comment with suggestions or new ways of customizing that I haven’t thought of!
Shopping List of Supplies Mentioned
- Etchr Slate Mini
- Magnetic Clips
- Small Round Magnets
- Double Dipper water cups with lids
- Drawing Board Clips
- Travel Brush
- Travel Gouache palette
- Portable Painter Micro
- Strathmore 7×10 inch Sketchbook
- S&B Nova Beige 6×8 Inch Sketchbook
- Metal watercolor palette
- Lightweight Tripod
- Therm-a-Rest Z-Seat Pad
- Water Bottle Belt
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How I Setup my Etchr Slate Mini
The outer pocket has enough space for a variety of items, but typically I keep my portable gouache palette and an extra sketchbook in there (maybe some snacks too). Note: if you stuff the outer pocket to full capacity, you may have a little less space inside the main body of the Slate Mini, due to the limited “stretchiness” of material. However I have noticed that over 4 months of use (more like abuse) has caused the outer pocket to stretch a tiny bit more and now it’s perfect for my favorite art supplies. If you want more space, you might need to upgrade to the Etchr Slate satchel.
More often than not, I attach the Etchr Slate Mini to my tripod, at least to start the painting session. I bought an extra tripod mount that lives permanently on my Slate Mini, so I don’t have to worry about forgetting it. I do also use the Slate Mini as a standing easel, but not quite as often anymore. The tripod mount just takes all the pressure off, and it’s super fast to setup.
The Slate Mini comes with plenty of velcro attachments, and this is how my main “shelf” looks 99% of the time.
On the other side, I setup the velcro pencil holders in a parallel fashion about 1 inch apart, as shown below. This allows me to slide or hook all of my utensils in an easily accessible way. I tried other layouts but this provides the most amount of “tall” utensils (like the bigger brushes and pencils) to fit in a row. It’s much easily to grab them this way because they are all facing the same way.
The net zip-cover holds everything in place but allows you to see what you have when it’s closed. I like that it is a little “loose” so it can cover larger items like small palettes and water containers (I’ll show you those in a moment).
For drawing, this is my usual setup. I prefer A5 portrait style spiral sketchbooks, they take up less space. You can fold it back on itself. The adjustable velcro-strap is great for holding sketchbooks in place. I typically wrap this tightly around the cover (whichever is folded under) which keeps it in place.
For watercolor and gouache layouts, I use these magnetic clips. I usually clip them to the outside of the shelf, and they are easily movable so I can shift things quickly.
Now here’s where it gets interesting. For gouache, I keep some small (very strong) magnets inside my travel palette, so that it’s held in place on the magnetic clips. This keeps the palette in place and I don’t have to worry about it sliding off.
When using this setup, the 7×10 inch Strathmore sketchbooks works great (folded over thanks to the soft cover). The lid of the gouache palette is where I mix the color.
For watercolor I prefer my small metal palettes. I buy them empty and fill them with my own colors. The metal watercolor palette is easily held in place by the magnetic clips without any additional magnets.
For a lighter setup, or when I want to use a horizonal A5 sketchbook, I’ll use my Portable Painter Micro. Since it’s plastic, I need to use two magnetic clips to hold it in place.
Easy Water Container Setup
My water containers attach to the outer edge of the shelf. These “double dipper” water cups are excellent but their clip is a bit small, so I attach them with a larger drawing board clip. If you look at all the images above you can see where I mount the water cups to the edge.
Even with my spiral sketchbooks, the water cups and the portable painter micro inside, it still closes easily. You just have to organize everything in a way so that nothing thick is overlapping.
I hope this post helps you setup your Etchr Slate Mini and have more enjoyable painting sessions!