My Favorite Art Supplies

All my favorite art supplies

I am constantly trying new things, but this list contains only the best – the stuff I’ve been using for years and always reach for.

Sarah Burns custom brush set collaboration with Craftamo

Coming Soon

Custom Gouache Brush Set by Sarah in collaboration with Craftamo

More info to come in October 2022

*New* A detailed list of my plein air kit for Sketching Scotland: A Coastal Journey (hiking/painting 11,000 miles over the next couple years)

Drawing

What I Draw With

New: View my Google Spreadsheet with all my active drawing supplies – updated regularly.

Pentel Mechanical Pencil
A deliciously thin .5 mm and practically indestructible. Small lead is great for details but I can also fill in large areas with hatching.

Posca Pen (white)
I love the posca pens, especially the brush tip and big chisel tip. Very opaque.

Pilot G-Tec-C4 Pen
Smooth, reliable lines, no clogs, no fuss. Not waterproof. Great as an everyday pen.

rOtring Isograph .4mm
Lovely refillable pen with a tiny nib, perfect for detail lines. The ink that comes with it is waterproof.

Shinhan Touch Twin Markers
These are my favorite markers for drawing landscapes. See how I use them here.

Uniball Eye Micro
Smooth, reliable lines and waterproof ink. Does it get much better than that?

STAEDTLER Mars Micro Blue Lead
I put this in my Pentel mechanical pencil.

Watercolor

Watercolor Paint Sets

Cotman Watercolor Travel Set (12 Colors)
Great for your first set of colors. Student grade, but still bright, reactivates easily, and easy to carry. This was my first set of watercolors.

Sennelier Watercolor Travel Set (8 Colors)
When you’re ready to upgrade, this is an amazing brand. I absolutely LOVE Sennelier’s quality, plus tubes give you more bang for your buck!

Schmincke Watercolor Set (12 Colors)
Schmincke is my new favorite brand. Their quality and color range perfectly matches what I look for in a watercolor set.

Watercolor Brushes

#12 Round Silver Black Velvet Brush
If I could only have one brush, this would be it. Highly absorbent and responsive, Silver Brush Black Velvet brushes are made from a blend of Squirrel hair and a new type of synthetic filament called Risslon.

Synthetic Rigger Brush
Very useful brush using long bristles that allow you to make very fine marks. Vegan friendly.

Escoda Ultimo Alvaro Castagnet Set
This set was gifted to me, and I absolutely love it. Especially the #18 which I use frequently for washes. Very high quality brushes.

Watercolor Paper

Arches 9×12 Cold Pressed Paper Block
100% Cotton Paper, 140# (300gsm). Incredibly sturdy paper, handles everything I throw at it!

Saunders Waterford 9×12 Rough Paper Block
100% Cotton Paper, 140# (300gsm). I love an extra bit of texture, and this is my favorite rough paper that I’ve tried.

Etchr Watercolor Postcards
100% Cotton Paper, 230gsm. My new favorite watercolor postcards.

Fabriano Artistico 9×12 Hot Pressed Paper Block
I’m not a huge fan of hot pressed (smooth) paper, but out of all the ones I’ve tried, this is my favorite. I mainly use it for gouache and for that, it’s really nice.

Watercolor Palettes

18 Well Watercolor Palette
I have used a version of this palette for 4 years and still love it. Mine is a generic brand, but it’s the same design.

Portable Painter (Hands Free Painting Kit)
When you just want a super simple, portable setup, this is the best!

Sealable Travel Palette Box
Comes with it’s own water container, this is a great airtight palette.

Portable Painter Micro
An even smaller version! I also like this one for gouache.

My watercolor palette contains these colors:

August 2022 Update: I’m currently experimenting with a new selection of colors. I temporarily removed Yellow Ochre, English Venetian Red, and both Perylenes for this experiment. I temporarily added:

Please note: the colors in my main palette are non-toxic. If you want to have a more environmentally friendly palette, avoid pigments that contain heavy metals. Some of the super granulating pigments contain heavy metal, please do research before buying. Refer to the color-bible Handprint for more information about toxicity.

I also sometimes use Schmincke Super Granulating Watercolours, these are my favorites:

Gouache

Gouache Paint

Winsor & Newton Set (5 Colors)
I frequently use W&N and love the consistency and colors.

Schmincke Horadam Gouache
Unique color range and very high quality.

Holbein Primary Set (5 Colors)
Extremely high quality gouache.

Shinhan Designer’s Gouache
Very affordable high quality gouache.

Gouache Brushes

New: An ongoing review of my favorite gouache brushes!

Daler Rowney Brush Set
A great intro set, especially when paired with an A5 sketchbook.

Silver Golden Taklon Lettering Brushes
These are soft synthetic brushes. My new favorites. I recommend getting a variety of sizes or seeking out bigger versions in other brands.

Etchr Brush Set (10)
These brushes are great for detail work. I also use them for gouache and watercolor.

Gouache Palettes

Sealable Travel Palette Box
Keep your paints moist between sessions with this airtight palette. Comes with it’s own water dish.

Redgrass Studio Palette
Lots of mixing space, seals shut and keeps my gouache moist between sessions. This palette is a prototype but you can pre-order one.

Portable Painter Micro
A really great tiny palette for painting on the go.

Gouache Extras

Watercolor Ground
Painting on a smooth surface? Prime any surface with this to help the paint stick better.

Sealer – Dorland’s Wax Medium
Protect your gouache paintings with a waterproof seal. Dries matte. Watch my video.

Blending Medium
If you find that your paint is drying out too quickly, add one or two drops of this to your mixes.

My Gouache Colors

Currently under review:

Schmincke Gouache – see my review video

Shinhan Gouache – see my review video

Water Mixable Oils

Due to my allergies, I can only use oil paint outside or in very well-ventilated spaces. I cannot use a majority of the products on the market that have heavy fumes. Therefore water-mixable oils are my best option, and I absolutely love them!

Oil Paints

Winsor & Newton Water Mixable Oil Paint Set
Includes 10 Colors + Modified Linseed Oil which you can use to thin your paint and extend the color. This is my most used brand!

Holbein Duo Aqua Set (4 Colors)
If you want to try this brand (which I love) this is a good test set.

Jackson’s Aqua Oils Set (8 Colors)
I really like this brand, I have a few colors and it has a nice creamy consistency that’s easy to use.

Surfaces

Ampersand Gessobord Cradled Panel
I really love the surface of these for oil paint. They are cradled which makes them easy to mount, frame, or hang.

Arches Huile Paper for Oil
One of my new favorite ways to paint with oil! Especially with the water mixable oils. I can use them almost like watercolor!

Jackson’s Art Board Canvas Panel
A really great option while you are learning because they are easy to store, travel with, and very easy to frame!

Brushes

Jackson’s Black Hog Brush Set for Oil
These are very robust and handle lots of abuse. Since I’m constantly scrubbing my canvas and they have handled it really well over the last couple years.

Silicone Palette Knife
These silicone palette knives are great for blending and applying large amounts of paint.

Jackson’s Akoya Synthetic Set for Oil
These are a little more stiff which I find useful for certain techniques.

Liquitex Large Brush
These large stiff-bristle brushes are excellent for large work. I love using them for backgrounds and big expressive marks.

Jackson’s Mottler Brush
I really like this for laying in big areas of color. If you can, get a couple so you don’t have to clean them when you want to switch colors.

Palette Knife Set
A good set of starter knives.

Misc

Palette Knife
I frequently use a palette knife to apply thick paint, get interesting marks, and scrape lines into the wet paint. Also useful for mixing color.

Retouching Varnish Spray
For temporarily protecting an oil painting before final varnish. Also great for evening out the finish and bringing the colors to life.

Master’s Brush Cleaner and Preserver
A necessary part of clean-up to make sure the bristles are free of oil and last a long time.

Gloss Varnish
Protect your artwork and bring out the richness of the colors.

Sta-Wet Sealable Palette
Allows you to seal your wet paint and keep it “moist” between sessions. I recommend buying a glass insert (I use a glass kitchen cutting board) to mix paint on.

Metal Brush Cleaner Jar
The sediment accumulated from washing brushes sinks through the holes to the bottom of the washer pot, and helps keep your water or solvent cleaner for longer.

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Acrylic Paint Menu

Liquitex Basics
Great paint for beginners, or when you need a lot of coverage.

Golden High Flow Acrylics
Really great for flowy, drippy application. Also perfect for glazes.

Golden Heavy Body Acrylics
Luxurious paints, great coverage.

Satin Varnish
Protect your artwork and bring out the richness of the colors.

Sta-Wet Sealable Palette
Allows you to seal your wet paint and keep it “moist” between sessions. I recommend buying a glass insert (I use a glass kitchen cutting board) to mix paint on.

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Pochade Boxes

Acrylic Paints

Liquitex Basics
Great paint for beginners, or when you need a lot of coverage.

Golden High Flow Acrylics
Really great for flowy, drippy application. Also perfect for glazes.

Golden Heavy Body Acrylics
Luxurious paints, great coverage.

Satin Varnish
Protect your artwork and bring out the richness of the colors.

Sta-Wet Sealable Palette
Allows you to seal your wet paint and keep it “moist” between sessions. I recommend buying a glass insert (I use a glass kitchen cutting board) to mix paint on.

Pochade Boxes / Travel Easels

Etchr Slate Mini
A “soft” pochade box – it is basically a shoulder bag that unfolds and can be worn around your body, allowing you to work hands-free while sitting or standing. It also attaches to a tripod. Jump to my post with details about my setup.

Guerrilla Painter 6×8 Thumbox
A small very lightweight box that fits in my backpack. It holds supplies inside as well as two wet oil paintings within the lid, protecting them when it’s closed.

Sienna Plein Air Pochade Box
A very sturdy box which is excellent for larger works. A bit heavy so I don’t use it for hiking. But I love the huge glass mixing space.

My Favorite Sketchbooks (all mediums)

Drawing Sketchbooks

Stillman & Birn Nova Beige Sketchbook
The paper is smooth with a tiny tooth, great for all drawing types.

Leuchtturm1917 Blank Sketchbook
A luxuriously thick, smooth paper that feels so good under my pencil and pens. I also really love their bright, sturdy covers. Handles heavy ink very well.

Grid Sketchbook
Something about a grid sketchbook that I love. This one has nice cream colored paper with a very faint grid, not too distracting but still useful.

Watercolor & Gouache Sketchbooks

(I use my sketchbooks for both watercolor and gouache as well as ink)

Strathmore Watercolor Travel Journal 7×10
One of my favorite 100% cotton travel sketchbooks in portrait orientation. It has a soft cover so you can fold it easily. Unfortunately it seems to be discontinued as of August 2022???

Stillman & Birn Nova Beige Sketchbook
My favorite toned paper sketchbook.

Hahnemuele Watercolour Book 100% Cotton
A new favorite, especially the 19×19 square. All mediums handle well on this paper and it’s nice that the whole thing feels lightweight.

Etchr Cold Pressed A5 “Perfect” Sketchbook
100% cotton paper. Made with heavier 300 gsm paper, this will handle all wet media and watercolor behaves beautifully.

Etchr Cold Pressed A5 Sketchbook
100% cotton paper. A slightly different experience (more rough feeling) than their “perfect” sketchbook.

This page contains affiliate links. I am not sponsored by any companies, this is all gear I’ve tried and trust and use by my own will. If you decide to purchase one, I get a tiny store credit so I can buy art supplies, so thank you for your support! New Jacksons Art customers will receive a 10% discount on their first order if it is made through any of these links.

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Browse my blog posts to find out how I use my supplies!

19 thoughts on “My Favorite Art Supplies

  1. Sarah, someone used Seawhite of Brighton sketchbook some time ago. Was it you? I’m getting ready to take a fill-a-sketchbook class, and am thinking about this one. If I’m going to actually fill it 🤞🏻 I don’t want one too big or too small, just a Goldilocks. And it needs to be WC friendly. I have large and small sketchbooks, expensive and thick sketchbooks. I just want a basic good one that I won’t panic about filling.

    1. Hey there. Yes I’ve used those. They are very cheap, and you get what you pay for. I don’t like them for watercolor. Drawing is fine, and any kind of opaque paint (gouache or something) would be fine. Ink with a splash of watercolor is the most “wet” I would go

  2. What kind of colored pencils do you use? I am in the market for new ones. I have used prismacolor and the premium Crayola ones. Do you ever use watercolor pencil? Would love to know what kind you use.

  3. Hi Sarah,
    I enjoyed watching one of your videos on using reference material from your own photos. I’ve been thinking for a long time of how to print out photos I’ve taken for reference material for future painting projects. It occured to me after watching you and another artist’s youtube videos to think about getting an ipad instead. Can you tell me anything in regards to this? I’m guessing that it would be used exclusively for art and so wouldn’t need anything too complicated or even expensive. Wonder if you’d care to lend me your thoughts on this?
    Sincerely,
    Debbie

    1. An iPad would be an extremely expensive reference photo display. iPads are computers and capable of amazing things. If you get one, use it for all it’s worth! Painting, typing, admin, research, etc.

  4. Sarah – Can you tell me what the board is called which you used on the back of your Arches Journal? And where you bought it?

      1. I have to agree with this. I didn’t realise how bad Moleskine was for watercolour and ink painting until I tried a 100% cotton sketchbook instead. I still use them for pencil/pen/marker sketching but stopped using them for watercolour and ink. <3

  5. I have been using W&N Pro Acrylic, and I do find the colour shift is less with it than with Golden, liquitex, etc… I was having a bad time with grisaille painting, when I would work hard on values then come back and find it looking way off how I left it. I gather good users can predict the shifts, but that does not seem like a challenge one should embrace if one does not have to.

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