Plein Air Supply List and tips 🎨

If you have your own supplies bring them to your session….we all find our favorite way of working over time…there is no right or wrong 🙂  The following list includes my supplies and some suggestions for people just starting out.

Pack as light as possible there are many ways to hike into the field, backpacks, wheeled carts are the most common. You want to not feel so encumbered by supplies that you are overwhelmed with stuff.  Take what you need and no more…this is an evolving process and each packing you will get better at it.  No matter how much I pair down I always feel like I could do better 😝

My gear :O)

You will notice a tube…this is a “Paint Garage” this is a handy way to keep your paints from day to day.  When I get home I put the garage in the freezer and it keeps my paints fresh until the next time.  They won’t last forever but freezing paints between uses extends their life.

my plein air gear

Pochade Box and easel – I have tried a few different plein air boxes and I find myself using my “EasyL Lite” paint box consistently.  I also have a French Easel (half size) which is great for plein air especially if you want to work on larger canvases.  I have a few different boxes that I offer in my workshops and it is fun to try the different styles while trying to choose what is right for you.


There are many many systems that artists enjoy in the field, here is a link that will shows you lots of different set ups to choose from.

Great link for all sorts of gear –


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I use a limited palette of warm and cool primaries and a two earth tones plus Titanium White. 

Ultra Marine Blue

Phthalocyanine Blue (Phthalo)

Cadmium Red

Quinacridone Rose (or red) – (many use alizarin crimson)

Cadmium Yellow

Azo Yellow (lemon yellow)

Quinacridone Gold or Quin. Nickel

Raw Sienna

Yellow Ochre

Titanium White (larger tube you will use lots of white)

There is no green here….I prefer to mix my own greens from my available colors but many artist like to have Viridian Green or Sap Green on their palette.

Some palettes include Ivory Black…when mixed with ochre or yellow it creates very earthy greens.

You will find colors you like and add to your palette as time goes on but this limited palette will be a good place to start 🙂 A limited palette can help to create a harmony in your paintings.

I have tried  Water Soluble Paints I eventually left them behind once I learned that I didn’t need any toxic mediums or cleaners with my oil paints but if you curious Holbein Duo is a nice product –

Buy studio, artist or professional grade paints….you do yourself no favors by buying student grade paints.  The quality of the paint does make a difference in your efforts…even when you are first starting out. Winsor Newton Artist Grade are less expensive and a good way to start.  Buy small tubes when you begin.  If you carry them into the field they are less weight and if you are experimenting with your palette you don’t have to invest too much into each purchase.

I use a combination of M. Graham, Gamblin and  Daniel Smith oil paints these are more expensive pigments and I usually stock up when Santa comes to town 😉  There are many good paint companies and you will develop your own favorites 😉 

Places to order paints and art supplies:


I use M. Graham non toxic  Walnut Alkyd Medium while painting to increase drying time slightly and pure walnut oil for cleaning my brushes.

Gamblin also makes a non toxic medium that is eco friendly

Many artist enjoy faster drying times and use Liquin or other fast drying mediums.  These mediums are fine but they do have fumes and some find it irritating.  In the field the fumes are not really an issue but when working in a closed space it can create problems. 

I try to keep my studio and plein air experience as environmentally clean as possible without using toxins that are found in many mediums. 

I do have Gamblin odorless “Gamsol” that I use very sparingly for initial underpainting and some deep brush cleaning.  I always keep the containers tightly sealed and never leave open my studio.  I carry a small container in the field and a larger brush cleaner tin sealed container at home.

To keep thinners safe in the studio and or field keep them in a safe container.  Never dispose of down the sink!  Paper towels that I have used to wipe up thinner, oils and paints I put in a sealed plastic bag with a good soaking of water before I throw it away.  

Brushes and palette knife

A good mix of brushes to start with are filberts, flats and rounds  #2. #4, #6 in synthetic hog bristle and synthetic soft bristle. (Synthetic is my personal choice as apposed to animal fur and hair).  The Princeton Brush Company has a nice line of brushes that aren’t too expensive but will give a good result.  A soft synthetic mop brush is good for blending. You will fill in brushes that appeal to you personally as you become more familiar with your own style and needs.  Hog bristle work well on canvas surfaces and soft bristle work well on panels.  

A medium size palette knife is useful for mixing paints and scraping back a painting and to paint with. (see photo of my gear)

I have been known to use as little as 1-3 brushes in a painting….so don’t go crazy buying brushes….best to start with just a few brushes in the sizes mentioned above and fill in other brushes as you gain experience.

Washing brushes – When I return home I wash my brushes with Murphy’s oil soap and warm water. If they have paint that needs extra work I will use Gamsol first – wipe off excess – and then wash with Murphy’s oil soap and warm water. Continue to wash until no residue shows up on the paper towel.  Keeping brushes clean will give them a long life…I ruined many brushes by not being thorough enough or waiting too long to clean them 😝

Canvas and panels 

Each person finds a comfort level with either canvas surfaces or panels. Both stiff and soft brushes work on canvas surface and softer brushes work well on the smoother panel surfaces.  In plein air we generally work small with the largest being around 11″x14″.  I often work on square panels or canvases….6″-12″ squares.

Dick Blick and Jerry’s Artarama are good sources to order primed canvases and primed panels..Amazon also carries these and almost all the supplies I have mentioned on my supply list.  Please be careful of pricing sometimes you can find a large difference in prices depending on where you order from 🙂  There is a Jerry’s Artarama in Norwalk CT if you want a hands on’s a great store!

Other survival gear 😉

Water and Snack


Baby wipes – unscented (to clean hands and everything!

Paper towels or rag to wipe brushes as you paint and to wipe down palette and end of session.

Umbrella (my favorite is Bestbrella)  EasyL looks like they now offer a similar umbrella on their site.

Light camp chair or stool

Number one rule of Plein Air painting is…..ENJOY YOURSELF 😊