What could be more pleased than sitting in the sun and painting on vacation? But it’s easy to put your paints and sketchbook in your suitcase and leave them there for a week. I’m guilty of bringing my art supplies on vacation but not using them. When you’re on vacation and don’t have much time to do and see things, it can be hard to find time to draw. So here are my best recommendations for how to make it happen.



Think carefully about what you want to bring with you. You should choose things that are small and easy to carry. At home, I use a Schmincke Horadam Watercolor Set that comes in a metal tin. However, this set is very heavy, so when I go on vacation, I bring this Winsor & Newton Watercolor Set, which comes in a light plastic palette with lots of mixing space. It’s the best paint palette to take with you when you travel.

It was the first time I took gouache with me on a trip. So I bought a set of tiny 5 mL tubes of Holbein Artists Gouache. These tiny tubes are great for traveling because they don’t take up any room.


Water brushes, which have water in the handle, are great for painting while you’re on the go. I also like to bring small brushes with me when I travel. The Winsor and Newton watercolor set I linked above comes with a size 5 brush with a short handle that fits perfectly inside the palette. In addition, you can get travel watercolor brushes with detachable or retractable handles that keep the bristles in place.


Even though I might be biased, I like my sketchbooks from Papier. Yes, they have my drawings on the front, but the paper inside is great for pencil sketches, gouache, and watercolors. The sketchbook is made of paper and is stapled together, so it opens flat and is easy to carry. In addition, you can paint on both sides of the pages because they are thick enough.


If you’re bringing regular pencils, don’t forget a sharpener; if you’re taking a mechanical pencil, don’t forget extra leads. I brought my Blackwing pencil, which has a great rubber tip.

Pencil case

I used a Nikki Strange make-up bag as a big pencil case that could hold my sketchbook, paint set, brushes, and pencils. Everything was easy to keep together because it was all in one bag.

Choose your Colour Palette

Choosing a color palette before you go is a good idea because that will help you bring fewer art supplies. Some might say that you never know what will inspire you and, therefore, what colors you need. However, I knew that if I went somewhere with stone houses with green shutters and lots of orange groves, I would need a good green, orange, and stone color. Think about where you are going and what colors you will probably wear. For example, if I went to Japan during cherry blossom season, I would want to take some great pinks with me. If you’re bringing watercolors, you’ll probably bring the whole set. It is more true for tubes of gouache, colored pencils, or felt-tip pens. I took white, raw umber, permanent yellow, permanent green, and flame red gouache with me on vacation. I also took some watercolors with me.

Tip: If you don’t have much room, you can get by with just a set of watercolors and a tube of white gouache. You can make different gouache colors by mixing the color from the watercolors with the white on the palette.

Make it Happen

Make Time

Unlike taking a quick photo, sketching or painting takes some time. Plan times when you will probably be able to paint and bring your sketchbook with you. I found that waiting for my food in a restaurant was a good time to draw since we always ate outside in beautiful places.


One of the hardest things about painting on vacation is not upsetting the people you are with. Tell your traveling companion you want to paint and suggest they try sketching or bring a book to read. During my vacation, I painted a lot, and my husband read a lot.


Don’t think that you have to paint everything you see. If a small part of what you see, like a person, a pretty tree, or a cute dog, inspires you, it’s fine to paint that one thing. It’s also fine if you don’t finish your painting or drawing in one sitting. Instead, take pictures of the scene and use them with what you remember to finish the painting later.

Put it away for now

If you want to paint something but don’t have time, you can take a sneaky picture and paint it when you have more time. For example, when I get home from a trip, I like to do some paintings in my sketchbook while everything is still fresh in my mind.

Enjoy Yourself

Don’t worry about making a beautiful masterpiece or sketchbook. When you paint on vacation, it’s not just about what you make. Painting is an excellent way to slow down and take in your surroundings while traveling. Don’t worry too much about what will happen. Just enjoy the moment.


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