Fun is the most important thing to have.

But you will need a medium such as paint or pastels, you’ll need paper, panels, or canvases, and brushes. Unless you’re a pastel painter. Then brushes might be a ‘nice to have.’

Please leave a comment on any additional supplies you suggest we add or suggestions to improve this page.

Paint Colors

Paint behaves differently based on manufacturer, type of paint, age of paint, etc., so it is important to focus on your primary colors. Plein Air artists often work with a limited palette because it requires them to mix their own shades and hues of colors instead of relying on tube that looks right. The results tend to be richer and more nuanced.

A quick reminder for us all; the three primary colors:

  • Red
  • Yellow
  • Blue

The following is a suggested limited palette of colors for painting en plein air.

  • Ultramarine Blue
  • Alizarin Crimson
  • Cadmium Red Light
  • Burnt Sienna
  • Cadmium Yellow Lemon (or Light)
  • Cadmium Yellow Deep (or medium)
  • Yellow Ochre
  • Titanium White
  • Ivory Black

These are the colors we recommend, but feel free to bring whatever you already use and are comfortable with, but do keep in mind a limited palette can be your friend.


A variety of Flats, Filberts, and Rounds, primarily: #6, #8, #10. Please feel free to bring what you have in those sizes. For Plein Air painting, it is recommended to avoid tiny brushes. Also, you may like to bring/purchase 2 Egberts, which is a long Filbert.

Brands respected among professional artists are Signet, Silver Brush Grand Prix, Windsor & Newton Artists’ Oil Brushes, and Princeton 6300 rounds.

Signet brand #2 and #4 can be purchased at any online art store or at your local art supply store (if you still have one…sadface).


It’s a good idea to have at least 6 – 8 small canvases or panels in varying sizes like 8×10, 9×12, 11×14, and 16×20 for the week. Keep in mind the size restrictions for the competition and exhibit being no larger than 24 inches on any side. So a 16×20 picture would require a 2 inch frame or smaller.

While there are many kinds of canvases and paper, it is important to use a type made for the medium you choose. There’s a thing called toothiness for paper that matters if you’re using pastels but not so much the watercolor painter and not at all for the oil painter.

Then there is the matter of panel versus stretched canvas. Some like the bounce of a stretched canvas, others the stable service of a panel. In the end, it’s what fits in your bag and is comfortable for you to work on.

Some reputable brands include Centurion DX Oil Primed Linen Boards, Fredrix Linen Boards, and Sourcetek Linen Boards. For stretched canvas or linens includes Fredrix and Raphael Oil Primed Linen.

Portable Easels

Many options are available. This is something you just need to try out and see what fits your style. Some suggestions are Open Box M 10×12 palette/panel holder with a Bogen Junior tripod in the field. Portable easels include Soltek, Guerilla Box, French Easel, and Artwork Essential EASy-L.

Additional Recommended Supplies

  • Gamsol or Turpenoid. No regular solvents or anything purchased from a hardware store.
  • An apron
  • A palette (if not included in your portable easel).
  • Container for washing brushes (Holbein brush cleaner, etc.)
  • Paper towels and small trash bags
  • Sketch Book and pencils/pen
  • Palette knife
  • A small cup/dish for medium (optional)
  • A small color wheel
  • A sun hat
  • Tissues ie. Kleenex
  • Bottled water
  • Bug repellant
  • Some artists appreciate a light weight folding chair
  • A sense of humor

2 Responses to “Plein Air Supply List”

  1. Spike

    Input on pastels, preferred easels and why, favorite brushes for acrylic, oil, watercolor, etc. would be appreciated for emerging artists like myself.

    We’ve reached out to artists in our email list for input.

  2. Linda Binek

    For watercolor artists I recommend the following. Choose transparent watercolors for ease of use. Read the fine print on the paint labels or a good watercolor painting book. Make sure you have a selection of dark paints. Watercolor artists do not use white or black. We either let the white of the paper shine thru or mix our own dark colors. I am now painting with watercolor on an easel with a brush in one hand and kleenex in the other to catch drips. Arches cold press watercolor paper 300#, although expensive, will make life simple. If you must add white, or opaques, use white gouche, either alone, or mixed with other colors for an exciting look!. I like nicely pointed rounds with a few angled flats and a wide, flat wash brush. An assortment of brush sizes from 1 – 8 will be adequate. As long as the brush has a good flat or point, and doesn’t shed bristles, low cost options are fine. Don’t skip on the quality of paints or paper. As suggested, a limited palette is more than adequate, you can mix a lot of colors with only 8 tubes of paint. Blick brand paints and brushes will do fine for all but professionals.


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