Plein air painting, or painting outdoors, is a wonderful experience that more people should try! If you’d like to give it a go but don’t know what you need, read on to learn of a few basic supplies you’ll find useful.
Easels are your best friend when it comes to painting outdoors. There are four main types of plein air easels: the field easel, the French-style easel, the pochade box, and the tripod-based easel. They all have pros and cons, so it’s hard to say one is better than the others. Do your research on each type and decide what you’d prefer based on your needs as a painter.
Before you start your plein air painting, you need to decide what you’d like to paint on. If you’re creating a travel journal for yourself, you can pack a sketchbook. I like to use canvas as they’re durable. Make sure whatever you choose is on the smaller side and easily portable, especially if you’re a beginner.
Of course, when it comes to plein air painting, you’ll not want to forget your paint or paint palette. But something you should keep in mind is you can’t bring all the colors with you. So, picking a color palette before you go on your expedition will help keep things a little lighter and easier for you.
There aren’t any special colors you need for plein air painting – you can use what you have. For landscapes, greens, browns, yellows, and blues are always a safe bet. You can always bring more colors (or less) to your likening and comfort level, but using a purposefully limited palette will give your paintings a wonderful effect. You also do not need to match colors exactly, or even a little bit, to what you’ll be painting. At the end of the day, the best colors to pack are the ones you have or are most excited to use.
Brushes and Water
Just like with paints, you don’t need specific brushes when plein air painting. Of course, the fewer brushes you bring with you the less weight. But if you like lots of options, the more the merrier!
There are wonderful travel-specific brushes on the market, but any brush can be adapted for travel. This brings us to the most important point to remember when traveling with brushes: mind the tips. Ensure your brush tips are well protected when packing them, and the rest is just preferential details. There are hard cases, brush guards, or you can use cardboard and saran wrap to keep your brushes safe.
For your water cup, avoid using glass, as it is heavy and breakable. Besides that, you can use whatever you like – just make sure it doesn’t leak!
Viewfinders can be wonderfully useful when out painting, especially for beginner plein air painters. When you reach the spot you’re going to paint, it can be overwhelming facing the vast landscape and wondering how on earth you’re going to fit it onto your canvas. With a viewfinder, you can start zooming in and out and moving it around until you find the composition you want to focus on. You don’t even need to buy one either! You can use your fingers or cut a rectangular hole into a piece of cardboard.
A palette knife is an incredibly useful tool when it comes to plein air painting. It can be used for mixing colors and color matching, picking up medium, removing medium, and it can be used as another paintbrush and provide interesting texture in your painting. Bring at least one and see how it can help you next time you’re out painting.
Plein Air Painting
I love sharing my passion with others, so I hope you enjoy trying out plein air painting for yourself one day! If you’d like to own a plein air painting without having to go out and paint one yourself, check out and purchase one of my paintings! And of course, if you have a question about one of my pieces, please feel free to contact me. Thank you for supporting your local Colorado artists!