Plein Air Painting Materials

Remember, if you are just beginning, all you need is a simple pencil, and a sketchbook. For those who are ready to paint, please see below.

I’d like to quickly state that much of what I’ve learned about plein air painting comes from three friends of mine, outstanding professional plein air painters Marc Dalessio , John Traynor, and Leo Mancini Hresko. Click their links to view their work. I’m indebted to them for everything that I am relaying below, and am passing along to you, that we all might benefit.

Plein Air Easel I recommend starting with a cheap, inexpensive plein air easel, such as a standard French Easel. You will learn about different easels from the other students in the class who are further along, and can see what suits you best. The easel that I use is the Gloucester, sold by Take It Easel, a beautiful product that is hand made in New Hampshire. It is easy to sling over your shoulder, and sleek in its compact design. Best thing about the Gloucester is that nothing can blow it over or knock it over, very important for plein air painters.


Palette Box– I have a handmade box, made by Bob Rummel, an excellent woodworker from the US. It does a good job of storing everything that I need for painting. What’s best, it doubles as a palette, as the palette is built into the box. See Youtube video above for more info. Alternately, you can use a lightweight backpack to transport everything you need for painting. It’s a question of personal preference, and how far you will be trekking- bags are lighter by far, than boxes. His website doesn’t have a specific order page, you can just message him, via his website, and tell him that I sent you to order the same box as I have.


Canvas The golden rule of plein air painting is: always bring two or three canvases to every painting session, no matter what. You never know when the weather/cloud cover etc. will change, and you might need a new canvas. I recommend New Traditions Panels for plein air painting. They have an excellent type of canvas called C66, it is linen with two coats of titanium primer, mounted on gatorfoam panel. This is a superb painting surface, and if you order in bulk (ten or fifteen smaller canvases), then you can save. Source:

Brushes sable and bristle. I recommend Rosemary brushes. Two types: Series 2065, Chungking, assorted sizes. Series 11, Pure Kolinsky Sable, assorted sizes

Source for Bristle brushes:

Source for Sable brushes:

Palette- I prefer wood, non disposable. My palette is built into my palette box, as I do not like to hold a palette while I plein air paint. If you prefer a hand held palette, there are a few types out there that are good. My favorite is the Zecchi hand crafted from Jackson art, but there are other excellent types.

Source for Zecchi Palette: 

Source for Turtlewood Palette:

Source for New Wave Palette:

Solvent- Gamsol (oderless mineral spirits), or Turpentine. No commercial paint thinners/spirits, only artist quality. (Commercial grade is extremely noxious and potent, and will destroy brushes)


Oil Paints- The assortment of paints I recommend can all be found from Blue Ridge Oil Paints, listed as follows:

 – titanium white

– Naples yellow

– Yellow ochre

– cadmium yellow light

– cadmium yellow medium

– cadmium orange

– cadmium red

– kings blue

– cerulean blue

– cobalt blue

– ultramarine blue deep (only available from Old Holland, on Utrecht website)


Palette Cups- Two needed, screw cap suggested


Painting Medium- I prefer Balsam mediums, such as Demayerne, from Blue Ridge. You can work with many types of medium, but I would strongly suggest staying away from Liquin. Also, educate yourself before going headlong into any medium- for instance, sun thickened linseed oil, if used too liberally, can turn whites into tawny, uric yellows over time.


If Blue Ridge’s Demayerne is out of stock, I sometimes will purchase Rublev Balsam Medium from Natural Pigments, which is made with spike oil instead of turpentine. The lavender ingredient is actually pleasantly aromatic.


Paper Towel Roll-

Source: Supermarket

Plastic Shopping Bags- for use as garbage bags

Source: Supermarket

Dishwashing Gloves- I use these for squeezing out fresh paint (tubes can get a bit dirty) and for cleaning up

Source: Supermarket

Shampoo bottles, small– Two Needed, to store solvent and medium

Source: Available at most pharmacies, in travel section

Small Plastic Bags for Sandwiches, foldable- I use these to insert dirty brushes inside of, when traveling home

Source: Supermarket

Bungee cord- An elastic bungee with hooks on either side

Source: Hardware Store

Steel Wool- Optional, for scrubbing away dried oil paint

Source: Hardware Store

Bug Spray- I recommend keeping two types on you: the natural type that is mild and repels simple gnats, and the deep woods type for times when the bugs are more aggressive

Source: Hardware Store