The first, best piece of advice I ever received about keeping an illustrated or sketchbook journal was to always, always travel with your supplies and be prepared. I take mine everywhere: walks, restaurants, museums, doctor’s offices, even church – a great place for meditative drawing. If you carry what you need with you along with your sketchbook, you will always be ready to draw at a moment’s notice, no excuses and more importantly, be ready to use small amounts of time where you might ordinarily be staring into space (traffic jams, airplanes, etc.)

If you have never kept a portable studio like this before, don’t worry. Everyone is going to work with different materials to suit their own style and needs, and you may not know what these are until you have tried it for awhile. Also, buying all new supplies can be expensive, although it is perfectly possible to keep a visual diary with little more than a good pen and a glue stick. Just get what you can and add to it when you can. For instance, I couldn’t really afford a whole set of good water color crayons in one go, so I buy one or two whenever I have a windfall or am on vacation in a new place that has an art supply store. This way, I get an affordable souvenir that I can use over and over.

Weight can be an issue, especially if you do a lot of walking on your travels, so decide what the least amount you need is. After years of keeping a travel journal, I have found that this is what works best for me:

–  Mini pan of water colors. This is a super handy size, and while I recommend that you support your local art supply store, especially if independently owned, if you are on a tight budget look on eBay or Amazon where you can find one at a wide range of prices.

Travel journal supplies

You can also make your own. I will be adding instructions for this soon.

–  Water color pencils and crayons. These are water soluble, which means you can draw with them, then brush over them with water and they liquify on the page. A few of these can get heavy fast, so decide what four or six you can’t live without, then break them in half (to lighten the weight);

Water color crayons

Water color crayons

–  Water brushes. Out of all of the travel supplies these are the most essential. With a gentle squeeze you can use them with paints or pen to create a wash. I carry three different brush tip sizes, but one medium would be enough. If you can’t find them locally, order them online. I like the Pentel brand.

water brushes

–  Pencil sharpener

–  Eraser (rubber)

–  Black, fine point pen. I usually use a Pilot .4

–  A couple of drawing pencils

–  Glue stick

travel journal


–  I carry a very small pair of scissors for for cutting up tickets, maps, and other paper ephemera that collect on travels. WARNING: YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO GET A SMALL PAIR OF SCISSORS THROUGH AIRPORT SECURITY. HOWEVER, CHECK THE SIZE AND MAKE SURE BEFORE YOU FLY. If the blades are shorter than the height of a credit card, they should be allowed. I always take mine out and put them in my liquids bag to make it obvious that they are there. Makes it easier on security to measure them, which makes it easier on you, and

–  Small ruler, six inches. A lightweight straight-edge comes in very handy while drawing.

travel journal supplies

What do you carry? Any suggestions or questions, just put them below in the comments.