When we travel, when we work outdoors or on location, or even when we are just out and about, a portable travel art kit is a wonderful thing to have, giving us the freedom to get up and go without collecting and packing our normal supplies – and without having to worry about damaging or even losing those favorite tools. Let’s have a look at which travel art tools and supplies you should get!
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Table of Contents
- Best Pencil Cases for Traveling
- Best Drawing Pencils for Travel Kits
- Best Drawing Pens for Travel Kits
- Best Drawing Kit for Traveling Artists
- Best Brush Sets for Travel Kits
- Best Paints for Travel Kits (Oils, Watercolors and Acrylics)
- Best Travel Bags and Backpacks for Artists
- Best Drawing Notebooks for Travel Kits
- Best Painting Pads for Travel Kits
- Best All-in-One Art Travel Kits
- Best Digital Tools for Traveling Artists (Tablets, Scanners, SSD and more)
We spend a lot of time talking about and choosing the best art supplies for our studio, home or workplace, and we really try to make sure we get the best quality possible – but what about when we aren’t at home or at the studio?
So let’s take a little trip through the world of the best travel art kit. Whether you are an inveterate traveler or backpacker, work a lot in various locations, or just like the idea of having great supplies with you wherever you go, this buyer’s guide for the best artist travel kits and the best portable art supply kits is sure to be just the ticket!
- How do you make a travel art kit?
- How do you travel with art supplies?
- What should be included in an art kit?
- Are all-in-one art kits good for travel?
- What do professional artists take when they travel?
- What is the best travel drawing set?
- What is the best travel painting set?
- What do I need to make art on location?
- What do I need to paint outdoors?
Why Should You Get a Good Traveling Artist Kit?
There are a lot of really great reasons to consider getting, or putting together, the best travel art kit, and they really aren’t just for travelers.
If you are a traveler, of course, either traveling as a part of your commercial art or illustrating career, a digital nomad, or simply someone who loves to hop about on a road trip, you may already have a kind of impromptu traveling art kit, but a proper set of art tools designed to be portable can really be a game changer.
If you are an art student, and bringing supplies back and forth between school and home, again a great travel art kit can be a real blessing.
And if you work outdoors, on location, at client sites, at cafes, parks or public spaces, or simply love to have the freedom to create anytime and anywhere and just start painting, a proper traveling artist kit or portable set of artist supplies can make everything so much nicer and easier, and you may find that you make art more often and enjoy it more.
What Should the Best Traveling Artist Kit Include?
Well, for some people it’s easy – an iPad and you’re done!
But that’s not why you’re here, I reckon, or at least not the only reason. Yes, a great digital art tablet is pretty essential, and a fantastic way to make art on the go, and we will definitely recommend the best Apple, Windows and Android tablets below.
But we’ll also talk about what exactly you might want to get in terms of traditional media, and some of the most important, handy, and just plain cool items are:
- Portable Drawing Sets and Supplies – pens, pencils, travel cases
- Portable Painting Gear and Supplies – paint brushes, paints, palettes, easels
- Travel Cases, Bags, and Backpacks
- Drawing Notebooks and Painting Pads
- And yeah, tech goodies – digital tablets, scanner, light box and compact digital cameras
Of course not all of these things will apply to every artist, and some might not want, or want to schlep around, for instance, paints and an easel, but would benefit immensely from finally having a nice set of pens and pencils all together in a nice little case.
While we’re on the subject of what the best travel art supply kits should contain, I think it is important to mention that quality is as important here as it is at home, in the studio or workplace.
It is frustrating to have to gather and pack your art supplies every time you want to hop on a plane, or a bus, or a park bench, but it is also frustrating – and unacceptably limiting – to have a travel kit that is at a lower level than you’re use to, one that holds you back, compromises the quality of your work or keeps you out of the flow.
So please, get the right items, or the right pre-assembled kit, but also get good ones – the best you can afford, in fact. But luckily, the best travel kits and supplies for artists are not always that expensive!
How Can You Find the Best Travel Art Kits and Portable Art Supplies?
First you should consider what exactly you want or need to do with your portable travel art kit – do you want to be able to sketch or ink anywhere you find yourself, but are not interested in painting on the go?
Then you probably don’t want the extra weight, complexity and expense of painting supplies, or for that matter an all-in-one traveling art kit.
But if you want to have any and every possibility open to you – painting, drawing, inking and more – there are some really nice complete travel art kits, or you can get a great backpack and the best travel art supplies from each individual category.
Many of us who are pretty focused on various kinds of traditional media also still want to have a good tool for digital art – like an iPad, for example – and many would feel lost without a nice compact digital camera as part of our kit – to create with, to digitize and share our latest paintings and drawings, or to get that perfect shot of the Great Wall, the Grand Canyon or grandma’s flower beds.
So, in the interest of completeness, we will take a wide-angle view of what artists want and need in their art kits and their traveling art supply kits.
In most cases we will try to include at least one recommendation for the best overall choice and one for the best budget choice, but in every case we will make sure that these are the very best quality, most convenient and well designed art supplies you can get, and the best value as well.
That’s a big itinerary, and it’s going to be quite a trip, so let’s get going with this guide to the best art supplies and best travel kits for artists!
Best Art Materials for Travel Art Kits in 2022
Art Supplies and Tools for Travel Drawing Kits
We should say right up front that the best pencils and pens, and the ones you really want to have with you, don’t come in packaging ideal for travel – often just plain paper boxes – and any that do are, well, not always great art tools.
So what I recommend is to get a great pencil bag for your pens, pencils and supplies, and then get a set, or sets, of the best pens, pencils, markers or whatever. Don’t just bounce around your work room collecting pencils and pens and stuffing them into your nice new pencil case everytime you go somewhere, but have a second set just for traveling or moving about, all nicely packed up and ready to go.
So here I am going to make only two recommendations for pencil cases – a fantastic inexpensive case – the perfect size and the best quality – and a premium choice as well, which is definitely even higher quality and, well, just oozes with coolness.
Then I will recommend my top choices for pencils and pens – both black and color – in travel sized sets. Again, we are not just getting a few pencils or pens here, but concentrating on getting the best quality art tools at a good price, so your art on the go is as good as it gets!
Best Pencil Cases for Traveling
This Easthill pencil case is, incidentally, a superbly made product, truly premium in look and feel, and a perfect size for your drawing tools.
Best Drawing Pencils for Travel Kits
Best Black Lead Drawing Pencils for Travel Kits
A perfect selection of different hardnesses, including graphite pencils and charcoals, these are among the finest pencils in the world, and the set – though a little pricey – actually represents a fantastic value.
Though I wouldn’t use the included plastic storage case for travel, I can’t recommend the pencils themselves highly enough – German-made, superb quality (especially for the money) and coming in a complete range of hardnesses.
Best Colored Drawing Pencils for Travel Kits
Right back to the top art pencil manufacturer – Caran d’Ache – for my choice of premium colored pencils for your travel kit, these Supracolor pencils are the best of the best, and not as expensive as you might think.
24 colors in metal tin :: Includes selection of colors from the Premier Soft Core pencil line :: Richly saturated pigment for permanent color :: Wax based binder :: Soft lead :: Resistant to fading :: Perfect for shading, delicate blending and shadows :: Strong enough leads for easy sharpening
Prismacolor’s affordable Premier colored pencils are incredibly expressive and feel great in the hand, and come in really beautiful colors. A largish set for travel, the 24 pack will nonetheless give you amazing range.
Best Drawing Pens for Travel Kits
Best Black Ink Drawing Pens for Travel Kits
Top commercial artists, illustrators, designers, animators and comic book artists from all over the world make Copic Multiliners their first choice, and once you try them you will know why. An affordable set with 9 tip sizes is the perfect choice for any travel drawing kit.
Best Colored Drawing Pens for Travel Kits
Also amazingly affordable, like the Copic black pens above, these Tombow are also considered to be among the best of the best, and widely used by top-level artists in all areas. A wide selection of colors, each with two tip sizes, gives maximum flexibility in a small size package.
Best Drawing Kit for Traveling Artists
Despite what I said above, you can actually find some very good quality complete drawing sets – please be clear that the above recommendations are as good as it gets, truly premium and professional pencils and pens in every way, and not really that expensive, but if you’d like to get everything in one easy package, there is one set in particular that I can recommend without reservations.
40-Piece Kit, Complete Artist Kit Includes Charcoals, Pastels and Zippered Carry Case, Includes Rare Pop-Up Stand
This Caste Art Supplies drawing set is really inexpensive, especially considering the range and quality of supplies, and offers literally every single thing you might possibly need (except for paper) in one place. And it comes in a zipper case that is nice quality and truly useful.
Best Painting Sets for Artists
Just like with the best drawing sets, I’m not really going to get into all-in-one sets with big boxes and a thousand different pieces, which claim to be “portable” despite their formidable weight.
Instead, let’s look at the best paint brushes – which do come in their own cool-as cases, the best paints to take with, the best palette for mixing paint, even a couple of really solid but highly portable art easels. And then we’ll mention a few highly recommended travel cases to put the whole kit into.
Best Brush Sets for Travel Kits
I might not recommend a paint brush set just because of its case and portability, but I have found two sets that are purely recommendable on quality alone, and just happen to come in really cool travel cases – one a superb premium set from one of the finest makers in the world, and one a remarkably good cheap set with a perfect range of brushes.
I am thrilled to be able to include an Escoda set in this buyer’s guide to best travel kits for artists – they are, without question, one of the finest art supply houses in the world today, and make what many artists would claim to be the best brushes available. This smart 6 brush set, in synthetic squirrel, really represents Escoda at their best – with superb handles and tips, truly premium quality, great feeling and great control – and in an absolutely gorgeous travel case.
A really nice set of brushes for any kind of paint, the Benicci offer surprisingly great feel, control and expressive flair, with synthetic bristles that stay put and maintain their shape and a premium look and feel overall. And the case is super-useful and very high quality.
Medium Point & Small Point 2 Pens Profesional Arts Value Set
Even though these Aquash water brushes are not considered fine art brushes, they are excellent as part of any travel art kit, because they are small, hold water very well and still allow for gorgeous watercolor effects. Highly recommended!
Best Paints for Travel Kits (Oils, Watercolors and Acrylics)
Best Oil Paints for Travel Kits
The real choice of top-level fine and commercial artists, Gamblin paints are as good as it gets, and this selection of their premium yet affordable 1980 oils offers just the thing for any travel kit.
Best Budget Oil Paint for Painting on Canvas
Set of 10x 37ml Paint Tubes
A remarkably high quality paint for the money, Winsor and Newton Winton oils are the best choice for students and beginners, and yet are perfectly suitable for even the most discerning artist on a budget – and this starter kit is perfect for a portable studio!
Best Acrylic Paints for Travel Kits
Thick acrylic paint with superior pigment in classic colors, great out of the tube and supremely mixable
Probably the most loved and highly rated acrylic paints on the market today, Golden heavy body acrylics are professional quality paints for not a lot of money. The Classic Theory set offers a perfect selection of highly mixable colors and is perfect for any traveling painter on any level.
Also very highly regarded and loved among the art community, Daler-Rowney paints are one of my favorite tools too, and the System 3 – here in a great package for traveling – are an incredible value.
Best Watercolor Paints for Travel Kits
Best Premium Watercolor Paints in Pans
French Watercolor Paint, Metal Set of 48 Half Pans
Fine art watercolors from one of the great makers, these cakes are easy to travel with and offer a huge range of stunning colors. Pricey, but an amazing watercolor paint for the serious artist.
Best Value Watercolor Paints in Pans Overall / Best Watercolor Set for Students
OK, these are not the equal of Senellier, but nothing is, really. But the Winsor and Newton Cotman watercolors are far better than anything else at this price level, and have beautiful colors, great workability and an amazing texture. A great large selection of easy to tote watercolor cakes at a very low price.
Best Paint Palette for Travel Kits
A cheap and simple though it may be, I’m a little in awe of this perfect travel palette, which offers an ideal space for mixing paints and keeping them moist and usable for days.
Best Watercolor Mini Travel Art Kit
- Winsor & Newton Cotman Watercolor Paint with Case and Waterbrush
- Winsor & Newton Cotman Watercolor Paint Field Box Set
- Winsor & Newton Cotman Watercolor Paint Field Set Plus
- Winsor & Newton Cotman Watercolor Paint Pocket Plus Set
Art Mini Kit with Waterbrush pen
Set of 14, 12 Colors, Half Pans
My favorite mini travel art kit is any of these wonderful Winsor and Newton Cotman fieldsets. They are small, handy, and come with some great brushes and tools for painting with watercolors on the go!
Best Portable Easels
The ultimate outdoor easel – strong, light, and perfectly designed for working – this superb En Plein Air Pro comes complete with a professional Slik tripod and a super-durable carry bag – the best portable easel I have ever found!
Premium Beechwood - Adjustable Wood Tripod Easel Stand for Painting, Sketching, Display
For less than a third of the price of the En Plein Air Pro above, this wonderful US Art Supply Coronado field easel is also a great choice – very strong, solid and sturdy but quite light, well designed and usable. A good basic portable easel for the traveling artist, and a very high quality product.
Best Travel Bags and Backpacks for Artists
Our first three choices for the best traveling bags for artists are, in keeping with our most recent categories, more focused on a painting kit – but they are actually suitable for any artist and any art supplies.
But after we cover the three best paint cases for traveling, we will look at two more cases – backpacks, actually – which are the best general art bags I know for artists who travel or work on the go, and the perfect choice for a larger art kit – or a small bag art kit and a bunch of other unimportant stuff like clothes.
Best Travel Paint Case
This hard cover box may look a lot like your dad’s fishing box, but in fact the ArtBin three tray waterproof case is ideally designed to carry all of your paints, brushes, paint palette and other supplies, organizing and presenting them beautifullj and keeping them completely safe.
Best Travel Paint Tote Bag
If you prefer softer sides and a less regimented interior, the roomy Clobeau tote bag is super-strong and highly protective of your precious art supplies, and is made to last and last. Not the last word in organization, but highly useful nonetheless, and a very high quality product.
Best Plein Air Backpack
There may be cheaper plein air backpacks, and there are certainly more expensive ones, but the Sienna Ultimate really nails it, with perfect design and incredible strength and durability. Everything an outdoor painter could possibly want or need, with room for all of your supplies, boxes and even an easel, and an equally perfect choice for the painter who travels a lot.
Best Travel Bags and Backpacks for Artists
Designed with Jim Lee of DC Comics :: For working professional artists, serious fine artists, and hobbyists :: Holds up to 11″x17″ sketchbooks, tablets, and laptops :: Intuitive front organize for art supplies and digital tools :: Scratch and water resistant to keep looking new
There is no doubt in my mind that Hex makes the finest backpacks in the world, or that the Jim Lee is the coolest backpack money can buy. It is the perfect pack for art supplies, digital gadgets, pads and notebooks and anything else the hip artist may take on the road. Big and ideally organized, super-strong and durable, and the perfect art bag in every way. And did I mention how cool it is?
Although I certainly could – and in fact often have – recommend the excellent Jansport Big Student Backpack as the best value backpack for artists, it is still a bit pricey – well worth it, of course, but yeah. The AmazonBasics is a great alternative, with a design that seems like it was made specifically for artists (even though it wasn’t) and great material quality and durability, at a fraction of the cost.
Best Sketchbooks and Art Pads for Travel Kits
Of course, all this gear doesn’t mean a thing if you don’t have something to paint / draw on, and hotels seem to get quite upset if you use their walls. So now let’s look at the best drawing notebooks and painting pads for traveling artists and art kits.
Best Drawing Notebooks for Travel Kits
The finest sketchbook I’ve ever used – plain and simple, but somehow very, very special, and truly premium quality in materials, construction and even the small details.
A nice simple sketchbook, well made and with superior quality paper, and a great size for any art kit.
Best Painting Pads for Travel Kits
Best Acyrlic / Mixed Media Painting Pad for Travel Kits
Big enough to be really useful, but still a great size for traveling, the Canson XL series pads have the ideal paper for mixed media, and are very high quality overall.
Best Watercolor Painting Pad for Travel Kits
Side Wire Bound, 140 Pound, 14 x 11 Inch, 20 Sheets
Another great Canson product, the Montval art pad is really the biggest you’d want for a portable kit, and has superb paper for watercolor paints.
Best Oil Painting Pad for Travel Kits
A beautiful and very special product, this Centurion primed linen pad is surprisingly inexpensive for the quality, and suitable for even the highest level fine artists.
Best All-in-One Art Travel Kits
Honestly you’re not going to get the finest quality art supplies in any all-in-one kit, nor are they particularly portable, but if you choose the right ones you will in fact find surprisingly good stuff inside – definitely good enough for a beginner, and a great backup set for more advanced artists – and everything you need (literally every single thing!) in one place.
So while I do recommend a pieced together kit, with the best pencils and pens, best brushes, paints and supplies, best cases and bags, best paper and notebooks, I still want to mention the two best inexpensive all-in-ones I know – after all, one click and you’re done!
I also love either of these sets as gift ideas for kids or anybody who might want to explore their creative side.
Artist Painting Pad, 2 Sketch Pads, 24 Watercolor Paint Colors, 24 Oil Pastels, 24 Colored Pencils, 60 Crayons, 2 Brushes
Wow, if there is something any artist needs that is not included in this 162 piece set, I’ll eat my beret. No, I won’t, but you get the point – pencils, crayons, paints, brushes, paper, paint palette and more. And since they come from the king of budget art products – US Art Supply – they are remarkably good quality for the money. The big case is not so portable, but it is sturdy and well organized.
For even less money than the already low priced US Art Supply set above, this Art 101 pack is really only for younger artists and absolute beginners – the art supplies are of acceptable quality, and really quite fun and useful, but not really up to par for a more serious student. Still, for around 30 dollars, this set is amazing!
Best Digital Tools for Traveling Artists (Tablets, Scanners, SSD and more)
Best Drawing Tablets for Traveling Artists
The best iPad for drawing and Procreate
Apple M1 Processor for next-level performance :: 12.9-inch liquid retina display for superior color, contrast, and brightness :: Light and extremely strong :: Up to 10 hours battery life :: Early 2021 model
Second Generation Apple Pencil :: Best Drawing and Painting Experience :: Compatible with: iPad Pro 12.9-inch (5th, 4th and 3rd generation), iPad Pro 11-inch (3rd, 2nd and 1st generation), iPad Air (5th and 4th generation) and iPad mini (6th generation)
My choice for the best artist tablet on the market today, and the most complete, beloved and frequently used art tool I own, the iPad Pro is a perfect portable all-in-one art studio, and a superb product in every way. For a more affordable alternative, and still a brilliant tablet, check out the NEW Apple iPad Air, and in either case make sure you get the Apple Pencil and the Apple Magic Keyboard to make your kit complete!
Best Professional Standalone Drawing Tablet
13.3 Inch WQHD Touchscreen Display :: Intel Core i7 :: 16GB RAM upgradeable :: 512GB SSD upgradeable :: Professional artists' choice :: Windows 10 :: Early 2020 model
The bigger model is Wacom MobileStudio Pro 16
More portable than the equally incredible 16 inch version, the Wacom MobileStudio Pro is still the most powerful and capable art tablet in the Windows world, and the standard choice of leading art and animation studios and professionals at the very highest levels. For a more affordable Windows art studio, you might want to look at the wonderful Microsoft Surface Pro 7 with the Microsoft Surface Pen and the Microsoft Surface Pro Signature Type Cover.
Not nearly as powerful or capable as a Windows or Apple tablet, the Samsung S7+ can nonetheless still be used as a very nice and useful art studio, especially with the included Samsung S Pen. For a cheaper, but still awesome, Android art tablet, the less powerful Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite is still a great choice, and a considerable value.
Best Portable Scanner and Light Box for Traveling Artists
Best External Hard Drive for Traveling Artists
Best Compact Digital Cameras for Traveling Artists
The best portable camera in the world, the Leica D-Lux 7 is an artist’s dream, with stunning picture quality, accurate, deep and saturated colors, incredible detail and an absolute lack of distortion. Expensive, but a superbly over-built, perfectly designed and easy to use camera that will fit almost anywhere and withstand almost anything!
Best Budget Compact Camera for Photographing Artwork
Compact Camera with EF-M 15-45mm lens :: Vertical 4K video support :: 3.0-inch touch LCD panel :: Built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
I would suspect that more professional photographers select the Canon EOS M200 than any other as their backup camera and go-to unit for travel and ultimate portability. It is a beautiful camera, simple and easy to use, very tough and durable, and takes brilliant pictures.
Thanks so much for reading my latest article – The Best Travel Art Kits for Artists: The Ultimate Buyer’s Guide – and please check out my website – Art Side of Life – for more buyer’s guides, articles, tutorials, artist interviews and tons of other resources for commercial artists, fine artists, art students and beginners, crafters and anybody else exploring their own creative side!
Other articles in the Artists Kits & Sets series:
- Best Professional Artist Kits
- Best Gouache Paint Sets
- Best Oil Paint Sets for Artists
- Best Palette Knives and Pallete Knife Set
- Best Artist Inks
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