Plein Air Gear For Painting With Pastels!

Hello my Art Friends!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, so I better get moving 🙂

As promised, I am going to share with you the gear that I have found essential for my plein air painting with pastels.

One caveat: the following list is always evolving!  As I grow and change artistically, so do my equipment needs.  But for now, this is what I am using when I go off on my painting adventures….

Everything packed up!

All of my gear packs into an inexpensive Eastport backpack.  This particular model has lots of zippered compartments to keep things separated.  It is big enough to hold my 9×12 backing board, two paper portfolios, a Heilman Sketchbox Double, and various other supplies.  It even came with a lightweight nylon bag (seen on the right) which I use to hold used wet wipes, hand towels, and my roll of tp to clean my pastels on.

I have a bad back, so I have to watch how much I carry.  Since at this time I am painting closer to home, I thankfully don’t have to carry things too far.  I would probably downsize some if I was hiking to a painting location.

MeFoto Classic Aluminum Roadtrip Travel Tripod

The system I use for painting includes a Heilman box mounted on a tripod.  But UGGH!!!  I went through several iterations of tripods before I found this MeFoto Roadtrip tripod.  It was recommended by pastel artist Alain Picard on his blog.  And I have to say that I have been very happy with its ease of use, sturdy construction, and stability.

It even has a setting where I can spread the legs out really wide for extra stability, but so far I have not needed that option.


Heilman Sketchbox Double, easel, and side tray

The other half of my system is the pastel box I use.  I can’t say enough good things about Heilman pastel boxes!  I own the Backpacker box and the Sketchbox Double (see the sketchbox double above and below).

For plein air, the lighter weight of the Sketchbox Double is a must for me, but as you can see in the photo below, I don’t lack for much color!


My plein air palette so far…
Hat, iPhone, Viewfinder

One of the first things I do when I am looking around for a scene to paint is to look at it through a viewfinder.
I keep mine handy by wearing it on a chain around my neck.  If I like what I see, I will shoot a few reference photos.


The next thing I do when I am drawn to a scene is a thumbnail sketch.

My sketching kit includes unlined 3×5 notecards; Pitt Artist pens in a light, mid, and dark value; a Pigma Micron pen; ruler; kneadable eraser, a bit of foam pipe insulation, a bristle brush; key to my pastel box; extra vine charcoal; Derwent XL Charcoal (Ochre–for toning paper); and a chamois.

Sometimes I don’t want to use my sketchbook for thumbnails, so I use unlined notecards.
A side benefit is that I can clip the notecards right onto my backing board when I start painting my scene!

Thumbnail Sketching Kit & Thumbnail Examples


The final items in my plein air gear include two paper portfolios (one holds 8×10 paper and the other holds 5×7); artist tape and various clips; and 9×12 backing board.

The backing board is actually a dry erase board I purchased from Hobby Lobby and then sprayed with matte black paint to limit reflection into my eyes.

Well, that’s it for the gear!  I hope this is helpful to any of you interested in going out and trying plein air for yourself.

Till next time,

Stay Creative!!






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