Travel Sketches: Preclass

Welcome to the preclass lesson! Here you’ll find out about what you need for this course – much of which you can adapt – or you may already own! I try to keep the mini classes to a lesser supply investment where possible.

Aqua/Water-based Markers

You may use any brand – but as you’ll see in one of the videos at the end of this lesson, different markers will yield different results. Which is just fine!

The one caveat about “any” brand: You may want to be sure yours have:

  1. Some kind of brush nib for covering large areas. A bullet nib isn’t too helpful for that.
  2. The ability to fully “melt,” turning into watercolor when nicely saturated, without hard edges left behind. The recommended paper seems to do REALLY well with all the brands tested.

I’m not going to list every brand – but these are in order of my recommendations. All three of these are in the neighborhood of $2.50 -$2.75 per pen (summer 2022), and prices can vary greatly if you buy singles vs sets. At this time Blick had the best prices for #2 and #3.

  • Sketchmarker Aqua: My new favorite! Available only on Amazon.
    • For the demos, the Animals set is used. This company seems to only sell in sets.
  • Tombow Dual Brush pens: Can be purchased in singles or small sets, or buy all 108 colors.
    • I’ve loved these for eons. But as they’re now slowly drying out, and I have the new Sketchmarker Aquas, I’ve found I also like theirJapanese nibs and more muted colors; Tombow are a little bright for me now. But they’ll still work great for this class!
  • Zig Clean Color Real Brush Markers: Can be purchased in singles or sets.
    • These only have the brush nib – so they may be a little challenging for small areas. However since we can add sketched lines in a pen, that’s not really a problem for this class.
    • These inks like to runnnnnn more than the other brands; use a little less color and less water until you figure out what will happen.
    • Zig’s colors change the most from solid vs watered down, so test colors before choosing them.

There’s a marker comparison in this YouTube video; charts created in it are below.


This is crucial, as the inks used for most water-based markers like cellulose paper much more than cotton or part-cotton. You can test out your brands as shown in the video at the end of this lesson, but I’ll recommend trying Canson XL watercolor paper. Note that this is NOT Canson Mixed Media paper; that’s lighter weight and more like a drawing paper. The 9×12 pad is what’s used below to create the sketchbook.

For those choosing to do this class in traditional watercolor: Notes will be included in each lesson for you, but no full video that is only watercolor. To make your sketchbook, since you can use something other than Canson XL, you can purchase a full sheets; cut it longways down the full sheet and fold it accordion style (in half, in half again, til at your desired size.) Some recommended papers for you:


The Art Impressions Bible Foliage set is the only one used in this course – they have SO MANY small landscape stamps that you can use any you already have, but I chose this one because it’s got a little of everything in it. You also do NOT need to stamp these images if you can draw them….they’re not hard but I know some just love that stamped look!


Lots of options for brushes – but you’ll want to have a small, medium and large at hand for different uses. For cost effectivenes vs being decent brushes:


Yes we need a pen! You don’t need all these but I’m providing some options to try out if you love pens like I do. If you’re drawing on TOP of dry paper, and don’t need to add water again, the pen need not be waterproof.

Other supplies

The rest of what’s needed will be for the making of the sketchbook:

  • Paper trimmer to cut pages to size
  • Scoring board to fold pages
  • Strong adhesive (fave is Scor Tape, super permanent!) to adhere the book together
  • Heavy cardboard to cut for the cover
  • Paper, fabric, or anything you’d like to use to decorate the cover (I used Kraft wrapping paper from Walmart – nice and thin to wrap easily!)
  • Heat gun (I like the Wow one with 2 speeds) or hair dryer (or patience!)
  • Post-it notes
  • Tissues, baby wipes, paper towels
  • Spray bottle

Mixing aqua markers to create new hues

This video was on YouTube:

Prepare the sketchbook pages

There are a number of ways to make a sketchbook like this – since Canson XL only comes in pads, a large piece can’t be cut down to a long strip to make the accordion fold.

During class we’ll be painting flat, since we can opt to have the book unfinished with this method of creating a sketchbook. If you make one for watercolor from one big sheet, you won’t have that option.

In the bonus lesson we’ll do the assembly of our finished pages.

Alternate sketchbook for watercolorists

This sketchbook is used in the Watercolor Jumpstart class and would be just dandy for traditional watercolorists to make from a full sheet. (An accordion would be just one strip of this, not the whole thing.)