Moleskine Watercolor Notebooks







Moleskine Watercolor Notebooks

Materials - Sketchbooks - Moleskine smSketchbooks, much like other materials that I use, came about as favourites purely by trial and error.
Well, actually I have to admit, not entirely.
I realise that many people prefer spiral bound sketchbooks, but I prefer hard bound. Which, unfortunately, makes finding a decent sketchbook (which can lie flat whilst open) nigh on impossible.

Moleskine produces a Watercolour Notebook, which has 72 pages of archive quality (fairly) stiff paper. But only comes in landscape format. Goodness only knows why this is so, there certainly seems to be enough of a market for a portrait version of this notebook. But I fear that it is merely to distinguish this notebook from the Sketch Notebook (Which conversely, only comes in portrait, but which has smooth, ivory pages – rather too smooth to take watercolour)

The paper takes paint well and has a nice tooth for pen work.
I particularly like the versatility of the Watercolour Notebook which, when opened fully, gives a possible canvas of 41cm x 13cm (Actually I’ve recently been adapting the pages to add an extra fold out leaf to give me a 61cm width!)
It’s also fairly easy to turn 90 to work in portrait. (Although a portrait-orientated Notebook could give a canvas size of 20cm x 26cm – which would be fun)

Liz Steel recently road tested Moleskine’s newer model of their Watercolour Notebook
Read her review Here.



After much trial and error I discovered Uni Pin fine liner pens. These are produced by Mitsubishi.
These are the ones that I use the most. I do use other pens for more specific tasks, But Uni Pin are the ones I prefer for both studio work and urban sketching.
I tend to favour 0.05 0.1 0.2 0.3 0.8 But 0.4 and 0.5 are also available. As well as all 7 nib sizes being available in Black, Red and Blue.

Materials - Pens - Unipin smMaterials – Pens – Unipin smLines are consistent. And there are no problems with ink flow.
The ink dries very quickly on contact with a suitable surface, which needs to be porous, but not on waxed or plasticised surfaces.
The pens work well on the paper of both the Moleskine watercolour and sketch books.
The ink is waterproof, after a second or two, and doesn’t show any bleeding when washed with watercolour

I would say that the lifespan of the pens is fairly lengthy; allowing for pretty much heavy use over about three weeks. But, of course this will vary with the amount of pen work that you do.
As the pen nears it’s, fairly lengthy, lifespan, and the ink begins to run out, lines and ink flow become less defined and the pens can be used for lighter shading work.

They can be bought individually and in packs of five (0.1, 0.2, 0.3, 0.5, 0.8)

At the moment I tend to use specific sizes of pen for specific jobs.

0.8 – For initial outlining
0.3 – For titles
0.2 – For general writing
0.1 – For internal lines and hatching and shading
0.05 – For additional hatching and shading; usually over the top of water colouring.




These certainly are a valuable addition to any painters outdoor kit. Eliminating the need for cumbersome and fiddly pots of water whilst working out of studio.

Materials - Brushes - waterbrush smMaterials – Brushes – waterbrush smThey provide convenience and ease; only requiring a slight squeeze of the handle to express water from the bristles.
Cleaning the brushes is just as easy – squeezing the reservoir and wiping the brush head with a tissue.

Many companies produce these handy devices now, but I would recommend finding ones with a filter behind the nib – to stop colour washing back into the reservoir (Although i know of some artists who actually prefer the colour to wash back into the reservoir!)

The brand I currently use is by Kuretake.

They are available in Fine, Medium, Large and Broad heads and being fairly cheap it’s useful to have all four types.

One thing that I find particularly useful is that, carrying all four water brushes means that should you empty one water brush reservoir it’s fairly strait forward to swap reservoirs with one of the others.




Y’know, I don’t feel qualified to talk about the quality of watercolour brushes; with Watercolour I always feel like a humble student – constantly striving control chaos.

Paintbrushes smPaintbrushes smHow and why specific brushes help me do that is a bit of a mystery to me. I know I need small brushes to do small jobs and big brushes to do big jobs, but as far as the delicacies of riggers and flats. I don’t tend to use those. Yes, I’ve got them – because that’s what all the books on watercoloring – which one reads when one is just starting out – say that you need. I’ll probably use them at some point, I guess. But my current style doesn’t work that way.

Watercolour can be a tricky blighter, but I can tell that the older brushes I have, do seem to be a bit ‘blunter’ or ‘duller’ than the newer brushes. Which with smaller brushes can certainly be an issue – when a brush that has been relied upon to do delicate work, suddenly seems to have turned into a scrubbing brush!

I don’t tend to use the wateriness in my studio, but the paints I use are still in pans.

Each to their own, eh? I’m just used to using paints in pans. I like the immediacy of flicking my brush from one pan to another to blend colours together. (I can’t be bothered even with the idea of having to pick up a tube and unscrew/screw the lid on in order to squeeze out some paint)

After 6 years of using watercolours I feel that I still have so much to learn.

Watercolour is a terrifically tricky medium to master. And painting itself is not something that can be learnt from reading about it. Or even carrying out a series of masterclass ‘how to’s’, or practical lessons from a book.

Like everything else, you’re only going to master watercolour by … erm … painting with watercolour.

In one of my favourite guidebooks, by Birgit O’Connor, she writes;

“Watercolour moves like no other medium. Just add water, and the pigment takes on a life of its own”



The watercolours I use are a mixture of Winsor and Newton and Schminke. Mostly it’s by accident, rather than design. There’s only the screamingly pink Opera Rose by Winsor and Newton that I am faithful to.



  • A lovely transparent yellow/green – great for light glazes

Raw Sienna

Yellow Ochre

  • My two go-to colours for painting browns in food

Translucent Orange – Schminke

  • I love this vibrant orange/red

Opera Rose – Winsor and Newton

  • Another one of my must-have’s – purely because it’s so eye-popping – great for the full range of pinks and purples.

May Green – Schminke

Permanent Sap Green – Winsor and newton

– My stand-by green’s for salads

(You’d think that my portable set and the home/studio set would be the same, wouldn’t you!)

Portable set

Some full pans, but mostly half-pans

Palette - Portable

208           Aureolin                                                        Schminke

215           Lemon Yellow                                             Schminke

225           Cadmium Yellow Middle                        Schminke


218           Translucent Orange                                 Schminke

363           Scarlet Red                                                  Schminke

Opera Rose                                                                   winsor & newton

Cobalt Blue                                                                    winsor & newton

Cerulean Blue                                                               winsor & newton


660           Raw Sienna                                                 Schminke

Naples Yellow Deep                                                   winsor & newton

Venetian Red                                                                winsor & newton

Paynes Grey                                                                 winsor & newton

783           Payne’s Grey                                              Schminke

509           Cobalt Turquoise                                       Schminke


Permanent Sap Green                                               winsor & newton

524           May Green                                                  Schminke

534           Permanent Green Olive                          Schminke

512           Chromium Oxide Green                          Schminke

648           Translucent Brown                                    Schminke

668           Burnt Umber                                               Schminke

661           Burnt Sienna                                               Schminke

669           Vandyke Brown                                         Schminke


Full Pans at Home

This is made up wholly of full pans

Palette - Home

Aureolin                                                                          winsor & newton

215           Lemon Yellow                                             Schminke


New Gamboge                                                             winsor & newton

Cadmium Orange                                                       winsor & newton

670           Madder Brown                                           Schminke

Cadmium Red Deep                                                   winsor & newton

Opera Rose                                                                   winsor & newton


Winsor Green                                                               winsor & newton

Permanent Sap Green                                               winsor & newton

Hookers Green                                                             winsor & newton

524           May Green                                                  Schminke

487           Cobalt Blue Light                                        Schminke

Cerulean Blue                                                               winsor & newton

783           Payne’s Grey                                              Schminke


Naples Yellow Deep                                                   winsor & newton

660           Raw Sienna                                                 Schminke

655           Yellow Ochre                                              Schminke

Burnt Sienna                                                                 winsor & newton

Burnt Umber                                                                 winsor & newton

669           Vandyke Brown                                         Schminke

3 Comments on “Materials”

  1. slowlane says:

    What kind of palette and which brand of watercolor do you use? How many colors?


  2. Hi 🙂 I’m glad you’ve asked me that – I’ve just been making a little colour-chart thingy.
    The little palette that I carry around in my bag is a window and newton one (Which I recently thought I’d lost and was horrified to discover that a replacement same-for-same would cost well over a hundred pounds! Yes!) It’s a plain metal palette which holds 12 full palette paints pans – but I tend to fill it with half pans.

    I’m not particularly devoted to any one particular paint brand – so my palette tends to contain a mixture. Windsor and newton and, more recently, Schmincke are the paints I tend to buy. Schmincke are nice because they produce an extremely detailed and informative catalogue of their watercolour paints – which I find very useful to refer to and order from.

    I carry a small palette around with me and have a larger palette of full pans to use at home. Curiously these two palettes are not identical! A few colours are fixed as favourite’s;

    Aureole, Lemon Yellow, Permanent Sap Green, May Green, Cerulean Blue, Cobalt Blue, Raw Sienna, Burnt Sienna, Yellow Ochre, Burnt Umber, Payne’s Grey

    Out of these the colours I simply MUST have would be
    Aureolin – which is a lovely transparent yellow which is fab for adding a warm glaze.
    Opera Rose (winsor and newton) – Which is an eye-popping pink and brilliant to creating pinks and purples

    (I’ll post my palette pictures this evening)


  3. There – posted up some maps of my palettes 🙂


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