Tools and Materials
First: This is not an art class and I don’t require you to get specific supplies. All you need is a sketchbook and something to write with!
If you ask 10 nature journalers what is the best journal or pen, you’ll get ten different answers!
My philosophy is this: If you are new, start with what you have. And as you practice journaling you’ll get a feel for what you like and what you want differently and you can upgrade as you go.
Do not let the need for special gear prevent you from journaling. In fact, fancy new gear may get in the way of journaling.
Fear of not wanting to mess up the nice paper or paint elevates the project to become too precious and thus paralyzing.
What type of journal should I get?
I recommend starting with what you have. Don’t let the supplies prevent you from starting. AND, I often hear students just want to know what to start with if they are going to buy something anyway.
So the following are the supplies that I currently use. I get no benefit or proceeds or thanks from any of these companies. Please support local businesses if you can!
What I use: Canson XL Mixed Media spiral sketchbook, 7×10 size. Its small enough to fit in my shoulder bag and big enough to give me room without limiting my thinking.
In addition, I have a smaller pocket journal for when I travel.
Size: Choose a size that is the largest that you will reliable take with you. If its too big, you wont take it. If its too small, your hand will cramp when drawing.
Hard cover: to give you a hard surface to hold and draw in the field (AKA outdoors). Floppy surfaces with be tough to draw on unless you have a clipboard.
I like spiral so that it will fold over and open flat. If you use only pencil in your journal, you might get some smearing as the pages run together more that if they were a hard binding.
Paper: Mixed media is thicker than drawing paper and takes water color washes just fine. If you load with too much water it will buckle a bit, but I don’t really mind if that happens.
This is not precious. The journal is a record of your thinking- not finished artwork.
Another reason why I use the Canson XL is the price. Its not too expensive (~$10) and works fine for my sketching. I go through about one every 4-5 weeks, so I don’t want one that costs $30.
If it’s too expensive, I’ll hesitate to draw some things– this has happened when I used a Stillman and Birn journal. The less expensive journals made me less inhibited.
John Muir Laws Sketchbook for Nature Journaling I’m currently testing out this new sketchbook. I’ll let you know what I think.
What kind of pencil and pen?
I use a mechanical pencil or a regular #2 pencil. There is not need to get anything special. I think its better to use a pen– that way you won’t fall into the trap of erasing and trying to improve one sketch over and over. Pen will keep your hand moving and gets you out of the paralysis of drawing. We practice lots of warm ups to get you more comfortable.
What kind of pen do you use?
I used Sakura Micron Pens for years- They are water proof and come in different nib sizes and colors. Easy to find at craft and art supply stores, inexpensive.
However I was not happy with the fact that they are disposable–there is no refillable ink or replacement nibs. And I disliked throwing the whole pen away if I dropped it nib down (ruining the nib).
Then I discovered an alternative: COPIC Multiliner SP pens-– These are like Micron, waterproof black ink in various nib sizes. But the bonus is the metal barrel and cap, replacement ink cartridges and replacement nibs! I loved these. The best prices I found were from Merriartist.com.
But again, I was still searching to be as environmentally friendly as possible. And then I discovered the fountain pen. Recommended by other nature journal teachers, I tried and fell in love with them!
I am currently using a Platinum Carbon Fountain Pen. Its an inexpensive one. Metal pen, and 100% reusable if you get the converter so you can refill the ink from a glass bottle.
Be sure you get waterproof carbon ink (bottle or cartridges) if you plan to do watercolor washes.
I’ve also heard good reviews on the Lamy Safari from other nature journalers.
I used Prismacolor premiere colored pencils exclusively for years, until about 2 years ago when I switched to watercolors.
I currently use Daniel Smith Extra Fine Watercolors. Its most economical to buy tubes and fill a portable palette. This might be a bit overwhelming if your are new to watercolor.
So, start with what you have right now, and as you use it up, add the better quality watercolors. You don’t need fancy paint in order to nature journal.
I used a cheap $5 kit of children’s watercolor kit for about a year. Then gradually added a tube of Daniel Smith at a time, and finally purchasing John Muir Laws Custom Watercolor Palette -selected for nature journaling.
You can try a small travel sized kit like
Whatever supplies you get, I encourage you to support your local small businesses or craft supply stores.
Imagine Art Supply in Pacific Grove Ca is offering 10% discount to anyone taking my classes. You can call ahead and pick up curbside.
Imgine Art Supplies: 309 Forest Ave, Pacific Grove, CA 93950
Hopefully this is helpful!
I’ll keep updating as I find better options.