Gouache Plein Air Setup: The Essential Gear

Gouache painting is a fun and engaging hobby, but taking your materials with you can be challenging. Whether you’re traveling for work, camping, or enjoying a day at the park, it’s important to have portable options for taking your gouache materials. In this article, we’ll discuss the advantages of painting on the go and offer advice on the essential gear for gouache plein air painting.

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Light gear for painting on the go

Different situations will require different gear:

  • Urban sketching during a trip
  • Plein Air painting, going somewhere to paint it
  • Hiking and painting on the go
  • Capturing life moments

You could go from a simple sketchbook and airtight palette in your handbag to a complete set with an easel, stool, and umbrella. In this article, I’m looking at the lightest solutions without an easel. So I assume you’re either painting on your knees or a hard surface. 

Gouache painting on the go
Gouache painting on the go

Paint: How to store your gouache on the go

There are two main options for storing gouache paints on the go: pans and airtight palettes.

Gouache in pans

Pans are small, compact, and easy to use, making them an excellent option for painting on the go. You can purchase pre-filled paint pans or refillable empty pans and fill them with your favorite gouache colors. They are lightweight and can be stored in a compact palette, making them ideal for travel. Although you won’t get the creamy consistency of gouache, it will be more opaque watercolor than gouache. But you’re sure to travel safely by plane. 

Airtight Palette

An airtight palette is another option for storing gouache paints on the go. These palettes come with a lid that seals the paints, keeping them from drying and preserving their quality. Some are large enough to provide a surface area for mixing and blending colors. Others are so portable that you’ll need a different palette to mix your colors unless you’re working very small. The good thing is that you can safely travel by plane as there a little amount of paint.

Gouache painting on the go
Very small palette with a very small mixing surface

Whatever you’re using, you should not let the palette in the full sun, or your gouache will dry! So look for shadows, install your palette here, and get a sprayer to hydrate the paint. 

Paper and surfaces to paint on

When painting on the go, you want to choose paper that is lightweight, easy to carry, and suitable for the type of paint you plan to do.

Watercolor Paper Blocks

Watercolor paper blocks are an excellent option for gouache painting on the go. They are compact and easy to carry, and they come in a variety of sizes and weights. Watercolor paper blocks are also resistant to buckling and warping, making them ideal for water-based painting. Look for paper glued on four sides of the block for a flat surface. 


Sketchbooks are another option for gouache painting on the go. They are compact, lightweight, and easy to carry, making them ideal for quick sketches and on-the-spot paintings. You should choose a sketchbook with a hardcover, which will provide a hard surface to paint on.

Additional Portable Painting Equipment

In addition to paints, you will need a few additional items to complete your portable gouache painting kit. These items should be lightweight, compact, and easy to use, so you can focus on your painting and not worry about the hassle of carrying heavy equipment.

Paint Brushes

Paint brushes are a critical tool for gouache painting, and it’s important to choose brushes that are suitable for portable use. Look for lightweight brushes with a compact design, such as travel brushes with a cap. But they are usually costly. You can also opt for a water brush, which combines a water container and brush in one compact tool. It takes practice to master the amount of water in your gouache. To clean this water brush, you can use a rag or a cloth and wipe the brush on it while squeezing a bit of water simultaneously. 

Water Containers

Using regular brushes, you will need a water container to clean them. Look for a compact, leak-proof container that is easy to carry and use. A small squeeze bottle or a collapsible silicone container is a great option. I’m using a foldable bucket, lightweight and easy to carry, and I’ll use my water bottle to fill it. And when you’re done, you can throw away the water, as gouache is non-toxic. I’m using an airtight palette that comes with a foldable bucket and a strap to carry it, very convenient!

As the paint may dry quickly on hot days, you should carry a sprayer to hydrate the paint. Make sure it’s filled before leaving home (I’ve been there!).

Folding stool

You could carry a folding stool with you if you plan to spend a whole day painting in a city or during a hike. You can find them in the fishing aisle of a department store or sporting goods store. They are lightweight and easy to carry. You can sit on it, place the sketchbook or pad on your knees and the bucket and palette on the floor, and easily paint what you see. 

Recommendations for Portable Gouache Painting

When choosing your portable gouache painting equipment, there are a few key factors to consider to ensure a successful painting experience.

Lightweight and Compact Materials

When painting on the go, you want to choose lightweight and compact materials to easily carry them. Look for paints, paper, and brushes that are small and easy to transport, and opt for a compact water container that is easy to carry.

Durable and Leak-Proof Packaging

Choosing durable and leak-proof equipment is important, so your supplies don’t get damaged in transit. Look for leak-proof and durable paint palettes and water containers, and choose brushes designed to withstand the rigors of travel. A cap is necessary!

Convenient and Easy to Use

Finally, choose equipment that is convenient and easy to use. Look for brushes that are easy to clean, and choose paints and palettes that are easy to use and store. You should also consider the size and design of your water container and choose one that is easy to carry and use while painting.

Gouache painting on the go

Get ready

Prepare yourself as well as your equipment for the journey ahead. Make sure you have a water bottle and choose a safe and comfortable location. Hat and sunglasses for sunny days, and warm clothes for chilly days. Consider bringing snacks to energize yourself while painting outdoors; it can be exhausting if you paint for a long time!


Gouache painting on the go is a fun and rewarding experience that allows you to create beautiful artwork anywhere at any time. By choosing lightweight, compact, and easy-to-use materials, you can focus on your painting and not worry about the hassle of carrying heavy equipment. 

So why not grab your paint set and sketchbook, hit the road today, and see where your creativity takes you?

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