How I prepare for travel sketching.

Travel sketching is a productive way to pass time while still being able to appreciate your surroundings. But since I’m usually pressed for time whenever I travel, I keep my sketching checklist short so I can go right to the drawing part quicker. ๐Ÿ™‚


What notebook or sketch pad to bring is easy; I usually go for the smallest and lightest. It’s the pens that are overwhelming — I have way too many fineliners/colored markers/watercolor pencils/brush pens, and taking a hoard of them isย impractical since I’d probably use only a handful during the trip.

How do you know beforehand which ones you’ll need? Two words: you plan.

Boracay, March 2017. Watercolor on cold-pressed paper.


Beach destinations are quite easy because colors are always the same: shades of brown for the sand, dark blues and greens for the sea, and light blue for the summer sky. But if it’s a place I’ve never been before, I make sure to tick off two things:

  • What does the place look like? Are there any dominant colors?
  • What’s the weather condition?

The reason why it’s important to know the weather is because most travel sketches are done outdoors, and ย colors change depending on the sky’s mood.

Nami Island, Seoul, December 2016. Pilot fineliner and Finecolour markers.

Case in point: part of our itinerary in South Korea last December was to visit Nami Island, where I could spendย an hour sketching its towering pine trees. Before the trip, I did a Google search on what Nami Island usually looks like at that time of the year. It won’t be covered in snow yet, and AccuWeather expects a sunny sky despite the chilling five degrees of winter air. From those information, I plan the colors I’ll bring: shades of brown, grays, blues, and a couple of greens.

All in all, I took with me about 10 markers for our South Korea trip, which was a huge cut to what I would have brought had I selected pens at random.

Sketch from a photo of Lotus Pond Twin Temples, Taiwan, April 2017. Various brush pens.


Sometimes when I’m in the mood, I do an actual sketch of the place I’ll be visiting from photos I find online, just to get the feel of it. It’s like exercising my muscle memory; when I’m finally sketching the temples in Taiwan, my hand might remember its strokes from practice and I’ll be able to finish the sketch a bit faster.

Of course, all this planning is suitable only to specific scenarios. If you’re the spontaneous type, there’s no telling beforehand the colors you need if you’ve never seen your subject before. Or maybe you’re not big in colors and prefers monochrome sketches instead. Whatever your approach is, I hope planning could still help you to some extent.

After all, the most important thing is that we get to capture a bit of what we see with our eyes on paper. ๐Ÿ™‚

Also check out:


  1. Odee! This is so great!!! I never thought of travel sketching before. Maybe I should try it, para lang ma-develop ng kahit papano yung sobrang dormant art skills ko. Hahahaha.

      1. I *try* to do nude sketching? Hahahaha it’s not very good! But most of my high school friends kasi are artists or artistically-inclined – and several of them made it their livelihood nga talaga – so I thought of trying hahaha. And since my friends run that nude drawing event and they don’t charge me entrance, why not diba? Hahaha!

        1. Ay taray! I *totally* understand hahaha. In any case, it’s not too late to pick up interest in the arts. ๐Ÿ˜€ I can introduce you to lettering/calligraphy if you want ๐Ÿ™‚

          1. Omg yes pleeeease! Haha I’m always looking to improve myself hahahaha charot. But if you have more blog or insta posts on lettering/calligraphy I would really love that! <3

    1. Thank you, Deb! So bongga naman your username. ๐Ÿ˜€

      Materials for travel sketching really depends on whatever you’re comfortable using since you can’t bring a lot of stuff around with you. ๐Ÿ™‚ If this is the first time you’re going to sketch on the road, I suggest getting a drawing pen (any brand will do — Artline, Pilot, Micron, etc.) and brush pens in at least 3 different shades of gray. National Bookstore stocks great brands like ZIG, Tombow and Faber-Castell. You can start with the affordable ones. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Also, I checked your blog out and did you really graduate from PUP-COC??? Because I’m also an alumni from batch 2008! LOL and I still know my student # by heart: 2K4-002256-5 hahaha^_^ It’s a small world, after all. ๐Ÿ˜€

      1. Hi Odee, thanks for recommending Pilot, Artline, and Faber-Castell. I’ll try travel sketching and create a blog out of it. So exciting! ๐Ÿ™‚

        Yes, PUP-COC Batch 2014! Cool! ๐Ÿ™‚ I miss COC and the crazy crowd.

  2. This is actually nice. I tip my hat to people who can sketch on the go. I usually need a lot of things when I paint. And my creative process is very slow. I wish someday I would be able to travel sketch, too! I could start small like pick easy sceneries. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for this, Odee!

    1. My process is actually slow, too, because I could get really OC about details sometimes. Travel sketching is a good training to speed up your pace because you know you can’t be in that place forever.

      OR I sometimes cheat by quickly sketching the scene, take a photo of it, and apply colors once I get home. ๐Ÿ˜€

      1. That’s good practice. Altho cheating ba talaga yun? Nichie does travel sketching too, like sa trains. Mas mahirap kasi tao yung kinocopy nya. Mamaya biglang gumalaw. Haha.

        1. Hmmm i’m not really sure if it’s cheating? Haha i just said so kasi urban sketching in its original definition is about sketching on location, not from memory or photo.. anyway. Naku ang hirap nyan, sa trains. I never tried and idk if i ever will. Saka moving vehicle yung train, so pati ikaw gagalaw, hirap i-steady ng hands pag ganun. I only have one word to people who can do it:
          R E S P E C T ! ๐Ÿ˜€

          1. Hahaha lucky for her, maganda ang transpo sakanila since she’s in Canada! ๐Ÿ˜› So I suppose it’s very sturdy, unlike here na buwis buhay. Haha.

    1. You can learn it!! Malupit na tyaga lang kailangan haha. But even without those things in your talent list, i’m sure you’re good at a whole bunch of other things. ๐Ÿ™‚ I especially like how you write: raw and real. ๐Ÿ™‚

      1. I cannot, for the life of me, figure out how or where to start. My handwriting’s pretty good (pero not the calligraphy part, sulat lang talaga) pero hanggang dun lang. Hahaha. And aww, thank youuu :*

Tell me what you think!