The Hunt For Convenience Continues…

or, Great Things Urban Sketching Kits Come in Small Packages

Marcel makes Reuben stay still for a minute

All urban sketchers love mini sketching kits. We crowd around the person with something ingenious and coo as if they’re showing off a newborn. Every now and then someone will say “I think I have the tiniest complete kit” and the other sketchers will rubberneck to see what it is.

I think I have the tiniest complete kit. Not the tiniest, perhaps, but the smallest that works for me. It consists of the following:

  • an Altoids tin (mine has a 3D-printed insert for my paints)
  • ten half-pans
  • a waterbrush
  • an A6 sketchbook
  • a magnetic clip
  • a fountain pen

The ten half-pans fit into a little insert that fits perfectly into the tin. Why? Because I had it 3-D printed to fit! The paints in their own half-pans fit snugly into the spaces in the insert and can be changed as the mood takes you. The magnetic clip attaches to the tiny sketchbook and the Altoids tin stays put without moving about much.

I tested it last night. I couldn’t see anything that I wanted to sketch, but my husband Marcel was settling down to watch the results of the European elections and would be perfect. I started sketching him, then Reuben the terrier hopped up on the sofa beside him. He stared at Marcel with his intense doggie stare, his tail wagging furiously. It wasn’t for food, because he had just been fed, and anyway Marcel doesn’t feed him.

“It’s because he knows I give the best pats,” said Marcel. Then Reuben jumped down, and I had just got his fluffy ear and a bit of muzzle done.

“Call him back,” I said, “and make him stay.”

That explains the speech bubble: intense flattery and warm greetings worked, and Reuben stayed still long enough to be sketched.

The kit worked! I have yet to enamel the inside of the lid of the little Altoids box, which will make the mixing surface much better than the current metal one. But I couldn’t believe it – I’m one who goes around with a rather comprehensive kit and to my surprise I had everything I needed.

A small kit…a good kit.

This is the kit that I’m providing for my students during my upcoming workshop “Introduction to Urban Sketching”, or least for those that don’t already have a ton of stuff. They don’t have the 3D insert because I can’t get anyone to do it at a reasonable cost, but they’ll have five colours of my choosing, nicely stuck down, with room for more of their own.

What is your sketching hack? Please share it with me!


  1. Gina

    May 31, 2019 at 9:54 pm

    I use a cheap mini silicon ice cube tray Amazon) instead is a 3D print out, cut to fit a mint tin. I’ve sprayed the inside of the tin in Matt white paint. I use a clip with a magnet on it to attach to my sketchbook.

    • Róisín Curé

      May 31, 2019 at 10:03 pm

      Gina you’re a genius, spelt Gin-ius. I already use the magnets and I’m sorted for the white paint but those mini ice cube trays – fantastic. I’m running to my nearest online amazon store right now to check them out! Thank you so much for sharing!

      • Gina

        June 4, 2019 at 5:25 am

        You are welcome! I use the mini ones in a tiny tiger mints tin. Xx

        • Róisín Curé

          June 14, 2019 at 6:28 am

          Great idea! A truly miniature set – I’ll try that next!

  2. Arlene Lennox

    May 27, 2019 at 9:50 pm

    You just need a white paper napkin on which to wipe the waterbrushand the kit is complete. I do a mini mechanical pencil, too.

    • Róisín Curé

      May 27, 2019 at 9:53 pm

      Yes that’s a good idea. I’m pretty unorganised with that, just stuffing a piece of kitchen towel in my bag!

  3. Cathy

    May 27, 2019 at 9:27 pm

    Hi, of course I’m curious what ten colors you choose!

    • Róisín Curé

      May 27, 2019 at 9:40 pm

      Hi Cathy! Here we go:
      Schmincke indigo,
      Schmincke cerulean blue,
      Rembrandt yellow (poss cadmium? Need to check),
      Rembrandt lemon yellow,
      Daniel Smith Green apatite genuine, Daniel Smith opera pink (or quinacridone pink),
      Rembrandt cadmium red light,
      Schmincke phthalo green,
      Schmincke yellow ochre,
      Schmincke burnt umber.

      I may have some of those names a bit wrong. I can never remember!

      • Cathy

        May 30, 2019 at 12:48 am

        Thank you!

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