David P. Curtis
Plein Air Paintings

Suggested Materials for the Plein Air Painter

I am often asked at demonstrations and prior to workshops and classes what materials I suggest students invest in. As I tell them, painting materials are a personal choice and students should experiment to some extent to see what brands they feel comfortable with. However, the better the quality of your materials, the better you will be able to mix color and cover your canvas. Obviously, the best quality paints are more expensive, and students often prefer to start with cheaper materials before expending a small fortune on oil paint that they may not need. Before buying your materials bear in mind that you do not need every shade of color out there. Oil paints are for mixing to ensure you get a variety of tone. Buy the basic colors and mix them on your palette to create variety, unity and harmony. Remember also, that cheaper paint does not have the same opacity of the more expensive brands and therefore you use more of it to build up a surface on your canvas.

A decent French easel is a also good investment for an outdoor painter. Metal easels are lighter to carry, but don't always stand up to the rigors of outdoor painting like the wooden easels. 

 Oil Paints

  • Cadmium Red Light
  • Quinacridone Red or Magenta           
  • Cadmium Yellow Lemon
  • Viridian
  • Cerulean Blue
  •  Ultramarine Blue
  •  Titanium White or Flake White

Earth Colors

  • Burnt Sienna
  • Yellow Ochre
  •  Raw Umber
  •  Ivory Black


  • Medium (turpentine)
  • Linseed oil
  • Brushes (Sizes 10, 7, 5, 3, 2, 1)
  • Outdoor Easel
  • I suggest canvas panels 12” x 16” or 14” x 18”
  • Paper towels
  • Bag for rubbish


  • Umbrella (optional)           
  • Water
  • Hat
  • Sun block
  • Insect repellant