By Kathy Halbert

-For oil, watercolor, acrylic and pastel mediums.


check-list bag/box for the car/trip: do this the night before the trip. Use the check-list while packing and then at end for a final check. A forgotten item will disrupt your painting process (speaking from experience). And there’s nothing more annoying for others than for a painter to be complaining about not having -or asking to borrow- some forgotten item.


Study/sketching/photographing/color study period. Includes determination of focal point or main point of interest. What is the idea of the painting?
– a study of the changing light and shadows
– best location with the most shade and least wind
– color mixing tests
Due to the possible length of time required for this preparation period,   The beginning outdoor painter might want to plan two days at the same time of the day, one for the initial thought process and perhaps shadow/darks placement as well as some color mixing tests and the next day for the completion of the painting. Caveat: if it’s too windy either hunker down without an umbrella in the shade or don’t paint.


paint surface, easel or table and chair and umbrella prepared, towels, brushes, water or ‘turp’ jars (or extra small pastel box with rice), small trash bag placed. The setup can be as simple as a pad on your lap with a small box –upside down- to hold your paints, brushes and water/turp jars to your side – or box of pastels. Or use a small portable table and chair. It can be as ‘elaborate’ as easel setups used by many oil and pastel painters (see document on easel selection).


Details vary for each medium. Prepare the color palette of paints. Prepare color mixes or choices approximating the main blocks of colors in the chosen scene.


Paint with gusto. Complete the painting in an hour or two before the light and shadows change.   Don’t try to change the shadows once placed. Back up from the painting and evaluate and photograph it from time to time. Stop painting if you are too tired to continue or you feel that you have reached a point where you don’t know how to continue. Some artists prefer to leave a painting 70-80% completed on-site anyway.


Clean your brushes and palettes and dispose of your trash responsibly.

Steps for Plein Air Painting