Personalizing Your Watercolor Supplies

Personalizing Your Watercolor Supplies

Losing a favorite art supply or tool is the worst.  Maybe you were painting with a friend and got your supplies mixed up, or you lent a brush or pen to someone - but now you can't remember who.  And then there is the sticky situation when you think your art buddy is using something of yours... but you are not positive enough to ask for it back.  

Enjoying group creative sessions, art jams, or swapping supplies is wonderful fun, a great way to grow creatively, an inexpensive way to test drive new supplies, and an easy way to meet other artists.  However, it is also a really easy way to lose your favorite supplies!

The easy solution is to personalize your supplies with a unique-to-you marking method.  This is something that rock climbers and alpinists do to their gear as a matter of course.  After relying on this method to keep my climbing gear sorted, I began doing it to the supplies in my watercolor kit as well.  And not only is it easier to sort after painting with pals, it also feels more "mine".  


I like to mark my supplies and art gear with a certain pattern of washi tape, though I have also used green nail polish, as well as a variety of other methods.  Notice how it is much easier to pick out the supplies above with matching washi tape markings?

How To Mark Your Gear

Marking your supplies should be quick and easy.  Try to keep your method simple and accessible.  (This means it won't take much of an investment of time to mark all of your existing supplies, and that you won't put off marking new ones.). Your mark should be visible, durable, and should not inhibit use or function.  Once those boxes are checked, just have fun with it!


Different Ways of Marking Gear

As a climber trying to really stretch a buck, I opted to use materials I already had on hand: electrical tape and duct tape.  Two colors are instantly more distinctive and recognizable than just one - meaning less of a chance of getting your gear mixed up with someone else's (three is simply a little tedious and time-consuming).  I use tape for my art supplies, but washi (less sticky residue if it comes off you you need to remove it).  But there are lots of options with which to get creative!:



Washi tape is probably the easiest way to mark your supplies.  It is easy to carry, easy to use, and easy to remove - without leaving annoying sticky residue behind.  I prefer the MT brand.  Other brands don't stick very well, or tear too easily while unspooling it.  Select a pattern that you enjoy, then keep the roll in your kit or in your workspace.

Nail Polish

Nail polish works well in that it feels invisible on your tools - no peeling tape or sticky residue.  However, it can be a little messy to carry around in your kit, a little smelly to use, and it of course has a drying time.  It can chip as well, so try to paint it on a low wear area.


Paint Pens

Very similar pros and cons to nail polish, but with better staying power and less messy to travel with.



Using string to mark your supplies can take a little time.  It can also be more cumbersome on your supplies.  However, it can also act as a stopper to prevent rolling pens, pencils, and brushes.  It can also act as a comfortable grip.  To make traveling with it easier, spool some off the roll and wind it into a ball.  You can put nail clippers in your kit to cut it instead of hauling around a full pair of scissors.


Rubber Bands

Rubber Bands act similarly to string for marking supplies, but they generally don't look quite as nice, and they will get brittle and fall off over time.  However, they can be very quick and handy to use.



Keep Your Marking Method In Your Kit

This is one of the reasons you'll want to keep your marking method simple.  You'll want your method to be lightweight, small, and packable so that you can keep it in your kit.  If you get a new tool or supply on your travels you can quickly welcome it into your kit by marking it.  You can also make repairs to existing marks if they wear off, fall off, rub off, etc.

Pro Tips

  • Placement:  If using tape, place it in a low wear area, otherwise you will always be fighting sticky residue.  Same goes for nail polish or any other type of paint - if it is painted on in a high wear area it will always be rubbing or chipping off.  Repairs to your marks are inevitable, but careful placement will save you doing this task repeatedly.

  • Laminate it:  If you are hard on your supplies or they travel a lot of miles with you, consider using clear tape over the top of your washi, nail polish, paint pen, etc.  It will help protect it, doesn't take much time to apply, and will save you the time of frequent repairs.

  • Appearance:  It can be good to take aesthetics into account.  Avoid covering a size indicator you may need to reference.  And make sure you like the look of the mark you have selected.  You want your customization to spark some joy - not make your tools appear besmirched.


Aside from the simple task of making your supplies recognizable, marking them can also give them some personality, making them feel yours on another level.  There is a lot of fun to be had in getting creative with your marking method - you can go wild as long as it doesn't get in the way of actually getting it done! 

Think about the beautiful book plates available to customize books and mark them as part of your personal library.  A beautiful marriage of form and function.  You'll have to make a choice about which method to use, and you might as well make it something you enjoy since you'll be looking at it every time you use your supplies!


I hope you enjoy this little project - and never lose track of any of your beloved watercoloring supplies again!

 Jess Greenleaf Signature






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