art & design

What I Keep In My Bag For Art School

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A long time ago I decided that at some point during my university education I would share a what’s in my bag type post. I know how cliched these types of posts have become but I wanted to do it. Just based on reading a few other similar posts I think what I take with me to university is quite different compared to other students. I’m not saying this in an oh I’m so special sort of way. But art students have different needs compared to English or science students so I thought it would be interesting to share what I keep in my bag for art school. 

If things had gone to plan I would have shared this post while I was still at university. So you could get a really good look at the exact things I have in my bag, including old receipts, train tickets and sweet wrappers. Unfortunately like many things, coronavirus threw this plan out the window. So this is what I keep in my bag for art school.

Editors Note: I wrote this blog post in July of 2020, (it is now mid 2022 as of posting it). At that time I was operating under the assumption that I would be returning to university for my final year. By that I mean, I was told there would be at least some in-person classes. This turned out to be 4 hours a week (plus a surprised lockdown semester). As such I haven’t needed to ‘pack a bag’ for art school since the start of 2020. I’m still going to share this post because I spent time writing it. But it should be noted that the content is slightly out of date. 

What I Keep In My Bag For Art School

The Rucksack

I guess I should start with the bag I use as I have to carry a lot of stuff around with me each day. I chose a rucksack because it’s the easiest way for me to carry stuff. Tote bags look pretty (and occasionally I do need one), but a rucksack was the best option for me.

I’ve had this particular rucksack for at least 3 years now and it’s probably one of the best bags I’ve ever bought. I do own a Kanken bag and love it, but the Kanken only just fit everything I needed and the thin straps aren’t great if you have a heavy bag. So I bought an Amazon basics rucksack. I wasn’t expecting much from the bag, considering it was only £15 but it has turned out to be a great purchase. 

The pocket at the front is massive so I can keep small things like phone chargers and other small items. Inside it has a padded section to hold my laptop. And the front of the bag has smaller pockets which are handy for storing small items. It’s not the most interesting bag, you have no choice when it comes to colour, but for me, it’s a great size and if you need a bag for school or university I would highly recommend it. 

Laptop & Charger

I have a MacBook Pro, I don’t want to get into all the details on designers using expensive Apple products. I use Apple products mostly because I don’t like the Window’s operating system but I will 100% agree that the Apple laptops are very expensive. The one good thing about them is I don’t need to worry about having major issues with my laptop, something which is very important because I rely so much on my laptop for my course. 

I also keep a MacBook charger in my bag. Apple chargers are also very expensive, there is no reason you need to pay £70 for a charger. But last year I decided to splurge after getting my first student loan payment and buy an additional laptop charger. It means it can stay in my bag at all times and I don’t need to worry about forgetting my charger. 


I use a lot of sketchbooks for my course. It is required as part of my hand-ins. You use the sketchbook as a place to develop the project and document your process. Using a sketchbook is important because part of your mark comes from how you developed the project. So basically I use a lot of sketchbooks. 

When it comes to sketchbooks there are lots of different sizes and types to choose from. My university doesn’t tell you a specific type of sketchbook to use. Some people on my course use A3 sketchbooks but I prefer A4 because it fits in my bag. The exact brand of sketchbook I use just depends on what I could buy. It tends to be a mixture of Pink Pig and Seawhite sketchbooks, though recently I’ve been buying Jackson’s own brand sketchbooks which are pretty great. 

Bullet Journal

I’m sure if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time you will know my love for the bullet journal system. This is the thing which helps me stay organised and remember all the things I have to do. Though I’ve now moved on to a new larger bullet journal. Over the last semester, I’ve used an A5 Leuchtturm notebook as a bullet journal. 

Having some sort of notebook where you can write down ideas and other notes is extremely useful. Especially during tutorials because this is where you have a chance to speak to the lecturer and get their feedback on your project. Though during tutorials I tend to write in my sketchbook, I like having my bullet journal with me as well because this is where I can take what I discussed during the tutorial and turn it into actionable tasks in my bullet journal. 

MORE LIKE THIS: My Daily Planning Routine In My Bullet Journal


I own an iPad Pro as well as my laptop. I have to admit that I don’t always take my iPad to university with me but on some occasions, it is extremely useful. There was a lot of required reading for my dissertation module and I tried to do as much of that as possible through ebooks. I’ve found this much easier than buying lots of physical books. 

One of the other things I like about the iPad is the Apple Pencil. I’ve used lots of drawing tablets in the past but the Apple Pencil and the iPad combination is probably one of the best I’ve used. A large part of learning how to use drawing tablets comes from getting used to the disconnect between what’s happening on screen and what you’re drawing. Most drawing tablets have a very slight lag. The Apple Pencil doesn’t have this problem and it makes drawing on the iPad very easy. I don’t draw a huge amount on my iPad for projects, but it is a very useful tool for the times when I need to. 

Pencil Case

Of course, I have lots of pens and pencils which I take to university with me. The pencil case I’m currently using came from a Stationery Selection box which I got a few years ago. I like this pencil case, it’s surprisingly handy having two separate compartments. It helps me organise what I keep in my pencil case. 

If I’m being honest here, I don’t need a huge amount of stationery supplies for university. The basic pens and pencils I use for my bullet journal work just as well at university. A Muji gel pen, mechanical pencil and Mildliner are my most used tools. But there are a few other little stationery bits which I keep with me as well. These being a ruler, craft blade and a pen drive. The pen drive is mostly for transferring files between computers, I have an external hard drive which I use for backing up my work. 

MORE LIKE THIS: 5 Of My Favourite Stationery Subscription Boxes


A good set of headphones are probably one of my must-have items for university. I have literally bought a cheap pair of headphones to use if I leave home without them. I’m pretty much constantly listening to music or a podcast while travelling to university. I also find headphones to be particularly good while in university. 

I am slightly strange in that I am fine with music playing in the background while working on certain things. However, there are occasions where I find noise distracting to the point I can’t work. This is where my headphones come in. They are fantastic for listening to music, but also help to muffle the ambient noise when I need quiet. And I work in a studio setting which can get very noisy when busy. 


Books are another must-have item for art school. The exact books I carry around with me depends on the project. Some art books can get quite big. But it’s safe to say I will pretty much always have some sort of book on me. They’ve become a really valuable part of my research process. There’s some stuff which you just can’t find online so the books become a necessity. 


And there we go, what I keep in my bag for art school. There are probably some other items that I’ve forgotten to add to this list. I have a water bottle which saves me from having to use plastic. But apart from that, these are the things you are most likely to find in my bag. I try to avoid carrying huge amounts of stuff around with me day to day as it can get tiring. 

One Comment

  • Dan Antion

    This was interesting. All of the contents make sense.

    I think we can almost define different phases of our lives just by what we carried. I was in college in the early 1970s and I remember the transition from slide rule to calculator. The bags I carried through a 40+ year career in technology could define the period in one look.

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