My Small Palette

So far, you have seen my medium size metal palette container that I’ve been using for the last few weeks. I spent some quality time with this palette and enjoyed carrying it around with me. I did find my “Meedan” metal container to be a bit limiting as I could not comfortably add additional paint pans to the middle row. My picture shows two pans wedged in there, but it’s just sitting on the edge between my other pans. The metal brackets were too close and as a result my pans would not “fit” in the middle.

While I like this medium size container palette, I mostly use it on my studio desk and also to store all of my pans filled with colors. Makes it easier to go to one container and pull out the colors I need to use.

For a more portable and smaller urban sketching metal container, I came across this lovely container from Looneng. I selected to have eight (8) empty full pans included with my container. I did not have any empty full pans in my art stash and I know this will come in handy later.

This metal container met all my requirements for a portable watercolor palette. First, there is three mixing wells on the left side cover. Other brands have two large wells. On the right side flap, there are six small mixing wells.

Here’s a major requirement for me, having the ability to place six (6) additional paint pans in the middle row. You’ll notice the empty paint pans are turned in portrait mode. That’s a total of 18 pans that can be stored in this container.

I created a custom swatch card that fits in my container. Here I have my three primary warm colors on the left side and my three primary cool colors on the right side.

This week, I had lunch at a local sushi restaurant. My watercolor sketch is mostly from memory and just playing around with mixing colors. This sketch shows my first layer of colors. A work in progress.

I’m also using an Arteza water brush that works brilliantly with my watercolor paint pans. You can see my brush tip has darkened with use. This is normal. I use my Pentel water brushes for my pen & ink artwork. I have a future blog post I am working on explaining the difference/feel of these two water brush brands. Stay tuned!

Paint: Daniel Smith Extra Fine Watercolors

Metal Paint Palette: Looneng Empty Watercolor Palette. Select to include 8 empty full pans or 14 empty half pans.

Paint Pans: Meeden clear half pans

Swatch card: Arches Cold Press 140lb/300gsm paper cut down to size

Water brush: Arteza Water Brush Pen (assorted tips) in Medium

Journal: Stillman & Birn Beta Softcover A5 (5.5″x8.5″) 270gsm 25 sheets/50 pages

A Watercolor Sketch of My Palette

I thought it would be a fun project to create a sketch of my watercolor palette that I’m currently using.

I did a blog post a little over a year ago on how I filled my half pans. You can find my post here.

The mixing areas of my palette still looks fairly new. That’s because I enjoy using my porcelain tray to mix my colors in. When I’m at my studio desk, I have a bit more room to accommodate this larger palette and my porcelain mixing tray. I can also create larger pieces of artwork and my mixing tray can hold a bit more paint.

I’ve decided to stick with this one palette for the next week or two and get reacquainted with the paint colors and get my palette a bit dirty. This will help me figure out what colors I want to keep for a scaled down palette of colors for urban sketching.

Palette: Meeden Empty Watercolor Tin Box Palette Paint Case with 24 piece half pans

Paints: Daniel Smith Extra Fine Watercolors (15ml tubes)

Brush: Cheap Joe’s Golden Fleece Synthetic Travel Brush in size 6

Paper: Master’s Touch Fine Art Studio Watercolor 140lb cold press paper in size 6″x8″

The Art Toolkit – Folio Palette

I came across what I would call the ultimate portable palette. It’s called the Folio Palette from Art Toolkit.

It looks like one of my other pocket palettes, right? This folio palette is actually a larger version that holds more pans of colors. Some folks actually use it on their desk/table and then take the pocket version for travel or plein air painting.

Here’s a picture that shows the size comparisons. On the left is the regular Pocket Palette. On the right is the new Folio Palette.

There is quite a difference in the size. To give you an idea, the Pocket Palette holds 14 standard (small rectangle) pans while the Folio Palette can hold 30 standard pans.

Here’s a picture from an earlier post in regards to the different pan sizes.

Here’s the care and maintenance instructions for the Art Toolkit’s palettes.

Along with the new palette size, there is also a new XL mixing pan. It’s their largest square size mixing pan.

My Folio Palette came with these assorted pan sizes

Remember my “mini doodle kit” metal container that I reused to store all of my metal pans of paint? Well, here it is next to the Folio Palette.

I was able to fill my Folio with all the pans I had filled previously. I like having a larger mixing space.

If I need additional mixing space, I can always reuse one of my Pocket Palettes as a mixing palette.

My Pocket Palette with a standard mixing pan and the new XL mixing pan

Once I’m done with my current projects, I hope to get back into watercolor painting and actually use my new palette.

Filling My Half Pans With Paint

I had found a few empty half pan palettes sitting in my storage bin waiting to be filled with paint. I hate to see an empty palette not being used. I pulled out my 24-pan palette case and decided to fill them with my tubes of Daniel Smith colors.

Look at all the lovely colors!

I sorted through my tubes of paints and selected my must use colors. I took my empty half pans and labelled each one with the paint I was going to fill them with. Then I arranged the tubes of paint according to how I was going to arrange them in my palette case. I started with my primary cool and warm colors in yellows, reds, and blues.

My half pans waiting to be filled

I used the smallest Avery labels I could find and wrote out the color names using my Platinum Preppy with Carbon (permanent) ink.

I spent a little over an hour filling my half pans with paint. I tapped the sides and corners of the pans to get the paint to move around and spread out to the corners and edges.

The initial fill can be a bit lumpy
Tapping the sides and corners will spread the paint in the pan
The last sharp tap on the bottom of the pan smooths out the paint in the pan

I let my pans sit in the palette case to dry overnight. The paint will shrink along the edges and a few may crack as they settle into the pan and dry. I could tell that the first few pans I filled were not as full.

I pulled out a few pans that had shrunk quite a bit and filled them with a second layer of paint. My New Gamboge pan was a good candidate for another fill.

My pans requiring a 2nd layer of paint
The 2nd layer of color added and more tapping
Here’s a pan with a crack or separation in the paint
A quick fill and a few taps….
A few of my pans after adding the second layer of paint
My lovely 24 pans of color

To keep the dried paint from falling out of their pans later, I made sure the paint touched the corners as well as the bottom of the pan. That’s why I spent some time tapping the pans to get the paint to settle.

I started to notice some colors (e.g. Phthalo) will stain the metal palettes.

This palette has become a favorite of mine. It has generous mixing areas and I have the ability to swap around the pans to fit my painting style.

Yes, my 24-pan palette is a bright pink color! I plan on decorating it and using my Cricut Joy to add some personalized vinyl stickers.

Paints: Daniel Smith Extra Fine Watercolors

Palette: Meeden 24-pan watercolor palette

Painting a Sea Shell Card and My DIY Watercolor Paint Palette Case

I collected a few sea shells from Hubby’s glass jar and I wanted to paint a special card for him. I spent a few minutes painting a practice piece and to warm up my fingers and hand.

My practice sketch and palette cases of colors

For the actual card, I decided not sketch the outlines with my carbon ink and fountain pen and instead used my watercolor paints to create the sea shells. I also added some shimmering colors over the shells to make them “pop” on the paper.

A simple card for Hubby

If you noticed in my pictures, I had a few of my pocket palette cases sitting on my desk where I was grabbing various paint colors and mixing them in my porcelain palette. I spent way too much time creating this card and found myself stopping and pausing while I was looking for colors across several palettes.

I’m always looking for ways to improve my processes or steps. What can I do to improve my prep or setup time before I paint? Or how can I consolidate my pans of paint into one case?

I realized I needed a larger metal palette case to hold my frequently used watercolor pans.

I was digging around my studio and saw a nice size metal case that contained a mini doodle kit I had received as a gift a few years ago. I enjoy reusing what I have and repurposing for my current needs. I knew this metal case would be large enough to hold all the colors I needed and still be portable.

My mini doodle case repurposed as a watercolor palette

Once I removed all the included art pencils, accessories, and the plastic tray I was left with an empty metal tin case. I measured the bottom of the case and started to research something called “magnetic sheets”. I started with adhesive magnetic sheets and decided the adhesive was not be an added bonus and more of an issue as the reviewers found the adhesive over time would eventually stop working. My mind knew that the thicker the magnet, the better it would stick to metal. I settled on the 4″x6″ size sheet and found a few 60 mil offerings in quantities of 10 or 25 sheets.

When my Marietta Magnets package of 10 magnetic sheets arrived I could not wait to create my custom palette case. This 60 mil magnetic sheet is slightly firm with a little flex. I was able to use a household scissor to trim the sheet from 4″ x 6″ down to a 3-3/4″ x 5-3/4″ size. I decided not to completely cover the bottom of my case with the magnetic sheet, but to leave a slight gap so I could easily remove the magnet if I needed to. I’m happy that I went with a thicker magnet as the pans stay in place. Mission accomplished.

Close up of the 60 mil magnet under the pans

I grabbed my pocket palettes and removed my frequently used paint colors. I placed the pans in my new custom case and rearranged them several times to figure out the best color groupings and arrangement to fit my needs.

My new custom palette case

Now a few of you are probably wondering how I can tell the colors apart as some of the pan colors look very similar. I came up with a system and labeled the back of the paint pans. I used my Avery 5422 labels to write out the colors and then cut up the labels to fit the pans. There was a good reason why I went with a stronger or thicker magnet as the labels cover up a bit more of the underside of the metal pans. The pans were sliding around a bit in my pocket palette with the thinner magnet. Now with my new custom case and stronger magnet, I do not have to worry about the pans moving around.

The labels on the back side of a few of my pans

I enjoy seeing all my colors and there is definitely more room for me to rearrange my pans and swap out different colors depending on what I’m painting.

I’m happy with the magnetic sheet I found and it’s working beautifully holding my pans in place.

I still have two Pocket Palettes that are used for my Iridescent paints and for my Primatek paints. I plan on reusing my other empty Pocket Palettes for other paints I have from Winsor & Newton and M. Graham.

Tip:

Any metal case can be converted into a palette case including an empty Altoid mint tin or a Kaweco metal tin.

The magnetic sheet should not be too flexible or too thin as there might not be enough holding power. I went with the 60 mil as I knew I had a label on the backside of my pans and label would sit between the magnet (palette) and metal (pan) reducing the magnet’s strength.

Metal Paint Pans: Art Tool Kit

Watercolor Paint: Daniel Smith Extra Fine

Brush: Cheap Joe’s American Journal travel brush #10

Porcelain Palette Dish: Home Goods or Tuesday Morning appetizer dish

Porcelain Flower Palette: Local art shop

Card: Strathmore Watercolor cards & envelopes, cold press, 5″ x 6.875″

Pulmonaria Flowers (Watercolor)

I’m challenging myself to paint flowers. Especially, flowers I have not painted or sketched before. I had a picture I took of some Pulmonaria (Lungwort) flowers from our garden. My Hubby had planted them years ago along our walkway. I enjoy these smallish flowers as they give a pop of color along the edge of our garden.

I selected three main flowers from my picture and created a quick sketch using my graphite pencil. I mixed different shades of purple paint from pink-purple to blue-purple using Quinacridone Pink with Cobalt Blue and another version with Quinacridone Pink and Prussian Blue.

To make the pink-purple color, I created a wet mix of Quinacridone Pink and some water to make a puddle of color. Then I added a bit of Cobalt Blue and mixed the two colors. The end result should look like a purple color leaning towards pink.

For the blue-purple color, I created a wet mix of Prussian Blue and some water to create the second puddle of color. I added a bit a Quinacridone Pink and mixed those two colors together. My goal was to get a purple color that leans more towards blue.

My first layer that I apply to the object is alway a light wash of color. I will sometimes leave a bit of white showing to represent a strong highlight.

I kept applying layers of color and adding darker colors for shadows and shading.

Erasing a few rogue pencil lines with my kneaded eraser

I decided at the last minute to create a background of muted green colors. I started with a light wash all over the paper and let my painting dry. Then added a few more layers of color.

I’m leaving my painting alone for now. In a few days, I will look at it again and decide if I need to do anything else with my painting.

Paint: Daniel Smith Extra Fine Watercolor

Paint Palette: Art Toolkit Pocket Palette

Porcelain Palette: Home Goods or Tuesday Morning

Brushes: Cheap Joe’s Golden Fleece Travel #6, #8, & #10

Paper: Strathmore Series 500 Premium 100% cotton 5″x7″

My Art Toolkit Pocket Palettes

During my watercolor journey, I had tried so many different types of palettes to use with my tubes of paints. I started with the popular metal butcher pans which gave me huge mixing spaces, but hardly a good way to separate and organize my colors.

I expanded into plastic clam shell type palettes where my colors were arranged into organized slots around one side and the middle and opposite side contained mixing areas.

I then looked at empty plastic pans where I could fill the pans with my own color and fit the pans into a plastic case. The only issue I uncovered is that not all pans fit into the different plastic palette cases. There were no standards to the pan sizes. Also the pans would not stay secured. Most of the time, my paints would pop out of their pans.

Here is my watercolor setup from last year with my favorite palette

A year ago, I came across an interesting palette that a few artists were using for their urban and nature sketches. A rust-proof aluminum palette case that uses a magnet base to hold the stainless steel pans in place. Clever idea! The pans could be switched around and configured into a functional palette. The silver pans came in four different sizes along with a large mixing pan with a white base. This palette was called the Art Toolkit Pocket Palette by Expeditionary Art.

At the time I purchased my first Pocket Palette last year, one of their offerings (Essential Colors Edition) included the tiny square pans or “mini” pans with six Daniel Smith Extra Fine watercolors: Hansa Yellow, New Gamboge, Pyrrole Scarlet, Quinacridone Rose, Phthalo Blue (GS), and French Ultramarine. The case also included two large mixing pans.

Here’s a better view of the palette and pans:

One of my Pocket Palettes (upside down with logo showing) and the different size pans
Available pan sizes

Once I got the hang of using this palette, I was anxious to fill the empty pans with my own paint colors. It took awhile to fill all those tiny pans. I read somewhere that it was recommended to fill the pans in two stages. The first stage is to do the initial fill half way. Tap the pan to get the paint to settle. Let it dry for a day or two. During this time the paint settles a bit into the pan as it dries. The next stage is to fill the pan up to the edge. Let the pan dry for another day or two and then close the case.

My first attempt at filling the mini pans

Here is what my current and full palette looks like. It contains the main colors I use most often.

My first palette case with the “mini” and “standard” sized pans. You can see a few of the mini pans where the paint has shrunk and moved away from the sides
My color swatches to go with my first Pocket Palette

After using this portable palette for a few months, I knew this was going to work well in my small studio space setup and also when I paint outdoors. I found the mini pans were a bit small to use with my larger brushes.

At this point, I was not sure which pan size would work well with my painting style. I decided to purchase another silver case, but with the slender rectangle pans or what they call their “standard” pans.

Here is my second pocket palette with the “standard” pans
My color swatches for the my second Pocket Palette

As you can see I had to create swatches for each of the Pocket Palettes I own. In the pan, the dark colors are undistinguishable between the dark blues and dark greens.

Now that I’ve had some time to use both palettes, I do have a preference for the “standard” pans. First, it is easier to fill as there is more room to get the tube opening into the pan. Second, I can get larger brushes into the pans. Third, it holds double the amount of paint versus using the “mini” pans.

As my tubes of watercolors multiplied, I decided to add a third palette to my collection. My next order included a black palette case with standard pans. I knew this black case would hold special or unusual colors in my collection. It now holds my Duochrome and Iridescent paints. The sparkling paints.

Here I have a “large” pan (lower left) in my case acting as a place holder until I fill this case with additional paint colors
My color swatches for my black Pocket Palette

I have to share this. I was able to get all my swatches from the three Pocket Palettes into one 5″x7″ watercolor sheet of paper. It’s easier for me to see all the colors at one time.

Look at all the gorgeous colors!

Now that I’ve spent some time talking about these beautiful Pocket Palettes, I wanted to spend a bit to time showing how I fill the pans with paint. I had planned to fill the pans in two stages, but it turned out I was able to fill the pans full on the first pass.

Getting ready to fill my pans with Daniel Smith paints

I fill my pan with enough paint to reach the top edge of the pan and down the middle of the pan. I don’t worry about the paint reaching the sides. My main goal is to get the paint into the pan without making a mess.

I squeezed out a blob of paint into the pan

I took a my fancy toothpick and tamped down the paint into the four corners of the pan. Then I ran the toothpick through the edges of the pan and then towards the middle of the pan. This helps to eliminate any air bubbles between the paint and the bottom of the pan. I also take the pan and tap it on my desk to help the paint settle into the pan.

I smoothed out the paint in the pan with a toothpick. You can see how glossy the wet paint looks fresh from the tube

I did come across a tube of paint that showed some extra handling. Like the tube has been slightly squeezed or handled a bit more aggressive before arriving at my studio. I had a hard time opening the tube and had to use a piece of rubber grip to open the cap. This is what the cap and tube looked like after opening:

Had to use a rubber grip pad to open this tube. You can see the paint that dried around the tube opening and bits of dried paint sitting on my shop towel

After filling each pan, I make a point of cleaning out the cap and tube opening with a damp paper towel. When I use the tube at a later date, it will be easier for me to open. I will also squeeze the sides of the tube to suck the paint back into the tube. Yes, I have a thing about opening a tube and have paint gushing out.

The cap and tube looks brand new!

You can see how quickly my pans started to dry. The wet glossy sheen on the paint has started to turn matte-like as it dries (except for the sparkling paints). That’s what I call the initial “top skin” and it will take a few days for the whole pan to dry.

I’m getting the hang of filling the pans with paint without creating a mess
My standard pans filled with fresh paint

I’m enjoying the new colors!

Summary

I love using my Pocket Palettes. For me it’s all about function and use. The palettes are small that I can stack them on my desk when not in use or lay them side by side in my portfolio or tote bag. They are extremely durable and a joy to use for outdoor painting sessions.

The bottom of the palette displays the logo

  • Thin and small and very portable
  • Size: 3-5/8″ x 2-1/4″ x 1/4″. A bit larger than a standard size business card
  • Aluminum case is durable: silver or black
  • Built in mixing area on the inside cover
  • Magnetic base inside the case to hold the pans
  • Current Pocket Palettes offerings are available with 14 standard pans, 28 mini pans, or a combination of assorted pans. They also have a mixing palette version.
  • There is also a much smaller Demi Palette that comes with 12 mini pans (future blog post)
  • Extra stainless steel pans can be purchased: mini, double, standard, large, & mixing
  • A case can hold different combinations of pans sizes to suit individual painting needs

Supplies Used

Miscellaneous: Flat top toothpicks in a plastic canister (Dollar Store). Rubber grip roll (Dollar Store). Blue shop towels.

Paints: Daniel Smith Extra Fine Watercolors

Palette & Pans: Art Toolkit Pocket Palette by Expeditionary Art

Mixing Palette: Round porcelain dish

Paper (140lb/300gsm 100% cotton): Strathmore Series 500 Premium 5″x7″ sheet