Tool Tip: Watercolor Box Hack

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I have several large watercolor palettes. The key word here is: large! They actually work fine in the big studio when I am working on a large painting, but they are really impractical for my tiny corner desk where I generally work every day.

I also have several tubes of watercolor paint. The brands vary, but most are either Daniel Smith or Winsor & Newton.

What I really want is something portable, easy to use, cheap, and that works on my desk when I’m doing micro art.

The mermaid tin I already had. I got it at Target in the 1-spot. It came with some art supplies: stencils, markers, paper and stickers. (All useful!) I’ve had it for a while, so I’m not sure of the price, but it was $3 or less.

I decided to purchase these inexpensive half-pans. They come 120 in a baggie and they come with magnets that are pre-cut to stick on the bottom.

The quality is good, I dropped a big handful of them on the hard, tile floor in the process of taking the pictures for this. None broke!

I did find some smutz on many of them. I ended up cleaning it off with a damp rag. I was worried that it might contaminate lighter colors. It mostly all came off without a problem.

The next step was to stick the magnets on the bottoms. This wasn’t difficult, the magnets come pre-cut. So it was just a matter of peel-and-stick.

I used an IdentiPen (permanent on most surfaces) to write the name of the color on each little pan. I also put the initials of the manufacturer of the paint. This way, if one runs out, I know what to refill it with!

Next, I filled each of the pans with paint. This was a little messy. I did it next to the sink in the studio so I could clean up any messes. I didn’t want to cross-contaminate any of the colors, so I washed my hands often and cleaned up between each color.

I’ve had some of these tubes of paint over 10 years. I did just the Daniel Smith tubes. Out of 18, only 3 were hardened. I pitched those in the trash. A couple required some mixing because the carrier had seperated from the pigment. But once that was fixed (either stir it with a toothpick, or if the tube has a lot, put the cover back on, squish it around and let it sit over night.)

After you’ve filled the pans, let them sit at least over night (if there isn’t a lot of humidity where you are) or longer. It will actually take several days to a week for the paint to dry completely. But they should be safe to gently handle after a day or two.

Here they are in my tin. As you can see, it can gold a LOT of half-pans!

This particular tin is actually a bit deep, which is fine, because I have room to put a mixing palette in it, on top of the pans. I could also put a couple of water brushes in here, too.

If you wanted a smaller palette, you could use a gift tin, like this one.

As you can see, quite a few could still fit, depending on how close together you put them! There’s room for about 20 colors in this tiny box!

This one is small enough to put in the pocket of my cargo pants. If I was going to do that, I would load it with a “cool” yellow, blue and red and a “warm” yellow, blue, and red. The additional colors might be a couple of browns and greens and perhaps Payne’s grey.

In any case, this is a pretty easy hack and not very expensive. You have the option of arranging the colors any way you like, and creating your own palette… not being stuck with “whatever”! You could use several gift tins and put just the irridescent colors in one, warm colors in another, cool in a different one. And you could change your palettes around whenever you felt like it.

I really like this idea. It’s very flexible.

So, I wonder if anyone would like to set up an exchange for these little, half-pans of paint? I have some extra!