Thursday, August 24, 2017

DIY Watercolor Palette

When I started looking for a set of transparent watercolors, one of my biggest deciding factors of what to buy was based on how the palette or container looked.  I finally decided on the Windsor Newton Cotman 24 half pans set (I actually ordered mine from DickBlick though because they were half the price).  I liked the colors that came in the set, I was familiar with many of the names from my oil painting days, and I like that it came with a lot of mixing space that stored inside the container with the paints.

A close up to the WNC set
After some time using the set,  I've come to dislike how the half pans are fit into the plastic box.  When I use a spray bottle to wet the paint it often bleeds into the neighboring half pans.  Thus I now have several colors that are muddied.  If I want to muddy my colors I'll do it on the paper thanks.  I'm also rather annoyed that I can't add more colors to flush out some of the ones that are lacking in choice.  The set came with no pink and only one purple.  I really prefer to use certain colors out of the tube versus mixing them.  Especially with watercolor because if you add white to any of your paints it makes them turn more opaque.

So, I started looking for an alternative.  I do not like the empty watercolor palettes that are sold.  Having the mixing area fold out each side is just a recipe for disaster as far as I'm concerned (also to be read as I'm clumsy).  Finally I had a clue of what I wanted when an artist I follow on Instagram (@sarahburnsstudio) posted her palette and mentioned that she uses an old pencil tin with magnets on the bottom of her half pans.  This way she can rearrange the colors as needed and also highly customize her color palette.  I liked this idea a lot and since I was in the market for new colors I started searching for some half pans.

Empty half pans
My $3 pencil tin made by Derwent

I finally ended up ordering a total of ten half pans from Ken Bromley Art Supplies (yes, I sadly had to order from the U.K. for them).  They were the cheapest I found and also came recommended when I had done some searching.  The pans are definitely a nice quality and I like that all the sides are uniform in thickness.  My WN half pans are thicker on two sides than the others.  While I was on the site I also decided to search for a pencil tin and to my surprise they had one for only $3.  I figured if it didn't work for putting the half pans in I could use it to store pencils.

When I decided to get more watercolor paints I decided to try some different brands.

Once the pans, tin, and paints arrived, I gathered everything I needed to make my new watercolor half pan holder and took out all of the half pans from the WNC box and washed the outsides.  They were extremely gummy with paint and the bottom of the box looks fairly messy too.

An over view of the supplies.
My empty WNC box.
Next I removed the plastic pencil holder from the tin and then opened up the magnets I bought from Michael's.  I got two different kinds to see what would work better.  One was already semi divided out into squares and the other was a long strip.  The divided one was a bit thinner so I thought those may work better but they did not.  The strip was stronger so I ended up using that one instead and it was still thin enough that all of my pans fit into the pencil tin.

Sizing up the magnet sheet.
The squares proved too small and too weak when further cut down.
The strip magnet cut into small rectangles (just under the size of the half pans) worked great.
After a while I started cutting multiple magnet hunks at a time.

I made a template from the first magnet hunk I cut using my exacto knife and used that to measure and cut the rest of what I needed.  At first I would cut one piece of magnet, peel off the paper to expose the adhesive and then put it on a half pan, press down on the half pan to make sure the magnet stuck and then put that in the tin. This proved tedious so I started cutting more magnet hunks at a time before adhering them to the half pans and putting them into the tin.

A few colors down, many to go.
Even still it took me a while to put the magnets on all of my half pans.  The Windsor Newton Cotman set came with twenty-four colors and I had bought six more for a total of thirty-two.  It was time consuming but I am happy with how it turned out.  I still have room for the four empty half pans that I have too.  At some point I'm sure I'll fill those without any issue.

The finished product.
With this setup I'll be able able to rearrange my colors as I customize my colors more.  I like arranging my palette so that the warm colors are together, the cool colors are together, and then the earthy colors, and my neutrals. Since I added some new colors to my palette and rearranged it, I decided to make a new swatch card, which I messed up on because I apparently can't count to four.

So far I am liking my new palette set up for my watercolors. I haven't had much time to use it a lot yet since I just made it last Friday but they will travel easier and the time to make it is worth the ability to customize to my heart's content.

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