The Winsor & Newton Cotman Sketcher’s Pocket Box is an excellent little palette. It is inexpensive, sturdy, and small enough to bring on a backpacking trip. It is good straight out of the box. However, with a little customization, it will serve you even better. The original pigments are student grade. As you use them up, replace them with artist grade paints. You can buy new half pans in any art supply store. You can also discard the pans and squeeze tube colors into the spaces in the palette.
To make a big improvement in the palette, replace these paints.
- Replace Chinese White with Neutral Tint
- Replace Alizarin Crimson with Quinacridone Magenta
As you use up the pigments in the set, consider also replacing these colors with these alternates.
- Replace Cadmium Yellow Pale Hue with Winsor Yellow
- Replace Cadmium Yellow Hue with Quinacridone Gold
- Replace Cadmium Red Pale Hue with Winsor Red
- Replace Ultramarine with Phthalo Blue (Green Shade)
- Replace Viridian with Hooker’s Green or Perylene Green (darker)
- Replace Burnt Sienna with Winsor Violet Dioxazine
I suggest reordering the pigments so that similar colors are aligned with the mixing areas on the fold out lid. There are two rows of six colors. In the first row I would place (in this order) Winsor Yellow, Quinacridone Magenta, Cobalt Blue, Sap Green, Yellow Ochre and Winsor Violet Dioxazine. On the Second row I would place Quinacridone Gold, Winsor Red, Phthalo Blue, Perylene Green, Burnt Umber, and Neutral Tint.
If you have a tube of yellow watercolor (Hansa Yellow light or Winsor Yellow) put a small dab of this color in the green mixing area so you can blend with this as you mix your greens. This will help you to keep your yellow pan clean as you mix your greens or browns.
When you first open new pans, the cake of color can easily fall out of the pan. One way fix this problem is to wet the back of the cake and place it back in the pan, wet side down. The damp watercolor will work like glue. If you are frustrated by the pans themselves jumping out of the sketcher’s box, place a dab of Elmer’s glue or a piece of double-sided tape under the pan. An even simpler solution is to do away with the little pans entirely. Take the paint cakes out of the pans and set them aside (more on them later). Now wet the back of the cake and rub it into place in the palette. You don’t need the pans and there is one less piece to fall out.
Now what do you do with those leftover pans? Glue them into an Altoids tin, fill the pans with tube colors, and you have a second pocket-sized palette. See instructions to make your own Altoids kit here.