How to Make Your Own Palette

You can make your own palette from a mint tin and household items. With a little customization you can create a deluxe do-it-yourself travel palette. Use these kits for watercolor or gouache.

The Basic Version

mid size altoids paletteThis is an easy and low cost solution. All you need is a tin of mints (Altoids, Mintz or whatever you prefer), a handful of bottle caps or an eight well plastic chewing gum wrapper, .glue, and the white lid to a container of cottage cheese or yogurt.

  1. Clean and dry the metal box that the mints came in.
  2. Glue the gum wrapper (fits a mid sized tin with a little trim) or plastic bottle caps to the bottom of the tin to create wells for your paints. Use a heavy duty glue such as E6000 Permanent Craft Adhesive or Beacon Glass, Metal & More™ Premium Permanent Glue. Eat a mint.
  3. Use the bottom of the tin as a template to cut the lid of the cottage cheese container into a rectangle that will fit into the tin.
  4. Glue the plastic rectangle that you just cut out into the top of the tin to create a white surface on which you can mix your paints. Eat another mint.
  5. Fill the wells with your favorite colors and let them dry.

The deluxe version

large altoids paletteWith a few modifications, the basic palette can be upgraded to an amazing little portable palette. For this you will need a few more items: 15 watercolor half pans (available at some art supply stores or at Kremer Pigments), a roll of .5 inch magnetic tape (available at office supply stores), and a small can of Rust-oleum high gloss protective enamel paint (available at a hardware store).

  1. Use a sharp knife to scratch the bottoms of the half pans. This will help the paint stick inside the pans.
  2. Cut pieces of magnetic tape to fit the bottoms of the half pans and attach the tape to the pans. Eat a mint.
  3. Paint the inside of the lid with white high gloss enamel. Set the lid open and flat to dry. Do not touch the enamel while it is drying or you will create an uneven surface.
  4. Fill the half pans with your favorite colors. Eat another mint.
  5. When the paint is dry, insert the magnetized pans into the palette in an order that makes sense to you.

My paint recomendations

Travel Watercolor Palette: When I limit my palette to fourteen choices, I use Daniel Smith: Neutral Tint, Shadow Violet, Bloodstone Genuine, Burnt Sienna, Buff Titanium, Perylene Green, Serpentine Genuine, Phthalo Blue, Indatherone Blue, Dioxazine Violet, Quinacridone Pink, Pyroll Red, Permanent Orange, Hansa Yellow Light.

The Light gouache palette: My gouache palette has fourteen light value colors. This is not a full palette for gouache painting but a supplement for my watercolor kit. I create my darks with transparent watercolor and only use the gouache for the lights. My kit includes: Hansa Yellow (M.Graham), Jaune Brilliant No. 1 (Holbein), Gamboge (M. Graham), Primary Magenta (Holbein), Pyrrole Red (M. Graham), Aqua blue (Holbein), a light purple made by mixing Titanium White and Quinacridone Violet (M. Graham), Helio Green Yellowish (Schmincke), Leaf Green (Holbein), Yellow Ochre (M. Graham), Titanium Gold Ochre (Schmincke), Grey No. 1 (Holbein), Grey No. 2 (Holbein), Titanium White (M. Graham).

Gouache tends to crack and break free from palettes more than watercolors. When they do, I rewet them and replace them in the palette with a little bit of rubbing to liquify some of the gouache so it will readhere.