Watercolor Palettes (with a Giveaway!)

Palettes are easy. A whole bunch of colors right there in a neat little package. Perfect for the carry along or just to have them right at hand. They’re not all created equal though. I have opinions and I figured I’d share them.

Koi Palettes
12 pack and 24 pack
You might think this is overkill to have 2 palette packs but I don’t see it that way. The 24 pack stays at my desk. The 12 pack travels with me. I like the 24 pack very much. It has many the colors. I have gotten used to mixing a lot of my own colors but the 24 pack gives me a wider range especially when I start mixing. So, the colors are pretty vibrant. It doesn’t take a lot of layers to get some depth should I want it. I really enjoy these palettes. They also come with sponges and water brushes which can be handy. The one draw back for me with this palette is that it’s squares are not refillable as little squares but I can buy little tubes of color from Koi and refill them that way. (more info on that at the end of the post)

Art Alternatives Pocket Set
I’m not entirely sure how I ended up with this set. I think maybe I meant to give it to the kids. Oops. The colors are good but they’re light. They are definitely not pigment packed in any sense of the definition. If you have a heavy hand and want light washes, get this set for that. Otherwise, it’s probably not worth having when there are other fantastic palettes out there.

Winsor & Newton Cotman Colors
Vibrant, pigment packed, inexpensive and refillable. This is my oldest set and I really do like it. The colors are great and it’s a nice little set. Seriously. Get this one if you only need 12 colors. The Koi is almost as good but these little pans of color are bigger and refillable. For the money, this is probably the better set. You can buy little water brushes and a bag to keep it all in. That may be the one draw back if a waterbrush is important to you. There isn’t place in the kit to put one. You probably need a little bag to carry this and your pens, pencils, and paper anyway. Right? They also make a studio set and a student set as well. There are 24 and 45 colors in them. All refillable.

I have a bunch of Winsor and Newton Cotman colors and Grumbacher in little tubes. Watercolors in tubes are gummy suspensions of color. Very good and lovely but over the years I’ve come to prefer having a palette of dried colors. So what do I do with all the tubes of color? I just put them in a palette and let them dry out. Voila! I have my own pans. You can buy empty pans and palette sets from someone like Daniel Smith or you can make your own from empty tins. Look at This cutie from a tiny Altoids tin and another one that uses a larger Altoids tin and some store bought pans. This last one is particularly genius because you can remove one pan, clean it out or exchange it as needed. There are companies that make tins and pans for you to fill yourself, like this one from Dick Blick. If you have a tin, you can buy little pans or make little pans from Sculpey.

While I enjoy the ease of buying a ready made palette, there are definitely colors that deplete faster than others. Being able to refill them with little blocks or with a tube of color make all the difference. There are other palettes I have my eye on right now. Pro colors that are super rich and just full of pigment. No “hues”. But as time goes on I’m getting pickier and will probably want to fill my own palette as I see fit.

Oh, and if you’re looking for a bag to put it all in; you probably want a waterproof or water resistant bag. Something with rip stop nylon. Look in the kids section for diaper bag accessories. Wet bags will make a great case. Alternately, if you want something with more adult appeal, look in the makeup bag section. Better yet, go on a makeup buying spree when someone is having a “buy the makeup get a free makeup bag” deal. This is how I got my little bag. Thank you Christian Dior.

These are not the only palettes available. These are just the tip of the iceberg. The ones I mentioned are student grade so there is a whole level above and a whole level below them. There are so many companies making palettes and really good ones too! You don’t need pricy to be good but sometimes cheap is an indication of blah colors. If you have an artist supply store nearby, go and look at what they have. With any luck they will have samples out and you can see for yourself.

What about this giveaway?
Turns out I had purchased the Sakura Koi set in 24 colors for myself a long time ago and never used it. So I have 2 sets. One not used….fresh and awaiting someone to use it. Do you want it? Comment here or send me an email at the usual place. I’ll do a random number generator kind of thing and pick a name at random who will get the set. It will be just like the one shown up above but it will be fresh and unused.

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13 Responses to Watercolor Palettes (with a Giveaway!)

  1. Stephanie M says:

    it’s been ages since I’ve played with watercolors :)
    Perhaps it’s time to do it again!
    Please add me to your random number listy thingamabob ;)

  2. I have a really similar windsor and newton set I took with me to europe 11 years ago. still love them.

  3. Rachel says:

    I used to paint with watercolor all the time. Love the altoid tin ideas. Would you please add me to your random number list. (I like thirteen personally)

  4. Maryse says:

    Oooh. Pick me!!! Pick me!!!!!

  5. elaine says:

    Wow! Thanks for the hints and tips, Amy! I’ve seen the Windsor Newton sets, but not the others. Thanks for all the info and inspiration :-)

  6. Josee says:

    Love the DIY for the palettes… Will have to share this with my daughter (who’s finishing her 2nd year fine arts classes at the university – I’m SO glad she’s done with her projects as she literally takes over the house with them). Thanks!

  7. Leigh says:

    I’m having some sort of Beatrix Potter moment picturing myself on an English hillside with me watercolours. David Hockney is from our neck of the woods, but he’s gone all digital. Be fun to dabble in non woolly form of creativity.

  8. Irene says:

    oh pick me pick me, you have inspired me to start doodling with what i have on hand and to strt lurking in the local art supply store

  9. kazkitty says:

    I haven’t played with watercolors in years. It would be fun to get back into it again. :)

    Love all the paintings and sketches you post.. they’re so beautiful!

  10. Jo-Ann says:

    I’ve gone to a couple of those paint night things lately, and found that I love painting … wonder if I’d love watercolors as well? Sounds fun!

  11. Pingback: Making travel palettes | Boogie Eclectic

  12. carolg says:

    ohboyohboy i’d love to have these!

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