How to Start With Watercolour — Part 2

So you will need something to put your paint in, add water, mix colours and such. Which raises the next question….

What kind of palette do I need to paint with watercolour tubes and pans?

If you choose a pan set it will most likely come with some sort of palette built into the box. If you don’t see an obvious palette (ie plastic or metal tray with sections) then you can use the lid.

Travel pan set

The sections are helpful in keeping your paint colours separate. This is important because if you have something like a red and a green on your palette and they end up mixing together you will end up with a disappointing muddy brown grey.

If you don’t have sections, never fear! You can keep the puddles of colour distinct by spacing them far enough apart on your palette. If you ever run out of room you can always clear a space by spraying a section you aren’t using anymore with water and wiping it clean with a paper towel or old rag. This is a tremendous advantage of watercolour I think – easy instant clean up!

You can also use a separate palette. You can buy a plastic or ceramic palette in the art store.

Ceramic palettes are smooth and clean to work from but have no lid for easy storage at the end of your painting session.

Small ceramic palette. These are my favourite. I just put a paper towel over them to keep out dust when I’m not painting.

Large lidded palettes have lots of mixing area and are easy to close up when you are finished painting. The downside is storing the large flat surface area that this style of palette takes up.

I have one of these. It’s good when painting larger pieces, but I find that too many colours isn’t always a good thing.

If you choose watercolour tubes then of course all of the above suggestions for separate palettes apply. But I have another suggestion which I consider to be the best of both worlds when it comes to tubes and pans…

Best of both worlds – a custom watercolour palette 

The best of both worlds is to create a custom palette box. There are Schmincke pans in a metal palette box tin. It is one of those tins that contain metal rods that hold the little white plastic pans. The set can come with 24 colours, but you can get it with the 48 size tin. The you have the option of adding colours as you progress. 

Palette for pans

You can buy empty white pans and fill them with paint, or you can buy the little pans with the watercolor paint already inside. This means your paint selection can grow with you. You can also rearrange the order of the paints by shuffling the little pans around. So many options….

But what if you are starting out and are not ready to spend too much?

You can have the same sort of system without shelling out for the fancy metal tin with adjustable pans. There are many watercolour paint boxes available at your local art/craft store. They are usually plastic and come with a lid and or the extra palette tray/mixing space. I used them for the longest time before I got my current ones.

Or, you can get creative and use items you might have laying around. Ceramic plates are perfect and easy to find at your local second hand store. I’ve also used plastic egg cartons in a pinch and a butcher’s tray makes an excellent palette.

I refill my used pans in my travel kit with tube watercolours rather than buying the little filled pans again because it’s cheaper to buy the large tubes of watercolour. I can refill a pan many times from one tube of paint.

In the last article we talked about choosing paint. If you decided to go with tube colours and not a set of pans then you can squeeze some paint into the holding wells in a less expensive palette (you can fill them up or just squeeze out a little). The paint will dry into a cake format over a day or so, depending on the brand. You can spritz it with water anytime and within a few minutes it will spring back to life and you are ready to paint!

This concludes Part 2 of Starting with Watercolours. Stay tuned! In Part 3 we will discuss brushes, paper, and how to get used to your new supplies.

Leave a comment, or ask a question below. I’ll do my best to answer any watercolour or general art questions you might have.

If you enjoyed this intro to watercolour I’d appreciate if you could hit the like and if you know someone who would like it, share.