Finding the Goldilocks watercolour palette: Not too big, not too small, just right.

Finding the Goldilocks watercolour palette: Not too big, not too small, just right.

even tiny drop of paint can be enough for dozens of paintings. Watercolour paints are very attractive to colour hoarders who build giant palettes. This also makes it possible to assemble adorable tiny palettes and even tinier ones.

Mini Palette
Etchr Mini Watercolour Palette

It's even possible to combine both extremes. I am very tempted to buy the tiny Etchr porcelain palette. This palette can hold 37 paints in a tiny round puck only 7.5 cm across.

However, after years of collecting watercolours and working in palettes large and small, I increasingly prefer to work with fewer colour choices but larger wells for each paint.

Moving towards limited palettes

In a previous blog post, I discussed the advantages of choosing a limited palette for each painting. While I tend to only use 4-6 paints in each painting, I still tend to use larger palettes, and my full watercolour collection is huge. However, I have been gradually reducing the number of watercolour paints I regularly use. For the past 8-9 months or so, I have almost completely abandoned my large studio palette in favour of my Atlantis travel palette. The Atlantis palette 25 paints in a mix of full pans and half pans, less than half as many as my previous studio palette.

Recently, I have been finding the Atlantis palette slightly bulky for everyday use. Even 25 paints is far more than I use regularly.

However, the tiny adorable travel palettes I have put together lack mixing space and are dwarfed by my sketchbooks and other gear, so the weight savings of tiny palettes is questionable. I also don't really like working with half pans and smaller wells. Larger wells and full-pans allow me to use larger brushes, and transfer more pigment to my mixing surface at once.

New Limited Palette Endeavour

On my youtube channel, I have started a video series guiding viewers through building their own custom watercolour palette. In this series, I am building myself a new everyday palette to fit into a heavy enamelled palette box. Made with dividers for 16 half-pans, I am modifying this palette to hold 12 full pans and 3 additional half-pans. This palette offers plenty of integrating mixing space. It has enough room for a flexible paint selection, in a compact size.

I will be bringing only this palette when I travel to Australia for the 2019 GNSI Conference. I believe that 15 pans will provide me with more than enough variety of colours and paint behaviours for sketching and even finished paintings.

Like all my travel palettes, this one will be getting a space shuttle orbiter name. I am naming this palette Endeavour.

Other Palette Options to consider

While I'm delighted with the palette box I selected for my Endeavour palette, I also considered a number of other similarly sized palette options, which I may explore in the future.

Although I tend to prefer metal watercolour boxes, this Frank Herring box was a well-sized plastic alternative I considered.

Spanish Palette

A few months ago I found about a cheap sturdy metal palette with 16 built in, large wells. This palette is ubiquitous in Spain and difficult to acquire elsewhere. It is available at Artemiranda, but shipping to Canada is atrocious.

Although I usually recommend to not buy premade sets, the very reasonably priced White Nights box conveniently holds 12 full pans and is affordable enough to potentially justify buying it and replacing some of the colours. They also make tins, which are less widely available but very compact.

What watercolour palette will you choose? Do you prefer large or small palettes? Many paints or few?

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