How to prepare your watercolour palette for an overseas trip

Here are some tips on how you can prepare your watercolour palette for your sketching or painting trip overseas, e.g. Urban Sketchers Symposium.

I'll assume you'll be selecting your own colours and pouring them into pans.

Write the name and pigment of all the colours on the plastic pan first. Make sure to write the pigment too because colour names are not unique but the pigment code is.

If it's a long trip, it may be better to use full pans instead of half pans so that you don't have to refill the pans, or refill the pans that often.

You can use a mix of full and half pans in a 12-half pan watercolour metal box. I suggest using full pans for your most used colours or primary colours.

With the typical 12 half pan metal box above, it is possible to squeeze 7 half pans into a row. Certain boxes have a middle row that's wide enough to fit a few more pans.

If you're pouring paint into a new empty pan, I recommend filling the pan 1/3 and not to the brim. Most paint will shrink so you can use subsequent pours to fill the gaps.

Another problem with filling the pan with just one pour is the surface may look dry but the interior may not be dry or solid, and the liquid watercolour form may break out of the exterior during transport.

Gaps can trap water and the pan will take longer to dry after the painting session. When you pack your watercolour box into your bag without realising there is water in the gap, the paint may spill out of the box.

If the pigment has separated from the binder, you can use a toothpick or paper clip to mix them again. Personally for me, when I see the binder coming out before the pigment, I will just remove the binder first until the pigment starts to flow out.

The paint in the pan takes time to dry, and much longer in humid climates. One way to dry paint more quickly is to place your watercolour box under the sun. Make sure the box is covered. The heat from sunlight will dry the paint much faster.

Based on my experience, it will take one week for three pours to dry completely when the watercolour box is placed under sunlight.

Other methods to dry the paint faster that I've tried includes putting the pans on my external SSD or USB hub that runs hots, on top or beside my laptop that exhaust out hot hair.

Some brands of watercolour use honey or are formulated to be more gooey. Those are to be avoided for filling pans. Avoid Maimeri Blu, Mission Gold, White Nights, Stephen Quiller for filling pans. There could be issues with M Graham and Sennelier because they use honey as ingredient, but I can't confirm that. Good brands for filling pans are Daniel Smith, Winsor Newton, Holbein, Shinhan, Schmincke (takes a bit longer).

And try to avoid paint that hardens back into rocks. E.g. Daniel Smith PrimaTek mineral colours, Viridian.

Extra pans can be prepared for backup. The pans can be wrapped with waxed paper, the type that's used to wrap oily greasy food. A 6 x 6 inch paper cut to quarter size is big enough to wrap a half pan nicely.

It will be good to write the colour name and/or pigment on the paper too.

A 12 half pan box should provide enough paint for a week. I would personally include full pans of primary colours which are more versatile compared to half pans of secondary colours. And since I love the Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna mix, those two colours will be full pans.

Shown in the photo above are the

  • Micro Porter Painter - Can hold 6 half pans and good for 2/3 days
  • Winsor Newton Deluxe box - Can hold 24 half pans/12 full pans. This is good for 1.5 to 2 weeks
  • Typical 12 pan metal box - Can hold 12 half pans/6 full pans. This is good for one week
  • Typical 24 pan metal box - Can hold 24 half pans/12 full pans. This is good for 1.5 to 2 weeks

Lastly , if you are at an art event, don't be embarrassed to ask your friends for supplies if you run out of paint. It would also be good to use Google Maps to search for art shops near the location you're staying too.


Add new comment