This post is the start of a series on travel palettes. I guess that really started with the Koi & Cotman sets, so onward. Next we have the Grace Art Model 118 18-piece Water Colors Field Sketch Set with Brush.
The only reason I bought this $12 set was to pop the paints that it comes with out of the pans and use it for a travel palette. I couldn’t find my stash of empty half pans and they are not available locally. Sometimes empty watercolor pans are hard to come by. Eventually I found the pans. I decided to keep this, review it, and show the travel palette conversion. The first part of this is a take heed and warning post on buying cheap watercolors.
Box measures approximately 7.4 x 4 x 0.8 inches, with three mixing areas in the hinged lid, a small water brush, tiny piece of sea sponge, and a little ceramic dish. The description says:
- High Quality 18 color water color field sketch set with brush
- Half pan watercolors, formulated to blend easily and create good range of colors
- A refillable water brush to transport and store water
- A small and sleek design that fits into pockets well, the kit is lightweight and affordable
- Good to use on the go and at home
High quality is a gross misstatement, and this is too large for a pants pocket. Unless you have big pockets.
The reviews of this product on Amazon make it sound great with 4 and 5 star ratings. Look at that horrible painting above, and this:
It was terrible to paint with. After the painting dried it looked really chalky, I swiped my hand over it. If you are starting out with watercolor- buy the best paints you can afford, or save up for them. Don’t waste your money on crappy paints just to have some, because in the end, you will want the better paints. How often do you get to paint? Enjoy the heck out of it while you do, with nice paints. Depending on how much and what size you paint, it’s possible that they could last for a long time. Doesn’t matter how “good” or skilled of a painter you think you are, what maters is that you are painting and allowing that creativity to move through you. Skills will come along the way in your artistic journey. You and your creative expression are worth good quality watercolor paints. On to the conversion.
I like the set-up with the removable half pans, 18 is a lot. There’s room for additional pans or brushes where the water brush is stored. The water brush is decent enough to keep. After reading the reviews, I knew there were problems with the lid staying snapped shut when I bought it. It closes, but not as securely as one would want. I figured I could deal with it, and much of the time, curiosity gets the better of me.
The cubes of paint pop out easily, and they were liberated from the half pans by using my fingers. After I took this photo, I soaked the half pans for a while in warm soapy water and then scrubbed any paint residue out with a toothbrush. I was able to fit a few smaller sized paint brushes is the middle.
One set-up option. There is room in the middle for full pans and a few travel brushes. To show size- that is a Moleskine pocket watercolor journal 3.5″ x 5.5″ next to it. These are all half pans that I already had filled with Daniel Smith watercolors. I have not refilled any of the half pans that came with the set yet. Still figuring out what I want to put in this. See this post for a tip on the benefits of filling pans at an angle.
You can see above how it doesn’t look like it’s snapped shut all of the way. How I solved the issue of this not closing securely- a good ol’ cotton tube sock. This would work for any small travel palette. Someone commented about their Winsor & Newton Cotman Pocket Box opening in their bag. This would keep that from happening. I cut off the entire leg part with the ribbing and doubled it up inside of itself. You could cut as much or as little as you wanted. I would try to find socks that the entire leg has ribbing. The paint brush could also be slipped under the sock and transported that way. Sure a rubber band would work, but this sock serves in two ways.
I doubled it up inside of itself as a two layered wrist band. I also want it to serve as a brush wipe that I can wear on my wrist. This seems like a good idea for plein air sketching, and I plan on testing it out soon! Especially on the beach, if it’s on your wrist, no sand is getting onto a rag set down and possibly into your brush after wiping, and then into the paints. When done painting, it can be slipped back over the paint box. I suspect if this is machine washed after use, it will unravel on the cut end. Hand washing is suggested. I did feel a little bit like this after I put the wrist brush wipe on😉
One other reason I wasn’t worried about it not snapping securely closed- The Lihit Lab Teffa Bag in Bag A5. I love this thing. So much fits into it for a travel set-up and it could be carried the way it is or slipped into a tote bag or backpack. It’s made out of a polyester weave and measures 7.2 x 10 x .5 inches. It also comes in an A4 size. I’ve only found them on JetPens.com or Amazon. With the Grace Art palette in the inside compartment, there is still room to put more items in that main zip compartment. It unzips fully to make a little area to spread your items out onto. I will feature this on other travel set-ups as well.
There are many different options for making travel palettes. Something like what I did above, candy tins, Altoids tins, any small tin, make-up cases. Metal watercolor paint palette boxes that are made for travel. One example is what Charlie uses. In future posts, I will explore many of these options. This is an ongoing series of watercolor and art supply reviews. Your comments are appreciated!