DOODLEWASH REVIEW: A Cautionary Tale & Palette Hack

Grace Art Model 118 18-piece Water Colors Field Sketch Set with Brush with pans removed

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.

Grace Art Model 118 18-piece Water Colors Field Sketch Set with Brush

Grace Art watercolor paint cubes free from pans

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.

Grace Art Model 118 18-piece Water Colors Field Sketch Set with Brush swatch and mountain painting

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:

Grace Art Model 118 18-piece Water Colors Field Sketch Set with Brush chalk hands

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.

Grace Art Model 118 18-piece Water Colors Field Sketch Set with Brush with pans removed

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.

Grace Art emptied watercolour palette with watercolor brushes

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.

Grace art watercolor palette filled with new paints, brushes and a moleskine

New Palette Set-Up and  Moleskine Watercolor Journal

Grace Art watercolor palette with Moleskine Art Plus pocket watercolor journal

Moleskine and Closed Palette

Grace Art watercolor palette with Moleskine Art Plus pocket watercolor journal on top

Moleskine On Top of Palette

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.

Tube sock around Grace Art travel watercolor palette and paint brush

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 😉

Tube sock around wrist to act as a watercolor brush wipe and watercolour brush

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 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!

Grace Art watercolor paint cube mandala with heart

Recommended2 recommendationsPublished in Art Supply Reviews
  1. Catherine Johnson 7 years ago

    Great tips! I’ll have to try something like this when I go to England. The sock idea is awesome. I have some good watercolors but I must confess I also bought some cheap ones because the colors were brighter.

  2. Author
    Jessica Seacrest 7 years ago

    Thanks for your comment Catherine. I hope my next few posts help out with travel palette descsions. And going to England- nice! One of the cheap palettes of watercolor that I have I really like, and I’ve enjoyed painting with them in my journal because the colors are so fun.

  3. Jodi 7 years ago

    awesome ingenious tips! Thanks for sharing!

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 7 years ago

      Thank Jodi, much appreciated!

  4. The Leaf Diary 7 years ago

    This is a great post! Looking forward to future ones! Always nice to learn about what works and what doesn’t. I particularly love the Lihit Teffa bag.

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 7 years ago

      Hi Alex, I’m glad it was helpful to you! Yeah, the Lihit Teffa bag is awesome :). Thank you for your comment.

  5. gaelle1947 7 years ago

    LOVE behind the scenes stories! That is a whole art in itself isn’t it – preparation, organizing, testing and then the actual road test (which usually leads to more equipment tweaking). The sock idea is splendid – and a great way to re-purpose worn ones. Congratulations – keep those reviews and tips coming!

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 7 years ago

      I love behind the scenes art stories too. I always like seeing pictures of people’s desks, studios and set-ups. I’m happy you are enjoying the reviews, and I appreciate the comment!

  6. Sharon Mann 7 years ago

    You have so many great tips Jessica, I agree with you on supplies, get the best!
    Love the sock sleeve. 😍

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 7 years ago

      Thanks Sharon 🙂 I appreciate your comment and am happy you are finding some useful stuff here!

  7. Kari 7 years ago

    The palette is worth buying just for the case! Great review and tips. Love the tube sock idea. So clever. I’m going to have to check out the travel bag. I currently use a cosmetic bag I bought at Target. It has two zipper compartment for paint palette, journals and other supplies and also a middle flap for brushes. The whole thing zips and has a handle so when I go out, I just carry it like a bag. 😊

    We’ve talked about this but Artist Loft brand of paint cakes are crappy and I have several of them. I was thinking of popping the cakes out to use as an empty palette. 😊

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 7 years ago

      Hi Kari! You travel carry bag sounds like it works great. Hehehe, yes we did talk about those crappy cakes. The colors it comes with are so tempting though. I have a review in store for that set in the future. And thanks so much for helping out with one of my future reviews! High five on that one.

  8. Ellie 7 years ago

    Great review and I especially like your comments about buying decent paints and such. It really is worth it in the long run. Brilliant idea to use the sock — who doesn’t want to feel like Wonder Woman when out painting? Looking forward to more reviews

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 7 years ago

      Ahahah Ellie! Thank you, your comment gave me a chuckle. I knew I couldn’t be the only one who felt that way 😉 I’m glad you found the review helpful.

  9. Carmel Campbell 7 years ago

    Good post. I use an old sock in my kit it works great!

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 7 years ago

      Hi Carmel and thank you for your comment. I love that you use a sock! Happy painting 🙂

  10. Teri C 7 years ago

    Another awesome review! Don’t we all love travel palettes! I second, third and fourth your statement about buying the best paints. Could be the difference between loving or hating Watercolors. And with your reviews doing the testing of good and bad…perfect!
    I look forward to your reviews every Saturday!

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 7 years ago

      Thank you Teri! It’s good to be amongst kindred spirits. If I would have gotten this set as my first, I wouldn’t have like watercolors. I went almost straight to the good stuff 😉

  11. Teresa Robeson 7 years ago

    The sock ribbing idea is brilliant! I’m definitely trying that since I have a lot of holey socks I hate to just toss. Love that Teffa bag! Might have to get one of those. Thanks for the recommendation!

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 7 years ago

      Hi Teresa, you are welcome and thanks for your comment! Let me know if you end up getting a Teffa bag and how you like it.

  12. M. L. Kappa 7 years ago

    Great post, full of ideas! What can you do with the crappy paints except bin them?

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 7 years ago

      Ha, true! For whatever reason, I put these into a tin and didn’t toss them. Who knows what I think can be done with them someday. Thank you for the comment 🙂

  13. Cathe 7 years ago

    Great insight and review Jessica. Nice to read about good and bad products plus great tips like your sock sleeve.

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 7 years ago

      Hi Cathe and thank you! Hopefully this will save some unsuspecting folks from getting products that they won’t like.

      • Cathe 7 years ago

        Yes, so true and you have created a great place to start a search! Thank you Jessica!

  14. jmlandin 7 years ago

    Cutting up a sock right now! Great tip.

  15. Author
    Jessica Seacrest 7 years ago

    Ha! That’s great :). Thank you for the comment.

  16. Great review….will not buy! Lol, love all the tips. After your last diaper tip, I have now bought 1 m of ZORB, the material used to line the reusable diapers. I have cut up into sections, and it is amazing, best thing bought this year, saving on kitchen roll, and super absorbent. Thank you……now off to the sock draw!

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 7 years ago

      Fantastic Rebecca. ZORB! What a name! It reminds be of a B movie title- The Creature from ZORB, hehehe. I’m glad they work so well, thanks for letting me know! 🙂

  17. Carol 7 years ago

    Wonderful info! I just put the Teffa bag on my wish list so the kids can buy it for Mothers Day! You are so right about buying the best paints one can afford; I learned that the hard way. Also, I have enough mismatched socks to last a lifetime, so now I know what to do with them. I knew i was saving them for a reason! 🙂

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 7 years ago

      Smart move Carol-Mother’s Day gift! The dryer was helping you out- eating the mates to those socks, just so you would have brush wipes ;).

  18. artandmoondreams 7 years ago

    Fantastic post, love all the great ideas for travel paint kits. Appreciate the links, helps in finding cool stuff to make on the road painting easier. (note to self: raid the sock drawers!) Thank you for all your effort and research.

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 7 years ago

      Hi Haunani, and thank you for this comment. I appreciate it very much! I’m glad it has helpful to you! I was just over enjoying your blog and your lovely paintings and sketches. I’ve been practicing beach painting a little. I will be visiting Kauai again very soon. There is a special place in my heart for that island. I plan on painting everyday while I am there 🙂

  19. lynne 7 years ago

    Yes, thank you for this post, Jessica! Wonderful info and links! I’ve never heard of these paints before; 18 half pans plus room for more sounds good at $12 (dumping the paints, of course). I’ll definitely keep it in mind when I decide I need another palette. I did buy the Whiskey Painters Master Palette, so I’m good for, oh, another month or so ha ha.

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 7 years ago

      Hi Lynne! I love the little Whiskey Painters palette, the Master must be very nice! Next week’s post is a review of a few metal palettes. And hehehe, I had to laugh about you being good for a month or so…because it is so true!

      • lynne 7 years ago

        The ‘Master’ palette holds 24 half pans and is about 6″ wide. Who can resist that? ; )

  20. Snehal Kank 7 years ago

    Thank you so much Jessica and Charlie! Both of you rock!! 😍 Your tips are very helpful, i have book marked these reviews so that i can go back and read anytime if i forgot something 🙂 many thanks for sharing with us 🙂

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 7 years ago

      Thanks so much Snehal! This put a big smile on my face. I’m glad that you are finding them helpful. 🙂

  21. ngfayeng 7 years ago

    This helped a lot! Definitely worth it to save up for something thats high quality!

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 7 years ago

      Hi Faye, I’m glad that this was helpful to you! Your paintings are wonderful!

  22. Rob 7 years ago

    Good tips! I have plenty of spare socks for using as a case cover and brush wipe. I bought the Cotman set, but have not used it. My class urged tube paints. I may give this set with a moleskineart as a cherity gift.

    I made an altoid half pan set with sticky backed Velcro do the pans won’t fall out.

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 7 years ago

      Nice! How do you like the Altoids set you made? Did you fill it with paints yet? How do you like the Velcro? I’m full of questions! Giving the gift of art is wonderful, if you decide not to keep the other one.

  23. wendymuldon 7 years ago

    Cheap watercolours are the example of when something cheap cost you expensive. Awesome post! I wanto to see inside the Moleskine now!

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 7 years ago

      Hehehe, this made me chuckle Wendy. I’m not wanting to show too much from inside that thing ;). Although there are a few posts on IG (@jessicaseacrest) with quick things that I did in it. I’m glad you liked the post and I appreciate your comment!

  24. Rob 7 years ago

    I put lesser used psints in tge altoid yin. Paynes Gray, ivory bkack, white, violet, vandyke brown. Makesmire room on my palette for mixing colors. Velcro seals in tge 1/2 pans securely. But alliwing me yo move them if need be. I think it will eork out great. I bought a smaller 18 color palette, Fushion 18 -seslable. I think thus will be a hood vombo gor me. But then. I;m syill a newbie to yhus wstervolir endeavor.

  25. […] artist quality paints- if you can, or save up for them- instead of using chalky cheep stuff like this, or this.  I have chalky and cheap sets, and I’ve had fun with them, but to get those […]

  26. […] a cheap travel palette, which includes the 18 half pans to fill with your own paints, can be found here, one on metal palettes here, and another one on how to make your own from mint tins and various […]

  27. Peg Boyd 6 years ago

    Interesting review. i painted several charts of GraceArt, Winsor Newton Artists, Prima and Blue Bento probably about a month ago. You had me curious to run my fingers across those charts on heavy weight archival white paper. No residual lifts on fingers or cloth. This is an easy set for a sketchbook or quick wash. They wet easy with a spray bottle. I paid about $12 as well, proud to own it.

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 6 years ago

      That’s great Peg, I’m glad that it has worked out to your liking. It has many great reviews on Amazon. Happy painting to you!

  28. […] the plastic water bottles are Nalgene, the brush wipe is a cut off tube sock that can be worn around the wrist. The little earth tone palette is from Redwood and Willow […]

  29. Rachel 6 years ago

    Great post, thanks for putting it together. I’m a knitter as well so I may knit up a cotton wrist band on small needles to use. If you have a sewing machine, a quick zip around the raw edge of the sock will stop the machine knitting from unraveling when you wash it. Just be careful not to sew the sock tube closed 😉 can you be so kind as to tell me what red soft fabric pencil case that is, in the last photo at the bottom of your post? Thank you! 🤓

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 6 years ago

      Hi Rachel, I am also a knitter 🙂 The case at the bottom is the one I referred to in the text above with links- The Lihit Lab Teffa Bag in Bag- the hyper link is in bold black, click on it and it should take you to the page on JetPens. These can also find them on Amazon. Hopefully the links still work! Thank you for your comment and happy knitting and painting! I’ve been knitting more than painting lately 😉

  30. Cheryl Taylor 6 years ago

    Thank you for the blog. Because of your recommendation, I am ordering the Lihit Lab Teffa Bag.
    I can’t wait to try it!

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 6 years ago

      Yay Cheryl, I hope that the Teffa Bag serves you well! Thank you for your comment 🙂

  31. Sierrashadow 6 years ago

    Just wanted to let you know you inspired me. I copied your idea and posted about it here.

    Thank you so much.

  32. […] buying the less expensively priced sets for the palette and pans and chucking the paint cubes.  Here is another option for doing that, and more palette ideas here and […]

  33. […] for, and if you want to add your own paints.  After writing this, I’m even happier with my Grace Art travel set-up that I reviewed last week. -$12 for the palette and 18 replaceable half pans!  Many […]

  34. […] figured I would do this shorter post showing what I ended up with in the palette from the Grace Art palette conversion post. Along with showing swatches of a few different brands of artist quality paints, and a little […]

  35. Mia Vox 6 years ago

    The sock idea, GENIUS! Going to be doing that from now on. I bought that pallet for $12 on amazon too…it was the same set but a different company has their name on it. It seems to be a mass produced pallet for different companies. It is much heavier than I expected it to be so using it for travel is a bummer. It really weighs my bag down as far as travel pallets. The paint was TERRIBLE! I had the same exact experience. It’s so darn chalky and waxy at the same time. Reminded me of watercolor pencils. I wasn’t expecting great quality as far as the paint. The saving grace for this set was the paints really did come out of the pans easily. I dropped the pallet accidently and half of the colors just fell out of the pots. It was a very happy accident.

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 6 years ago

      Hi Mia,

      I love happy accidents 🙂 It boggles me that people like the paints it comes with. There was someone that got a little upset with me about saying the paints are terrible. But, to each their own as they say. As long as they enjoy them, that’s all that matters. That sock thing, I won’t take total credit for it because I don’t know where the idea came from. I just guessed it was because I grew up in a time when wrist bands were cool. And yes, back then I did pretend to be Wonder Woman and deflect bullets with my wrists. Happy painting!

  36. Meari 5 years ago

    I bought a similar palette by Jerry Q Art. I knew the paints were inferior, but I bought the set for the palette. It didn’t stop me from trying out the paints cuz you just never know. Like you, I found that the paints were chalky and rubbed off after dry. Yuck. I removed the paints and saved them for kids to use. I plan on refilling it with higher quality paints. Great tips for a travel set.

  37. […] figured I would do this shorter post showing what I ended up with in the palette from the Grace Art palette conversion post. Along with showing swatches of a few different brands of artist quality paints, and a little […]

  38. […] buying the less expensively priced sets for the palette and pans and chucking the paint cubes.  Here is another option for doing that, and more palette ideas here and […]

  39. […] higher quality supplies up front will save you money in the long run.  Often, when people buy cheaper and lesser quality, they eventually want to upgrade. Buy the better artist quality from the […]

  40. Frances Turano 4 years ago

    Jessica, thank you for such an in-depth review of this particular Grace Art set. (my hand kept typing “grave art” — big clue in that keystroke faux pas). And your wrist sock invention? Genius! As any obsessed (passionate) watercolorist, I buy EVERY field kit out there, and had the good fortune to be blessed with the gift of a Field Artist gift box of all of their field papers/pads/blocks. I purchased their $60 pro flask field kit (W-O-W), as well as the intermediate kit. I used the latter for detail work on my Christmas cards last week (start in August–note to self).

    This said, I am so thankful for your review. Frankly, from the mere sight of the half pans, they looked as though they’d behave poorly. Same is true for Artify and Koi sets. The greatest, most affordable set was any from Amazon’s Jerry Q line. Frankly, I think for the task at hand, they performed, mixed, and blended impressive colors, and their palettes are marvelous for future self-made plein air kits.

    All of this said, thank you (and Bekki–you’re both outstanding in the test market DW arena) for your hard work and thoughtful efforts on our behalf. My local art store, Guiry’s, is having a fairly decent sale through 12/24, and I purchased 6 tubes of 5 ml Qor tubes yesterday, and the tin palette is spectacular for mixing, as they’re 2 separate pieces, one piece with a dozen or so recessed round divots for tiny blends.

    While there, I also purchased the 12 half pan set of the “wrapped” Van Gogh National Gallery watercolor pocket box, with decent blend brush and excellent palette for travel and mixing. Removing the wrap, I instantly see that the paints are not artist quality, but will suffice for small, fun projects. Albeit, my perpetual pet peeve was present in the set: a white AND a black half pan! Infuriating!

    Once more, thanks ever so much to you for your research and thoughtful review. It’s heartwarming (and a nice savings) that pro’s such as you and Bekki provide such excellent information, and a potential for some pocket change in not purchasing inferior paints. Have a lovely Christmas, Jessica!

    Fanna Turano
    Denver, CO

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 4 years ago

      Hi Fanna, thanks for saying these nice things. I’ve been to a Guiry’s! I grew up in the Denver area. I asked my family to take me there when I was visiting. What a nice and big store it was!

  41. Maggie Valera 3 years ago

    The good news, I found your site and this review. The bad news? I found this *after* I purchased this set. And yes, I will keep the case and refill with better paint.

  42. Kate Panthera 1 year ago

    I too had thought about buying this item, not for the paints, but for the palette. Who knew that even cheap paints could be so bad?

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