Variety of empty candy, tea, card tins with watercolor half and full pans

DOODLEWASH REVIEW: Homemade Travel Palettes

This post reviews homemade travel palettes.  I hope that they help you generate ideas for your own travel setup. People come up with ingenious things!

Make your own out of an empty Altoids, or other tins.  Besides empty watercolor pans, people use things like Fimo or Sculpey clay, and empty gum blister packaging to house the paint. I’ve seen people use upside down Legos, and circular lids to water bottles as pans. Eye shadow  or other make-up containers can also be used by popping the make-up out.

Okay, lot of tins going on here. The lion playing card tin came from Walmart, found in the kids section. I was able to get quite a few full pans and a Da Vinci travel brush in it, more travel brushes would fit on top of the pans.  The Celestial Seasonings Tea tins I’ve had for a long time. The small blue tins were from Amazon, and also good to store dip pen or calligraphy nibs.  Small and large Altoids are sold at many retailers. The small Altoids tin has a small piece of sea sponge next to the pans, and a watercolor mixing swatch cut to fit into the lid.  The sea sponge would be good to put texture into a small painting.

Variety of empty candy, tea, card tins with watercolor half and full pans

Fourteen half pans or seven full pans fit in the Celestial Seasonings tins.

Celestial Seasonings tea tins with 14 empty watercolor half pans
Celestial Seasonings Tins

Altoids Tin will fit fourteen half pans, seven full pans or a combo of both.  A couple of Da Vinci Travel Brushes also fit on top of the pans. There is also room for a piece of sponge.  I would spray paint the inside of this tin- see below.

Altoids watercolor palette with filled watercolor pans and Da Vinci travel brushes

White acrylic spray paint and empty blue tin

These are the items I used to make the travel tins. The lion card tin had tape around it because the lid is not hinged. That left it sticky, so I used the Goo Gone to get that off.  I also use it to get price tag and sticker stickiness off of paint brush handles. The flat enamel spray paint was less than $1 at Walmart. I spray painted the inside of one of the small blue tins and a small Altoids tin.  This way the inside mixing area can be used without it rusting, and get good color representation.  The other tins look to already have a coating of paint, so I didn’t spray them.  I put a small amount of rubber cement on the bottom of the pans to secure them in. Rubber cement is a removable adhesive, inexpensive, easy to use, and works fine.  Many people use small magnets that they adhere to the bottom of the pans.  Double sided tape might also work, or Loctite adhesive putty.

Goo Gone, white latex spray paint, Elmer's ribber cement, black Sharpie pen, empty watercolor half pans

The black Sharpie is used to write the brand (DS- Daniel Smith) and name of paint on the side of the pans.  This can also be written on the bottom, but I like it on the sides. I label all my pans. If I would have known I would be showing photos of these, I would have written neater ;).  See this post for a tip on filling pans.

Watercolor full pans inside of a card tin with brand and paint name written on the side with a Sharpie

See the Metal Travel Palettes post for where to buy empty watercolor half or full pans.  (I wrote this prior to that one posting, so if that link didn’t work, click on Reviews to find it.) Guest Doodlewasher Laurie Moorhead has a couple of examples of palettes she’s put together in her post.

I would like the share what Guest Doodlewasher Marion Younan told me about her experience with these homemade palettes- “I have a homemade mint tin, one that routinely gets blown off tables.”  These type of tins are light, so be aware of their vulnerability.

The photo below is from guest Doodlewasher Yukari Bromfield.  These are examples of palettes she’s created.  Visit her blog to see how she created her palettes and additional helpful supply information.  Look at her awesome painting of the Altoids tin!  She used Sculpey to make the inside the Altoids tin, click link for baking instructions.

Altoids travel tin with Sculpey clay inside and other homemade watercolour palettes

If making a palette is not your style, but you still want one, you can buy one similar to whats been shown from The Pocket Painter on Etsy, they also sell empty watercolor pans.

The set-up below shows a small Niji Waterbrush, and a Hobonichi Techo planner.  This might seem like a strange thing to sketch in. It is filled with Tomoe River paper, which is the most amazing paper.  If you are a fountain pen enthusiast, you’ve probably heard of this paper.  It is extremely thin paper, but oddly pleasing to paint on. Thank you to Yukari Bromfield for introducing me to this paper!  Above, she’s painting on the same paper.  In the picture below, the palette on the right can be seen in the Metal Travel Palettes post.

Urban sketching with hobonicho Techo, Ninji water brush, Altoids tin and Schmincke travel palette

I’m off sketching for two weeks and will do my best to respond to comments when I return. Wishing you a lot of enjoyment with your own sketching!

Hobonichi Techo, Pilot Prera fountian pen, Altoids watercolor palette tin, ninji water brush
Hobonichi Techo, Niji Waterbrush, Pilot Prera Fountian Pen, Altoids Tin



Recommended3 recommendationsPublished in Art Supply Reviews

39 thoughts on “DOODLEWASH REVIEW: Homemade Travel Palettes

    1. Hi Sharon, thank you so much! I’m glad that you are finding these posts helpful! I enjoy doing them and interacting with everyone through the comments 🙂

  1. While travel painting is not my thing, I read your column because it is always thorough and informative. I pass it along to a number of my watercolor friends. Enjoy you away time.

    1. Hi Lance and thank you for your comment. I was just peeking at your bio on your blog, which is vast with experience and interesting. I recently incorporated a new color into my palette after doing an online class with Marc Taro Holmes- Holbein cobalt violet light. I think it was the most expensive tube of paint I’ve ever purchased! I found the Holbein to be a preferable pigment over the other brands (WN, DS). I enjoyed using it on the trip I just went on, and I look forward to incorporating it into more paintings.

        1. Hi Ann, I prefer DS, except for the color I mentioned above, and maybe a one or two others. But for the price, Holbein is such a great deal for a set- $25 for 12 5 ml. tubes, all of their tube sets are very reasonably priced. Holbein is the first full set that I started out with. I have an appreciation for Japanese art supplies. Single tubes are only sold in the larger size like DS, and comparably priced. Holbein also comes in pans.

    1. Hi Teresa :), so happy that these are helpful to you! I was just reading your bio on your blog. You seem to do a lot of travel and a little kit would be perfect for you! YAY! You have lived an interesting life! 🙂

    1. Ooo, I like that little jewelry box that you found! I would use one of those! Thanks for sharing, and keep up the great watercolors 🙂

  2. Thank you so much for all of these wonderful ideas, Jessica! The idea of making my own palette has been a little outside my comfort zone for a while, but these tips make it seem less intimidating. Will definitely come back to this when the time comes for some crafting!

    1. HI Annie, I’m glad things seem less intimidating now! Do you have any friends that maybe you could swap filled pans with colors the other might not have? I’ve thought about doing this to help save a little money for everyone. I’d love to hear about what you end up doing with your palette 🙂

  3. Such great info, and the crafter side of me loves the Fimo/Sculpey idea! I also enjoy upcycling/recycling whenever possible, and the money saved on making a travel palette can be spent on quality paints, papers, and brushes. Thanks for another great post!

    1. Hi Carol 🙂 I was so happy that Yukari had made the Fimo/Sculpey palette. I bought some Fimo to try, but when I saw her pic, I felt some relief in not having to construct it right away ;). I’d love to see what you come up with!

  4. This is a lovely post Jessica full of great tips I personally use sometimes the tins I find around it is also fun because there are some pretty cute tins! Loved the post and I am curious about the Techno Planner and the Tomoe river paper! Thanks for all the beautiful details and time you put into your reviews! <3 😉 Have great time sketching! Carolina

    1. Hi Carolina and thank you for your comment! I like the organic flow and style of the jewelry that you make. Hehehe, I always have my eye out for cute tins too! I was going to go the Bullet Journal route in a Leuchtturm 1917, until I tried the Hobonichi planner. It didn’t take long for me to get hooked 🙂

      1. Thank you Jessica is very nice to hear from you! I love your reviews lots of great tips and suggestion for my doodlewashes 😉 the Hobonichi plan sounds great and I am curious about how the thin paper works it seems great! And I am happy to know that you like my jewelry yay!<3 🙂 it is inspired by nature and created in limited edition, made only with natural gemstones and other elements found in nature. I love to express my creativity with different mediums. Thank you I am looking forward to your next post 😉

        1. Let me know if you end up with one of the planners! At first I thought this is really weird, and then I wanted to paint in it all of the time. I also use fountain pen ink to paint with, and that works great too. There is a woman on Instagram (just found you on there 🙂 ) that makes the most wonderful paintings in hers, but I can’t remember her name. If I find it, I’ll pass it along. I’ve since purchased a writing journal with the paper from Nanami Paper. My friend & fellow Doodlewasher Yukari sent me a sample of the paper to try before I purchased anything. I’m happy to send you a few sheets to try. Message me at and I’ll pop some sheets in the mail to you 🙂

          1. That’s really nice of you Jessica I appreciate your kindness! I would love to try the paper and yes I will email you! 😉 thank you so much for your offer. Yesterday I just ordered a new Pentel Prera Fountain Pen so that would be perfect! Yukari does very good job with it I have seen her work when you posted her link. I know that everything made in Japan about papers and pens is great so sure worth to try! Thank you again and I will send you an email! <3

  5. Very resourceful and creative. So much useful info here. I’ve never thought of making paint bins with Sculpey but what a great idea. Do you squeeze paint from tubes and let it dry? If so, have you found certain paint brands to work better than others?

    1. Hi Sharon. I’m glad you found this useful. After you bake the Sculpey, you can squirt the paint in from tubes and let it dry, just like with watercolor pans. Some paints dry more slowly than others, like M. Graham, because of the honey. Brands that don’t contain honey will dry more quickly and will be a little harder once dry, like Holbein or Daniel Smith. I have M. Graham in a travel palette, but I gave it a lot of time to harden before I took it anywhere. I live in Southern Arizona, so this didn’t take that long, but I can’t remember exactly how long. The dry time depends on the claimant where you live. Let me know if you end up making one!

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