Every now and again, a curated palette goes viral in the watercolor community. The Scratchmade Journal palette for Da Vinci Paint Co. sold out within 48 hours, and has enjoyed steady sales ever since its November release. Tonya Lee, the creative mind behind the NC- based Scratchmade Journal blog, maintains a loyal following of nature painters and journalers; but the appeal of her custom palette goes far beyond nature journaling. Let’s pop the lid on this 18 color collection and explore her colorful world.
My Scratchmade Da Vinci pan set arrived well protected in a sturdy cardboard box with brown paper wadding. The palette itself was wrapped in a black Da Vinci shopping tote, and housed in a gloss gray Da Vinci paper box with a die cut Scratchmade Journal sticker affixed to the top. Da Vinci also included a full-color brochure with photo swatches and complete transparency, lightfastness, and series numbers for their entire watercolor line. Gift wrapping for the palette is available at a nominal cost.
The Scratchmade Journal (SJ) palette is housed in a high quality 7 x 22 cm European style tin ($30 empty on the DV website). The matte gray exterior with the Da Vinci Logo opens to reveal four large white enameled mixing sections in the lid and a custom glossy color chart on card stock originally painted out by Tonya.
A second removable leaf unfolds with five additional smaller mixing sections. Both leaves are perfectly level when open: a drop of water will not run off. The body, lid, and mixing leaf all have rolled edges. Fully opened, the palette measures 8 x 8.5” and is about the same depth as an Altoids tin.
The removable interior paint tray utilizes a metal clip system to hold six “master mixer” colors in full pans on the top row and an additional 12 colors in half pans on the bottom row. A single piece of shrinkwrap plastic protects the jewel-like pans during shipment. It’s mind boggling to think these perfect pours were done by hand. Thank you, Kelly!
The area between the pans will accommodate a full sized brush, water brush, additional standard half pans, or 5 ml paint tubes. The narrow channels on either side of the paint tray leave sufficient space for slim full sized paint brushes as well.
Tabs on both ends of the lift-out tray allow easy removal of the paint tray, and reveal an additional mixing area with three medium and four small wells is molded into the bottom of the tin.
A large flip-up wire loop on the bottom exterior of the tin can be worn like a ring to assist with balance if you prefer to hold the tin. My thumb fits into the ring comfortably, but I normally slide the ring on my middle finger when holding the tin in the palm of my hand. This is my second Da Vinci tin, and they are by far the highest quality palette boxes I own.
Da Vinci paints are well-balanced, predictable performers with high pigmentation and excellent transparency. A truly intuitive paint, they have a low learning curve and make a good choice for beginners. If you live in North America, they represent an excellent value as well. The Scratchmade Da Vinci Pan Set includes several premium series 4 and 5 colors. Because the Da Vinci paints have been reviewed and featured many times on Doodlewash, I’ll simply include a couple of tips that I feel maximize this exceptional brand.
- Although Da Vinci pan paints rewet to full color at the touch of a brush, they perform better when pre-wet with a spray bottle or dropper.
- Wet Da Vinci pans can be “cleaned” with my favorite method. Lift out the paint tray, hold it vertically, and press a rag against the bottom edge of the muddied pan(s). Spray lightly with water. The top microlayer of pigment will run off into the rag, leaving the color clean and bright. Return the tray to the tin.
Let’s take a look at the colors in the Scratchmade Da Vinci pan set. Tonya Lee preaches and practices mixing color, and this palette contains her favorite mixers. Notice the selection of transparent, semi-transparent, and even an opaque pigment or two. Some of the colors stain. Others granulate. Some sit demurely in a wet wash while others shoot across the page like a four year old.
Unlike most 18 color palettes, you won’t find 18 different colors, but rather collections of blue, green, and violet pigments with a limited selection of red, yellow, and earth pigments. No orange, gray, or black is included in the set.
The end result is a palette that can mix virtually any color, but still produces work with harmony and interest.
The top row of the palette is 6 full pans that form an independent mixing set. Tonya ditched the classic split complementary in favor of a primary/secondary setup.
The primaries are Sesame-street worthy Da Vinci yellow (Py 154), Da Vinci Red (PR 254) and Ultramarine Blue, GS (PB29). They mix predictably to form true secondary orange, purple and green. Tertiary colors like teal, leaf green, and indian yellow also mix easily with these three colors.
The secondaries are not immediately recognizable as such. The violet is the soft Red Rose Deep (PV19) that replaces the stronger Permanent Rose commonly found in mixing sets. Earthy Burnt Sienna Deep (PR 101) takes the place of orange, and Pthalo Green (PG7), a powerhouse mixer, replaces a true kelly green. Combined with the primaries, they create rich complex colors suitable for a wide range of subject matter.
A whole array of neutrals can also be mixed from the full pans in the Scratchmade Da Vinci pan set. I left the neutrals in the photo below transparent so you can distinguish their color.
- Burnt Sienna Deep and Ultramarine Blue mix to create multiple temperatures and hues of brown, gray, and black.
- Phthalo Green and Da Vinci Red mix an inky black that can even be used for lettering and graphic elements on a page.
- Phthalo Green and Burnt Sienna deep create a range of moody greens and rich red browns.
- A cool gray is possible with Red Rose Deep and Phthalo Green, but I found that mix tricky. For sultry purples and deep greens, the RRD and PG mix is hard to beat, though.
- Dozens of additional two-color neutral mixes are possible when the half pan colors are added to the mix. See my Instagram feed, @RPageNH for nearly a hundred more neutral mixes.
The bottom row of 12 half pans in the SJ palette fall in the yellow, brown, violet, blue, and green families. They provide added color and texture to the main mixing palette, or can be used on their own. Most of the half pan colors will be new to beginning painters and welcome additions for those who enjoy pigments.
In the two months I spent painting with the Scratchmade Journal palette, I didn’t find a color I couldn’t mix with just two of the paints. A couple of my staple three color mixes were also possible with colors already included in the palette. I was also able to customize my palette by popping a couple of my everyday colors into the center of the color tray in half pans.
Backed by the quality of the Da Vinci company, it’s no wonder the Scratchmade palette is flying off shelves. The best part for most of us? The premium “SJ” palette currently sells for $79 US, the price of most 12 half pan artist sets in plastic boxes.
How about you? Have you tried Da Vinci paints, or maybe even the Scratchmade Da Vinci Pan Set? Talk to me in the comments!
Da Vinci Paint Co. provided the Scratchmade Da Vinci pan set to me free of charge for use in creating my review. I was not paid for this review, nor will I receive any future compensation from sales of the SJ palette, though this post contains affiliate links which help support our Doodlewash community.Recommended4 recommendationsPublished in
I’m a science and math educator who has been creating since childhood. I picked up watercolor four years ago and have been on a grand exploration discovering its playful and enigmatic personality. Follow my adventure on Instagram!