REVIEW: Scratchmade Da Vinci Pan Set

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.

The Packaging

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.

Scratchmade Da Vinci Pan Set Interior View

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.

Scratchmade Da Vinci Pan Set removable example

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.

The Paint

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.

The Palette

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.

Scratchmade Da Vinci Pan Set Example Swatches

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.

If you’d like to learn more about Tonya, you can read her artist feature here on Doodlewash or visit her blog over at!

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.   

Congrats to Beth in Virginia! The winner of our Scratchmade Da Vinci Pan Set Giveaway!

Recommended4 recommendationsPublished in Art Supply Reviews

63 thoughts on “REVIEW: Scratchmade Da Vinci Pan Set

  1. Thank you so much for this wonderful review! I really enjoyed seeing the mixing charts and how you used the colors. I hope your post and examples inspire others to play in paint, because it certainly does me! Headed off to paint… 🙂

    1. This palette had enough familiar faces and new friends that it really challenged me. I’ve always avoided violet oxide/caput mortem in the past, but that color in particular won me over. I also LOVED the rose red in place of permanent rose.

      1. Glad you found some new favorites. Yeah, I greatly prefer RRD softness while enjoying its clear and bright properties similar to a conventional Quin Rose. And that Violet Oxide… the granulation and depth make landscapes sing! Love!

    2. I know this post is several years old, but it’s still relevant today. In fact, this excellent article and the mixes you produced with this lovely palette confirmed my decision to get this one. I too especially love the Violet Oxide. It has such intriguing depth and nuance! Thank you for providing the perfect review on a truly wonderful palette.

      1. Hi, Karen. So glad the review helped you and really happy that you’re enjoying my palette colors! I agree that the Violet Oxide is wonderful and I use it all the time. Even though the article is old, this is still my daily palette. I don’t know what I’d do without these colors! Please reach out with any questions & thanks for your kind comment.

  2. I first tried DaVinci with a couple of the Doodlewashed artist trios. I also picked three out I wanted to try for my own trio (mine is opera/pink phthalo turquoise, and DaVinci yellow). I also have the Scratchmade set. I love the DaVinci paints. They re-wet easily and are creamy, dreamy, and nicely pigmented to use. I can see why you say they are a good choice for beginners – they handle very politely with really nice manners. They layer beautifully and delicately. And getting into pro-level watercolors for DaVinci’s price is not only practical, but amazing and awesome. The colors I have used don’t have a ton of texture of themselves which lends to how nice and properly polite they work and how well they work together. (If you live for a lot of texture in your watercolors – ie you are married to Daniel Smith’s Primatek line – then these aren’t as chaotic and “interesting” to use for you)… but if you want to dab a wet brush and flow – these are for you! Try a Trio – you won’t be disappointed. 😀

    1. Nice to hear from a DaVinci fan!
      Tonya has placed a few colors with stunning granulation in this set. Violet oxide and Cerulean were especially fun to play with, but even the Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna offered a fair amount.

    2. Hi, Penny. I love the fun brights in your own personal Trio set! Thanks for sharing those. And I really hope you’re enjoying the palette. Your description of Da Vinci watercolors is spot on… they are very well-mannered paints, but as Bekki mentioned, they have their surprises! Tip: Mix Ultra GS with Violet Oxide for a dark that’s filled with tons of interest, maybe not to the level of Primatek’s chaotic qualities but pretty darn nifty. 🙂 Enjoy & happy painting!

  3. So well written that even though I convinced myself that I couldn’t justify the purchase back in November (since I have a tube of most of the colors, or their comparables already) I’m once again sorely tempted to make an exception! Plus, who wouldn’t want to support such a great artist and wonderful person! 🙂 Bonus, never thought of that pan-cleaning method, definitely trying that the next time I need to refresh a color.

  4. Oh, yes! It’s fun working with another artist’s palette choices, especially when the whole set-up is grab & go. I kept popping over to Tonya’s blog and Insta for ideas, too. A couple of other painters on Instagram are using the palette in inspiring ways. I’ll see if we can get a hashtag set up for this palette.

  5. I would love to be able to find this post again to re-read it. Does that mean I’m a slow learner? Maybe so, but at least I’ve learned how to deal with it. 😀

  6. Did anyone else hear when I squeeled with delight over the Davinci tote bag😍🤩😍. These colors look heavenly and I love this whole article. I’ve re-read it couple times. Loving the paint swatches. Haven’t had a chance to try Davinci watercolors but they look amazing. 🤗

  7. You made me laugh, because I was pretty smitten with the shopper tote, too. The paints are great to work with. The sampler dot pack is the only a few dollars, and would give you a chance to play with a wide range of their colors. Not all of the Scratchmade colors are on the dot see, but several are. Hope you entered the giveaway!

    1. Yes I entered. Came back to read the article again and the comments. Love the details everyone is providing on the Davinci paints. Being new to watercolor and only at it about a year, I love these types of articles and your swatch pictures are heavenly! Big fan of Doodlewash and now your page. Still learning and finding my way when it comes to each brand as well as each color of paint and it’s characteristics. D finitely will try out a swatch card. Thank you

  8. Thank you Bekki for the great review. I really like how you did the color chart and mixing. And I love that extra room in the palette, giving you 3 sections once you lift out the paints. I’ve used Da Vinci tube paints for quite a few years but have never tried any in the pans. I might just give them a try, especially since the price on these is VERY tempting!

    1. Thanks, Sharon. After rewetting, tube and pan paints are nearly identical with DaVinci paint. Considering the tin alone is a $30 value, $2/half pan and $4/full pan is a great value. The color selection is a lot of fun if you enjoy swatching and playing with color like I do. 🙂🎨🖌️

  9. I’ve been a fan of SMJ for a while. Love her art and generosity in sharing info. Thank you for this review. Looks like a great set to save up for.

    1. I agree–DaVinci paints were the first artist paints I saved up for. I purchased their original mixing tin a few years ago, and have refilled most of the pans several times over. I like that Tonya added some fun and interesting paints into the SJ palette in addition to the mixing heavyweights.

  10. Just got around to reading this awesome review. Thank you for covering every angle. I’ve been playing with DV paints for a while but after trying the colors in this palette I decided to go DV exclusively. No more searching. This is it. I realize artists never stop trying different paints but it’s really good to know that I have a super dependable go to core set. I❤️DV

  11. What an excellent review! I have read Tonya’s blog for sometime but never tried the DaVinci paints so of course I hope to win. But whether I do or not, I will most certainly come back here! I’m always looking for a good blog that inspires me to paint more and paint better.

    1. As someone who owns both DaVinci sets, I can assure you, they get a LOT of use. The Scratchmade palette takes the edge for me because I like having both the PR101 burnt sienna deep and the Phthalo green in my full pan mixers, and really like the large assortment of interesting colors in the bottom row.

  12. Thank you, Becki, for another informative, interesting, and fun to read review. Scratchmade and Doodlewash are two of the best places to learn and connect with others. Love them both…so how could I resist this palette? Guess what….I didn’t! LOL Ordered and on its way. I have a lot of WN, DS tubes, a Prima Watercolor Confection, and a nice Sennelier tin set….but …can a girl have TOO much paint?? I think not.

  13. I’m coming back to watercolors and can’t wait to try something new. Love the granulation in some and color mixtures. I would love to win this as I am retired and can’t afford to spend so help me win.

  14. I bought this palette right after it was introduced. I am VERY new to watercolors, but love everything that Tonya does and knew I could trust her color choices. I just recently made a color mixing chart using this palette. It was a lot of fun seeing what interesting colors I get when I mix two different paints. Thank you for this great giveaway!

  15. Ooh! These colors look gorgeous, and I am in love with the tin! I definitely have an amazing watercolor tin obsession, and I haven’t found the perfect one yet. Thank you so much for your fantastic, detailed review. I may have found the tin of my dreams. AND it includes gorgeous paint I actually want to try! Hopefully I’m lucky enough to win!

    1. Oh my, Johanna. I think you are TRULY an artist because ALL artists have watercolor tin obsessions! lol! Of course I love the paints and the palette, but the DV tin is the best tin on market. Bekki nailed it with her review. Extremely heavy duty and in a gorgeous gray. I’ve removed the insert and attached my 18-color palette using all full pans. That way, I never run out of paint and it works for large brushes. If you order it, let me know what you think! Best wishes & happy painting – Tonya

  16. Seeing this gorgeous set of watercolors has my mouth watering. I might have to start dabbling in watercolors after all. I have absolutely NO experience but I think, being what I consider of average or possibly “average-plus”, I might be able to learn to do something worth looking at. Possibly. In any event, I could just play around and paint splotches and adore the colors and the feel of the brush in my hand. Yes, I think I like that idea! Now, if only I had won…waah. So I guess I will have to break open the piggie bank, right? Sigh. Now where did I put my hammer??

  17. awe man… I just got my SCRATCHMADE Palette over the weekend and came on to check reviews/mix swatches and realized mine didn’t come with a black tote bag!? so sad about that.. LOL but am sooooo excited to start swatching and playing and painting.. watercolor love!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  18. Thank you for sharing! I recently have picked up watercoloring and am starting to explore with nicer (squirrel synthetic) brushes and paints. I bought a cheap set of tube paint and while it was better than what I had, I was so disappointed with its lack of vibrancy (everything had a shade of brown) and they REFUSED to mix. So long pink, and hello milky red! So my search has lead me to da Vinci. I’m stuck between getting the scrathmade or the wandering water colorist pallets, and this definitely helped so thank you! I just ordered their 24 sample kit, so who knows, I may end up creating my own pallet!

    1. Hey there, Klay. I’m so glad Bekki’s review helped you jump into the world of professional paints. 🙂 I think you’ll find Da Vinci watercolors a huge upgrade from the ones that you were using. Their sample dot pack was the first watercolors that I tried from DV, and although I’ve tested and painted with a lot of professional watercolor brands in the past, I was hooked on DV from that first sample kit. Have fun with the colors & happy painting!

Leave Me A Comment!

%d bloggers like this: