Wednesday, June 24, 2015

How to Set-Up a Watercolor Travel Palette



The warmer days of Summer are here! We are heading outside to travel,  sketch and paint. 

Not a lot of information is available on how to
set up a watercolor palette... so I figured I'd share my thoughts, technique and paint choices. 


The palette I am shown is a Heritage Folding Palette with 18 wells. It is one of the nicest travel palettes I have seen in a while and a great price. The lid has a soft plastic seal, which keeps the palette from leaking and keeps your colors from drying out quickly. It comes with a removable clear plastic tray. I don't use the tray since the palette has an ample mixing area. 

(1) Before I use a palette I give it a light scrubbing with a mild abrasive such as baking soda or soft scrub. This takes the slick surface off the mixing area and removes any residues from the manufacturing. Be sure to thoroughly rinse off the palette…you don’t want this in your paint.


(3) Thumb indentation
(2) I fill the 18 wells with my favorite selection of paint. Don’t put tiny dabs of paint in the wells. FILL the wells! Tiny dabs of paint will eventually just fall out. Hold the tube over the deep end of the well then come back towards the shallow end while squeezing the tube.

(3) Let the palette sit open for a day or two (longer in damp climates). When the paint had set up and is no longer sticky I wet my thumb and push down in the center of each well. What this does is create an indentation for the water. When I get ready to paint I lightly mist the paint wells and I am ready to go.

Paint mixes and mingles on palette
Here you can see how nicely the paint mixes and mingles because the palette was prepared with a mild abrasive.

Air Travel 
I travel a lot to teach and paint. I never want to arrive and find my art supplies have gone else where without me! I ALWAYS take my palette in my carry on luggage along with my brushes. I don't bring paint tubes but instead fill my palette with fresh paint a few days before and let air dry so the paint becomes more solid. When I arrive at my destination I mist the paint with fresh water, put a small sponge inside and close overnight. The next day the paint are fresh and juicy again.  I haven't had a problem with airport security, yet.

Paint Color Choices
Here you can see how I lay out my paint. Some of the paint locations may not make sense to you but it does to me. All of my paints are Daniel Smith Artist Watercolors. Occasionally I will switch Italian Burnt Sienna for Transparent Red Oxide.

Next to the paint name you'll notice numbers beginning with "P". These numbers refer to the Index Code Name. Example: Nickel Azo Yellow PY150. The number refers to the pigment used to make the paint, not the order reference number.

Now...get out and sketch!

Brenda

26 comments:

  1. What is the clear piece supposed to be used for?

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    1. It's another mixing area for your paint, but like Brenda says, you probably won't need it.

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  2. Thanks so much! Your tips were very helpful! (I'm new at this.)

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  3. Great ideas here. I like what you said about carrying your brushes and palette in your carry-on.

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  4. I will be Flying to RX in July and will be putting your suggestions to good use! thanks...

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  5. I will be Flying to RX in July and will be putting your suggestions to good use! thanks...

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  6. Thank you Brenda for all the great tips, as I am hoping to paint en plein air more often, this info is very helpful

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  7. thank you brenda. i was using the little dabs so i wouldn't waste paint and your right...they just kept falling out and getting dropped. i already have this palette but didn't know to use the soft scrub. it really does help.

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  8. I love this, thank you! Especially the part about keepin them juicy & moist....Have a fun summer!

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  9. When you use the abrasive on the mixing area of the palette do you also rough up the wells so the paint will adhere to them better? And how about the clear plastic tray? I have one of these palettes and another one that has even more wells, 36 I think, that I want to use when traveling. What are some of the colors you would add in it? I see you have omitted some of my favorite Daniel Smith colors Pyrrol Red, Scarlet and Crimson as well as Transparent Pyrrol Orange, Goethite, Buff Titanium, Raw Umber, Green Apetite, and Cerulean Blue Chromium. I thought I had a pretty good selection of DS watercolors b

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    1. Glad to be of help. It's okay to clean the entire palette first...wells and all.
      The 18 colors are my favorites for studio or travel. I might add one or two over time but not 36. I find less color choices work better for me.

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  10. ut it looks like I will be doing some more shopping when I can afford it. Any suggestions about integrating any of these colors? Thank you for your most valuable article, I will be following you for future postings.

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    1. Can you be more specific about your question...integrating colors?

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  11. Thank you for the information about abrading the surface to make the paints stick better! However, I have a travel palette (Kremer Pigments small palette box) and a Schmincke 48 half-pan box, both of which have white enamel paint lining the metal surfaces. The paint beads up terribly on both and it drives me nuts... I'm afraid that abrading the paint would be an invitation to rust, so I'm nervous about risking it, especially considering how expensive they are. Is it safe to use soft-scrub on these, or will it be a problem - and if it is a problem, is there an alternative?

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    1. I use it on my very expensive brass and enamel palettes. Don't over do. Just a light scrub and you'll be fine.
      Happy sketching!

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  13. I am a big fan of your work. I paid more than the publisher's price to buy your first book after I already found your second book very helpful. When you place a sponge in your palette is it damp or dry?

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  14. I read a article under the same title some time ago, but this articles quality is much, much better. How you do this..
    cities

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  15. wonderful article. So helpful. Thanks

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