Perfect Watercolor Palettes for Home and Travel . . .


I LOVE palettes and am always in search of the perfect palette solution (for me anyway). I work with watercolor at home in my greenhouse studio, and also when I am out traveling . . . even if I am going only as far as my own garden. This post is about my current perfect palettes . . .

Shown above is the glass palette I made for myself.

There was nothing like it in the world, so I had to create it, using a special kiln glass which produces no air bubbles.

I wanted a LOT.

I wanted a palette that:

Fit easily on my desktop and was a reasonable size (this is 10″ x 10″).

Did not stain and could be easily cleaned.

Did not have a cover to deal with.

Held a LOT of colors.

Had wells that were large enough for a blob of paint and small area for diluting the paint into a wash.

Was heavy enough to sit solid when I swirled around in there with a brush.

Had some texture to hold the paint in the wells.

And . . . I wanted to be able to see through it! Yes, I wanted to be able to set it over my painting-in-progress and test how a color or color mix looked in place.

I am just plain thrilled with my solution. I could not love it more.

You see it above sitting on a lazy susan base with a foam surface so it does not slip when turned. I also made a color chart from the same template I used to create the guide for carving the wells into the glass.

In this photo, the palette is removed from the lazy susan and sits on its own clear rubber “feet”, so it can sit over a painting without harming it.


The lazy susan means you have close access to all sides of the palette by turning it. I cover it at night with a white foam sheet cut to size. The cover can also sit under the palette for times when you want to mix against a white background. And it is washable if wet paint gets on its underside.

I feel like I did when I created Sheer Heaven for my own use – like I would love to be able to offer this palette to other artists. I am doing cost and time studies to see if that would be possible. I would need a larger kiln, but that might be necessary for my gallery work anyway.

I know of some folks who custom make palettes for watercolor artists and are very successful. One, in England, charges $400 for his brass box palettes and can’t keep up with demand, Another designs and manufactures huge round plastic palettes which spin, but they are way too big for my working space. That company does well too.

I also know of a couple ( who make cakes of watercolor by hand and must announce when they are going to stock their Etsy shop because their handmade stock sells out in two hours or less.

So, there is a market for ultra-fine, handmade art supplies, and it might be worth exploring. Hand-making opens up  the possibility for customization and I could offer smaller sizes, or choices between how many colors and how many mixing areas. My current palette holds 49 colors and has 2 mixing areas.

Anyway, that’s all in the musing stages until the new gallery location is up and running, but do let me know if you would be interested. (They would not be $400 – grin).

So, what about the perfect travel palette?

I recently made a California road trip and wanted to bring as many colors as I possibly could in my journaling kit.

I was unhappy with all of my previous travel palettes. They were too big, and the colors fell out of the half pans when the box was tipped, etc. I could tape them all as in this blog post (

But what if there was no room to fall out in the first place?

And what if the whole thing was smaller than my Stillman & Birn sketchbook, and less than 1/2 inch thick?

And what if it could hold 60 colors?

Here it is:


Let me say that whether you use the colored pencils or give them away, it is worth the price of buying a 12 pencil set by Prismacolor just to get the box. They are different than other colored pencil boxes because the bottom is flat all over, which is not the case with some.

I attached adhesive magnet material to the bottoms of 60 hall pans and they fit in there perfectly. The magnetic material is the stuff they sell at office supply stores to put on the back of business cards.

You can have fewer pans, of course, because they do not slide around. You could leave out one row and carry your brushes in there too.

But I am a color junkie, so I pack my brushes separately, and stuff all the color in there that I can. It took me four days to decide which colors to include!! I still have an empty spot to fill when I discover something I’m missing. I can also move the half pans around easily.


The really great thing is that when I put my color chart on top of the paint inside the tin, the cover fits snug and there is no room for any palette fall-out.

You can spray the inside of the cover with white enamel and have a great mixing area. I haven’t gotten around to that yet, but I will.

I LOVE sketching and painting with watercolor, but I sometimes wonder if I have just as much fun inventing tools for using it?





  1. The travel palette is beautiful. That would make a good everyday palette too. Thank you for sharing it. I love your other palette creation too but am not sure if I would use it. I will keep watching in case you do decide to make it to sell. Thank you!

  2. Jessica, where do you get your half pans from? I order from Amazon and they come from England. I don’t always want to wait that long. I also get them when I can from a local art store, but they are not always in stock there. Thanks, Nancy

  3. Wow.
    I rarely use water color and I might still need a glass palette.
    Custom – I know I need it.

  4. Nancy K – I get my empty half pans from Dick Blick online.
    Hi Yogi – I think Peerless are easy to travel with, but they are not watercolors in any sense except they dissolve with water. They are dyes and are not lightfast in many cases. Also they do not rewet or mix into a milk consistency wash. Even though these other water soluble choices exist (like watercolor pencils too), what I am talking about is real watercolor paint when making these palettes..

  5. Thank you Jessica, I did not think to check Dick Blick until after I posted. Cheap Joe’s has them too. I will most likely order from Dick Blick.

  6. Hi Jessica, I have been out of touch for awhile due to techie problems, the death of all my favorite things. Now I’m all Apple and in the learning process. Just read your post on the glass art box which sounds great. I’d love to see it! Perhaps in the fall you might have time or a painting workshop available for show and tell? Count me in, standing by. Also, would enjoy seeing you again❤️ Donna. 5918 Bixby Village Drive #110, Long Beach, CA. 90803. 310 977 2419 c. 562 343 1724

  7. If you ever decided to sell this , I would be interested. You probably remember the nature area at State Park. I’ve gone in there with water colors and sketched the trees. I love reading your posts.

  8. I love the Nature Area at State Park, Anne. Didn’t know you were into watercolor. It has always been my favorite. This is World Watercolor Month – did you know?

  9. I would absolutely be interested in a custom palette if you ever do get around to it 🙂

  10. I love the travel palette. Everything is always very interesting.

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