‘Homemade’ paint box, can hold 140 full pans!… and a new color swatching journal! (5/19/2018)

You know I’m always looking for ways to organize my paints. I saw this idea on youtube HERE, on In Liquid Color’s channel, and she had gotten the idea from Arleebean’s channel. It seemed like a great inexpensive way to organize a lot of paints, some of which I never use because they aren’t in pans, or aren’t accessible. I got 95 pans into mine, and have room for ten more, using two layers… I prefer using full pans, but if I were smart I’d switch to half pans and double my capacity. I also have a third layer I may add… yes, this 8″x8″x2″ box can hold 140 full pans the way I have it set up!! (or 280, if I were smart enough to use half pans. But I prefer full sized pans)

Step by step:

I purchased a slim wooden 8″x8″ box from Michaels, for under $5, and an $8 can of white enamel spray paint, discounted to $2! I taped the hardware and the edges of the box, then sprayed several layers of white inside. (I also used this can to spray inside multiple tiny tins, creating a white enamel surface for mixing colors. I made a REALLY ADORABLE teensy travel palette this way, which I will show you in another post!)

I was going to stain and polyurethane the outside, maybe draw a fancy design on it, and then decided just to spray paint it. I taped anywhere I didn’t want sprayed. I ended up roughing up the edges a bit, too, when it was all finished, but don’t have a photo of that. I was going to purchase an 8×8″ magnetic vent cover from Amazon (under $5), but then remembered these business card sized magnets… not as pretty… but free. Making them PRETTIER.  Each pan has a tiny thin magnet applied as well. This way, I can use them in my small metal tins as desired.

The bottom of the box will hold paint, the top can be used as a makeshift easel space, or a mixing area, or to hold the swatch cards. This will sit right on my workspace… no excuse not to paint, right???

That bright orange makes me smile.

I arranged all of my Daniel Smith, M Graham, and Winsor & Newton colors in the bottom. Next I sprayed (white) the inside of both top and bottom of a slim tin I found that happens to fit inside the box. Ta-da! Second layer. Fits perfectly. And in went QoR paints.

I have kept my Schmincke in their original tin because it is simply amazing. And haven’t included a few other brands that frankly I don’t like as well, but I may do a third layer for those. For a total of 140 possible full pans. (or 280 half pans)

Next I swatched all of the paints in order, including opacity and lifting tests. [side note: you can see the QoR set FAILED lifting miserably. I tried lifting a horizontal stripe towards the bottom of those samples. The other sheet I lifted vertically. I still love these with all my heart… but I am starting to see why traditional watercolorists don’t always embrace them. They do some things wonderfully… I think the more illustrative styles work great with them. But they don’t lift well, and even salt reacts strangely with them, I’m finding! (I’m starting an intensive swatch book with all of my colors. It’s eye opening!! I’ll give you a quick peek further on)] In time I will create a movable swatch storage, so I can adjust as the palette grows, or changes, but these pages are fine for now.

On the swatch card, you can see the Daniel Smith paints at the top, the section bordered by red, M Grahams in the bottom left corner, bordered by green, and my least favorite, Winsor & Newton bordered by blue in the bottom right (but hey, maybe having them so accessible I’ll start using them and fall in love, right??) I don’t mind that I have repeats of some colors over multiple brands… comparing those is how I’m learning which brands suit my needs most.

I will likely add my Sennelier and White Nights to the third layer.

I figured I can remove any number of paints I want to use at any given time, 3, 6, 12, etc, and put them into any of my smaller tins, for easily edited working palettes, or I can work right out of this box.

Here’s a quick shot of my first color swatch pages. I got the swatching ideas mostly from youtube “Sadie Saves the Day”   and “In Liquid Color” .


I list pigment number, manufacturer, and color name… below that, lightfast ratings, staining, opacity, and granulation information, an empty box (because there’s always something else, isn’t there??). Below that, a stripe for a dark swatch “mass tone”, then a stripe to see the dispersion, a larger area to make a gradated wash, and to observe opacity, lift, and glazing qualities. Then a final strip to test the paint with salt or other effects.

I haven’t completed these pages yet, and I forgot to put my black stripe on the page on the left and had to add it afterwards. but you get the idea… the left page is QoR, the right is Daniel Smith, the same two pigments. Amazing how different they look and act! I have observed plenty of swatching videos, but doing it myself is really giving me a feel for each paint.

Originally I thought I’d keep each brand in a section together. But after I finished two pages of QoR paints, I saw that it might be more useful to do similar colors from all brands together. This swatching thing will take me a long time. Let me know if you’d like to see other colors I end up swatching (I hope to do them ALL), or maybe specifics you’d like to see compared. Also, check out both of those youtube channels for some very helpful swatching and comparison video series, and a color showdown series by Oto Kano there on youtube as well. (Can you tell how I’ve spent my free time this week? I’ve watched a lot of youtube.)

What do you think of my paint box, and my swatch journal? What do you use? Do you have suggestions? Let us know in the comments!


2 thoughts on “‘Homemade’ paint box, can hold 140 full pans!… and a new color swatching journal! (5/19/2018)

  1. The box is a clever way to store lots of pans of paints! I think the colour swatch book is a good idea too. I’m currently learning about colour theory and have realized that I need a simple system of cataloging the properties of my watercolours for easy reference…

    Liked by 1 person

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