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Of all the paints in the paint world, watercolor reigns supreme for its flexibility and portability. You can always buy a ready-to-go watercolor set, but a better option for more serious painters would be to purchase an empty covered palette. You can fill these with your own pigments to create custom palettes, and they’re ready to carry along with you for whenever inspiration strikes—and double as storage. When it comes to covered palettes, features run the gamut, from built-in water containers to thumb rings so you can comfortably balance the palette in one hand as you paint. Browse our selection to find out which is the best for your needs and painting style.
Schmincke Empty Watercolor Tins and Pans
These metal tins with spring-loaded holders for paint pans are compact, sturdy, and and easy to clean. The design is basic, but offers adequate space to store and mix colors. Create your own customized paint set by filling the pans with your favorite tube watercolors or with Schmincke’s pan paints in your choice of colors. The pans lock into the tin to keep your paints from moving around or rattling, and the outer lid snaps securely shut and opens flat to reveal roomy mixing wells. An interior lid, with a row of smaller mixing wells covers the pans completely as a further guard against potential leakage. Choose from tins holding 12, 24, or 48 half pans (or 6, 12, or 24 full pans). Note that pans for these palettes must be purchased separately.
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Yasutomo Folding Watercolor Palette
Priced at under $10, this is a no-frills palette that does the job. The plastic design unfolds into three sections to reveal 18 wells for paints, two mixing areas that are large enough to keep colors clean, and space to hold brushes, plus a thumb hole. We like that it lays totally flat when open and is super-slim, measuring about one half-inch in depth. Though it is made of plastic, paints don’t bead up on it as they would on lower-quality plastic palettes. Buy an extra and load it with different range of colors or leave it empty and use it for mixing.
A GREAT ALTERNATIVE
Guerrilla Painter Backpacker Covered Palette Tray
Those who like to use butcher trays for watercolor painting might consider taking this covered palette tray on the road. It features a single big area for laying out colors and mixing and a tight-fitting lid that can be used as an additional mixing area. Made of high-impact white polystyrene, it is lighter than an enamel butcher tray while still offering the same unrestricted work area. It is available in two sizes: 6 x 8 inches and 9 x 12 inches.
TOP OF THE LINE
Holbein Aluminum Folding Watercolor Palettes
While the most expensive on our list, Holbein’s palette is also the most durable. The tin has a hard-wearing and attractive enamel finish that is designed to withstand the routine knocks of a traveling painter. It’s simple yet effective, featuring slanted wells that can be used for storing or mixing, and four larger mixing wells. Choose from 13, 26, or 30 wells. Lightweight and compact, the palette also features a thumb slot for comfortable holding. The lid snaps shut and stays shut.
Portable Painter Watercolor Palette
This palette is small enough to fit into your pocket but expands to present an impressive setup. The only other option on our list that holds paint pans, it features 12 half pans that sit beneath a fold-out tray with 10 mixing wells, plus a lid with three larger mixing wells. The protective case that holds all of pulls apart to form two good-sized water containers that hang off the side of the palette—and they feature built-in brush holders to boot. The entire contraption is made of durable plastic to withstand daily knocks, and the pans don’t move about as you commute, thanks to adhesives on their base. The palette also comes with a double-ended synthetic watercolor brush—just add paper and a bottle of water and you’re set to go.