Cassie Talks Watercolor Palettes + Bonus Tutorial on Filling Your Palette

Updated: September 24, 2018

I am feeling super inspired today by some of the wonderful comments you guys have been leaving on my Instagram for the October Business Challenge hosted by the Rising Tide Society. My biggest takeaway from this challenge is realizing how many of you feel defeated by the fact that you either don’t have a degree, or your degree is completely unrelated to your creative passion!

I only took a handful of art classes in college, and I LOVED them. I didn’t major in art though…know why? I didn’t feel like I was good enough. I knew a few art majors, and their work was incredible, and I fell down the comparison rabbit hole. So here’s a major shout out to my fellow makers that don’t have an art degree, because, truth bomb:

You don’t need an art degree to be an artist. You just need inspiration, drive, and a big ol’ dose of passion for what you are creating.

You feel me, friends? If you’re ready to take the next step towards becoming a self-taught watercolor artist like me, you’ve come to the right place! Today, I talk about palettes and have a fun little tutorial for you on filling up your watercolor palette with tubes the, “right way.” Yes, there’s a right way…who knew?

If you haven’t picked up your paints yet, check out my free supply PDF to see my favorite paint colors!

Palette Selection

Alright, I am a total palette hoarder, and I have palettes of every shape, size, and material.

Currently, I use plastic for both my at-home palette and my travel palette. Both of my palettes are from Amazon, and I LOVE them. You can see the exact ones I use in my free supply PDF!

I also use a cute little travel palette for plein-air painting from Redwood Willow (I love supporting other makers!), and it’s the perfect size. This is the palette I am using in my tutorial below.

Sidebar: It’s worth mentioning that I also like to mix colors on ceramic or porcelain when I am in the studio. I have a variety of porcelain and ceramic dishes, but my favorites are flower dishes and deviled egg trays (weird, but it gives you a ton of mixing spots and it’s super budget-friendly!).

Filling a Watercolor Palette Tutorial

Supplies Needed

  • Palette with Wells or Pans

  • Tubes of Watercolor Paint

  • Toothpicks (or BBQ sticks if you’re like me and didn’t have any toothpicks)

  • Blank Sticker (Optional)

Step 1: Arranging Colors

I like to stay organized, so I lay out my tubes of paint in the order that I want them to be in my palette. I highly recommend ordering them ROYGBIV style, as this helps keep the warm (red, orange, yellow, yellow green) and cool (blue green, blue, violet) colors together. I’ll save color theory for a later post, but the main reason for this is mixing warm colors near cool colors can make your colors look muddy.

Step 2: Filling Your Pans or Wells

Start squeezing paint into wells or pans! My palette came with some half pans, but I purchased more here (if you read last week’s post, you know I’m a paint fiend).

Important tips for this step:

  • If you have a particularly large well or are filling pans to the brim, I recommend only filling them halfway right now. This allows them to completely dry.

  • Keep the tubes next to their corresponding pans or wells here, so you know which ones are which.

  • If your paint comes out a little runny or doesn’t reach the sides of the pan/well, you can use your toothpick (or BBQ stick) to mix it around and push it to the sides. This helps prevent it from cracking and/or falling out later.

Step 3: Let Your Paint Dry

Let your paint dry for at least 24 hours! Using wet paint fresh out of the tube is so wasteful. You end up grabbing way more paint with your brush than you actually need. I know you are ready to paint NOW, but this step saves you serious $$$ by letting your tubes last much longer. I paint every day, and a full well/pan can last me up to six months!

I stuck my little pans on the windowsill to help them dry, but any sunny spot in your home works. Just make sure to keep it away from pets or curious little hands…I’m sure my doggos would love to eat some fresh paint.

Step 4: Label Your Palette (Optional)

Once your paint is fully dry, it is time to finish up your palette! Note: if you only filled them halfway, repeat steps two and three one more time.

If you have half pans like me, now is the time to arrange them inside your palette in ROYGBIV order. Note: I am putting pans in the center of this palette, to squeeze in as much paint as possible. The best way to do this is by attaching a little stick-on magnet at the bottom if your palette is metal, so that they don’t fall out. I picked up a roll of sticky magnets at Home Depot for a couple of dollars.

At this point, I like to write the names of the paints in the order I have put them in on a sticker. Since I have a lot of paint, this just gives me a super quick reference. Don’t put the sticker in any valuable mixing space! I put mine on top of one of the sides (as shown below).

Step 5: Paint Away!

TIME TO PAINT! I know you’re super excited.

If you’re following my weekly watercolor series, I would LOVE to see your palettes and paintings. Feel free to tag me on Instagram or use my hashtag #cassiecreative in your posts!

Next week you will be getting the lowdown on choosing the right paper, so stay tuned!

Note: This post contains a few affiliate links, meaning I get paid a teeny portion of your sale should you choose to purchase. :)

Cassie Carpenito

Gold Copy Co., Raleigh, NC 27615

Cassie is a watercolor artist and illustrator based in Raleigh, NC. She is currently available for projects and commissions.