Making Your Own Pan Paints
I get asked about this, occasionally--and just recently on the free Strathmore class I'm teaching, so I thought I'd do a dual-duty post!
Some artists like to squeeze out fresh tube paints every time they work--I've always been sort of the frugal type, and prefer to re-wet my colors till they're all gone, whether in my studio--on my big beloved old John Pike Standard Palette!--or in my traveling watercolor boxes. I've re-wet paints that have been on that palette for 15 years, with no problem...
You can buy paint in pans, of course (though it's much easier to find half pans than full, no idea why) but it's a piece of cake to make your own. I love my old standby, Winsor & Newton.
It’s really easy to do, and have the colors you want in your paint box, as well as to refill them any time they get low...I believe it’s even a bit less expensive, too.
I was told by one company that their tube paints weren’t meant to be used this way, they weren’t formulated to re-wet as the commercial pan colors are, but I say “nonsense!” I’ve been doing it for 40 years...
DO spray or drip water on your pans of paint a bit before you're ready to work...it makes all the difference, as you can see below!
|Click to find this illustration here to see what a different spritzing a minute or two before you're ready to paint can MAKE in how rich your colors are. I list all the color names there...|
That said, some colors or brands DO re-wet more readily than others. Horadam Schmincke works well, as does Daniel Smith...but as I say, I’ve used Winsor & Newton for decades and they work beautifully for me. They're still my go-to brand for most colors.
(Lovely as M. Graham paints are, they tend NOT to set up well under some conditions, since they use honey as a binder. They may run or “drool” for you...)
So what's next...
If your palette box already has divisions, like the little one above, you just squeeze however much paint into each one that you want...fill them all the way, just put a dab, or fill halfway, it’s up to you. (If it’s a paint I use often, I tend to fill it up.)
You can also buy empty half or full pans, made of plastic. They’ll either fit directly into your palette divisions, as in some of the older style of metal watercolor boxes, or you can stick them down with rubber cement, so you can re-position them. Most palettes will allow you to use a combination of full and half pans, if you like...I use half pans for those colors I use less often, or that I want to experiment with before making permanent additions to my repertoire!
|This is my ancient Winsor & Newton dinosaur, being rehabbed now to remove the rust! I've used it for decades, and it's traveled all over the country. You can see it will take full or half pans held in place by bent metal strips.|
Finding Empty Pans
Daniel Smith has the empty plastic pans here: http://www.danielsmith.com/Item--i-050-050-001 (full pans) or here http://www.danielsmith.com/Item--i-285-240-003 (half pans)
Jerry’s Artarama has them: HERE
Kremer Pigments has them here:
Cheap Joe’s has them here: (full pans)
Or try your local art supply store!
(The most difficult thing is figuring out how they’re listed on the site! “Empty full pans” sounds weird...)
I've learned it may work best to start in the corners first and then fill the middle...and be aware, the paint will shrink as it dries. You may wish to fill partway, let it set up, then finish filling to minimize cracking. (If your paint pops out of the plastic pan, just re-wet the back of the mound of paint and press it back into place, or use a dot of gum arabic as "glue.")
Allow the paints to set up for at least 24 hours to several days, so they won’t travel when you take them out in the field.. Then when you’re ready to paint, simply spray or drip clean water on the pans for easily-lifted, intense color, as in the illustration above.
NOTE: I was able to find a few extra vintage watercolor boxes which I've put in my eBay store...check 'em out, they're FUN.
* If you'd like, take a peek at my Flickr set of watercolor boxes and palettes. Lots of ideas here, including my favorite Prang box re-hab, above! (I've refilled those pans 3-4 times since I shot those photos, and both my Prang palettes now have a few half pans for incidentals. They've traveled clear across country with me. I think using the same old metal palettes I had when I was a kid frees up something in my soul!)
And if you'd like to see a video on making your own palette boxes, it's here: