Color Spree

Color Spree
My favorite color is "all of them." What's yours?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Blick Folding Palette Box

Sometimes, incredibly useful tools are also loony cheap. I've tried a variety of palettes over the years. One of my favorites is the Blick Folding Palette Box. It comes in two sizes, 8" x 8" open and 10 3/4" x 11 3/4" approx. Both of them have plenty of small slant wells.

The white plastic is sturdy and easily cleaned. I'm not sure why, but some plastic palettes and mixing trays seem to resist stains better than others. Blick uses the best type of heavy white plastic for resisting stains. In the photo, you can see mine in use full of paint that I'll review in another article, since there's two brands in the palette together. I've used all five large mixing areas often including with such all time staining favorites as Pthalo Blue and Alizarin Crimson.

I had no problem cleaning the mixing areas back to pure white even after using staining colors. Sometimes a little residual color was left after initial washing, but pressing firmly with a damp tissue always scrubs the last of it out. That matters a lot when I'm mixing colors. I don't want the apparent hue altered by the color of a stain in the mixing area -- if I'm building a delicate cool pink, a pthalo blue stain could push me to make it way too warm or make it look like mud.

I like the 8" x 8" size for its portability. I love stuff that's small and easy to carry, since I like to be able to work anywhere I want in the house or bring supplies outdoors in good weather. The Blick Folding Palette Box also snaps shut firmly and stays clamped shut. A problem I've had with some similar folding boxes is that the plastic tongue or clip that holds it shut breaks off. In a year and a half of very heavy use, this one's never broken.

A narrow handled watercolor brush can be put inside, but if it's too wide the folding palette box won't close. However, there are three small holes next to the thumb hole to store brushes vertically while it's open. Both those and the thumb hold are very handy if you like holding everything in one hand while working with the other. All you'd need is a hanging water bucket on your easel and you're good.

The large Blick Folding Palette Box is $5.43 with 24 small slant wells and five big mixing areas. It also has a brush compartment across the length of the top tray, so that might be a better choice if you want to store a brush or two in it with your watercolors. Also eight of the slants are on the top tray.

The small Blick Folding Palette Box is $3.58. It's got 20 small slants and five mixing areas. That's the one I find the most convenient for the way I use mine. At this price, I'd like to have more than one set up with different specialty palettes.

Using tube watercolors is often a lot less expensive than half pans, whether student or artist grade. Some of the good artist grade watercolors come in quite large tubes. If you prefer working from pans as I do for their cleanliness and convenience, one or more of these inexpensive folding palettes can solve the problem. Just choose the colors you want to load it with, fill the small slant wells with colors and let them dry in the palette.

I wash out my mixing areas sometimes, other times I'll leave a mixture available to reactivate and use again. But if I want a fresh start I really like having a palette that comes clean even if I let a wash dry in it months ago. I use such a variety of mediums that any art supply or product I use has to be able to stand up to being stored and left alone for weeks or months, sometimes even years if I don't have the space to set up for the medium.

I'm happy to say this palette performs as well as many more expensive palettes and with a lot more convenience. The plastic is much thicker than the covered table style palette I bought years ago. I'm less worried about it cracking if something heavy is piled on top of it or if it's banged around in a bag with other supplies. At this price I could easily replace it if anything happened to it, but I haven't had to.

So be kind to your wallet and your watercolors. The more convenient they are, the more likely you'll paint often and get better at painting!

Below, if you're curious, is the painting that I posed in my photo of the palette. I usually put in an artwork done with the product I'm reviewing, but in this case it wouldn't look any different from a watercolor painting done with a different palette. So I just chose it to give scale -- you saw my Moleskine journal in a previous review and this 8" x 8" palette folds to stack perfectly on the 5" x 8 1/2" Moleskine with an inch or so to spare. It's about 4" wide when closed. What you'd save by purchasing a good, inexpensive palette could get you another color of paint or make the difference to let you afford a great travel journal like the Moleskine.

Near-Black Callas, Calla Series #4
5" x 6"
Daniel Smith watercolors
Moleskine watercolor journal
Photo reference by Faafil from

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for doing this review! I bought a cheap folding palette from Hobby Lobby and it stains easily.