The Best Watercolor Palettes For Travel And Studio Use
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While watercolor paper and brushes are absolute essentials to any watercolorists studio, one underrated item that many beginning (and even professional) artists don’t put enough importance on is the palette.
The best watercolor palettes will not only make it easier for you to mix your colors, but a quality palette will also allow you to pull out different hues to your colors that you might have never thought possible before.
Why does this matter?
Well a quality watercolor palette can not only create a much more dynamic range of colors, but it can really help you to develop an incredible atmosphere in your piece that will quickly elevate your work.
Not only will have greater control over your artwork, but you will also be much more organized and efficient as a artist.
Therefore, we wanted to put together this list of some watercolor palettes we have either personally tested or found that other watercolorists find them to be quite valuable as well.
Comparing The Best Watercolor Palettes
If you want more of an apples-to-apples comparison between all the palettes, check out our table below that compares key details:
|Name||Price||# Of Mixing Wells||Material|
|Portable Painter Watercolor Palette||$$$||13||Plastic|
|Darice 20-Well Palette||$||20||Plastic|
|MEEDEN Watercolor Tin Palette||$$||24||Aluminum + Plastic|
|Martin Mijello Watercolor Palette||$||18||Plastic|
|Martin Mijello 24-Well Watercolor Palette||$$||24||Plastic|
|Pro Art Folding Palette||$||24||Plastic|
|John Pike Watercolor Palette||$$$||20||Plastic|
|Color Around Aluminum Watercolor Palette||$$$||65||Aluminum|
|Rigger Art Watercolor Palette||$$||33||Plastic|
|Jack Richeson Porcelain Palette||$$||22||Porcelain|
Best Watercolor Palettes Reviewed
Below is our reviews of the best watercolor palettes to help improve workflow and organization:
There is no other palette like this one by Portable Painter on the market.
Seriously, one look at this thing and you will think ‘why don’t all palettes have these features?!’
First and foremost, the size, at a 5.5” x 3” x 1.2” dimension, you can easily (and cleanly) store this palette into your purse or backpack with absolute ease.
But once open, you truly see the beautiful design aesthetics come through.
Housed within a black case, the watercolor palette sides out and can store up to 12 half pans of paint along with 3 larger slanted mixing areas along 10 other smaller mixing wells.
The slanted design will allow you to not only pull out the perfect hue for your piece, but get accurate color reproduction when painting a seaside landscape or cityscape…
…but that’s not even the best part of this palette:
The outer black storage case can be converted into a stand for the palette by attaching to either side.
Furthermore, those stands can be filled with water so you can fully employ the double bath system in order to thoroughly clean out your brushes.
The sheer convenience of this feature is underrated and will quickly make this palette one of your most beloved art supplies.
The palette itself does come with a few extra brushes as well, which make it an extremely nice set for beginners.
But be careful:
Take this palette to your art class once, and you may have some others looking at it in envy!
- Perfect for plein air painting
- Two water reservoirs for cleaning
- Includes additional brushes
- Compact size
- Not as good for studio work
One of the more popular palettes on this list is this offering by Darice. At a rather large 13” x 10” size, while not likely suitable for plein air watercolors, it will become the perfect fixture for your studio.
What watercolorists loved about this palette was the large design.
Instead of just having wells that you might squeeze your watercolor tubes into, the design of this palette offers plenty of trays for mixing.
Not only will you see the 4 large circular wells for pigment with a heavy water composition, but the flat and slanted square wells are also perfectly designed.
The slanted wells help you to pull out additional color from the mixed pigment. Therefore, if you are working on a botanical scene or even a portrait, this slanted design allows you to easily apply shades that otherwise wouldn’t be possible with a flat surface.
Contrary to that, if you do need an evenly hued mixture of paint, the 4 flat squares will be perfect for this.
But beyond the mixing area, the 20 additional wells ensure that your pigment remains pure and orderly so you will have nothing but the best results every single time you go to paint.
Overall, this watercolor palette is among the best and affordable for all level of watercolorists reading.
- Versatile mixing areas
- Several wells for organization
- Great studio palette
- Plastic design
- Not suitable for plein air
Versatility is key with this tin palette by MEEDEN.
Unlike plastic palettes that offer no customization, this palette comes with endless customization options – 15 to be exact!
This not only allows you to pick up a palette exactly to your liking, but if you find yourself relying on different color profiles when painting plein air vs studio, then you will definitely want to take a look at this palette.
Whether you buy your own individual pans or tubes, the half or full-sized pans available with this kit will work for you.
While an organized pan set can prevent you from dirtying your colors, the 10 smaller mixing areas or 4 larger squares allow you to easily mix your colors.
The smooth metallic surface will not only withstand the test of time, but it will also be extremely durable and not susceptible to cracking or chipping like a plastic palette.
Lastly, the design of this tin has a center compartment for easy storage of your full-sized paint brush. The 8.4” length (21.5 cm), will easily fit most of your round, flat, spotter, and rigger watercolor brushes.
Wash brushes will likely have to be carried separately.
- Extremely versatile
- Tin body will last a lifetime
- Perfect for plein air and studio work
- Brush storage
- Metal susceptible to bending/denting
This airtight and leak proof watercolor palette by Martin Mijello is absolutely perfect for plein air watercoloring.
The small and compact design not only will keep your watercolors organized, but it will also prevent them from leaking out when you are carrying them in your backpack or purse.
For watercolorists who like to go on a weekend hike or simply paint on their lunch break, double this palette up with a watercolor sketchbook and you are golden.
While this palette doesn’t have a rigid pan design, it will be more apt for those watercolorists that like to use watercolor tubes instead.
The slanted wells allow for you to pull out the hues while also not wasting too much pigment.
Unlike some of the other larger palettes included in this list, the Martin Mijello watercolor palette is perfect for smaller scale paintings.
Lastly, the removal clear plastic insert that seals your paint separately can be taken out to be used as a mixing area as well.
This plastic insert coupled with the two primary mixing area should give you plenty of real estate to work with when working on your next piece.
- Perfect for plein air and travel
- Airtight design
- Slim body structure
- Not compatible with half pans
- May be a bit limiting for studio work
While the above offering we just covered by Martin Mijello was a bit better suited for plein air and travel, this 24-well palette is perfect for studio painting.
With a larger number of wells, this palette is perfect not only for bigger pieces, but also for professional watercolorists that like to depend on several pigments when painting their piece.
While this palette is slightly larger (3 inches longer and 5 inches wider), it does offer the same airtight designed.
This airtight design, while probably not practical for studio work, it does make it great for those watercolorists that may attend an art class on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.
The travel-friendly nature should not only keep all your pigment contained within the wells, but also allow you to be a bit more organized as an artist.
Overall this is a terrific palette that should easily grow with you as time.
So, if you are a beginner or even intermediate artist wondering if you will have to replace it as you become more of a professional, fret not, the Martin Mijello 24-well palette is a pretty compelling offering.
- Great for all levels
- Affordable design
- 24 Wells for easy organization
- Airtight enclosure
- Larger than most
Coming in three sizes (small, medium, and large), the Pro Art Folding Palette is great for watercolorists who both need plenty of wells (24 wells in the larger version we reviewed) and mixing areas (5 in the large version), but also who find their preferred method of painting is standing.
There is no denying the benefits of standing while working, and with this palette you are able to do just that.
The comfortable thumb hole found on the side of this palette allows you to focus on your mixing and painting rather than trying to fumble with the palette.
Secondly, you may notice when looking at this palette that there are 5 holes for brush storage, making it even easier to have all your supplies easily within hands reach while watercoloring.
It’s important to note though for the professional watercolorists reading, the wells within this palette aren’t slanted. Therefore, if you are trying to draw out different colors within your mixtures you will want to skip on this offering.
Overall though, for beginners, this larger palette makes it easy for you to select colors and mix when just starting out and exploring the world of watercolors.
- Thumbhole for standing while painting
- Brush storage perfect for plein air painting
- Beginners palette
- Great for other mediums
- Wells aren’t slanted
One of the trademark designs of a quality watercolor palette is how the water and pigment react when they are being mixed on a surface.
Watercolor palettes made of plastic have a tendency to bead up when water is added to the surface.
However, the injection-mold design of the John Pike Watercolor Palette prevents this from happening.
A reliable, yet minimalist designed palette features not only 20 paint wells, but an oversized mixing area for you to play with your pigments.
This not only gives you total freedom you might not otherwise experience with smaller palettes, but also allows you to create a dynamic range of colors.
The 10.5” x 15” size of this palette is perfect for studios and transportation to and from an art class.
While it doesn’t have a handle on the side, the top lid of the palette will provide an airtight seal around the wells to prevent any leakage.
This palette is great for the minimalists reading that want to have some organization in their workflow without restriction of undersized mixing areas.
- Airtight storage
- Oversized mixing area
- Minimalist design
- Mixing areas aren’t segregated
- Studio use and light travel only
One of the largest watercolor palettes that we reviewed was this 65-well offering by Color Around.
While offered in several smaller sizes (13, 20, 26, 30, 35, and 39), this palette is clad in an aluminum body.
What does this mean?
In short, weight.
With a lighter metal frame, you are able to easily transport this palette with you should you need to take it outside of your studio for a weekly art class. However, given its size (13.78” x 5.91” x 0.87”), you will want to make sure you bring a backpack with you!
The slanted wells will be a welcomed feature by professional watercolorists looking to pull additional color.
Regarding the mixing area, while the thumbhole is great, it does take up precious real estate for the mixing. Instead of 3 large square areas, you are now limited to only two.
Like other palettes mentioned, the mixing process on this palette from Color Around shouldn’t bead up. This not only will help you achieve more consistent results, but also help for an efficient workflow.
While an expensive palette option on this list, if you are a professional watercolorist looking for ample well space, then you definitely need to take a look at this offering by Color Around.
- Up to 65 wells
- Professional watercolor palette
- Lightweight aluminum design
- Limited mixing areas
- Not beginner friendly
This 33 well palette by Rigger Art is not only perfect for professional watercolorists that like to use a wide array of colors, but also for those artists who like to paint en plein air.
The thumbhole accompanied by the 5 holes for easy brush access will make this perfect for those painting outside the four walls of their studios (or who may want to simply stand up at home).
While standing and watercoloring isn’t typical, the palette does at least give you a bit of flexibility should you decide on using the naturally thicker acrylic or oil based paints as well.
Regarding mixing, the 5 mixing areas are oversized making it easier to get accurate colors while mixing all without having incident contact with other mixed paints.
Very similar to the Pro Art Folding Palette, the Rigger Art seen here does have both a slightly larger well and size advantage.
While good for travel, this palette by Pro Art will be favored by watercolorists who have their own studio with plenty space that can accommodate the rather large 10.2” x 10.2” footprint.
- Perfect for painting while standing
- Great for other mediums
- Lightweight design
- Not as beginner friendly
Unlike all the other palettes featured on this list that are either a plastic or metal derivative, this palette by Jack Richeson is actually made of porcelain.
But why porcelain?
While not particularly suited for plein air paintings, this material is great for studio work.
When using watercolors not only will you have a great surface for mixing colors (i.e. won’t bead up), porcelain is also great for cleaning.
Oftentimes plastic palettes will have a porous surface.
While the porous surface is great for mixing on those types of palettes, it becomes difficult to clean as you will not only have to scrub harder with a sponge, but it may also leave pigment remnants trapped as well.
When you go to remix your watercolors on the plastic surface at a later time, those trapped pigments may come free and alter the color of your painting – not good.
Well a porcelain palette like this one won’t exhibit this same issue.
Secondly, the porcelain material is extremely versatile. Therefore, if you plan on switching between watercolor, acrylics, gouache, or oil, then you won’t have to worry about owning multiple palettes.
As far as wells, this one by Jack Richeson comes with 22 in total. Making it great for both beginners and professionals alike.
The cover also included with this palette can be used for either storage of the paint or as an additional mixing surface.
If you like to paint once every couple of days, the rewetting of your watercolors with this palette shouldn’t be an issue.
While this palette does have a slightly pricier price tag, if used solely in your studio, it’s well worth the cost.
- Easy to clean
- Accurate colors when mixing
- Minimalist design
- Not travel friendly