Of palettes, paint and refills.

Sticking to the theme of maintaining a watercolor/travel palette, I created the video above. The watercolor box you will see in the video was originally a Cotman Watercolor Compact Set set, that I reclaimed, replacing their palette with colors I know and love.

Cotman is Winsor  Newtons’s student grade paint set. Empty travel palettes can be quite pricey, so purchasing a student grade set can be a good entry level start to maintaining your own groupings of color, and the paints in them are decent, so you might choose to stick with these paints while you journey into painting with watercolor. Once those paints are used, you can begin purchasing tubes of paint to refill your half pans or pans, or, like me, you might purchase a cheapo palette of student grade paints and replace each half pan with professional grade watercolor paints that you already know and love.

To remove the student grade paint, I took each half pan, dipped it in water for just a moment and allowed the cake to soften some. When the cake appeared softer, I dug down into the side of the cake, between the plastic and the cake and pried the pigment cake out. I set those cakes aside and allowed them to dry (I just gave them to a budding young artist). Once I cleaned each half pan, I refilled them with my favorite M. Graham watercolor paints from tubes.

13 thoughts on “Of palettes, paint and refills.

  1. The design of the Windsor Newton paint palette always reminds me of a formal English garden or a neat old house. 😉 I watched some of the videos at M. Graham – fun! I thought the job of checking the paint color against other brands would be fun! Hope your weekend was wonderful. xoxo


  2. I have a question about your M Graham paints. I recently taught a kid’s art class and I had them use Prang watercolors so everyone would be on the same palette page. I noticed that the paints were shiney in their paint boxes….and they also dried shiney when some of the kids used a heavily loaded brush with an equally heavy hand.

    I inherited a bunch (62 tubes) of Dutch artist quality watercolors….and I’m getting low on some of my favorites and I see M. Graham has similar colors…with a much lower price. I also happen to know that Prang and MG use a similar formula for binding the pigments.

    If I were to be heavy handed with M Graham watercolor on paper would it dry shiney like the Prang paints did? My local art store carries M. G and I would very much make it my go-to brand…with no shine!

    Love your new book…..Dotti


    1. Dotti, I have not noticed any shiny sheen in using the M. Graham watercolor paints. I do know what you are talking about though.
      If you were to use M. Graham paint in a ‘heavy handed’ manner, it might leave a shine. But I can’t confirm or deny this would be the case, I don’t work this way and I have not had an experience that would support the theory. M. Graham paints do use honey in their formula, so in theory, it could shine if used heavily, but again, I don’t use the paint in this manner so I am just postulating.
      I used to use Pelikan 24 color goauche, and that paint would sometimes shine, when I was loose and free with it. I think this set is in competition with the Prang brand offerings. Prang is a low end paint, its carriers are nothing to write home about. Both the Prang and the Pelikan sets are decent entry level, knock around boxes of paint, at an affordable price point, if you are unsure of your commitment to maintaining a watercolor practice. I put the Pelikan paints to the test for a good 10 years and found them to be a decent paint with good color retention, but to be honest, the Pelikan paints were also a bit of a bull in a china shop. They had no finesse.
      Since deciding to use professional grade M. Graham, and I also have some Daniel Smith watercolors, I have not looked back, the colors I am able to mix using these new paints are amazing, my results are satisfying. My pages are vibrant.


  3. Hi, Melanie….I love M. Graham paints (made in Oregon) but here in the Pacific NW they never seem to totally dry in my palette. Is there a secret you have to keeping them from being runny in a travel palette? TIA, Carol C.


    1. Carol,
      I have been known to put my refreshed watercolor box on the radiator for several days (though in the summertime this does not work as well), and right now the box I refreshed for the above video is sitting in our sunniest window and will do so for the week.
      I do think this has something to do with the palette you use, I use half pans, which are small and enclosed by their very nature, I work modestly and do no FLOOD each well at the beginning of my work day, I might drip a single drop into each well and keep an eye on it, rewetting as necassary.
      A friend has one of the plastic palettes whose wells are flat and wide, she tried M. Graham in that palette and thought the paints moved too much. Because my paints don’t move and seem to dry well in the half pans, I deduce that it is better to have the small enclosed palettes with this paint.


      1. My Winsor Newton Cotman (reclaimed with M. Graham watercolor) palette is hard plastic, well built. It fits the purpose and I have come to like it. I have a metal box, I will post about that next. I definitely think M. Graham paints dry well in half pan or ‘tight conditions’.


  4. After I wrote that comment I also wrote M.Graham. I got an email almost immediately from Diana Graham saying that is sort of the trade-off between having paints that rewet so well. She suggested that some people have found the paints don’t move as much in metal palettes, so that’s my next thing to try. I think my metal palette has full pans, but it seems as though the principal might be the same as the half pans (and I WAS using one of those cheap plastic palettes with shallow pans). Thanks, Melly, for your response.


  5. I set those cakes aside and allowed them to dry (I just gave them to a budding young artist). Once I cleaned each half pan, I refilled them with my favorite M. Graham watercolor paints from tubes.


    1. Hi Stephanie,

      We sell all M. Graham paints at our 2 stores in Western Washington. We are just starting a new website called http://www.grahampaintonline.com . We are selling only Graham paint there as it is our best selling paint! I still have not worked out the shipping deal, there will be FREE shipping for a certain amount…but if I can help you in the meantime with paint, we ship anywhere…you can reach me by email at derekart@earthlink.net or at the shop at (360) 779-2337. Look forward to talking with you….Derek http://www.artistsedge.com


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: