My New Watercolor Travel Set

This tiny handmade watercolor travel set is absolutely one of the cutest things I have ever owned! For a long time I have coveted the small handmade watercolor sets and have spent hours browsing through the tutorials on how to make them. I have acquired various tin boxes with the intent of making one for myself. But none of the boxes seemed quite right for what I wanted. I already had a Winsor Newton travel set, which is great, but it is still pretty bulky for stashing in a purse. And I have a 24-pan Koi watercolor set, which is even bulkier. You need to be serious about setting up to sketch when using it. What I was looking for was something really small. Super tiny! Just big enough to tuck into a purse pocket with a water brush and a pencil. But something that would hold a good variety of colors. I know, I ask a lot.

Then the other day a friend unknowingly handed me the answer to my problem. She had done some sorting and had a bag full of things to give away, which included some fabric pieces and a few other miscellaneous items. While browsing through the bag’s contents I found a 3.5″x 1.75″ compact mirror set. It looked like just what I had been searching for! Serendipity!



There were mirrors in both the lid and the base, which I carefully removed using pliers and a screw driver, while holding the tin down in a garbage pail so no pieces of glass would fly off somewhere unknown. Safety glasses would also be a good idea, if you try this.


Because of the dimensions of the tin I knew I was not going to be able to use half pans. The shallow metal pans that are also available for watercolor sets would leave wasted space and not allow me to include many colors. I had to come up with another option for holding the paint. After several unsatisfactory experiments, I settled on cutting rectangular holes in mat board pieces which I cut to the dimensions of the tin. The tin would hold one layer of card stock ,”laminated” with clear packaging tape, for the base of the palette, and 3 layers of mat board to form the “pans.” So I measured off the mat board into 12 tiny sections and began carefully cutting each section out using a sharp snap-off knife. I snapped off to a new sharp section of blade after cutting each third hole. I left about an 1/8th of an inch of mat board around the outside edge and between the holes.


When the holes in the top layer were cut, I used it as a template to trace the holes onto the other two layers of mat board and cut them out the same way. After the holes were all cut out I lightly glued the mat board pieces together and let them dry. Then placed them on top of the laminated card stock layer and used a light coat of Mod Podge to cover the mat board sections. I added several layers of Mod Podge, letting each layer dry well before applying a new layer. I didn’t get pictures during the cutting or Mod Podge stages (sorry), but here are the materials I used.


When everything was completely dry, I fitted the tiny palette into the base of the tin. I cut another piece of card stock to fit in the lid of the tin for a mixing area, and “laminated” it with clear packing tape, then ran a ridge of Crafter’s glue around the edge to help keep water and paint on the mixing area.

Now the fun began! I chose 12 colors of artist quality tube paints (Winsor Newton and Daniel Smith) and filled the palette holes with them. Then I made a color chart to help me keep track of where the colors were placed. I love the result! This tiny palette will fit easily into a purse pocket to be taken anywhere, and it holds all the colors I should need to color my sketches on the go. This is truly a handmade watercolor set, and I am albso-tootin-lutely pleased!

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