New 3D Printed Watercolor Travel Palette Insert

Thanks to the help of Steve Wilson, a retired engineer who has a 3D printer, I was able to put together this nifty new watercolor travel palette. Steve designed this insert with 15 roomy compartments. He has listed his inserts on FB Marketplace here. A 1.76 oz Altoid tin will barely hold 15 half pans, if you fit them in snugly. This insert fits easily into the tin and will lift out just as easily with the two “handles” at the center of the insert. He designed the compartments in this insert extra deep (twice the depth of a half pan), per my request, and I think each generous compartment holds close to the volume of paint that would fit in a whole pan. This means I can take my new travel palette on trips and paint away without running out of paint.

The insert is light and durable. I was curious to see how much it would stain from the pigments, but as I used a damp Q-tip to clean up the top edges of the containers as I filled them with paint, there was no apparent staining. Even if it does end up staining to some degree, that is not an issue in my mind. The purpose of the container is to hold paint. Any stain left behind by a previously used pigment will not effect the replacement pigment. The mixing area is where staining becomes an issue.

I filled this insert with landscape painting in mind, using some pigments similar to those used by British landscape painter, Martin Goode, plus some favorites of my own.

  • Winsor Yellow
  • Raw Sienna
  • Quinacridone Coral
  • Quinacridone Burnt Orange
  • Red Iron Oxide
  • Alizarine Crimson
  • Green Apatite
  • Sap Green
  • Olive Green
  • Indigo
  • Payne’s Gray
  • Quinacridone Violet
  • Ultramarine Blue
  • Cobalt Blue
  • Cerulean Blue

Besides spraying the inside of the tin and lids with enamel paint to make the mixing area white, I sprayed the outside of the tin black. I like the look, but am not sure how well the black paint will wear with use. Time will tell, but it looks nice for now.

You can see in the photo that there is an extra lid taken from a second Altoid tin attached to the bottom of this tin. It is also painted white inside and fits snugly on the tin while carrying, but can be removed and used for extra mixing space. I use tiny clips to hold the extra lid onto the tin.


I am thinking of filling another insert with a palette of colors for painting flowers. If you would like to try one of these inserts, PM Steve Wilson  through his FB page or check out the listing for the inserts on FB Marketplace.

Happy sketching!


24 thoughts on “New 3D Printed Watercolor Travel Palette Insert

  1. There is a picture in this post that has some half pans sitting in front of the 3D insert, for comparison. You can see that the half pans are about half the depth of the compartments in the insert. Whole pans are approximately twice as long as half pans, so hold double the volume of paint. It appears that the compartments in this insert will hold about the same amount of paint as a whole pan would.


  2. Such a good idea! Does it leak? Do you have to keep it upright? I do a lot of travelling and would love to take my paints with me but I wouldn’t be able to keep them upright.


  3. I used tube paints to fill the wells in the insert. It works on the same principle as filled half pans. You let the pan sit and dry for a day or two, and the paint becomes solid. At that point you can toss the closed tin into your sketch bag and take it anywhere without the paints leaking out. When you are ready to paint, just spray the paints with a mister and then you can touch the paint with a moist brush to pick up pigment. There are certain brands, such as M. Graham that use greater than normal amounts of honey in their paint recipe to keep the paints moist and easy to use. Those are less solidified when dry and may do some leaking. You may want to stay with brands like Winsor Newton, Daniel Smith, etc. These inserts are reasonably priced, I think. I am excited to give my new palette a try on my next trip.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Fay, I did contact Steve Wilson and he very kindly sent me the same insert VERY promptly for $15 including shipping.
    I am thrilled. Right now I have interrupted that process in order to go and paint the lids with white enamel as suggested. I have been using an Altoids tin with half pans that I purchased on Amazon (25 cents each) and it’s NOT bad. But I could not get as much paint in and I very much like the way these pans lift in and out. I wonder do you put anything under them like stick tac in order to make sure they don’t slide out while you are moving them around? I like the idea of removing a lid from another tin for an extra mixing tray. GREAT hint. Thanks so much. I almost hate to post this on the sketch groups FB group or he’ll get inundated. And as you mention he may not be really into wanting to make dozens. Perhaps we should kind of keep this under our blog hats? What do you think? I may mention it on MY blog but I am not followed by 325,000 people like some of the FB groups are!


  5. Ginny, so excited for you! These sections hold quite a bit of paint. More than a half pan for sure. Yes, I did put a little stick tack under the insert to keep it from rattling. I found out after I spray painted the inside of the tin white, that the white paint stains from mixing the watercolor paints. I ended up repainting the inside lids with white acrylic, which hasn’t stained. But that added enough thickness to make it harder to get the lids open. In other palettes I have just used white card stock covered with clear packaging tape, which works great. You might wait to post on the sketch groups until you communicate with Steve to find out what he would prefer. He was very nice about my order, but I am not sure how many he really wants to make. I would ask him for sure. I am sure you will enjoy your new palette! Happy sketching!


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