Modifying A Palette

12:34 PM

In my post about being a palette junkie, I mentioned that I modified my palettes and a number of folks inquired as to how I did that. As I started to write the post about modifying palettes, I came across a piece of info about the glue I use that gave me pause. I wrote to the company to get clarification. I'm going to go ahead with the post, but find it necessary to put in a caveat or two....

Modifying A Palette

Gather Your Tools
Click to enlarge
Gather all your tools before beginning: washed and (bone-dry) empty palette, a black fine tip marker or pencil, scissors (not your best pair) glue (I use Scotch Quick Dry Adhesive*); tweezers, ruler, and white plastic lid** of a Cool Whip® tub. I would add to this list (not in the photo) a couple of toothpicks, a wet paper towel and a dry paper towel. Be sure to protect your work surface. 

Filling the Gaps
Anywhere you see light shining into
the wells is an area for potential leaks
of the various pigments into
neighboring wells. 
Before I begin to modify the palette, I check for any areas where the light is shining underneath the walls and into the wells. This is a potential leak waiting to happen. Using the glue, I coat the areas with a bead of glue and allow to dry thoroughly. I also use it to "plug" any holes due to the way the palette is manufactured. Check your palette over carefully for any potential holes that need to be plugged. 

Before adding the walls, think about how you want to configure your palette...perhaps you have a few favorite colors and you'd like bigger wells for them or you may be like me and want as many pigments as possible. Build the palette to suit your painting style. 

Measure Twice, Cut Once
Measure depth of channel
Click to enlarge
Measure width of channel
Click to enlarge
Measure the depth of the area where you want to create extra wells. Measure the width as well. Note that the channel is seldom the same width at both ends if the palette is metal. If it is plastic it's usually  standardized. 

Mark the plastic with a black fine-tip marker. Pencil works too but can be hard to see.
Click to enlarge
Cut a long piece the depth of the palette first. You can also use a cutting mat and a knife.
Click to enlarge
Cut the smaller width piece and place it into the palette for size BEFORE putting glue on the piece!
It is often necessary to shave the edge
for the piece to fit.
Click to enlarge
After adjustments are made and the piece has been tested (again) for accurate fit, add glue to three sides of the plastic.
Click to enlarge
Using tweezers, place the new wall into place. I use tweezers for this because I find that no matter how careful I am, my fingers will knock another glued piece sideways. Sometimes I even manage to do it with the tweezers. Because you have a "window" of time before the glue sets, you can make adjustments as needed. Use toothpicks and a wet paper towel to clean up any glue messes that may occur or if you get glue in the wrong area.
Carefully place new "wall" in palette.
Click to enlarge
It doesn't really matter if you start on the end or in the middle. I tend to start where the newly cut piece fits best without being too loose or too tight. Continue adding walls until the palette is complete. Once the glue has set, check for any gaps and add more glue as necessary. Do not attempt to do this until after the glue has set or you'll likely wind up with a lot of crooked walls and glue everywhere.

Set the palette aside to dry thoroughly. I usually wait at least 24 hours or longer. Once the palette is dry, add the pigments of your choice and let the painting begin! 
Modified palette with pigments
Click to enlarge
*Scotch Quick Dry Adhesive and **white plastic lid of a Cool Whip® tub: The material used to make most plastic food containers is polystyrene. It is a slick plastic with little tooth to the surface so that the food does not stick to it. Well, if food won't stick to it, it is reasonable to question if glue will. According to 3M, the glue manufacturer, for this reason only, the glue is not recommended to be used with polystyrene.  

Now, with that said, because of the way I use the glue (on a cut edge which has sawtooth marks from the scissors—abrasions the glue can adhere too), I've not had any issues in the three years I've used the glue. If a wall were to come loose (and none have as of yet), I would simply re-glue it as I accept this as a non-permanent solution. 

I use this glue for three is acid-free, quick drying (but not as quick drying as super glue) and it is white when wet but dries clear. Because it is white it is easier to see where I've put it and if I have sufficiently closed any gaps. 

If you choose to use this method of modification for your palette but are hesitant about the glue, you can also use super glue. Check to see if it is acid-free and works with polystyrene. 

**If you choose to use a polystyrene food container make sure that it does NOT have any printing on the plastic you use. The inks are not acid-free nor permanent and could easily discolor the watercolor pigments. The plastic should also be flat rather than curved (like the wall of a bowl).

Good luck and let me know if you have any questions!

You Might Also Like

8 Creative Thought(s)

  1. I can see many people out there modifying a box into a palette. What a great instructional.

  2. Hi Laure, and thanks for the tips! When I made my little cigarette box palette I had a horrible time with the epoxy. Some kind soul write and asked why I didn't try...SOMETHING, which I've forgotten and can't find his post. So I'm delighted to know about this stuff, it should work on metal, sounds like...

  3. Lots of great tips Laure! I'm curious - have you ever tried using half pans instead of fussing this much - or are they too big? I know you like to have lots of colors in there, so maybe they're too big to fit.

  4. Thanks, Lisa, I hope it's helpful.

    It does work on metal, Kate, so you should be good. I wouldn't dream of trying epoxy! That stuff's uncontrollable (for me)!

    Hey, Cheryl, the palette's that I've modified in this manner are way too small for half pans. The pans that are already in the palette are called quarter pans. If at all possible I prefer using half pans but just have to figure out another way!

  5. Cool!! I wondered how you did it. Thanks for posting the demo!

  6. What a wonderful way to carry a lot of paint colors in a small travel container! I'm glad to learn about this adhesive - haven't tried it before and glad to know about the acid-free properties. Thanks for the precise directions on how to make one of our own!

  7. I'm interested in that particular box. I love the size. May I ask where it was purchased?

  8. Hi, Ally, I purchased this palette off from eBay. It is a Daler Rowney palette with quarter pans. I usually find them in England.

    Hope that helps!


Let's talk!

Like us on Facebook

Flickr Images