Repurposing a Children’s Palette

A few months ago, my trusty pocket palette began to rust. This probably could have been prevented had I sprayed the metal pans beforehand with some kind of sealant, but what’s done is done.

So lately, I’ve been trying out alternative palettes, the latest of which was a pill box that turned out to be really inconvenient and prone to spills. On a trip to a school supply store, I ran across a relatively cheap watercolor set (about Php 60.00) that had what looked like a pretty good palette.

Now, I am aware that when this watercolor set was made, someone probably handcrafted it with the best intentions that it would one day be used by some eager schoolchild to discover the wonders of art. (Or perhaps it was just put together by some factory slave who didn’t care less. I don’t care less either way.) But this process just goes to show that you can never have everything in life. Especially while utilitarian maniacs like me run free.

So without further ado (and the manufacturer’s feelings not considered), here is how to repurpose a children’s palette into… just a palette:
Brand New Palette

I got this watercolor set from Gaisano. The palette itself has the quality of a standard plastic artist’s palette. It will probably stain from strong pigments, but this isn’t a big deal. The brush, however, isn’t too good so you can just throw it away.

If you like, you can use the set for projects that don’t require lightfast pigments. The color concentration is quite good, if not a bit chalky. This is because student-grade paints have a chalk filler. We’ll be using this to our advantage shortly. Note that this process does not work with higher-quality paints, which are more tacky than chalky. You’d have to wash all the paint off, although this is a waste of good paint.

Cracking the colors

Because the paint is chalky, it cracks easily. You can chisel parts of the paint block away and it will crack, making it easy to remove. At this point, you can collect the bits of paint, put them in small ziplock bags and crush them into a powder. The resulting color dust has many creative applications. And also, it’s less wasteful.

Washing the palette

Now, no matter how carefully you’ve removed the paint blocks, there is still likely to be a bit left in the pan. If you soak this in a solution of water and soap for a while, it will be easier to take off.

Note that they stick the paint blocks into the pan with a double-sided adhesive. You can scratch this out with your fingernails. (I shall refrain posting a photo of my dirty fingernails here.)

Clean PaletteOnce the palette is clean, some parts of the plastic may still be stained with paint. But this is nothing to worry about.

Refilling the palette pans

Finally, you can now fill in the pans with your choice of artist-grade paint. Personally, I mixed in a bit of baking soda with a toothpick to prevent mold. (Mold is generally not a problem if you leave it to dry after using, but sometimes when you’re in a rush it can’t be prevented.)

Since there are only eight pans, I filled it in with a split primary palette plus two sentimental colors.

Finally, let the paint cure overnight. With the brand of paint I’m using (M. Graham), it will dry a bit tacky. Other brands will dry rock hard (although not chalky).

Palette Process Animation

So there you go! No need to buy an expensive palette.

Can’t wait to test this out. It’s been a while since I’ve gone out to urban sketch in color. 🙂


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