Tuesday 30 April 2024

Watercolour Palettes 1 - The Herring Palette - updated

There are so many different palettes available that I thought I'd write a few posts exploring some of them in a bit more detail. Have a look at my website or thewatercolourfanatic for even more!

This plastic palette, based perhaps on the brass paint box, is a great design. I've been using the half-pan version as my sketching palette for about since about 2013. In 2024 I finally 'renewed' it with the exact same model. 

I use the full pan version for my gouache travel palette of full pans. It is from jacksons in the UK. Here is an affiliate link to both versions.

While it is a bit more expensive than some of the other folding palettes, it is so versatile that I have made up a few different versions for my students. I rather like having all the colours in one section so they don't spill into each other when the palette is shut. This also has very deep mixing areas. It is light and strong and big enough to use in the studio but light enough to take into the great outdoors. The catch is very secure and there is a video showing how to open it!

Here is the half-pan option. You can use half pans and change your colours around, or put the watercolour directly into the wells. Standard half pans fit in snugly without rattling about.
Frank Herring : Compact Palette Half Pan : 26x13cm Open 13x8cm Closed

Here is the whole-pan version, designed to take 12 whole (or full) pans. Each pan section will actually fit two half pans if you sand them down a little so it is also very versatile.

Frank Herring : Compact Palette Whole Pan : 26x13cm Open 13x8cm Closed

Here are some options - the first is the whole-pan version with half pans added into some of the the spaces. The second is the half-pan option with 8 additional half pans added into the brush section - great if you want to hold it for plein air. The third is the half pan option with the thumb hole filled in and extra half pans added to the space. This was my plein-air palette for years. Note that a compact water brush fits in well.

The pans can be glued in but I prefer to use blu-tac so they can come out again! Or fill the paint directly into the palette without using half pans if you are sure you won't want to change your colours around!

This is another configuration - designed to have just 8 colours around the outside, with the space to mix other colours in the added half pans. Just a little sanding with fine sandpaper allows two half pans to fit in the whole pan wells, though the Schmincke half pans fit without sanding. The paint was squeezed directly into the full pan well holes though whole pans could be used for ease of changing them.

I really recommend this palette option for sketching or plein air. I've been very happy with it.

You can see a number of other palette suggestions, including more configurations of this one, on my website here.

You can also see a video I crated about this palette here.


  1. I have been using the Herring 12 full pan pallette for some time now. I find it very durable and sometimes add extra pigments using pairs of half pans stuck together with masking tape underneath. When I purchased it online I also ordered a set of 12 empty 'full' pan trays and find them useful if I rearrange. My colours are warm one side cool the other, a row of yellows around the thumb hole and then Blues and Reds.

    I must spend some more time on your site which is stacked with info. Great work and thanks for putting it here for all of us.
    Chris Pearson

    1. Hi Chris. I always like to find ways to customise to suit, and this is a great palette for customising. It is light, a decent size, and seems pretty durable, with good mixing areas. I also like the Schmincke style metal palettes for plain air - they will be another post.
      I'm glad you are finding items of interest here and/or on my website.
      Happy painting!

  2. How did you fill in the thumb hole?

    1. Zoe I actually cut a thin piece of plastic into an oval shape to fit and glued it in place as I like to have the 24 colours and space for a compact waterbrush or travel brush. Construction plastic is available from modelling shops and some craft or art shops. You could cut a thin piece of plastic into a rectangle and fill the whole thumb-hole area, which would be less fiddly than cutting it to fit the hole.

  3. Does the paint bead on the palette? I am reluctant to use an abrasive to prepare one unless it is essential

    1. I don't have a problem with the paint beading. i have cleaned it a few times with 'Gumption' which is mildly abrasive, and find it a very practical palette to use. I have now added another 8 colours to mine - as a teaching palette it now has 32 half pans. time to add another photo!

  4. Two questions:Some people complain that the plastic stains with the paint. Did you find this an issue?
    Also I want to fill the box with 1/2 pans and get as many in as I can using the thumb hole and/or the brush section. Would you advise me to buy the full pan or 1/2 pan box?
    I find your blog so helpful so thank you for your help, Helen

    1. All plastic palettes are likely to stain but you can clean them with a tiny bit of vegetable oil, then something like Gumption or Jif or other gentle cleanser or even soap, dry thoroughly.
      I’d recommend the half pan version.