Saturday, 9 November 2013

Watercolour Palettes 1 - The Herring Palette

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

This plastic palette, based perhaps on the brass paint box, is a great design. It is from jacksons in the UK. It is not a beautifully made as a brass box, and could actually do with a little more 'finishing detail'. Nor is it as cheap as some of the folding palettes, but 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 seems pretty strong and is 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 full pan version, designed to take 12 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 full 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 hole filled in and extra half pans added to the space. This is my current plein-air palette. 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!

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.

So an interesting palette option!


  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.