Tuesday 14 February 2017

The Portable Painter palette - up close and personal

I received a couple of Portable Painter palettes - an Indiegogo kickstarter project - and have set one up to play with it. It's an improvement on the W&N Cotman palette that many buy (and replace the paint with artist quality) as it has a larger brush space and more mixing areas. It also has the two water containers that act as a container or box when transporting, or as a stand so it can sit on your leg or another surface when sketching. It comes with 12 half pans - custom pans, though the universal ones will fit very tightly - but I set it up here with the paint directly in the wells. Only do that if you know you won't want to change the colours around!
The Portable Painter palette.

Here are the colours painted out, though in a different order from what you see above. This is one of my suggested urban sketching sets of 12. It contains a warm and a cool yellow, red and blue along with some very useful earth colours and a useful green. It also works very well for beginners in watercolour as there are no powerful and staining phthalo colours. More about this colour set here

A suggested urban sketching palette, set up with Daniel Smith watercolours. 

Here is one set up using the half pans that came with the palette. This time I have used my most used colours for urban sketching, rather than a more traditional recommended palette as shown above. It is set up as I usually do moving from lightest to darkest, through the rainbow going from left to right. There is only one bright red - quinacridone rose - as I don't use a lot of red when sketching buildings and can mix the other red hues I want with this very useful cool red. I have also included Indian red as it is so useful for brickwork. I love the earth colours and it makes a beautiful triad with cerulean chromium and goethite (with a touch of quinacridone gold for a little extra glow).

The Portable Painter palette set up with Daniel Smith watercolours

And here are the colours painted out. I really struggle to get down to just 12 colours. My Ultimate Mixing Set has 15. I normally work with 20 or 24. But this would work for me for urban sketching. I chose perylene green for this set rather than phthalo green as I don't have the crimson I'd normally have to mix this lovely shadow green. Perylene green also mixes great greens with the yellows in this palette, and of course there are many greens that can be mixed the the blues and yellows.

My 12-colour urban sketching palette - buff titanium, hansa yellow medium, quinacridone gold, quinacridone rose,
ultramarine, ceruelan chromium, perylene green, goethite, burnt sienna, indian red, raw umber, Jane's grey.
All Daniel Smith.

This set includes the earth triad mentioned above, a very useful almost primary triad of hansa yellow medium, quinacridone rose and ultramarine, and a cool triad of hansa yellow medium, cerulean and quinacridone rose. Goethite, burnt sienna and ultramarine also work beautifully for limited colour studies.

2107 update. The metal clip that holds the water containers together as a 'box' for this palette needed a place to stay while this palette is set up, and a branded elastic band has now been supplied. The plastic pans have also been stuck in as they tended to come out and rattle around. I've actually taken mine out and filled the palette directly with the colours above. You can see the clip held in place by the elastic on the right. This clip slides over the ridges to connect the set together.

You can get this palette from Jacksons in the UK - they ship world wide. Here is an affiliate link.

If you want to add up to six more colours, there is an expansion kit available, allowing 3, larger or up to 6 smaller pans of colour to be added into the brush space. You can see it clearly here.

There is also a Micro Palette, originally designed to hold up to 6 half pans, but with expansion kits allowing up to 16 colours. I've shown it on my website in the Palettes section but you can also see it in detail here

Happy sketching :-)


  1. It looks very similar to a child's paint set that was discontinued several years ago. I've been looking for one on eBay but it's never turned up. This is a bit larger and more practical.

    Thanks for posting the link and showing it. I went ahead and ordered one to see how practical it is. I'll probably fill the pans and then switch out the colors depending on what I'm doing. Too bad it doesn't include a water container but you can't have everything.

    1. Do you mean a water bottle? I always carry one anyway to drink. It does have two water containers...I'll add a photo of it closed up for travel, and another of the water containers filled for greater clarity.

    2. I mean a water bottle. I like this because it has two water cups and not just one. Some don't have any.

      I also like that that top of the cups is curved so that you can rest your brush on them without it rolling off. That is genius design and often overlooked.

      The larger brush storage area is also curved on one side making it easier to get the brushes out. I like that too.

      The only thing that really concerns me at this point is the possibility of losing that little metal bar that locks it all together. I so see me losing that piece.

      I also appreciate that it is stable when set down but does it have any ring or loop on the bottom if you want to hold it? It doesn't look like it's easy to hold as is.

      He's way over his goal so hopefully they'll be shipping soon.

      Thanks so much for this link.

      You don't happen to have a source for your favorite Arches travel mop #3 do you? Been looking all over for one and can't find a travel mop big enough to please me. I bought both of the Rosemary travel mops but still not big enough.

    3. Yes I like the two water cups. Agree about the metal clip - I guess most people have a pencil case or pocket so just have to get used to putting it away :-)

  2. I like that you can securely set it on your knee,….. but I keep thinking its backwards, I want my painting surface stationary and my palette mobile.

    If you watch the fundraising video the guy is a gadget inventor, so maybe he does not paint? My experience with P/D, (Production and Development) is that engineers must have practical experience. I will be follow your test drive, and see what you think.

    If he can keep the price where it is he will probably do alright with it.

    1. Steve, the inventor, created it because he wanted one himself and couldn't find what he was looking for. so he does paint himself :-)

    2. If you read the blurb he does paint, but not professionally. I applaud him taking the initiative to design something practical that meets his needs.

  3. very cool I bought the 3 pack... I will sell one at the local artists group... wanted 2 but no option for that.

  4. I normally use watercolours with a waterbrush but I thought it may be useful for gouache PA. Unfortunately the squeezed Cotman gouache didn't set up and ran all over the palette. I'll try it with W&N. Gouache wouldn't work with a water brush.

    1. There are a couple of brands of gouache that will set in the palette and rewet with a waterbrush - they are the ones that don't contain any 'chalk' so my not be as opaque. Schmincke, M.Graham and Da Vinci. They will crack a little if you fill too much at a time so best to fill little by little, or add a drop of glycerine.

  5. Mine arrived.

    It is rather nice. About the size of the Cotman field box but thicker since there are two surfaces that fold out for mixing. I haven't tried the double headed travel brush that was included. The water cups attach quite securely and are translucent enough you can see the water level. All folded up it is compact enough.

    I noticed the pans are quite thin and the ones I normally use don't fit. But I did get a package of pans from amazon that were really thin and slightly smaller than what I normally use. I got them out from where I put them away and they fit perfectly so now I have 20 extra pans for changing out colors. It will be tough to get down to 12 but I think I can do it. Plus with my extra pans I can switch them out depending on what I'll be using it for. That's 32 pans. More than enough to choose from.

    It is a very well thought out design and the execution is quite nice.

    Thanks, Jane, for bringing this to my attention.

    1. I'm glad you are happy with it. I do love to test out new ideas, and am always happy to share ones that make sense to me. Enjoy your palette :-)

    2. I bought this palette some months ago but haven't yet filled it as couldn't decide on the colours to use. I might buy some empty ones like you for spare colours. How do you store your filled spare pans?

  6. I recently purchased one of these handy portable paint kits. I took the pans out and filled the wells directly. The pans are a little loose and I was afraid of them falling out and scattering if I tipped it over. The only challenge is removing the water cups when the water is dirty. The two water cups fit snugly in a track on each side of the palette. Thus sliding the water cups without sloshing the dirty water is a bit of challenge. However, overall I like this little kit. It is sturdy, high quality plastic, and innovative with two cups for water. Also, it comes with three travel brushes that fit into the trough in the palette when it is closed. Very convenient.

    1. I bought this kit too last year but only got a double ended travel brush ... isn't that what everyone gets?