How to Choose a Watercolor Palette

After a couple decades of happily painting off of ceramic plates, I finally decided to step it up and get a real watercolor palette. This decision was mostly driven by some massive Instagram envy. Everyone's watercolor palettes just looked so delectable and professional — and the satisfaction of lining up all of my little tubes of gouache in rainbow-order and squeezing them onto a fresh palette was too tempting to pass up. 

So, research ensued and I found there are basically two different kinds of watercolor palettes. The kind that has removable half pans (think Windsor & Newton, Schminke, and such). And the kind that has built-in wells sectioned-off for paint.

The half-pan type either come empty (and you have to source the pans/paint yourself) or filled with a paint set. They are more customizable, have more parts and are generally a lot more expensive. Since this was my first palette and I wanted it exclusively for my gouache set I settled on a cheaper sectioned-off palette. I can delve into the world of half pans down the road... 

The next decision was how much paint should it hold? The standard palette sizes are 12, 18, 24, 36 or 48 wells (or pans.) I am a sucker for more color choices, so I went with this Mijello 40 well palette to fit my Holbein gouache set of 30, with some extras for mixing and additions. The better quality palettes are made of aluminum and the lower quality are made of plastic. This one meets in the middle with a durable aluminum shell and a plastic lining inside.

CONS. There are a couple of little functional quirks. First, the open/close clasp can jolt the paints from their pans. You have to very gingerly clasp and unclasp to avoid this from happening. 

This pallet is big. It's a studio palette, and definitely not made for travel. 

PROS. It is an aesthetically pleasing, minimal palette with 40 sectioned-off spots for paint.

It's larger than it looks (about 14 x 13") and has two mixing spaces that are very roomy.  

The shell is aluminum, and inside is a smooth plastic surface. 

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