I can’t help myself, my favorite palette box is the Schmincke Square pan box. Since 2000, I’ve been using them for my larger travel palettes of watercolor and gouache—filling them with the paints I want to use.
Then for a long time the square box hasn’t been available. (I’ve actually been afraid of loosing my existing square boxes and have done everything but tie them to my body!) The box wasn’t even listed in the Schmincke catalog. Well, they brought it back for the new watercolor set at Wet Paint, so I had to buy a set, just for the box.
The box comes with a great set of half pans from Schmincke that you’ll enjoy painting with, but we all have our favorites, and there is an extra row (two when you adapt) in the box.
I wanted to test more of the new colors recently released. I’ll write a post about what I did and why when I have had a chance to get all the paints in (some of the extra colors I wanted are on back order), and have a chance to alter the box.
I’m even going to write a post about altering the box. I have two ways I like to do this, but a friend recently went to town altering his new square box and he sent me photos I can share with you—so that’s all coming up in a couple weeks.
In the meantime I’ve had people asking me left and right which colors I liked or didn’t like. I’m making some brief comments here so that you don’t have to wonder. But I’m not going very deep into all the reasons for my choices. I will say that I probably will not end up with a 28-color box after my testing is finished. I like to work with fewer colors.
First thing I did was get rid of the Cadmium Red that came in the box.
Don’t gasp, you’ll probably never find a set that suits your needs exactly. Be prepared to do a little bit of switching out.
And no, I don’t have anything against Cadmium pigments. I don’t put my brush in my mouth and I don’t have open wounds on my hands so I’m unconcerned. I just don’t like the opacity of Cadmium Red. If I want opacity I’ll use gouache. It’s that simple.
Next thing I did was pull out the Brilliant Red Violet 940 and Brilliant Blue Violet 910. They are lovely colors but my needs in those areas are met by my other choices and additions. Also I tend to like things a little more neutralized than other folks.
With my standard alteration I can get 26 half pans in my box. With my friend’s alteration I can get 28 half pans in. I’ll be doing the latter.
First thing I did was add in the Transparent Sienna 653 (a new color in their line). I have to have Sienna because it works with my complementary pairs. It’s a lovely one. But I also like other browns so I’m playing with which of those to finally add in, or at least experiment with. I’ve got Transparent Umber 671 and Greenish Umber 665. I really want to like the latter, but I haven’t done any tests on it yet so I can’t tell you how long it might last in the box. I thought it would be useful for landscapes and for buildings, and for quick mixes on some animals.
The first red I added in wasn’t as orange as I’d hoped, Transparent Deep Red 355, but I really like it so I’m sticking with it. After experimenting with the new color Quin Red Light 343 I might let it go for something else.
Quin Magenta 369 and Quin Purple 472 are two of my favorite colors and I’ve added them in (or will do when they arrive.) Ditto about Perylene Violet 371 and Helio Turquoise 475.
I’ve put in my Dark Blue Indigo 498 (I think it has a new formulation and name now, but I had a “fresh” pan on hand of the old version) and it’s my beloved PB60, but Delft Blue 482 is also a PB60 formulation so I might let one of those go.
Yes I’ve put Helio Blue Reddish 478 in the box. I had a fresh pan of it and have been playing with it for about 8 months or more in my other palettes. Schmincke has updated this color into the new Sapphire Blue. (I know I’ll like that but I have to use up this HBR first!)
While testing the newly released colors in the small sample swatch card—little dabs of paint you could wet and draw out to see how they dried and tinted—I fell in love with the Mahogany Brown 672. It granulates in the most amazing way. I may bump out Transparent Umber after the testing period just to keep it. Or keep them both. I’ll wait and see what the testing turns up.
For me the best new pigment has been Cobalt Azure 483. It’s included in the new set so it didn’t cost me anything extra.
It granulates in the most delicious way. I’ve actually used it in several paintings already. I am sure it will make the cut. In fact I doubt I’ll ever have another palette without it.
Everything else is up for grabs as I’ve said. First I need to do the alterations on the box. Then I need to make some color charts and blends, and of course run over to the zoo and do some tests while sketching out. Everyone needs a summer project.
I’ll let you know what I find, what I decide, and how to alter your box to hold more pans of color (or a bunch of whole pans for that matter).
Note: I don’t know anyone who is selling the square box empty right now. If you’re interested in this size box you might consider getting a set of these watercolors just for this box. I have one with empty half pans that I filled with my Daniel Smith watercolors and another with gouache. Whatever you decide, don’t leave it too long. The set is a limited edition and half of the sets were sold in the first few days they were offered. If you think it’s time to upgrade to an artist quality watercolor and you’re interested in a solid box (I’ve been banging a couple of my square boxes around now for almost 18 years!) this might be the box for you. I’m writing today about my color “expansion” because I didn’t want to wait and write about this box at the end of the summer when I’d made my final choices—all the boxes might be gone by then. And nope, I’m not connected to Wet Paint or Schmincke except as a paying customer who loves independent art supply stores (especially this one) and Schmincke paint.