A New Square Paint Palette From Schmincke

July 3, 2017
My palette worksheet. You can see the colors I’m considering carrying around in my box to test out. I’ll be able to fit 28 half pans in the box when I’ve adapted it. (You can see the new color swatch card peeking into the top of the frame. I used it to decide which other pigments I would order to try out.)

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.

Quick sketch made with a Sakura Pigma Professional Brush pen with fiber tip and the new Schmincke box. What I loved was the way the Cobalt Azure worked in the shadow areas. (Testing on Handbook Watercolor Paper which is cold press.)

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.

Here’s a detail of the test sketch. Look for the great granulation of the Cobalt Azure the shadows around the eye, check and on the throat! It’s also in the hair.

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.

    • Leslie Autery
    • July 9, 2017

    Hi Roz, I’m very interested in the box alteration and your final color choices. Great article!Thanks

    1. Reply

      Thanks for reading, I didn’t see your comment earlier. I mentioned to another reader the posts on the colors I’m using and the post on the box alteration methods should come in mid to late August. Thanks for reading and please check back.

    • KerowynA
    • July 14, 2017

    Roz! I received my palette from Wet Paint and I love it. But I would like to see a blog post on re-configuring the palette to hold more paint. Enquiring minds want to know!

    1. Reply

      I will be posting both about the colors I’m using and also ways to configure the box to hold more paint. All the paints I needed weren’t in yet so testing of colors was put off. You’ll see both those posts sometime in late August (I queued up posts though July and early August because I start teaching a binding class tomorrow.) Check back. Have a great time with your new colors and box.

    • Yvonne
    • July 28, 2017

    I’ve recently acquired one of these “square” Schmincke palette tins and am wondering if you can advise on how to remedy a serious flaw that I’ve noticed (at least on mine). It’s something that doesn’t happen with my other palette tins (two Schmincke 12 x whole pan tins, and a Prima Marketing 12 x half pan).

    Basically, when the inner mixing palette (the one with the 8 rectangular wells) is folded out it flops down about 35° from horizontal. While that’s not a huge problem if I’m working at a desk or sitting near a flat surface and can prop it up, it makes painting with the tin held in my hand quite difficult: the flopping mixing palette can’t be used and it gets in the way as well.

    Is this something you’ve observed and can you suggest any practical solutions or hacks ?

    1. Reply

      Yvonne, I’m sorry this makes it difficult for you to work with the palette. I’ve never noticed this, in that I’ve never noticed that it made the palette not useful. I went to my purse and got out my newest palette from them. The flip out palette does sag a bit on that one. I checked all my others and they all sag a bit, even if they haven’t been used (I have a couple extra I bought years ago when they were available empty, in case I lost one). Then I checked my other brands of metal palette, from the Whiskey painter’s palette to some off brands that have no markings on them. They all have sagging on the fold out, and the Whiskey, which doesn’t have a fold out but only the lid, sags on the lid.

      I think it’s never bothered be because while I stand when I paint, I hold the palette in such a way that this portion of the palette is either supported on my arm (my hand underneath in the thumb ring) or by the corner or edge of my journal.

      Because of that it’s never been a problem for me and I don’t have any fix for it.

      Just looking at it I would suggest that there might be some way to scrunch the hinges tighter—but I don’t know how you would do that without hurting them.

      A more simple approach, but not very elegant, seems to me would be to cut yourself a bit of balsa wood or square doweling of some sort and put it up under the hinge when you have the box open. This will hold it up. You would have to have double sided sticky tape or something on it so ti would stick. Actually, I think it would be best if you put VELCRO on the little square dowel’s top and a bit of velcro on the BOTTOM of that flip out palette near the hinges so that you could push the dowel in place there against the side and top simultaneously. That would prevent the flap from falling down so far. But when you remove the doweling and close the palette you haven’t done anything to impinge the working of the hinge there or the lid of the box coming down on that edge of the box.

      Depending on how you have your paints crammed in there you could cut the dowel so that it wasn’t longer than one of the dimensions of the box, and fit it in there loosely when you close it all up.

      The only question is with the velcro on the bottom of the flip out palette when you flip it in place to close the box will the velcro be too high to keep the box from closing properly?

      That’s what I’d try. The resident engineer is off at work right now and I forgot to ask him before I went on my bike ride this a.m. It’s just as well. He’d probably want to machine something or take out the hinges and replace them.

      For a quick fix you can do with scissors to cut the doweling (or an X-acto blade) and some adhesive Velcro I’d give the above a shot.

      Good luck making it work for how you work—and let me know what you end up doing.

        • Yvonne
        • August 1, 2017

        Thank you so much for this detailed response and your suggestions! I’ve been playing a bit with different holding strategies (I’m right handed and so hold the tin in my left hand) and have come up with one method that sees the flip-out inner palette resting on my fore-arm as you mention. The way I hold longer/skinnier boxes has the hinges parallel to the direction of my forearm and this new strategy requires the hinges to be perpendicular, which feels less secure, but it could perhaps work for me with practice.

        I have also been experimenting with a super-fierce magnet attached to the underside of the flap in such a way that it hits the body of the box and stops the flap sagging below horizontal. That needs some fine-tuning (slightly different shaped magnet), but could also be a practical solution.

        It’s certainly interesting how much this particular design sags. I’m used to a little bit of sagging, of course, but not at such a pronounced angle. It does seem that it’s because the flap is shaped so that no part of it hits the body of the box and so it simply continues to droop until the hinges themselves can “lock”.

        Thank you again!

        • Yvonne
        • August 1, 2017

        An update. The magnetic fastener that comes on the back of many name tags is perfect. (This is typically a 13 x 45mm metal strip with two round neodymium magnets attached to it.) I have it clipped to the underside of the fold-out palette so that one long edge is against the indentation of the mixing area and the other aligns with the hinge. When I open out the flap, the strip part of the magnet hits against the body of the box and holds the flap up in a beautiful horizontal. Meanwhile the indentation (or raised, depending on which direction you’re looking from) of the mixing area holds the magnet in place and prevents it sliding away from the hinge.

        1. Reply

          Yvonne, thanks for your two messages detailing how you started thinking about blocking that hinge with a magnet. I like your solution better than my dowel example so I might have to try it myself.

          All my palettes, regardless of brand, as I mention, sag like this on the fold out palette side (and on the lid side in the Whiskey Painter’s Palette) so I don’t think there’s much escaping it. I’m glad you have a work around now.

    • Lulis
    • August 24, 2017

    Another easy hack is to get a small drink straw (like the ones they give you in bar drinks!) and cut two small segments (about 1 cm in length) and then cut them from end to end down the middle (so it looks like a “C”) and slide them over the bottom rim of the palette. This will keep your 8-section mixing surface more to horizontal and still allow you to close your palette when finished.

    1. Reply

      Lulis, that sounds like simple and elegant idea to help with this situation. Thanks for sending it!

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