hacking my Meeden travel palettes

Watercolour palettes are a bit of an obsession for me. I love the entire process of "agonizing" 
over which colours will make it into my palette, then filling the empty pans, and making a swatch card for the finished palette. (Some paints are hard to tell apart when they're dry, so a labeled swatch card comes in handy.) I thought I'd share how I "hacked" my Meeden travel palette...

small Meeden palette
I've had two small Meeden aluminum travel palettes for a while. These are just your standard enamel-coated metal palettes, with slots that fit half or whole pans. While they are sturdily made, offer generous mixing surfaces and can fit 24 half pans (using the empty 'middle row' between the 2 metal trays that hold the half pans), they are quite heavy when filled. I've been wanting to lighten the load and perhaps fit in even a few more colours. Even though a small Meeden can usually fit 24 half pans, they have to be packed in pretty tightly, so it isn't easy to pluck out pans and quickly switch out colours (which we all want to do!).

So... I set out to refurbish these palettes to suit me better.

With my new palette upgrade, I can now fit 28 round pans in each palette. Who really needs 28 colours in a palette, you may ask? Um... who needs chocolate cake?! This has nothing to do with need and everything to do with want! 😋 I really enjoy having a lot of colours to work with. Also, the palettes are MUCH lighter than before, so I can take both palettes with me for double the fun.

Here it is finished and all filled with pretty paints (mostly Da Vinci, some Daniel Smith 
and some Winsor & Newton).  I love that they look like little jewels!
I could have placed the magnetic pans right on the bottom of the palette without that tray insert, but I wanted the pans to sit a bit higher in the palette. So, here's what I did... I pried off the 2 metal strips that hold the plastic half/whole pans from the bottom of the Meeden tin tray. This is where you save on weight, because the entire palette is much lighter without them! They were only glued on to the tray, so a bit of firm prying with a butter knife did the job; I threw the strips away. I then sprayed the raw metal tray with a couple coats of white gloss enamel paint (the type used for appliances) on each side, to hopefully resist rust and make cleanup easier. Then, I added a couple sheets of foam material, cut to size, on the bottom of the palette to raise the pans up a bit to the height I wanted. I set the metal tray on top of the foam and voila - perfect

Here's the empty palette, with the metal tray removed, the magnetic pans sitting on top of it, and pieces of cut foam.

The round pans are #24 button covers (aluminum/stainless steel) which I also found on Amazon; I'm hoping they won't rust, but if need be, I'll coat them in white enamel paint. Their bottoms are just flat enough to put on small pieces of adhesive magnetic strips. I have a feeling I may have to glue them on later with rubber cement, if they come loose, but that's not a biggie. The magnets are lightweight but really strong and stick to the metal tray quite faithfully, surprisingly so! I can turn it upside down and jiggle it wildly (the palette that is, hehe!) and the pans don't budge! Of course the inside cover flap of the palette comes right over top of the pans and helps keep them in place too, so that's a plus with these palettes too.

Finished palette with the tray in place, 
all ready to be filled!

If you are interested in making something similar, but don't have the same supplies, really you can improvise. The sky is the limit with these things! I've seen many making travel palettes with metal boxes and tins of all kinds (i.e., Altoids tins, vintage boxes, etc.). For pans you can use bottle caps and small cap lids in lieu of the half or full pans - the best part is you can just use whatever you have! Another option is to form your own pans/wells out of polymer clay, which is something I'd like to try too (I tried making one using Sculpey Original, but it turned out far too heavy). In any case, I had fun custom-refurbishing my own palette for travel or a specific project.

In this case, small metal pans may not suit your needs. It is true that most artists who invest in their supplies know that small metal pans won't be large-brush friendly, not to mention they also wear down brush tips quicker. For me, that's not a huge concern... when I'm traveling, I don't use large or expensive brushes, nor do I use a lot of water or large amounts of paint for that matter, so the tiny round pans will work for me just fine. Personally, I'd rather have a little of a lot of colours than a lot of a few colours for a painting project. You can construct your own travel palette to suit your own needs.

I'm looking forward to filling the second empty palette next. The only difficulty is choosing which colours will make the cut!

Another little 'face lift' upcoming for these 2 palettes...
Each of these palette covers are black. That is standard for most of these palettes and it's next to impossible to find one in another colour. So, I'm thinking of painting each palette cover a nice bright color - maybe one in turquoise and the other in red. I have some Testors enamel paint which would work well for these, so I will post "after" pics once I've got those done. Anything's better than a boring black cover! :)