Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Tiny, Travel-Sized Paint Box Tutorial (with circles on it, naturally!)

Leslie here.  I love my little travel set of gouache paints.  It started out as a set of watercolors but I popped the paint out of the pans and replaced it with M. Graham gouache paints.

 I've used it so much that I need a new one:  the plastic case has been abused over the years.  As a temporary measure I decided to create a little tiny box for my paints.  There are tutorials around on the internet and there are many ways to do this, but here is mine:

What you will need:
One Altoid box.  Eat the Altoids first.
One block of Fimo.  I used white so I could see my paint colors
A piece of sandpaper
A bit of water-based varnish

Gesso (I used clear)
acrylic paint
any other bling for the exterior of the box
lightly sand the base of the interior of the box, as well as the top and bottom of the outside.
Working with small pieces of Fimo, press thin pieces into the base of the box until it is entirely covered.

To create the "pans", I worked with small segments of Fimo, flattening and folding the edges.
The more I folded, the softer and more pliable the clay became.  Once the pre-formed pan was inserted
I pressed one to the other.

Once I was satisfied with the shape, I baked it in a 225 degree oven (well-ventilated!) for 30 minutes.
It is important to be sure of your oven temperature:  the clay should not be allowed to heat over 265.

I painted the exterior of the box with clear gesso.
After it dried, I used this Julie Fei-Fan Balzer stencil to add some color and pattern.

More circles (otherwise known as buttons)!

I coated the painted base with Polymer varnish.

..and I lightly coated the cooled interior of the box and allowed it to dry.

Just for fun, I spread Yes! glue over the surface and embedded buttons to 
spell H20 on top.  
There just isn't enough room to spell out  "watercolor".

I'm using a very limited palette of gouache, but you could use watercolor paints, too.
The gouache will dry in the pans. When I want to paint with it I will simply reconstitute with a bit of water a few minutes before I begin to paint.
I am using a warm/cool combo of yellows, reds, blues, and burnt sienna and white.
With this assortment I can achieve a wide array of colors, and frankly, I prefer working with 
a very limited palette.

I haven't quite figured out my paintbrush solution.  I might try to use several "water brushes" with this set.
Stay tuned!  


  1. This is a really interesting idea. Like it. Glad I've found your interesting blog.

  2. This is so smart! I love this idea. Thanks. I teach HS art. I think my students need to make these for their paints. So smart!

  3. What a nice gift this would make for friends who paint!

  4. All these years and I never realized gouache would travel dry just like watercolors. Wonderful idea. Thanks.

  5. Thank you for this. It's very clever, love it!!

  6. This is the second tutorial I've seen using an Altoids box. Such cute ideas! I love this sort of thing even though I can't see myself painting in public, lol!

  7. Wonderful idea since I travel with everything except the kitchen sink! Thanks for sharing...Judith, Texas

  8. These DO travel wonderfully! I have a similar one, but I didn't beautify my outside like yours! However, with a waterbrush or two, these do wonderful on tiny little airplane tray tables! And TSA just looks at you weird, but says nothing. LOL! Great post!

  9. If any of you make one, please post the results on the Flickr site. I would like to see them!

  10. That is awesomely ingenious..love it..!


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