How to Organize Your Watercolor Palettes

As a person with a retail therapy affinity, shiny object syndrome, and art supply hoarder tendencies, I have wayyyy too many watercolor palettes! Now, if you lean more to the minimalist side of things -- If you just have one, that is totally fine! Here are links to my favorite “one palette to rule them all” option.

watercolor palettes on a desk

But, if you'd like a reason to buy more palettes and art supplies... let me help you out! Here is a rundown of the different palettes I have, why I have them, and how I organize them! 

When thinking of my palettes, my brain usually thinks of them in terms of categories.

Handmade Paint Palette Tins

First we have watercolor pans and the tins that hold them.  Many handmade watercolors come in pans and you'll need somewhere to put them to stay organized.  I have a couple different shops that I like to get my handmade paints from and here is the tin I like to use to organize them.  I'll add a little label on the outside of it so I know which is which.

Limited Palettes: on plates for specific projects

If I’m working on a specific project with a limited palette (only using certain colors) I will use a ceramic plate (usually).  The purpose for this is to make sure that no other colors are floating into my paint puddles as I work.  I like keeping it on a plate because it is easy to store and I can grab it whenever I need it.   We also had a set of plates that would crack when put in the microwave, so I've stolen them for my studio shed! Here are some examples of when using a limited palette can be helpful.

  1. Pet Portraits: Back when I was painting pet portraits often, I would keep going back to the same colors.  Finally, I realized it was just easier to have a plate with all my go-to colors.  Curious about my pet portrait essential color list? Grab the PDF here!
  2. Skin Tones: I like to have a palette of my favorite colors to use for skin tones.  I don't like these colors getting muddy or dull, so it is helpful to have them on a separate palette and I can grab it whenever I'm painting humans! 
  3. Brand Palette: This is a fun idea for many reasons! I like having a palette ready with my brand colors (hellooooo bright and colorful!) so I can create art pieces that are perfect accents for my work! I will scan these and use them as elements in my marketing materials and on social media.  I also LOVE having this palette handy because it makes for a perfect prop in photoshoots (both professional and DIY!) It's a super easy way to add a pop of on-brand colors to any pic.
  4. Color Scheme: If you're working with a particular colors scheme for a collection of works or for a wedding invitation suite, it can be helpful to have a separate palette that has just the colors you're supposed to use for that project. 
Kate using a limited palette for a project with a specific color scheme
Here I'm using a limited palette for a project where I had a specific color scheme.

All the colors!

I also like to have a watercolor palette that holds ALL my colors! This is my big-mama palette that I have all my tube paints on.  It's super heavy (so be forewarned!) but it has a HUGE mixing area which I love! I have to squeeze three tubes into each well so I have enough room for all my colors but it totally works! 


watercolor palette



In terms of storage, I use file organizers for my plates and pan tins.  For my fancy palettes, I use plate display racks for my fancy palettes and then I keep my two with all my main colors handy on my painting tray at all times.  I keep a tray with all my essential, most-used watercolor supplies so I can easily have it on my desk and take it off quickly if I need more space for filming or photoshoots. 

Want to know more about my favorite palettes? Snag my supply list with all my favorites linked here

So now I need to know, how do you organize your palettes? What are your favorite ones? What's your method to the madness?!??! Let me know over on social! I gotta hear your hot takes! 

November 19, 2022 — KATHERINE TALCOTT

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