DIY Watercolor Palette: Pill Organizer

Watercolor is one of my favorite mediums. I first used it in my grade 10 art class. I suppose it rose quickly to the top of my “favorite mediums” list since it was the first paint I became familiar with. I enjoy the lovely transparency it brings in paintings. I also like how easy it is to clean up compared to other paints such as acrylics. Brushes are quickly cleaned by simply washing them in water.

Watercolors can be purchased in different forms: in tubes or in pans. I first used watercolor in their pan forms but I found that colors can contaminate other colors in a set. This led me to investing in watercolor tubes. I enjoyed how a tiny dot of paint can offer great color in a painting. Downfall? I hated wasting unused paint! I’m not good at dispensing the appropriate about of paint from these tubes. I squeeze too much and the excess paint would only go down the drain.

I have been searching for a cheap watercolor palette where I can keep excess paint. I was interested in purchasing a travel watercolor pan set but I decided to be frugal. I didn’t want to buy extra paint when I already had a lot of colors in my collection. Most palettes are huge and they’re pricey. So, I opted for a DIY watercolor palette using a pill container.


Step 1: Get a Pill Organizer

I headed over to my local dollar store and picked up a pill organizer. There were different designs of the container. I chose the “clearest” one. I liked how this didn’t use black ink to say the days of the week. I went home and rinsed the whole container in water and rubbed it with steel wool. I wanted to roughen the surface within each compartment to give the paint something to stick to.

Step 2: Sort out Your Colors

I have more than 15 watercolor tubes in my collection. Some color families had more tubes than others. For example, the greens had three while the reds had five. I grouped the colors then swatched them on a piece of watercolor paper. I used this to figure out which colors I wanted.

An obvious disadvantage to the pill container would be the number of spots for paint. I can only use 7 colors for this travel palette so I carefully chose my colors. I decided not to include black since I sometimes use India ink rather than watercolor paints. I added the primary colors and magenta, green, and brown. These were colors I used a lot since I like to paint flowers.

Step 3: Squeeze

This step is self-explanatory. I was a bit disappointed that it doesn’t look perfect in the container, but what do you expect? Some tubes had more paint that others. I also made sure to massage the tube before emptying them into the box. The paint may have separated in the tube. I squeezed in the paint then tapped the container against the table to remove any air pockets.

Step 4: Make labels & let them dry

I cut out 2 cm x 3 cm rectangles and painted the colors on them. I wrote the name of the colors so I can easily fill up on the color slots if ever I run out. I taped them on and left the paint dry with the lid lifted. It also seems like I put too much paint. Because of this, it took about 3 days to completely dry the paint.


This was a success. I no longer have excess paint on my plates when I finish a piece. It’s also easy to get pigment onto the brush to mix colors. A possible improvement would be to look for a container than can hold more than 7 colors. But I think have a limited selection will help me with color theory. The best part? I only spent $1.15 for this travel palette and I can go anywhere to paint.


Comment: 1

  • Tracy February 7, 2017 12:00 am

    wonderful idea… tfs!!!

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