How to Make a Watercolor Travel Tin

Repurpose a metal mint tin into a portable art palette when out and about.

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Watercolors are the perfect medium for a budding artist. They are inexpensive, have a minimal learning curve and dry quickly. However, lugging large watercolor paint palettes while on vacation or when you are out and about is a pain. You can find cute little repurposed watercolor tins on handmade sites made for portability. Or, you can make one yourself with a few supplies available at your local craft store.

Watercolor Paint Tin on Paper with Brushes

Repurposed Watercolor Travel Tin

Bring your watercolors along on your trip feed your art bug with this easy to make paint palette.

Photo by: Debbie Wolfe

Debbie Wolfe


Metal Tins, Block of Polymer Clay and Wood Dowels

Supplies for Watercolor Travel Tin

A metal tin, polymer clay and wood dowels are the basic supplies needed to make a watercolor travel tin.

Photo by: Debbie Wolfe

Debbie Wolfe

  • small tin used for mints
  • 8 ounces white polymer clay
  • 1/2 inch wood dowel
  • rolling pin
  • clay spatula
  • liquid watercolors (not shown)
  • oven (not shown)

Roll It Out

White Polymer Clay

Roll Out Polymer Clay

Polymer clay is tough to roll out when first out of the package. Allow the clay to warm up before you try to roll it.

Photo by: Debbie Wolfe

Debbie Wolfe

Polymer clay is a plastic-based clay composed of polymers, resins, coloring agents and fillers. In order to set it and make it water soluble, it needs to be baked at a low temperature. To get started, cut a chunk of polymer clay that is long and thick enough to fill your tin. It can be hard to manipulate it right out of the package. Knead it in your hands for a few minutes to make it pliable. Use the rolling pin to get it smooth and into the relative shape you need for the tin.

Press It In

Hand Pressing White Clay into Tin

Press Clay Firmly Into Tin

Firmly press the polymer clay into the tin.

Photo by: Debbie Wolfe

Debbie Wolfe

When you get the clay to the right thickness and shape your tin, press it into the tin. Use the clay spatula or spare piece of wood to help press the clay into the tin. The clay needs to come up to just right below the lip of the tin. Use your fingers to level and smooth out the clay.

Make the Wells

Wood Dowel in White Clay

Use Wood Dowel to Make Holes

Firmly press a wood dowel into the clay to form the wells.

Photo by: Debbie Wolfe

Debbie Wolfe

Preheat your oven to 275 F . Determine how many watercolors you want the tin to hold. Use the 1/2 inch wood dowel to press in the wells that will hold the watercolors. Press firmly until the dowel goes to just near the bottom of the tin without going through. Wiggle the dowel around to make the hole wider.

Bake It

Photo by: Debbie Wolfe

Debbie Wolfe

Place the tin on a baking sheet. Bake the clay at 275 F for 25 minutes. Consult the instructions of your polymer clay for further baking recommendations. Each brand will vary on the length of time needed to bake in order to harden correctly. Once the clay has hardened, remove the tin from the oven and let it cool.

Fill It

Photo by: Debbie Wolfe

Debbie Wolfe

Fill the wells with liquid watercolors. Once filled, allow the watercolors to dry for 24 hours. 

Paint Anywhere

Metal Tins on Black Notebook and Hydrangea Flower

Use Any Type of Metal Tin to Make a Watersolor Travel Tin

These compact watercolor travel tin are small enough to fit in your bag or pocket for easy art on the go.

Photo by: Debbie Wolfe

Debbie Wolfe

Pack a notebook, some brushes and your watercolor travel tin to take on your next adventure. Instead of brushes, consider using a water brush pen. Water brush pens are perfect for watercoloring on the go. They have the added benefit of holding water and the brush is perfect for portability. Watercolor travel tins make great handmade gifts for the artists in your life. 

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