How to Keep Your Plein Air Palette Flat When Transporting
How to Keep Your Plein Air Palette Flat When Transporting

How to Keep Your Plein Air Palette Flat When Transporting

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Have you ever gotten to your painting location and realized that your watercolor palette has been tipped on its side for the whole journey?

Paint has run everywhere and it’s usually the most staining color.  This has happened to me many times, so here is what I’ve learned.

1. Use a smaller palette.

Use a smaller palette for plein air painting. The smaller the palette, the more likely it will fit flat into the bottom of your travel bag or backpack.

I’ve been using the Herring Compact Plastic Watercolor Palette that I purchased from Jackson’s Art. There are a couple of different designs. I have the one that holds 16 half pans.

2. Prep Early.

Replenish paint in your plein air palette several days before using. Don’t add fresh paint right before heading out the door.  Trust me on this!

The day before your trip, open your palette and place it in front of a fan overnight.

It seems counterintuitive to dry out your juicy watercolor paint, but for traveling, this is a must.  The longer the journey, the dryer your paints should be before packing your palette.

Even if I’m going to a local area to paint, I open my palette the night before.

Bring a good spray bottle to wet your paints when you arrive at your painting location.

3. Put your palette in a bag.

If your palette does leak, the mess will be contained in the bag. I use plastic mesh zippered pouches similar to these on Amazon*. And this leads to the next tip.

4. Velcro your palette in place.

Add velcro to the inside bottom of your backpack or tote bag.  Then put velcro on the bottom of the bag that is holding your palette.

This way, you can utilize the velcro to snugly fit your palette flat on the bottom of your travel bag.  Nothing else you put in your backpack or tote will move your palette.  Also, the palette won’t creep up and turn on its side. When you get to your location, your palette should still be sitting flat in the bottom of your bag.

I have a few different backpacks I use for plein air painting depending on what type of trip I’m making and I have added velcro to the inside bottom of them.  This is a game-changer.

I know that my palette will always be secured at the bottom of my backpack.  Of course, this means that I need to keep my backpack upright.

A backpack with a flat bottom design is best at remaining upright.  I have a diaper bag backpack that works really well for this.  It’s grey so it doesn’t look babyish at all and it works surprising well for holding painting supplies.

For longer hikes, I use a day pack designed less for diapers and more for hiking.  But even this pack has enough of a flat surface that with the addition of velcro, I can keep my palette flat while hiking.

You can see some images of the velcro trick below.

Velcro in the bottom of a hiking backpack.
Velcro in the bottom of a hiking backpack.
Velcro in the bottom of a larger backpack.
Velcro in the bottom of a larger backpack.
Travel palette and bag.
Travel palette and bag.
Velcro on the bottom of the bag.
Velcro on the bottom of the bag.

Vinita Pappas 2021