Saturday, March 17, 2007

Another Altoids Watercolour Box

The good folks at the Altoids company keep throwing challenging new boxes my way and I keep taking the bate! The last was this fabulous looking sour chewing gum box. It measures 8.5cm x 3.7cm x 2cm and is about half the size of the regular Altoids box. It also sports a lovely curved top that should serve well in holding water and colour mixes. (You can see my old, well worn, regular Altoids box on the right for comparison)

The smaller size was a real challenge. At these dimensions the box would not hold more than four standard half pans. Four pans would not really make a useful palette for me, so I looked for quarter pans. I know they used to sell those but I just can't find them anymore (If you know where I can find some please let me know). I finally decided to try using the FIMO clay that you can bake to a hard solid shape.

I placed the clay in the metal box, smoothed it and used a round flat felt pen end to press 10 holes in the clay. I then smoothed those and placed the whole thing in a toaster oven at 200 degrees for 20 minutes. I took it out, let it cool down and placed colours in the holes.
I still need to enamel the inner cover to use as a mixing well, but I just had to share this one right away.

The box fits easily in a Jeans pocket and with a waterpen it should be enough for impromptu sketching. Not exactly what I would take with me for a plein-air trip, but for a lunch time break outdoors when spring come? It will work just right!


  1. You are a clever one, you are.

    I'm new to following your plein-air adventures, so forgive me if I'm asking a dumb question here. You load the altoids pallet with paint before you go out? And if so, how do you keep the paint from 1) drying out and 2) inadvertently mixing?

  2. Hi Debi,

    No dumb questions here. Yes you load the colours in the pans (in this case holes) before you go out. You let them dry for a few hours or overnight. You want them to dry up so that they don't mix and make a mess. When you are on location, a drop of water or a misting will re-soften the colours so you can use them with ease. When you are done, you wait for the colours to dry up a bit and close your box and you can safely put it back in your pocket :-)

  3. Oh, I see. You do want them to dry first. (D'oh! Think WATER colors, Debi, not acrylics.)

    Your FIMO solution was a stroke of genius.

  4. that is really cool! I can't believe all the effort you went to, baking clay and then enamel to make this work. I like your larger altoid tin too!

  5. Great little box! I use an old, very small Winsor Newton box but it's on it's last legs and I've been thinking about making something.

    Have you enamelled this one? If so, with what? And have you tried it out yet?

  6. Hi Martha,

    Thanks for leaving a note on my blog.

    I have to tell you the story of this little box: As soon as I finished it, I put it aside for the colours to dry up, and my 3 yr old decided that since I had made a larger box for her 6 yr old sister, this one is for her. Who am I to argue with logic! So this one is no longer a prototype for me to play with. I have been looking for a similar Altoids box with no success so far.

    When I find one, yes I would enamel it using "Testors" enamel paint. These are the small enamel bottles you can get from Michaels. They are slow as hell to dry (leave them untouched for one or two weeks if you can). I simply pour the paint on the surface and move it around with a brush. I want a minimal use of the brush to avoid any ridges from the brush work.

    I use two W&N Boxes as well. I have an 8.5" box and a 5.5" That I have restored (look here for details):

    I'd love to see what yours looks like. Maybe I can help you save it.

  7. Another Altoid winner. Also, I enjoy viewing your ACEO's. I think they are really nice, with a lot of depth and detail .. just the right amount.

  8. For some reason the link to my article about saving an old Winsor and newton box did not work. Please visit this blog to see it:

  9. Hi Fawzan! I think your Altoids conversion is about the best out there, and I've linked to it in my Art Tips newsletter...I didn't have your email address so I couldn't send it to you.

    I've done my own take on Altoids conversion, but since I don't like half pans much, mine's different--going to look for shelf edging next time I'm in Home Depot, though!

    I'm curious, where did you find the little additional mixing tray you show with the old box? I like lots of mixing space, as well as full pans!

  10. great mineral makeup3:45 pm

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  11. Marlene10:49 am

    Your creativity with Altoids tins is wonderful. I also would like to know how you made your additional Altoids tin into a mixing palette. Another Home Depot product??


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