Travel Watercolor Set




Traveling can be difficult for an artist. You want to carry so many art making supplies with you, it can often hinder your ability to travel light. This past summer, I went on a backpacking trip and had to stick to one bag. In order to do this, I created a tiny watercolor set for my small art kit. This summer, I wanted a slightly larger one with a palette, so I recreated it in a larger tin. Now make art on the go and still travel light.

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Step 1: Materials

plastic trays from Dentyne gum

Altoids tin



heat gun

mug of "coffee hot" water - you might use a coffee maker, tea pot, pot on the stove, or microwave


rolling pin

tin foil

Step 2: Tin and Tray

Empty the Altoids tin and Dentyne gum tray.

Clean out the dust from the Altoids tin.

Step 3: InstaMorph

InstaMorph is a plastic that softens under heat and hardens when it cools. You'll need both hot water and a heat gun for this project.

Note: I have used and reused my InstaMorph moldable plastic many times. It makes it easier to re-melt the pieces if you melt them, thin them out, and cut them into small pieces before storing them for later. I have a pickle jar filled with pieces those pictured, but the InstaMorph actually comes in small pellets that melt easily and quickly.

My coffee maker spits out water at the perfect temperature to melt the InstaMorph, but regardless of how you do it, melt about a 1/2 cup's worth.

Step 4: Fitting Tray

Mold the melted plastic into rolls and wrap them around the tray. You can use hot water to soften it if it begins to harden, but working quickly is ideal. DO NOT use the heat gun to reheat the InstaMorph around the tray. It will melt the tray.

Once you've got InstaMorph around the tray, press it into the bottom of the Altoids tin.

Set it aside to cool/harden. You can put it in the freezer for a few minutes to speed up the process.

Step 5: Palette/Lid Part 1

To keep the freshly used paint from dribbling all over the place when you put the paints away, you'll need a lid. This lid can also be used as a palette.

Roll out a piece of melted InstaMorph on a piece of tin foil so it's about a 1/8" thick. If it's not big enough, you can reheat with the heat gun and add more melted plastic.

Press the Altoids tin onto the flattened plastic to create an impression.

Let the plastic cool and then cut it out slightly inside the impression line.

The cut piece should fit easily inside the tin.

Step 6: Palette/Lid Handle

Use the heat gun to melt the end of a scrap piece of InstaMorph and the side of the lid piece.

Press the pieces together and they will fuse easily.

Trim off the excess of the scrap piece and allow to cool.

Step 7: Palette/Lid Part 2

Apply some form of non-stick coating to the inside of the Altoids tin while making sure the tray is particularly slippery.

Reheat the palette/lid with the heat gun on the tin foil.

Gently pick up the palette/lid and place it on top of the tray.

Press gently around the edges of each slot in the tray to form a tight seal between the tray and the palette/lid.

Allow to cool.

Remove the palette/lid from the tin.

Wash all the pieces thoroughly with soap and water to remove any oily residue and allow to dry completely before reassembling. The tray piece should be challenging to remove from the tin, but can be pried out with a knife and fork if need be.

Step 8: Paper Towel

If you're going to watercolor, you'll need paper towels.

Fold a paper towel as pictured.

Trim off the corners of the folded paper towel so that it fits nicely in the space above the palette/lid.

Step 9: Decoration

I noticed that these Instructables stickers fit quite nicely on top of the tin, so I cut one at the mid point for a mirrored effect and applied them to the outside of the tin.

Step 10: Watercolors

Choose the colors you'd like to have in your tin. I don't paint anything in particular, so I wanted a range of colors. However, if you prefer landscapes, for example, you may want a range of greens or browns instead.

If there appears to be a liquid separation at the tip of the bottle, wipe a small amount of paint onto a paper towel first to avoid getting this in your tray.

Squirt a small amount of each of your paint choices in each tray.

Shake the tin back and forth to get the paint to settle into the tray. You can see that some of my paints were thicker than others, because some didn't settle as much.

Allow to dry, then assemble your kit.

Step 11: Enjoy

Head out on the town or to a distant land and paint the scenery or whatever tickles your fancy.

I recommend getting a water brush to carry with your kit. It seems like it doesn't hold a lot of water, but I made several small paintings before having to refill it, and it eliminates the need for a cup of water.

Check out my instructable on how to make a travel journal to hold a watercolor postcard book like the one seen in these images.

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    10 Discussions


    3 years ago

    Love it :D I'm a big fan of compact things and travelling and was so surprised at the size of this :o I might take up painting now... Do you know of an alternative to polymorph that could work? It's really expensive and hard to find here. Also I like your colour choices, with red, blue, yellow, black, and white you could make any colour. Nice paintings as well :)

    1 reply

    Reply 3 years ago

    Thanks! Yes, the color choices were very strategically chosen for that reason. You're very observant for picking up on that. You could use just about any air dry clay to hold the tray into the bottom. For the palette/lid, you could find a stiff plastic container, cut a piece to fit, and use a heat gun to soften and shape it. I'm not sure it would work and different plastics respond different to heat, but it would be worth a try. Good Luck. Come back and post pictures. I'd love to see how it turns out (even if it's a disaster).


    4 years ago on Step 11

    Hey!!!! When were you at my house painting my chickens! Oreo and Chicoletta demand royalties! Or at least a small sample of your work to hang in the coop!

    1 reply

    Reply 4 years ago on Step 11

    Ha! Ours are named black, yellow, and blue according to the zip ties on their legs, because as they grew from chicks we lost track of which was which. They're pretty impossible to tell apart and the grass was getting tall, so I'm not even sure which I was painting.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    I don't paint, so I was going to skip reading this but then I saw the chicken - wow it is so beautiful. Then I read the 'ible, it actually makes me think I could paint if I had a nifty little box like this, it is very well done. Thank you for sharing.

    1 reply

    4 years ago on Introduction

    James Bond would carry this....... if he was an artist, anyway. Very cool.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Your little watercolor kit looks perfect! Thanks for sharing how you made it. I love your paintings of the pretty door and the chicken as well. You are a great artist!

    1 reply