Watercolors can be bought in tubes and as cups. The cups are available in large and small sizes. A watercolor box is the ideal storage place, not only because the paint is well protected in it. In the hinged side surfaces you can mix the colours well during painting. The following picture shows a typical watercolor box by Schmincke.
If you want to buy a new watercolor box, you first have two options: an empty box without paint, or a watercolor box set including paint cups. As a gift it is of course better to take an equipped box, otherwise you have to run after the paint pans. The box itself is relatively inexpensive at around 10-20 euros. The thing becomes expensive by the colors, and that also only by the mass.
Half pans or Full pans?
The next question is: Half pans or whole pans? To make the boxes so flexible, the colours are sold in cups (or tubes). Half pans contain only half the amount of paint - and they are usually a little more than half as expensive. You should keep in mind that they only contain a relatively small amount of paint - but compared to the area you can paint with them, it is relatively large. One dissolves the paint with water - and the special thing about watercolors is the intense luminosity, which the colours develop, because they are not applied opaquely, but glazed on the picture ground. One needs relatively few (good) color pigments to paint a surface brightly colored.
- The half pans are then suitable, if one wants to paint rather small pictures (to maximally DinA3). For pupils and beginners this is usually sufficient.
- If you want bigger pictures, you should tend to the whole pans.
If you're unsure which colors belong best in a watercolor box, you can't answer that generally. That always depends on the motives. The big qualityanbiter Lukas and Schmincke offer complete watercolor boxes with color cups, with which one can do basically nothing wrong.
Quality of the watercolor box
The box (i.e. without the paint pans) itself is mostly made of plastic or metal with enamel lacquering. The latter is of a much higher quality and also more durable. Plastic boxes, which have the charm of a school desk box, have a rough surface over time due to wear, which makes mixing the colors more difficult. Consequently, enamel watercolor boxes are more expensive than plastic watercolor boxes.
The surfaces are helpful for mixing the color. What the palette is in oil painting, is the inside of the lid in the watercolor box. Some manufacturers offer an additional, hinged mixing surface. As you can mix very nuanced with just a few colours, these mixing possibilities are quite useful.
Which colours belong in a watercolor box?
The models shown above include a range of watercolors. With good boxes these colours can easily be replaced when the pans are empty.
Basically you only need very few watercolors, because you can choose from the three basic colours can in principle mix all colours.
- Yellow (e.g. cadmium yellow)
Standard equipment: 8 basic colours
In practice, however, it proves to be useful to have certain shades of colour already available without having to remix them each time.
With red, you usually have two tones:
- a red that goes more in the direction of orange (e.g. Cadmium red)
- a red that goes more towards violet (e.g.Permanent red)
It's the same with blue:
- a blue that goes more in the direction of green (e.g. Prussian blue)
- a blue that goes more in the direction of violet (e.g. Ultramarine blue)
In addition, the following secondary colours are usually still available in small watercolor boxes, which are only intended for 8 pans:
- Orange or an ochre shade (e.g. Light ochre)
- a brown shade (e.g. Siena burned)
- Green (e.g. Permanent green olive)
The extended set
In addition, it can be helpful if the watercolor box contains the following tones.
- Another bright yellow (e.g. lemon yellow)
- Another green shade (e.g. chrome dioxide green fiery)
In addition, there are a large number of other colours that can be integrated into the box as prefabricated pans. Some of them are quite helpful - depending on the color of the preferred motifs (blue in naval painting, green-brown in landscape painting, red-pink in flower watercolors, etc.).
Does white belong in a watercolor box?
With many large watercolor boxes also white is present. Is that necessary? Strictly speaking, according to the "philosophy of watercolor painting", white is superfluous. Because in watercolor painting the white surfaces are omitted. White is therefore not a watercolor. White can, however, be used for mixing or correcting.
Black belongs in a watercolor box?
It's similar with black. Of course you can buy black as watercolor (ivory black), but by overlaying several dark layers of color you also get very dark tones. If they sit opaquely on the watercolor paper and no white shines through, they look like black. This procedure corresponds more to the "philosophy of watercolor". But if there's black in the box, it can't hurt, even if it's just for mixing.
Gold and silver belong in a watercolor box?
These gloss colours are effect colours. If you want to paint a golden or silver surface with watercolor, then not by using such colors, but by skillfully painting corresponding light reflections. Gold and silver in a watercolor box tempt you to paint things you can't see. They are unnecessary in the watercolor box.
Experience with Schmincke watercolor box
Actually, it's two watercolor boxes. The back one is more than 20 years old. It has minimal rust marks on the hinges, but is otherwise fully intact. The front box has served me for about 12 years. The painted surfaces are still in good condition. From my experience of many years I can only say: the watercolor box of Schmincke has a very good quality and is ideal for watercolor painting.
More about the special features of watercolor.
There are a number of watercolor brands (e.g. Schmincke, Pelikan, Lukas) that offer watercolor boxes in addition to colours, brushes and accessories.