Storing watercolour paints: a studio hack

If you’ve been painting for any length of time, you may have accumulated a collection of tubes of paint and storing watercolour paints becomes an issue.

We all know that, in theory we only need a dozen colours. We know it, but those darned colours are so seductive. I don’t know a single artist who can resist the lure of an art materials shop. And there are a number I’ve been gifted by people who have decided not to paint any more, or didn’t like a particular colour. It all adds up to a lot of tubes.

A couple of months ago, at a workshop, I realised I was running low on a couple of my favourite colours. Sadly, I didn’t make a note of just which ones. When I next had a chance to go to the art shop, I dashed into the studio to check.  I rummaged through my plastic tub of paints to find the tubes that had been squeezed down to a stub. Only once I got back did I realise that in my haste, I had missed one of those I use the most.  I’ve tried various methods of storing watercolour paints. Most recently I’ve used three plastic trays: one each for transparent, semi-transparent and opaque tubes.  I lean towards the transparent colours so it helps to have them sorted.

Storing watercolour paints: my new solution
All laid out. You can see which colours I use the most.

My new solution to storing watercolour paints

I’ve seen various versions of branded pre-made boards with clips or the home-made nails in walls or boards.  My problem was that I didn’t really want to be putting nails in my studio wall.  I wanted something affordable and flexible. I was starting to think it would need to be screws in an MDF board.

While I was debating this, I saw a great post on the Making a Mark page about an artist who was using an Ikea board with clip-in trays to store his materials and I realised this could solve my paint problem too. I just needed a few amendments. So, board acquired, I looked for some appropriate hooks. The Ikea ones that go with the board come at £2 for 5 which doesn’t sound like much until you realise that to hang as many as I needed would cost almost £50. Added to the £18 for the largest of the three Ikea boards, that seemed a bit steep in terms of overall cost for this application.  They’re also quite long so they use up more board space than I wanted.

So, I scoured the web and eventually found packs of stainless steel hooks on a shop fitting website. The size is perfect and they cost me a mere £10 for the number I needed. Bulldog clips applied and paints sorted –  I can now see exactly which colours I have duplicated, which I use the most, and which are like those holiday outfits hanging in the wardrobe: seemed like a good idea at the time, but didn’t quite live up to expectations.

Storing watercolour paints by transparency factor.

The geek in me still wanted a way of easily sorting the tubes by transparency factor. I came up with an easy visual code: yellow dot for transparent, green dot for semi-transparent and blue dot for opaque. With the tubes sorted in a colour range, I can now easily pick the colour I want and know the transparency without having to check. Now I just need a solution for granulating and staining factors.

Studio Stories

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