Friday 1 March 2013

Palette Update

Amongst the most popular posts since I started the blog are those on palettes. It amazes me that most reads even today are the palette ones. Much of the information is still relevant but things do move on so, as I'm not intending to repeat what has gone before, the relevant posts are as follows:

Palettes Pt.1 - August 2010
Palettes Pt.2 - August 2010
Palettes Pt.3 - March 2011
The Craig Young Experience - Mar 2011

To confirm interest in this subject - obsessional almost it seems with some artists - Wetcanvas have a thread still going strong under Watercolors (Palette Talk) called `Palette addicts' started in August 2012. As of 26th August 307 comments and 29713 reads! By today 24 July these figures are 475 and 54661 respectively! There is a lot of good stuff there if you are willing to wade through  it. My wife says I'm obsessional with my hobbies but some of the contributors leave me in the slow lane.

Just to summarize there are numerous types of palettes. At one extreme, used by some high profile artists, are dinner plates, butchers trays and various other receptacles made of either metal, china or plastic. Ron Ranson used the Stewart plastic trays sold at kitchen shops. It is really up to the ingenuity of the user and the way they paint. If you squeeze out a few colours onto the palette then the above solutions are fine. Some artists have an array of studio palettes which they lay out on a table, but if you paint outdoors then something more portable and compact is necessary. To my mind the John Pike (two versions) is hard to beat as a studio palette. The artist Mel Stabin uses his for all types of painting.

The most common palettes are plastic ones because they tend to be cheapest and are easier to manufacture. Plastic comes in two basic sorts, the more fragile vacuformed palette like the Robert Wade and Zoltan Szabo ones, and the harder, more durable John Pike and Herring palettes. No more are the days when Winsor & Newton and others produced metal palettes like the Roberson, Binning Monroe and De Wint. We do have some custom made palettes but more on that later.

Plastic palettes exist in numerous shapes and sizes. They are generally - but not always - much cheaper than metal, although there are metal palettes of moderate price. Since I wrote the original articles I have become aware of the Mijello range and very recently the extraordinary new $100 palette. Added 11/03/13: Apparently this palette is available on E-Bay for just under $70 so it has already dropped in price.

The Mijello - from Martin Universal Design - come in a range of shapes, sizes and prices. I have seen some classified under the `toy' section. Prices vary from around £10 to just over £40. I rather like the look of the second from last which has twenty four wells. In fact I was tempted to buy one when placing a Jacksons order for the AVA group last week. It is just over £16. I've seen some smaller Mijello palettes in a local art shop but didn't handle them and have no knowledge of how well they are made.  They do have a wide range and probably one to suit most needs. Plastic palettes are criticized for staining but I find the product Cif cleans them quite well. Some are less prone to staining than others. They are freely available from Amazon, several from Jacksons and if you `Google' `Mijello' watercolour (or watercolor) palettes various suppliers are listed. In the USA Dick Blick, Jerrys and others seem to carry them. It appears they are American but may be made elsewhere. What reviews I've seen are generally positive and they certainly have a range. ADDED 09/04/13. Mijello are Korean and also make Mission Gold Watercolour paints. 

The latest Ken Bromley e-mail introduces two new palettes. They appear to be vacuformed so will be less sturdy than the John Pike or Herring-designed palettes.

The `Ultimate' Palette

This palette is 14" x 10" x 2" and has 12 separate internal palettes plus a separate mixing tray. It is £18.95p.

The `Premier' Palette

Also 14" x 10" but 1.7" deep , this palette has 20 wells and a separate mixing tray. It costs £14.95p. Both studio palettes I would suggest, not suitable for outdoor work If you go to Ken Bromley's website and type in `palettes' both are listed and clicking on them will bring up a video of each one which give comprehensive views.

Another from Ken Bromley.Added 12/07/13. This is the latest palette from Bromley.

The Clover Palette - See website listed above for full details. Quite expensive  (very) for a plastic palette. Added 23/07/13. The cost of this palette is £38.75p.. However my friend John Softly has already purchased one and is full of praise for it saying ..."without doubt the best plastic palette on the market and extremely well made."... He has some slight criticism over the thumb rest which reduces the number of wells to 13 (otherwise 15). On the Bromley site are ample illustrations plus a short video. Bearing in mind I've not handled one I'm not yet convinced.

I now come to the latest sensation. A plastic palette at $100 (plus shipping). This is being advertised via a Youtube video  You can stand on it  as demonstrated in the video - but why would I want to be able to stand on a palette? If you want a solid plastic, smallish palette then those designed and made by the Herring Bros, including a plastic version of the Roberson, are a much cheaper option. Herring do mail order but Ken Bromley also sell them 

The $100 palette a sort of variation on the Roberson.

There is also a Korean company called Shinhanart selling a range of Heung IL aluminium paint boxes on Ebay. They offer 13, 20, 26, 30, 35. 39 and 65 paint divisions! They are various prices based on size but nothing like as expensive as the brass ones, but obviously aluminium won't be the same quality as brass or heavy duty metal like the Fome boxes. It looks as if this is tied up with the company who sell Shin Han watercolour paints. I don't like boxes where the paint wells are on both sides, as when they are closed  one lot are upside down and leakage might well happen with those colours that remain moist. The only one that isn't like that is the palette at bottom right. 

Prices range from around $16 to $35 with - oddly - the sterling figure quoted for all the boxes identical at £10.90p. There is also free International economy shipping If you Google `Heung il Ebay' it takes you straight to a link so it is easy to access. They claim 100% positive feedback.

I now come to the cream of palettes, those made by Craig Young in the UK. The article listed earlier gives a detailed history of Craig and his palettes and they have been bought World-Wide by famous artists and other famous people as well as lesser mortals like me. He offers several types, the most popular being the Paint Box and the Palette Box, replicas of the original Roberson and Binning Monro boxes. Craig has also made a number of `specials' to the design of some well-known artists. Craig commands a very high price and there is mostly a long waiting time so he has never seen the need to increase the number he produces, all by hand. I have often thought that a small, specialist, metal working company might have gone into production with similar products at a lower price but this hasn't happened. (so far).

Craig has had this market to himself for some years but things are changing. There has been speculation that he might retire in the not too distant future although his son Robert is helping him. This may be just an unsubstantiated rumour as I've no information one way or the other. Added 7/03. I'm told by John of Little Brass Box that Craig doesn't have a son called Robert (he has a Basset Hound) and is not planning retirement for a while yet! John says  he also makes a small hand palette and a copy of the Fletcher Watson but has not been able - due to pressure of work - to update his website. John is completely inundated with orders for his Roberson type.

The first contender is a company called The Little Brass Box Company  also in the UK  They are making a copy of the Roberson with three different models and several colour options.

Prices are up around the £200 mark and the approach appears to mirror Craig Young in that it is a small (one man?) operation hand making the boxes. This is a fairly recent development and I have no feedback on how good they are but it appears he already has a healthy order book. Added 25/07/13 See comment below from Jane Blundell who has two Little Brass Box palettes.

At least two other contenders have also sprung up, one in the UK, one American. 

The  Classic

The Artisan

The Petite

The above illustrates the boxes made by  Classic Paint Boxes   They are designed and made by David Cooper, an artist himself, in the UK. Both the little Brass Box and Classic Paintbox appear to be one man bands, which means they are expensive and waiting times will be a factor. This Classic design doesn't appeal to me and the artist producer justifies the 15 wells by saying you shouldn't use too many colours in a painting. Although a large number will agree it remains a matter of opinion. Added 03/07/13: David Cooper has contacted me to say he has added two new designs to his range, both can be viewed on his website. One the `Artisan' is a multi-fold palette, the other the `Petite'  quote:
"is incredibly small yet still a fully functioning palette".  Illustrations above. Full details and more photographs on the website. Added 25/07/13 See comment by Jane Blundell. David Cooper is apparently open to making customized boxes to individual requirements.

These boxes are made by IBA-CO PALETTES The website says that `IBA-CO brushes are `coming soon' so is this a larger operation?

Also posted on Wetcanvas was the following by someone called `Effers', all said to be in brass. It seems this is the individual behind IBA-Co.

Who makes these palettes? This appears on the IBA-Co site and all the products above are listed with names for each one. They actually look different and although the poster on WC was asked who makes them has not so far replied. There appears to be some differences between some of these and those in the first photograph. Look at the shape of the wells for example. Added 8/3: If you look down to the comment section you will see that the owner of IBA-Co palettes has posted various explanations and much useful information in response  to my piece. This is most helpful.

It is never a bad thing to have competition. It is interesting that these new sources of hand made palettes have sprung up and time will tell how good they are, and whether they make a success of it. Obviously being so new there is yet  little feedback from purchasers. The prices are lower than Craig Young and my guess is that, providing user feedback is positive, they will eat into his sales in America.

I asked my friend John Softly his views on the new entrants into the hand-made palette market. John has tried numerous palettes and has strong views on the subject. They are entirely his and I print them without  (much) comment.

"..From what I see Craig has little to worry about although the newcomers are considerably cheaper (my italics)... there will be obviously others coming..... in the not too distant future but design is everything"....  the one thing Craig has above all others is that he is a watercolourist and knows about art history and traditional design"

John feels, from studying the photographs of these new palettes, that there are  deficiencies in design due to lack of understanding of what is required. John's opinion is that the best are any of Craig's plus the Holbein if you are right handed. He has experienced rust problems with heavy duty Winsor & Newton boxes (made by Fome) and does not like the aluminium type at all as in his experience they flex and the joints give. A small 20 year old Holbein has lost some enamel but shows no sign of rust. John doesn't like plastic but thinks the Herring the best of the bunch.

There you have it  - strong opinions from someone who has considerable experience with different types of palettes. I probably take a more relaxed view of things. In my opinion price has to be considered and good plastic palettes are perfectly acceptable for many artists. As I've said earlier some fantastic artists use all sorts of odd receptacles. In the end you pay your money and take your chances. I own three Craig Young palettes, various plastic ones including a John Pike, and some of the small metal palettes you can buy empty and fill with half or full pans, which can also be bought empty. My most used palette is the Paintbox (Roberson design), and a small cheap supplementary metal one filled with a dozen or so empty half pans, which I fill with paint. I have adapted the Paintbox by sticking some half pans into a few wells so I have 24 colours compared to the standard 16. Craig produces a `large' paintbox with additional mixing wells and 20 smaller wells for paint. I have a pristine Binning Monro, in British Racing Green  from Craig, yet to be christened even though I have had it quite a while.  It's No.165. When will this happen? I just enjoy handling it! As for outdoors I have a small Sketchers paintbox made by Craig. I've rather gone off it to be blunt even though I got Craig to make me a  four pan clip on extension. I think it too small but Charles Reid uses it without difficulty, and Judi Whitton has a slightly larger custom-made version with twenty wells. Against these fine artists who am I to argue! Having just received the details for the Charles Reid workshop at Stow on the Wold in May I think I'll have to resurrect the Sketchers box for the outdoor sessions, assuming the weather allows us to paint outdoors. Added 14/04/2013. See the piece in `This and That' April 2013. Another Craig Young `lookalike', although a somewhat curious one(s)

And still they come! Added 11/08/2013. My friend John Softly recently attended a workshop by the artist Malcolm Carver This artist, as well as having a distinctly original (and controversial ?) way of painting  also markets several products of his own design. One is this very strange looking palette which John, and most of the other participants, purchased at the workshop. John regards it as a sketching palette.

Also added 11/08/2013. And would you believe another `hand-made palette has emerged, although in this case as John says `resembling an upmarket Holbein'. Added 17/01/2016: The House of Hoffman now offer several types of these magnificent hand made palettes in various sizes. They are very expensive, starting at something like $400 but could be described as the Rolls Royce of palettes.

You really need to look at the website if interested, which stated `only one available' but goes on to say palettes can be made to order.  Delivery is from Saginaw in America only within America. The price, shown in sterling, exceeded £300.  Alternatively search for `House of Hoffman` .

Also added 11/08/2013. The next outfit was originally listed in a post I made called this and that. However as that might be missed I've added it here. This is a strange one calling itself `The Watercolor Prototipes (!) Company. 

As you can see they show two Craig Young `lookalikes' and also feature the `Piera' and Holbein palettes. This site appears to be Chinese (?) but has had very few visitors and  I personally would keep well clear of it without a good deal more information about who they are - we have been making palettes for 25 years etc etc - and whether these illustrations  represent  actual product.

Added 03/09/13. Kevin Franklin has supplied the following photograph. It shows the John Hurtely (Little Brass Box) and Craig Young small travel palettes. Craig's is the larger one. See their websites for full details.

I know I'm open to criticism by those who say you should limit your palette to many fewer colours. Each to his own as I  paint several different subjects and don't normally use more than a dozen colours in a single  painting, often less. With the fabulous range of colours available it seems silly to restrict oneself to 10 or fewer in total. As an amateur artist I don't have any pressures on me to conform (or make a living from painting). I like to experiment.

From the Wetcanvas experience it is obvious palettes cause much excitement and interest from users. Many other artists will wonder what all the fuss is about.  You may be enlightened or even more confused by  the above, and information in the previous posts. Remember when push comes to shove the important thing is getting paint on to paper.

Update on the `Spanish Palette' (see Palettes Pt.3). A good friend , who purchased one, has this to say: 

`The Spanish Palette is the worst buy I have ever made, looked good initially but rust got to the wells when a year old. It is what it is. A cheap (13 Euros) Chinese-made metal palette which, basically puts it at the bottom of the metal palette types....'

Added 03/05/2014: John Softly has sent me details of the latest palette from the artist Malcolm Carver:]

Apparently this is credit card size(!) and is sold with Daniel |Smith paints installed but the amounts are small. If you are interested the link is: Sorry about the blurred image but that's how it came out.

This is a better photograph but again `credit card' size!

Personally I find the Craig Young Sketchers box on the small size and it is much bigger than this. A link to an American site selling this palette is

Added 07/07/2014: My friend John Softly has recently managed to find an original De Wint palette and purchase it. Expensive but nothing like as much as some of the current hand-made palettes.  Wesson used a De Wint until  production ceased then switched to a Binning Munro. When that also ceased production  he moved to a Holbein 1000.

Note the price - roughly £2.00 in todays money but obviously converting this to today's equivalent would be a lot more. The condition of John's example is generally good with only a slight amount of rust in one of the paint wells which can be easily dealt with.

All information and photographs courtesy John Softly.

Added 23/11/2014; The following shows the palette recently made by David Cooper of Classic Paint boxes for the fine Dutch artist, and charming man Gerard Hendriks.It certainly looks an excellent example of David Coopers workmanship

I recently received an e -mail from a company calling itself Rigger Art. They offered to send me for review a palette they are selling on Amazon. This palette is 'lightweight' yet sturdy plastic with 28 wells and 5 mixing areas. They say it is larger than similar palettes. I declined as I tend to remain completely independent and the palette appears generally similar to some other palettes on the market. I don't use plastic palettes as a rule and couldn't see the point but here is an illustration for those who might be interested. 

This is a photo of my friend John Softly's palettes. It gives an interesting size comparison. The very bottom is a Craig Young and I think the Spanish palette is at the top.


ann @ studiohyde said...

Oh no Peter! now I've got total palette envy. I love the little palettes that unfold into four wings of workable space, but they are SO expensive. Lovely blog post with so much information, thank you.

Peter Ward said...

Welcome Ann and thank you for commenting. Always pleased to have new contributors.

Daniel said...

Wonderful article Peter, thanks for all the info. I must admit I was not aware of the new $100 palette and I can't imagine that someone would pay for plastic box such amount of money (and I am a palette addict myself! Haha!)
I also learned about Classic Paintboxes and it does look interesting, however just as you said, 15 wells may not be enough.
No wonder your articles about palettes remain the most read. Good work.

Polly Birchall said...

Just found your blog via Laura Moore and found the Palette info really interesting. Looking forward to learning more from your blog

Peter Ward said...

Welcome Daniel and thanks for commenting. Palettes certainly cause a great deal of soul searching.

Peter Ward said...

Welcome Polly. Glad you found this of interest and there is lots more in the back catalogue.

Judith Farnworth Art said...

I use a large radial palette(from Ken Bromleys....I rarely mix in the palette so have little use for all the mixing space in a lot of these and like having the large wells where I can actually mix most of the paint to the right consistency unless I need a large wash. As for the issue of having a limited palette, while I use a limited palette for most of my work and do have my favourite colours, part of the fun is using different colours and combinations and I actually have 3 palettes on the go and each has 12 colours!! I just don't use them all at once!!

ann @ studiohyde said...

Peter : it's me!
I changed my profile picture and cut out the word 'art' from
ann @ studiohyde

So sorry to have confused you :)

Ray Maclachlan Art said...

You are a devil Peter, so much information and dreaming to follow. Thank goodness I'm very satisfied with my little CY palette, even used it on a half sheet.

Peter Ward said...

Thanks for commenting Judith. With all the luscious colours now available who could resist them? Certainly not me!
With all those colours in your three palettes sounds as if we are birds of a feather!

Peter Ward said...

Ann! I wondered where you were! Sorry for my misunderstanding.

Peter Ward said...

Thanks Ray. Actually I've seen - so have you I imagine - Charles Reid paint a half sheet with the small Sketchers box. I'm an impulse buyer though so can't resist palettes and other art things.

Rui said...

Hi Peter,

Many thanks for the update on the available palettes.

I wish I could afford $100 on that palette, it looks like the thin I'll need for my forthcoming holidays.

Kind regards,


Peter Ward said...

Hi Rui. Thanks for commenting.I think you might get that `winged' palette for less than $100 if remarks on Wetcanvas are to be believed. Even so it would still be the dearest plastic one ever(?).

artist said...

Hi Peter,
I ordered a Craig Young palette in November of 2011 and as yet have heard nothing from him.(other than to expect over a year wait) I might try to order a palette from one of the company's that you have listed.

Thanks again for all of your research.

Peter Ward said...

Hi Delilah. Craig always has a waiting list but I'm surprised you've heard nothing. Why not e-mail him and ask what's going on? If you've been waiting 16 months I would have thought your order was imminent.

I've said above that his sales will suffer if these newcomers receive good reviews.

Yvonne Harry said...

A interesting but somewhat confusing review Peter. I was not aware there was so much out there. I must be a bit of a painting freak.
a) I just love tubesa of lucious paint and have as many colours in my box as possible and
b)for mixing my paints I use really cheap palettes from places like The Range, The Pound Shop and The Works, which come in packs of about 5 various shaped plastic palettes which I abandon as soon as they are slightly stained. And as the shop titles suggest they are usually between £1 and £2 a pack.
Would I benefit from paying more?

Peter Ward said...

Each to his (or her) own Yvonne. You don't have to spend much money on palettes as some start at 50p. The essentials are paint, paper and brushes but a china plate will do at a pinch and, as you say, there are plenty of cheap alternatives.

artist said...

Hi Peter,
I believe that it was on wetcanvas that I became aware of your blog and Craig Young's palette. I have email him three more times - asking about sending a deposit and telling him how much I look forward to receiving this palette.

I did however note that another poster on wetcanvas had just ordered a palette in the fall of 2012 from Craig Young and was dying to get it and had spoken to him and Craig said that he would try to get it to him by this Christmas. I messaged this poster and he was very kind and said that maybe it was because he frequently called him and the 'squeaky wheel gets the oil'. Sorry to ramble on. I'll stop.

On another note. Yvonne doesn't use expensive palettes - well it's working! - Her work is awesome.

Peter Ward said...

Hi Delilah

I've never met Craig, although I've spoken to him many times and exchanged e-mails.
He is a very nice man and I'm surprised you've had no response.

As you know Yvonne is a brilliant artist and uses cheaper materials other than paints and paper. She uses synthetic brushes, often seconds.

Hope you have more luck with Craig.

Effers said...

Hi Peter,

I am Effers from Wet Canvas and the owner of Iba-Co Palettes. I know that there were a few questions about the palettes I posted on the blog, and I wanted to make sure to respond to you and anyone else who might be interested. I was reluctant to respond via Wet Canvas as I know that the moderator is understandably concerned about anyone using the site to promote their business. Anyhow, I just came across your blog and would like to say hello and tell you about Iba-Co Palettes.

I started Iba-Co palettes recently after many months and many attempts at crafting my own Roberson palette. I had learned of the Craig Young palette while watching an instructional DVD and was struck by the design. When I discovered the price and lead time, I decided that the best way to get my hands on one was to make it myself. Fast forwarding through many trials and errors, and many, many sheets of brass, I am finally producing palettes that I am proud to label as my own. Iba-Co Palettes is indeed a 'one man show' and all of my palettes are 100% hand crafted out of brass by me.

Through the design process, I've created several other palettes which have worked for me while painting indoors and outdoors and I hope will work for others as well. Indeed, the tools that I use allow me to customize the palettes to suit each painter's need. For example, I can create different well types on the Roberson style palette. Someone mentioned in the thread above that there were differences in the wells based on the pictures from several of my palettes. That is correct. I can make oval/rounded wells or a wider well with a flatter bottom (which I prefer) as it makes the wells a bit more versatile given the limited flat areas on the Roberson palette.

I truly enjoy making these boxes and would like to keep this rich tradition alive. There are millions of painters out there and Mr. Young needs a bit of help to keep up with demand. I admire Craig Young and aspire to create a palette that aids the artist and gives years of service.

Thanks for your interest in Iba-Co Palettes!

Take Care!


Peter Ward said...

I'm very pleased to receive the information above from `Effers', the owner of IBA-Co palettes. and I appreciate you taking the trouble to do this. I'm sure you will do very well as the demand for these hand made palettes is obviously there but supply and price have been a limiting factor. Good luck with your endeavours.

Unknown said...

Hi Peter,

I'm David Cooper of Classic Paintboxes that you mention in your article. If you view my website again you will find updated info about the new box designs now available: "Artisan" and "Petite". The Artisan is a multi fold box and the Petite is incredibly small yet still a fully functioning box. I would appreciate you updating your info as it is now incomplete and not fully informing.

Kind regards,

David Cooper

Peter Ward said...

Thanks for information David which I've updated.

Jane Blundell said...

Hi Peter

Thanks for you update.

I'd like to let you know I have two palettes from littlebrassbox and am very happy with both of them.

I ordered the Robertson Style box first, as I wanted a compact palette that would not take up too much space on my studio table. I ordered it with 20 colours rather than the classic 16. This meant that I couldn't fit full pans in the paint wells, but that was fine as I didn't want to - I prefer to squeeze the paint directly into the metal wells. I don't fill them, but only partly and at a slant, so there is no contamination from one colour into another and no damage to the brush loading up the colour.

It's a beautifully crafted box and a joy to use. It can be used outdoors but would be heavy to hold for a while so I keep it as my studio palette.

I then asked John to make a tiny 16 colour travel palette that I could have with me all the time. He did, in lacquered brass, and it's a little treasure. It lives in my handbag and I use it for all my plein air work. John was a delight to deal with and I would recommend his palettes.

More recently I have also corresponded with David of Classic Paintboxes, and would encourage anyone interested in a brass box to do the same as it seems he can customise his designs to suit so if what you want is not on his website perhps he can make it for you.

I did order one from Craig Young many years ago but somehow got dropped from his lists as I never heard from him. I don't mind - I am very happy with what I have now, but I have been following the brass box palette conversations for a very long time on WC and elsewhere.

Keep posting - palettes are such fun!


Peter Ward said...

That's most interesting Jane and very useful for those who are interested in buying a hand-made palette. I have three Craig Young palettes but wish that I had 20/24 wells in stead of sixteen. As I don't use large amounts of paints smaller wells would be perfectly viable.

Jane Blundell said...

Perhaps you could ask Craig to make new inserts for more colours and keep the others for your pans of spare colours? Isn't part of the joy of a hand made box the ability to have it made to your requirements?

Peter Ward said...

I've been thinking of doing that Jane. At present I have an ad hoc collection of extra half pans stuck in the box giving me 24 colours in all but it isn't ideal.

Unknown said...

Hi Again Jane & Peter,

We seem to be currently traveling along similar topics of interest on Peter’s blog Jane ☺.

A couple of years or so ago (well 2 years and 4 months to be exact) I contacted Craig Young to order a 16 well Roberson and one of his Pocket boxes. Craig warned me the waiting list was around a year. After a year or so I emailed him again and didn't hear back. After another six months I followed up and Craig replied saying "contact me again next March, I'll try to fit you in.” I contacted him again and he said “ok, you are on my list.” My boxes arrived a couple of weeks back.

In the meantime, John Hurtley had started up his own company and, not being sure that Craig would be able to fulfill my request, I put in an equivalent order with John :) John warned me that I would have to wait around 4 months. Barely two months later he contacted me on a Saturday night, said he was about to start on my palette and confirmed a few details of colour etc. By this time I noticed that he was also offering a travel palette but at that time no water bucket, which was an aspect of Craig’s design that really appealed to me. I asked John about this and he said he hoped to get round to designing one in the very near future. However, this man was helpfulness personified. Over the next ten days he not only produced a Roberson and a travel palette for me, but also proto-typed the bucket and had both ready to send in one go (the actual one I have is the one that you can see on his site). Throughout the process he was proactive and emailed, unrequested, work in progress shots of gleaming brass. Mouthwatering!

So, what are the pros and cons of the actual palettes?

The John Hurtley travel palette is much smaller than Craig Young’s Pocket box … about half the size. It really is tiny. I bought W&N half pans to go in but they were too big when including the little white plastic trays. I levered the paints out (easy) but some were still a bit tight to fit. I shaved off small portions with a craft knife and hey presto. This was not a problem to do and I was operational in about a half hour. As you say Jane this box is an absolute delight. I can even hold the palette, water bucket and a small pad in my left hand at the same time so that I can sketch and paint standing up... at times a useful trick. I am not sure if the pan colours have any effect on weight but this is a pretty dense object when fully loaded despite its small size.

I have loaded tube colours into the Craig Young pocket box and have yet to use it in action. It is a beautiful thing though. In a way it doesn’t bear direct comparison with the Little Brass box travel palette because it is so much bigger. I could tackle fairly big sized paintings with this with no problem (although I know you consider it too small Peter for much of what you do). I haven’t used either of them long enough to arrive at any firm conclusion as to which one I would keep in my (man’s) handbag. Maybe both ☺


Unknown said...

The two Robersons do bear direct comparison. Closed, Craig’s is a good quarter of an inch larger top to bottom. Unfolding increases this so that the effective size of the palette has an extra half inch or so (more really as the two side flaps also get an extra quarter inch). This doesn’t sound like much but given that the egg shaped dishes are of similar size, the extra space provides additional surrounding flat mixing areas. The other main differences concern the inside white enamel. Although John told me that he had discussed aspects of the enameling process with Craig, John’s enamel is very mat whereas Craig’s has a somewhat smoother satin appearance. I have used the John Hurtley palette quite a bit and it cleans up very well so have no reason to think that there will be any problems with this over time.

A couple of final pluses on the Little Brass boxes. Firstly choice of outside colour. You can basically choose any colour you like for a small additional fee (Craig offers four or five). Secondly, there are some format options and I chose one with additional circular wells on the side flaps. Thirdly, my boxes arrived complete with delightful custom designed drawstring pouches at no extra cost. They hadn’t even been mentioned, they were just part of the package.

All round then, great product and service from a man just coming to the end of his first year in business. Waiting lists are increasing but he is very efficient and organized and you know where you stand. Of course it is one thing to set up and successfully start a business and another altogether to keep it going over time, particularly if demand starts to build to the level that Craig has had to deal with. Prices are a fair bit cheaper than Craig although one thing that stood out for me from the pix that John sent through was the staggering amount of work that goes into producing one of these palettes. Given this and the fact that I assume all of these boxes will outlive me (and I’m only 55 :)) I consider the prices to be good value.

So what of the Old Master Craig Young? Well I waited a long time but my persistence paid off and I’m glad it did. When I finally made it to the top of his list Craig was great and very communicative and efficient. The quality of his paint boxes truly matches everything I ever expected or heard they would be. In fact even more so. This quality cannot always be picked up by looking at photos that people post of the boxes on line, where small imperfections are noticeable, but it becomes readily apparent in the actual handling and balance of them. Craig now provides handmade custom pouches for an additional cost, personalised and beautiful in their own right.

Craig will always have more than enough orders for his paint boxes for as long as he wishes to continue. And rightly so. The fact that there are now others in the market offering similar products will presumably have the effect of reducing some of his backlog and therefore waiting times on his remarkable palettes for those of us who still want to get our hands on one of his ‘originals’. For others who want just want quality, handmade, brass paint boxes along time-honoured designs there are now other options.

Sorry I went on so long but I wanted to do justice to both of these men and their palettes.



Peter Ward said...

Thanks again Kevin for these comments that will help others, if they are in two minds, who to order from. I'm about to order from Craig a spare tray for my paintbox with 24 wells instead of the standard 16.

Jane Blundell said...

Way to go Peter! Hope it doesn't take too long - you'll fall in love with it all over again. Post photos?

I have made up two larger travel palettes with 24 colours. It seems to be the perfect number if you don't want to feel you are missing any particular pigment - room for some convenience mixes and some great special effect pigments. I made one up in the Herring half pan model and the other in the Schmincke small palette. (took out the bottom tray and blu-tacked the half pans in, as you do). BUT they are not as nice to use as my brass palettes so I have contacted David about making a 24 well insert for his Petite box which is about the same size as the Schmincke...

So I am interested in Kevin's comment that Craig's palette is twice the size of John's travel palette...

Peter - do you want photos of these palettes to add to your Blog?

And finally, Kevin - I also had a wonderful experience dealing with John of Littlebrassbox. What a gentleman he is. I do wish him well. The update photos along with way made the whole process so enjoyable and exciting. Free shipping. Free protector bag. Package arrive beautifully wrapped in brown paper and string weeks earlier than expected - what a joy!

Peter Ward said...

Thanks for comments Jane. Regarding photos I restrict palettes on here to those available commercially. Obviously `one-offs' are of interest if the respective makers will produce them to order.

Unknown said...

Hi Peter,

I thought this was an excellent suggestion from Jane to request the 24 well insert from Craig. My gut feeling would be that you won't have to wait too long and that this would be something Craig would be able to slot into his schedule. I don't know, but suspect that longer delays are due to endless requests for Robersons (mine was number 1138) and I know Craig likes to vary his workload to avoid boredom. If you are interested to see the comparative sizes for the two pocket boxes I can provide a couple of pix. I'm not sure how I can send them to you though as I only see a 'Leave your comment' box. Let me know if you think this might be useful to people.



Peter Ward said...

I's been thinking of doing that for a while Kevin as the artist Jenny Whestley had two specials made by Craig with 24 wells, although the box design seemed to be a cross between the Paintbox and Palette box. My e-mail address is

John Softly said...

I have the extra 4 well clip on for my Craig Young Paintbox which slides on to flap - either left or right.
Filled with whole pans it was invaluable when I needed extra specific colours for a recent workshop. 24 colours - get 2 clip ons. Overkill perhaps although I think I have seen John Yardley using 2!

Peter Ward said...

Hi John. I previously got Craig to make me a four unit clip-on for the small sketchers box but it is not very convenient to transport. I've ordered a 24 well insert for my paintbox so will report on it when received.

Larry Reynolds said...

Thanks for all the research Peter.Very helpful.I suppose it is like a lot of things in that everyone to his or her own.I personally don't like the way the paint beads on plastic but it doesn't bother others.I have a "Spanish" palette from Viera and have been using it now for sometime with absolutely no sign of rust or indeed chipping.So am happy with it.

Peter Ward said...

Thanks for comments Larry. If it works for you that's what matters. Paint tends to bead on plastic depending on the type of plastic. Often it's because the film of oil that coats them hasn't been fully removed. I use metal palettes but many plastic ones can be very serviceable.

Jayelle said...
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Peter Ward said...

Thanks for comments Jayelle and welcome. I don't think the Robert Wood palette has ever been available in the UK. I would suggest the John Pike - Jacksons sell both versions, and it has a cover.

Jayelle said...
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Anonymous said...

Hello Peter,

Great article! If I may, I would like to briefly comment on the SHYsArt palette. I purchased one from Jerry's Artarama (located in the USA) for $58 a month ago (I just noticed that SHY sells it directly for $49.95). I like this palette very much. The wells are quite deep and I can use my 1/2 inch brushes comfortably. I have not used it for plein air yet. But it seems to me that it will excel in this regard; it is quite small and made out of what seems to be high quality plastic. From an aesthetic point of view, I must confess that at first I did not like it that much (it reminds me of the 'to-go' boxes restaurants use in the US). But lately it has grown on me. It is the ultimate industrial version of a Roberson palette. Only time will tell if this palette can withstand the abuse of plein air painting. I will find out soon enough.

Meantime, I am patiently awaiting a Binning Monro-style palette from John Hurtley. Life is good indeed.


Sergio (writing from Costa Rica).

Peter Ward said...

Welcome Sergio and thank you for your comments.

Maria Coryell-Martin said...

Hi Peter,
Nice collection of palettes! I want to introduce myself and clarify about the Pocket Palette (credit card sized). I created it two years ago as a compact and versatile palette for my Expeditionary Art travels around the world. It's got a magnetic base, so you can replace and rearrange the pans. You can learn more about my work and see examples of the palette "in action" on my website: Malcom is reselling my Pocket Palette with paint. If you'd like try one out, let me know:
Happy painting! Maria

Jane Blundell said...

Hi Peter. I am glad Maria contacted you to fill the blanks about her lovely pocket palettes. I discovered these some time ago and bought a number from her for my students and other urban sketchers and showed them to Malcolm. I filled some of them with artist quality paints (Da Vinci, Daniel Smith and W&N) in his chosen colours for his students. I use a completely different range of colours in the ones I fill with my recommended colours. (see here if you are interested They are small but those little metal pans hold ¼ of a full pan of paint and allow excellent access with a brush. The square pans hold half a full pan of paint. The limited mixing area works very well with a water brush, which is what Maria designed them for.

What they allow is for the sketcher to have up to 14 colours available in their bag or pocket at any time. Not bad for US$30 plus paint!

On another matter - it is worth checking out what David of classicpaintboxes has been up to. We have been in contact for quite some time now and I think he is revolutionising brass palettes and is well worth watching! His new website will be up soon if it is not already.

Peter Ward said...

Thanks you Maria for your interesting comments and explanation of this small sketchers palette. I'm not really into sketching much - it just doesn't seem to suit me so I'm not the right person as I find the Craig Young Sketchers box on the small side. I will have a look at your website as I don't have a closed mind though.

Peter Ward said...

Hi Jane. I'm always interested in new developments in palettes and add them to this piece rather than keep starting new ones. The information is all in one place.
I don't have anything to add really on this new tiny palette to what has already been said. I prefer to paint no smaller than 16" X 12", am happy with my Craig Young boxes, although the Sketchers box is only really used these days for portrait work. If it suits you each to his or her own I say. Best Wishes.

David Cooper said...


As of now, the Classic Painbox site has been completely revamped and many boxes and options added to the site. Inc. brass pan options for those that have the need.

Old visits to the previous hosted site may not redirect, so refresh by only clicking the main search....not the pages listed by google.


David Cooper
Classic Paintboxes

Peter Ward said...

Thanks for update David.

Crystal Hart said...

Mr Ward, I was hoping you have some information on a very old Schmincke Tin/metal Palette Box with Porcelain insert pans, it looks to hold Brushes in the middle, and opens to have a mixing plate... it seems to be very old... Thank you for your Time, My Kindest Regards,

Peter Ward said...

I'm sorry Crystal I'm afraid I've no information about this palette. I suggest you `google' search and see if anything comes up.

Crystal Hart said...

Thank You Mr. Ward, I did several days of research on Google, Ebay, and different websites, and Can't find one like it... I hate to list my items on Ebay without having an idea of what they are worth, most of the little porcelain inserts have there paint, and there was extra's with it... I bought it at an Estate Sale here in Florida... It has a number N 4-16, but my research showed nothing for that number either... I appreciate your time and speedy response. My Kindest Regards,

Unknown said...

A really interesting artical. I wondered if you may be able to answer a question. Do you know what the Craig Young palettes are covered in. Is it vitreous enamel, baked enamel or enamel paint. The teason I ask is I live in Spain. I am a professional artist and have been since 1981 however before that
I was a Coppersmith on the Railways. I am considering making Palettes as Its so difficult to get one here in Spain.

Peter Ward said...

Not exactly certain Rory but I think it is enamel paint.

Jane Blundell said...

Rory I am sure that if you are serious about making high quality paintboxes you could contact either Craig Young or David or John and ask what they recommend.

Tsyrawe said...
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Tsyrawe said...

I have two paint boxes manufactured by Craig Young: Large and a Pocket Box, and a Mini Box by David Cooper. I appreciate and enjoy all three, but I must say, the David's paint box is of better quality; a white enamel has been laid perfectly and the brass has been polished more carefully.

Peter Ward said...

Thanks for comments Tsyrawe.

Carol said...

Fabulous blog, so many temptations! I am wondering if you have had any feedback on the iba-co palettes.

Peter Ward said...

No Carol nothing.

Anonymous said...
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Unknown said...
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How-Tudu said...

Hi Peter, we are RIGGER ART and we have our folding palette available at Amazon. It's larger than similar palettes, with 28 wells and 5 mixing areas. Used for plein air and studio, it is made from light weight yet sturdy plastic.
We would be honored to send a palette for your review.
Dekel Dave - Rigger Art

Unknown said...


On February 10, 2017, I ordered a Travel Palette (w/water bucket) from John Hurtley at The Little Brass Box Company. I received a response only HOURS later directly from John confirming my order. He calculated remaining cost and provided an updated estimated time frame, which was a few weeks earlier than expected.

I too was debating which travel palette to get and I feel confident about going with John. The craftsmanship looks fantastic and I know he has repeat customers. Also, I don't want to worry about my order or have to nudge.

Peter Ward said...

Thanks for that Mireya.

Edmund Ronald Ph. D. said...

I wanted a brass pocket box that could take standard half-pans and had a water bucket. I emailed John of littlebrassboxes and he said only Craig's travel box could do that, I noticed Craig had a new Bijou Box, which is basically a Roberson cut in two, just w wells. Ordered it - 120% satisfied, the thing is built like a tank, I dropped it and it didn't care, standard kitchen cleaners can be used when it gets stained, and a well can be used as a waterbucket. In the mean time I have acquired a collection of palettes, including an original Roberson, and may order something from John Hurtley eventually, to complete the set, but I have to say that Craig is a gentleman, informative on the phone, and his palette wonderfully made, and built for heavy use.


Peter Ward said...

Another palette freak! Just kidding Edmund. Thanks for comments and info.

Anonymous said...

Really wonderful treasure trove of palette information. I've been deliberating on taking the leap to a brass palette and am currently torn between going for a Craig Young or a John Hurtley. For most of my painting I use a Holbein 500 or Holbein 1000 palette, so most likely to go for the nearest equivalent in brass. I'd also like to put a shout out for the Frazer Price Palette box that I've become very attached to for sketching! (lots of images etc of this on my website, plus would be happy to send any over to you to add to this astonishing compendium of palettes! Thanks again for compiling this, I'm not at all surprised that it's such a popular page!

Peter Ward said...

Thanks for comments.
If you'd like to send me some info on this palette plus an image I'll add it to the post.

Anonymous said...

HI Peter, sorry for not replying sooner but I obviously didn't enter my correct details when I last posted but here's a link to where I posted some information on the Frazer Price palette box: - I'd be happy send you some of these images if it would be helpful, just let me know. I've also read on another thread recently that Jacksons Art Supplies were considering re-introducing this box. I've been pouring over your blog, and the comments thread again recently as I've just taken the plunge and have ordered a Binning Munro palette from John Hurtley's Little Brass Box Company and am beyond excited!

Peter Ward said...

Thanks John. I've looked at the link with interest. However this palette does not seem to be currently available so I think I'll leave it as anyone interested can follow it up from your post. Basically this is about palettes that are currently avalable with odd exceptions . I'm sure you'll love the palette from Little Brass box.

Unknown said...

Ah, okay thanks Peter, and many thanks for taking the time to visit my brusheswithwatercolour site. Maybe if Jacksons do bring it back it'll have a chance of being featured! Meantime I'll continue to follow with much interest while I await my delivery from the Little Brass Box Company! Thanks for such a brilliantly rich informative blog!

John Vick said...

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