Muji pocket palette

Here’s my new homemade pocket palette. It cost about £8 and two hours to make, weighs almost nothing (53 grams or less than 2 ozs, including paint…) and has lots of room for pigments and mixing. It’s small enough to be part of your every-day carry, but big enough to be practical and useable. So no excuses not to be sketching whenever/wherever…

I made it partly because I enjoy tinkering with kit, but mainly because:

My previous one is showing its age; the metal pans are starting to rust, and this is discolouring the paints. If you have a palette with these tiny metal pans, beware…

I needed a couple of extra pans for some extra paints. For sketching on tinted papers I want to include a few opaque watercolours, including white. These are much smoother and easier to use than gouache, and mix beautifully with my usual six translucent paints.cbvxcb14

I’ve also got used to using a couple of extra pigments: Perylene Green for rich and deep foliage, and Payne’s Grey for meltingly smooth shadows.cbvxcb15

Opportunity… Muji are now selling a card-case that has a deeper lid with high sides. It’s still aluminium, so very light, but can accommodate more mixing wells, and uses all the available surface area. I got this one at London’s Oxford St branch, but it doesn’t seem to be on their website yet? Here it is on Amazon… It’s the perfect case to adapt.


To work! (or is it play…)

1 – First use pliers and and a blade to remove the metal flaps that hold cards in place. Prise the aluminium apart at the hinge (very easy, it’s a soft metal). Leave the spring on.

2 – Cover the base of each half with white self-adhesive vinyl (‘sticky backed plastic’). I’ve found this much easier and more consistent than trying to paint the bases.

3 – Make the partitions in the palette. I use white ‘Stripstyrene’ (2.5 x 4mm plastic strips used in model-making, available here, or here and here, and any modeller’s den you can get to). You could use Sugru, or long beads of epoxy/sealant. The setup will be up to you, but by having odd numbers of rows you’ll avoid having any partitions next to the case’s simple catch mechanism. Here’s me trying to work out what I needed…


I’ve found that surface area is the key to a useful palette. You don’t need much depth of paint, instead you want to be able to get at it with the brush. With mixing wells, the more the better. I keep one for mixing flesh tones, one for greens, and one for opaque white mixes, leaving three extra for any particular sketch. The plastic’s soft enough to cut with a knife, and I use superglue to fix the strips. I fix the central strips first.


I’m fairly generous with the glue, allowing it to run around the edges of the strips which helps to seal the separate sections…

4 – Fill the pans. I only half-fill pans, which makes it easier to wet and use the paints. Leave it to air-dry for as long as it takes (six hours outside on a sunny summer’s day, a day indoors in a warm house). Now stop tinkering with kit, leave the house and use the palette!


(My set up: the usual translucent six on the left of the lower lid, on the right the three opaque pigments and Payne’s Grey. On the upper lid the top three wells for white, green and skin mixes, the remaining three for mixing whatever’s needed.)

Good luck, and let me know if you’ve got any suggestions, questions, improvements etc…

About Ed Mostly

Enthusiastic daily sketcher based in Bath Uk
This entry was posted in Bath, kit, palettes, technique, urban, urban sketching and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Muji pocket palette

  1. miatagrrl says:

    You’re so crafty! That’s very cool!


  2. Viktoria says:

    This is so inspiring! I need to go out and sketch…

  3. Homephoenix says:

    Love this!! Will definitely search this out and diy one. I’m definitely an addict but usually can’t wait to try it out pleinair! I agreed about the mixing space. .interesting that you use a white pigment.

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  5. Arton says:

    Hi Ed, Cool. Where did you get the metal trays in your original box? Are they some kind of make-up pans?

    • Ed Mostly says:

      Hi Tony, I got them from ‘Expeditionary Arts’ but EBay would be much cheaper as they’re just standard make up pans. The small size is very fiddly, so I’d get the larger square ones, just wAtch out for the rusting over time… Have fun making your palette!

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