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If you're a painter, I bet you have the same problem as me - wanting allllll the paint colors. In the past, I've used pan paints because it is so much bang for the buck. For instance, I love the set by Kuretake that costs only $37 for 36 colors (available on Amazon)! I've used it for years, and the colors are lovely and mix well. It's also so quick to just close the lid and slide it back on the shelf when you're done.
Recently, I've tried a few tube paints and I've just fallen hard for Winsor & Newton professional watercolor paints. The colors are so vibrant and the pigments so smooth! The issue? They are not so easy to store away when not in use. (FYI, if you scroll most of the way down, I share links to what paint tubes I currently have).
I spent some time researching the best ways to store watercolor tubes, and considered purchasing a variety of plastic organizer that were just... bleh. A few resources recommended storing tubes of paint cap-down, in order to cause less separation in the ingredients and help them last longer. Inspiration struck!
So, today I'm sharing with you how to build your own DIY watercolor tube paint storage board - and for $32 or less, in one day!
I decided to go ahead and build my own tube paint storage board for a few reasons. I loved using vertical storage space, and can hang this right above the rest of my supplies. Also, my studio is just a little corner of my living room so all my supplies are on display - aesthetics are a priority! After considering various pegboard options and not finding them to be as attractive as I would like, I remembered I had these gold binder clips and decided to pick up a few other supplies and make a custom storage solution that met all of my needs.
1. Gather Your Supplies
You may already have some of these around the house! This is a very customizable project, so you can use whatever you have on hand or pick up supplies in the colors, shapes, or sizes you prefer. My total supplies cost around $32 (not including watercolor paints, of course) and I only used a fraction of the stain, finish spray, nails, etc. so could have made two of these easily!
- Stain-grade wood project board, $10.43 at Lowes Home Improvement
- Pre-stain wood conditioner, $5.98 by Minwax available on Amazon
- Wood stain .5 pint, $4.98 by Minwax (I used "provincial") available on Amazon
- Top coat enamel finish, $3.98 for this Valspar clear finish in "satin" at Lowes Home Improvement
- Finish nails, $1.30 at Lowes Home Improvement (they call these "copper plated" but they look rose gold)
- Binder clips, $6.19 for these gold ones in various sizes on Amazon (I used ones I happened to have around)
Total cost: $32.86
You'll also need a pencil and a hammer from around your house, and something to hang the board on your wall (like Command Strips or a metal hangers you can attach to the back).
Optional steps listed below include making watercolor swatches to hang above each paint tube, which would also require paper and your painting supplies. Also, I used a white Sharpie paint pen to write my business name on the board, just for fun - if you have a little extra room on yours, it is a fun way to personalize it!
BTW, I just chose a round board for fun; a rectangular one would fit more paints!
2. Prep The Surface
While the stain-grade wood board I picked up from Lowes Home Improvement is advertised as stain grade and already sanded, I found some of the edges a little rough and used a spare piece of 220 grit sandpaper to smooth them down; this is optional if your board doesn't need it!
Next, I did one coat of pre-stain wood conditioner by Minwax. I highly recommend this step, even though it is an easy one to skip. In my experience, the overall quality of a wood stain project ends up so much higher when you use this stuff, and it only takes spreading on a thin layer, a quick wipe-down with a rag and then 30 minutes of dry-time. Just trust me on this one!
3. Stain & Seal The Wood
I used Minwax stain in "provincial" - it's one of my favorite stain colors as it is such a nice tone, not too light or not too dark. You should follow the directions on your can of stain, but my method is:
- Apply one coat of stain, moving in the same direction as the grain;
- Wait 15 minutes;
- Rub excess stain off, in the same direction as the grain and evening out any too-dark or too-light areas;
- Allow at least 8 hours to dry.
I finished it off with this Valspar topcoat in satin-finish, with three very light coats. (Obviously, I was too lazy to walk to the garage and just did this part on my cement side steps.)
4. Lay Out Your Design
After the board had thoroughly dried, I brought it inside and laid out everything on top of it to see what layout I liked.
I began by putting the binder clips on the paint tubes, and laying them in rows with the paper swatches above them, to see how many would fit in each room. Then, I used a pencil to mark the hole in the binder clip handle, so I would know where to put my nails.
Wondering why I left so much space between them? Most of my tube paints are the smallest size available (5ml). However, if in the future I pick them up in the 14ml or 37ml sizes, I want to be sure they still fit on the board. I measured the larger tubes and they were about 4" long, so I went ahead and left enough space for that.
You might also want to make a bigger board, if you have more paints! Tube paints are a little pricier than the pans I've used in the past (like $6-$10 for just one tube) so I'm limiting myself to a smaller initial palette. In reality, I can achieve all of the same colors I used to get from pan paints, just by mixing the pigments together. I do hope over time to collect more colors, so might have to make myself a bigger board in the future!
5. Add the Nails
The next step is simple - just go ahead and hammer in a nail on each of the spots you marked with your pencil!
6. Create the Paint Swatches (Optional)
This is the fun part (at least to me)! To easily identify which paint you are reaching for, you can use watercolor paper, paints, and a pen to create a swatch label to hang above each tube. Simply:
- Measure the size of swatch you want (mine were 1.25" x 2" or so);
- Cut or tear your paper to size (I love using a paper bone folder, shown in the pic to the left, below);
- Use a pen or pencil to label the top of the swatch with the name of the color;
- Paint a pretty little swatch on each piece of paper!
I mentioned above that I'm starting with a fairly limited palette or tube paints. I already had a few, and then added to them to cover all of the primary colors and have enough of a range of hues. Below is what I currently have, linked to Dick Blick (my favorite art supplier):
- Opera Rose
- Scarlet Lake
- Winsor Yellow
- Winsor Lemon (which is so lovely)
- Cobalt Turquoise Light
- French Ultramarine
- Winsor Blue
- Titanium White (and another white gouache I just happened to have)
Tip: I found Winsor & Newton's guide to a "6 Colour Mixing System" really helpful as I chose my starter tubes!
7. Add A Custom Touch (Optional)
This is completely optional, but my layout left some space at the bottom of the board. I didn't want to miss an opportunity to add a little personalization, so I sketched out my business name on the wood using a white pencil and then went over it with a white Sharpie paint marker. Next time, I'll just use white paint and a brush (the Sharpie paint marker absorbed way too fast into the wood.)
I have plans for a larger board in the future, and am considering using a larger rectangular board, one with unfinished bark edges, or a lighter stain color. There are also so many fun binder clip colors and designs available!
You can see I still have a few empty clips, so room to grow!
If you're looking for an attractive yet affordable storage option for your tube paints, I hope this does the trick!
How do you store your watercolor paints? Do you have a large collection of paints, or just a few that you mix together?