Squeezing paint into a mint tin, for art

I've had tiny palettes on the brain lately. I think it's one of those things where I swear I'm going to do [x] (paint) more because I have [y] (a tiny paint palette). I thought really hard about getting a fancy small wooden palette (as seen in this tiny palette mega review by Leslie Stroz), but decided against it in favor of engineering one out of a mint tin.

I love putting random shit in mint tins. I already keep my small cross stitching projects in one (you would be shocked at the amount of embroidery floss you can stuff into one Altoids tin), so I might as well keep the ball rolling.

First, some considerations: I am a gouache painter. I am error-prone, so I like being able to endlessly paint over mistakes, a luxury I cannot have with watercolor. One should be aware that drying gouache into cakes will make the paint behave differently than it would fresh out of a tube. You're basically turning it into really opaque watercolor. I think anyone who wants to make gouache cakes knows this, but some gouache painters get weirdly hostile and patronizing about the prospect of gouache pans for some reason... so there it is! (Surprisingly, some of us like experimenting with the medium.)

Another consideration: not all gouache will behave the same when you let it dry out. I've heard certain brands are horrible for cakes unless you have some gum arabic or another binder on hand — I think Winsor and Newton is one that gets particularly crumbly and unworkable, so proceed with caution. I use Holbein and it dries out great. It cracks a little bit, but it doesn't crumble, and it rehydrates fine.

Regardless of the brand, a fresh tube of white is also necessary because white doesn't do its job very well in cake form.

I got some Grumbacher half pans and magnetic tape at a local art supply store so I could stick everything to the tin. I've heard of people using stuff like water bottle caps as well. You can also fit quite a few full pans into a decent-sized mint tin, but I didn't want to use too much paint on these pans. I suggest using magnetic tape and not glue because you're going to need to clean paint off of both the tin itself and the individual pans eventually. Permanently adhering the pans to the tin complicates this. Magnetic tape also allows you to have a collection of pans that you can interchange in your tin.

The pans with paint freshly squeezed into them.

Ideally, the lid of the tin should be flat without any embossing so paint doesn't get stuck in the grooves. This rules out most Altoids tins unless you're willing to tolerate the grooves or fill it in with something like polymer clay.

I tried to mix colors on the metal surface of the lid, but you can't really tell what color you're mixing. A white surface was in order. I tried appliance enamel per a post from Three Star Owl, and it works very well as a paint-mixing surface.

Appliance enamel is waterproof and easy to clean, but I learned the hard way that it can still hold stains after not cleaning paint off for a week. I don't really care, but if you do, clean it promptly. (I also think the main culprit for the staining is the pigment in the cyan paint I use, so your mileage may vary.) I'm also going to try some DIY palette stain cleaning solutions to see if any of them work here.

The lid with some faint stains on it after not being cleaned for a while.

That's all there is to the engineering component, so let's talk about the artistic merits of putting paint into a mint tin. I'm not really into painting without a flat surface, so I don't intend on using this to, say, paint while I'm hiking or something. (But it could be done! You could fit one of those compact water brushes in here too.) I mainly enjoy the limitations of working on a small scale and with a limited color palette.

I mix my colors with primaries normally, so this admittedly isn't that much of a limitation, but I've been having fun experimenting with the texture of the dried gouache; I'm using it a bit more like watercolor by taking advantage of the increased transparency.

Paintings I did with the dried gouache (a butterfly and a plant). I used strong, vibrant colors to test how far I could take the paints out of the pans.

I haven't gotten to do anything super substantial with my mint tin so far, which is fine. As I mentioned earlier, I did this to give myself a (relatively) excuse-free way to paint more frequently, even if it's trivial. For future endeavors, I'd like to try out some other limited palettes to make things more interesting.