DIY Altoids Watercolor Tin

June 21, 2012

Watercolors are a very handy paint because they are reusable once dry and you don't need to use a lot of paint to make a good painting. Plus, after a year of struggle, I'm starting to fall in love with watercolors and always like to have them handy.

But unless you are willing to shell out an exuberant amount of money on solid pan watercolors (or are willing to work with kiddie palettes seen in kindergartens around the world), watercolors aren't very portable.

Until you find an Altoids tin and a few hours for crafting. :)

The pictures are pretty self explanatory, so I'm not going to bore you with a bunch of rambling details and interesting tangents. Allons-y!

All you need is an Altoids tin, Mod Podge or another decoupage glue, paint sample cards (the kind with the glossy finish), and some watercolor tubes!

The height of the separators is up to you. 1 cm did the trick for me. It keeps the paint in but gives the tin some wriggle room so I can fit in mini paper, paper towel bits, pencil stubs, and mini paintbrushes, too.

At this point, I realized I needed more accordion-fold-paper-thingamabobbers, made a second one, and glued them together.

I then made some more separators so I could fit more colors into the tin. They are 1 cm wide and nestle into the accordion-fold paper..

Make sure that no paint can escape between the separators. Coat all the edges and corners with 2-3 thick layers of Mod Podge. Drying time between each layer will be exasperatingly long (about an hour) but it's worth it. For good measure, coat everything with Mod Podge just in case your paint card isn't glossy enough to be relatively waterproof.

As you can see from this picture, I hadn't properly sealed the separators and the red paint leaked.

These are colors that went into my tin. They don't have color names on them (they are from a set of watercolors my parents gave me when I was 10, and which I've only recently used. Notice how all the tubes are already breaking and paint is squishing and squashing all over the sides-- this is the perfect way to save old tubes of paint that would otherwise be hard to use!).

I wanted a wee container for holding water so that my kit could have everything I need for a tiny painting. After scavenging the house and testing out tiny plastic containers, I decided on the little plastic case that my brother's tiny scapular came in (far right).

I wanted to use the lid as a mixing palette, but didn't like the shiny gray, so I cut a plastic page separator from a notebook and glued it onto the lid.

There is still room to set some paper, paper towels, pencil stubs, and miniature paintbrushes on top of the watercolors.

Of course, it's not finished until you Mod Podge on a hand painted cover. And spelling watercolors the British way is a necessity. *nods gravely*

Overall, this is a fairly quick project that is absolutely free for people who have crafting materials hanging around. Well, the "curiously strong" mints aren't free, but you get to eat those so it's no biggie splurging a couple dollars. :)

If you attempt this project, please leave a comment! I'd love to check it out. :)

I made two tins, and the second was ultra miniature! I used one of those metal and plastic sleeves that allergy pills come in. The holes for the pills are the perfect size for a drop of paint. This one is so small that I can shove it in a pocket or tiny purse with no problem!


After two years of dragging this tin around with me, it's still going strong! I brought it along with me to college, where it's come in very useful. I'll stash it in my backpack and work on sketchbook homework during my spare time-- or while eating a splurge of a breakfast ten minutes before a lecture class!

I highly recommend that anyone making a travel watercolor box invest in a waterbrush. These are paintbrushes that you can load with water, and they cost less than $7 at most stores.

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  1. That is awesome! I love how tiny and complete it is. I mean, you even have *water*! Brilliant. :-)

  2. you know, i have this thing about never ever throwing away an altoids tin because there are so many ingenious ideas - like your's here - that i want to recreate one day. fantastic idea!

  3. Love this project! Would you link it up with me at Wow Us Wednesday?

  4. Great idea ~ i so love the cakes instead of the tubes ~ thanks, ^_^ (A Creative Harbor)

  5. Oh my gosh.. such a super cute idea.. :) I'll use this when we travel.. for sure!!

    Thanks for linking into CD weekly wrap up..

  6. That is really great! What a wonderful idea. I think you might have a lot of people copying you! Gonna pin it because I think it needs to be shared...

  7. Hi! Visiting from Creative Jewish Mom to say ... this is fantastic, I love it and am pinning asap! xo Malia

  8. LOVE this project, and especially the sweet cover painting! Thanks so very much for sharing on Craft Schooling Sunday, you have earned yourself a feature! Hope to see you back again soon!

  9. I love this craft. I am going to create this with my pre school class. Thanks!!

  10. I love it! I'm going to have to start an Altoids habit now :) Just shared on my Facebook page and there's a little discussion going on about Mod Podge substitutes. Thanks for the nice tutorial.

  11. Awesome - I can't wait to try it.

  12. this looks really fun. just became a follower : )

  13. brilliant! i've seen a few different diys for traveling watercolors but i like yours best...methinks. thank you for sharing! I think this would be great for gifts...instant pin!


  14. i have a circular mint tin...
    anything different?

  15. I'm going to make this as soon as I get a tin... I really like your ideas because you don't have to buy a whole lot of stuff!

  16. good ideas did mine a bit different my idea was not to buy anything on tight budget: I used 2 altoild boxes (yes i ate the mints)6 bottle caps (got 6 bottles of water from dollar tree drank the water) craft magnet (used some old magnetic business cards)white plastic baskets (3 for dollar at dollar tree)
    took lid from one box, cut 2 inserts to fit lids and one to fit bottom of box from the bottom of plastic baskets, cut magnets to fit bottle caps glue magnets to bottle caps, 6 will fit box glue a 1/4" strip of magnet to back top of the 2 plastic inserts put in lids the extra lid will fit on bottom of box for extra mixing space. fill caps with ur favourite colors the magnets will hold them in place the smaller insert fits on top for a shelf to hold brushes, pencil etc. I spent 1 dollar on this project. Hope this helps.

  17. Amazing, can't wait to make one for myself.


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