The Summer of Altoids

I’ve received a lot of questions on my Instagram account lately about the tiny joy that is my Altoids tin painting kit, so I decided to round up the info for any of you who might like to give it a try!


First off, I cannot take credit for this highly portable gem. The Altoids tin has been used by many artists as an on-the-go watercolor palette, but only recently did I see on Instagram that the amazing cowboy artist Glenn Dean was using an oil paint adaption of that original concept (check out his Instagram – @glenndean), I’m a huge fan…).


When your paintings are this tiny, you don’t have to worry about lugging any solvents around, and the mint tin also doubles as storage for your wet painting. If you’re still overcoming performance anxiety, you’ll be delighted to find that you can now stealth-paint without curious bystanders peering over your shoulder! For all they know, you’re just sitting over there on that rock re-reading the Harry Potter series. Hooray for stealth-painting.

How to Make Your Own Tin

Step one: dump out the mints. 😉 Haha.

I use a small piece of palette paper to line the bottom, attached with a few globs of kneaded eraser (anything tacky will work) so that I can easily replace the paper between uses. My basic palette is titanium white, lemon yellow, cadmium yellow, cadmium red, alizarin crimson, cerulean blue, ultramarine, and ivory black. Keep in mind that using black out of a tube isn’t always the most effective way to go, because it can muddy up your other colors….so experiment without it sometimes! Because the oil-to-pigment ratio in my paints seems to vary pretty wildly, I make sure to tamp down the oilier ones so that they don’t try to slide around in transit. Alternatively, you could just bring your tubes of paint with you and avoid this issue altogether, but that makes your kit bulkier.

I buy small wooden panels at Michael’s and attach them to the lid with packing tape. They should be thin enough to not touch the paint palette on the bottom when you close the tin. I prime them in advance with a coat of GAC-100 (to prevent any contaminants from the wood from affecting the paint over time) and a couple coats of gesso. You could definitely use pre-primed canvas paper instead; I just prefer a smoother surface when I’m painting something this small.

Then all you need are some tiny brushes and paper towel, and you’re ready for a miniature plein air adventure! Happy painting!

See more of my mini paintings on Instagram –