Painting can be a bit of a production.
That’s part of why watercolor has become such a popular choice among artists – just bring a cup of water and a couple brushes and you’re good to go.
Pan sets make the process even more convenient by removing tubes of paint entirely. The dried cakes within are easily activated with a few drops of water and their small size fits a whole spectrum of color into a single set.
But if you really want a watercolor set that’s as practical as possible, you might go with one that literally fits in your pocket.
The Sketchers’ Pocket Box from Winsor and Newton packs a shocking amount of power into a compact form.
In this hands-on review, we’ll put the paints through their paces and decide if this pocket set is worth your pocket change.
Good things come in small packages
At 189 years old, Winsor and Newton is one of the more reputable art supply brands, with a wide range of painting products available. The paints in this set come from their Cotman line, which is consider more “economical” and a step below their professional grade paints.
Once unboxed, you’ll find the compact plastic case even smaller than you might have imagined. It’s honestly quite cute. 😍
Inside are 12 half-pan colors individually wrapped and labeled. The lid of the case has 3 sections for mixing, as well as a small slot for the included brush.
The most portable watercolor kit
The Winsor and Newton sketcher’s pocket box measures 2.5″ x 5″ x 1″. This makes it roughly the same dimensions as a couple of iPhones stacked together. The “pocket” reference might just seem like marketing hyperbole, but in this case it’s quite honest.
While the simple white case might not seem as fancy as a metal tin, the plastic still feels quite sturdy and has a tight clasp when closed.
After working with the paints for a few weeks, we found the colors to be vibrant and easy to mix. There was no grittiness from the paint cakes and everything felt quite smooth.
Combining colors in the palette was quick and easy, though wet-on-wet techniques didn’t quite blend on the paper as well as more premium watercolors.
The lack of a darker shade like payne’s gray might throw some people off, but there are ways of mixing your own grays from the colors provided.
- Burnt Umber + Cobalt Blue = cool black
- Burnt Umber + Ultramarine = greenish/off-black
- Cobalt Blue + Burnt Sienna = warm gray
- Cadmium Red + Ultramarine = neutral gray
- Alizarin Crimson + Viridian = cool gray
The 12 colors included in the Sketcher’s Pocket Box are as follows:
- Lemon Yellow Hue
- Cadmium Yellow Hue
- Cadmium Red Pale Hue
- Alizarin Crimson Hue
- Intense Blue (Phthalo Blue)
- Viridian Hue
- Sap Green
- Yellow Ochre
- Burnt Sienna
- Burnt Umber
- Chinese White
It’s hard to find many problems with a set this affordable, but there are a few things worth noting…
There is no black or gray included. This can make darkening colors a bit of a challenge, and is made more strange by the inclusion of Chinese White instead. White simply doesn’t do much good in the semi-transparent world of watercolor.
The included brush, while capable in a pinch, is a bit flimsy and feels more at home in a makeup kit.
The paint pans will fall out of the case if it’s turned upside down without the lid closed.
The tools you have at hand will always be the ones you become the most adept with. Being able to stash a 14 piece watercolor set in a pocket, bag or purse makes this set incredibly convenient and accessible.
With a price under $19, it’s also an affordable choice considering the reputation of the brand and number of paints included.