Daily Archives: April 12, 2015

DIY Altoids Watercolor Paint Box

Since I started exploring watercolors, I’ve come across the “use an old Altoids tin as a travel paint box” trick several times, and it’s always intrigued me. It just looks so easy to do! It combines being creative and MacGyver-y with materials you either already have on hand or that are easily accessible, so win-win right?

And also, regular watercolor tin boxes can get crazy expensive! Nobody said art was a cheap calling, but still – I’m just getting started and haven’t even graduated to all non-student-grade paints yet!

So I started reviewing all the different methods and suggestions people had for creating their own Altoids paint boxes, like in these links:

So, after perusing enough links to get an idea of how to get started, I decided to try using magnets to hold the watercolor pans in place. I assembled the following materials:

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Making A DIY Altoids Watercolor Tin:  Assembling The Materials

Step One: Determine Your Box Arrangement

First lesson learned – these paint boxes are waaay smaller than I thought they’d be!! I ordered 6 half pans and 2 full pans, thinking I wouldn’t be able to get all them in. But actually I have room for more – at least 2-3 half more at least. I think I’ll be ordering a few more in both sizes to experiment with finding the perfect combination. Right now I have a weird gap on the side because I had too few pans.

Step Two: Attach The Magnets

Once you’ve found a paint box layout you like, attach the adhesive magnets. The set I found had them pre-scored into 1″ squares. Cutting each square in half worked perfectly for the full paint pans, and in quarters for the half pans.  They stick to the Altoids tin firmly, and even when the tin is held upside down and shaken, they didn’t fall out.

Step Three: Add The Paint

I chose the following pigments as my test paint palette – all Winsor & Newton Cotman Watercolor tubes:

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Making A DIY Altoids Watercolor Tin:  Adding The Paint

Step Four: Final Touches

The paint will dry out to avoid messiness when traveling, and can be reactivated with drops of water, or kept moist by adding a drop of glycerine. I didn’t have anything handy to add to it, so am just going to let them air-dry and add water as needed. Ideally, in the future I will find a waterproof or enamel paint to coat the inside of the lid, so I can use it as a mixing surface. But for now, I created a mini watercolor chart to show what combinations I can get from the palette I chose. I also added a square of parchment paper to put over the paints just in case they did fall out of the pans or get messy.

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Making A DIY Altoids Watercolor Tin:  Adding Final Touches

Extra Step: Making a Watercolor Color Chart

Of course, whenever getting new paints I want to make a watercolor chart! So I made both a full (sketchbook sized) version, and a little mini version to keep with the Altoids tin. I think my beginner paint choices were good ones – I can get some pretty nice secondary colors like oranges, greens and purples from the 7 colors I chose. Some action shots of the color charting process, just for fun!

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The Final Result!

So, here it is in all its glory! It has some future tweaks – including coating the lid for a mixing surface, and adding some extra pans or a sponge or somehow using the blank space. But otherwise I’m really pleased with how it turned out!!

Making A DIY Altoids Watercolor Tin:  The Final Result!

Making A DIY Altoids Watercolor Tin: The Final Result!

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Review: Levenger SmartPlanner Agenda

A couple of months ago I had the opportunity to review the Levenger True Writer Select fountain pen, which I really enjoyed. Levenger was also generous enough to send me the SmartPlanner agenda system to review as well. So I started testing out the Levenger SmartPlanner letter-size agenda as my work planner, and thought I’d see if it could woo me away from my own Pretty Pretty Planner printables. After a few weeks in steady rotation, here are my impressions.

First of all, I really like the color and design of the SmartPlanner. If you’ve followed Levenger’s products for awhile, you know that before the SmartPlanner came out, their planners and refills were all monochromatic and boring. Case in point – this one. And this one. Annnnnd this one. Also, did I mention, this one? Levenger desperately needed to add some color and style to their planners.

So when I saw the SmartPlanner, I instantly liked the color scheme – soft, muted pastels that meshed perfectly with dividing tabs (also these) and pocket folders that are already staples in the Circa Accessories line.

First impressions, the planner is hefty! I expected that given it is letter-sized, but with the larger 1″ discs and all the weekly refills it’s definitely not purse-sized. But it’s a great size for a planner that stays on the desk all day. You can get a SmartPlanner assembled with discs and cover, or just the refills separately. I was sent the assembled SmartPlanner.

The front and back views are shown here:

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Levenger SmartPlanner Agenda – Front Cover

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Levenger SmartPlanner Agenda – Back Cover

The monthly tabs are a nice copper orange-brown with a scripted white font for the month names.

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Levenger SmartPlanner Agenda – Side View

The normal inside coversheet has space for contact information.

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The first couple of pages provide space for personal/reference information, and an introduction to the SmartPlanner system, as well as yearly calendars.

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The Monthly Pages

Each monthly tab page has a light orange shaded sheet on the reverse side.

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The month-on-two-pages layout is roomy and spacious, with orange shading on the bottom half of each daily box. The 100 gsm paper is a hefty weight, and feels thick and substantial to the touch. Of course I tested it out with all my inked fountain pens and even some Sharpies and brush pens. Because of the shading on the back of these tabs there is minimal showthrough. Only with the heavy broad/thick nibbed pens and Sharpies could you see any signs of what was written on the other side.

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Levenger SmartPlanner Agenda – Monthly View

The Weekly Pages

The weekly pages followed each monthly tab set. The left side page has boxes for the days of the week, and the right side page has sections for weekly goals, daily todo’s, and notes. I like the layout in general, although from a data flow perspective would rather have the pages reversed – plan out the weekly goals and todo’s on the first page, and then from there have the daily boxes on the next page. Also, how awesome does my lime green Lamy Safari look with these copper orange colors??

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Levenger SmartPlanner Agenda – Weekly View

The paper quality, as with the monthly tabs, is actually pretty decent. I went at it with fountain pens, markers, Sharpies, even a WATERBRUSH (the palm tree sketch). The waterbrush caused some bleedthrough as was expected – the paper wasn’t quite THAT hardy. But the rest of the fountain pen writing didn’t have much showthrough. Here is the reverse side of the left side of the weekly layout above.

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And the reverse side of the right side of the weekly layout above. The markers have some spots of bleedthrough, with the worst offender being the Bic Permanent Marker.

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The SmartPlanner “App” System

So, here’s the metaphorical fly in the ointment for me. When I introduce the system to others. I can praise the monthly and weekly layout, the colors, the style – but then I always get asked, “But, what are these APP things?” So I have to awkwardly explain that the “Apps” are complementary add-on activity sheets you can get to supplement the SmartPlanner, such as to-do lists, meeting notes, etc.

But honestly, when I first saw the SmartPlanner was released, I was really excited – until I saw the “Apps” – then my reaction was pretty much like this:

Just … REALLY? I’m sorry – I love you guys, but you just can’t name add-ons “apps” – it’s a PAPER PLANNER, that’s not how this works!

That all being said, I got over my issue with the name quickly enough, mostly because the SmartPlanner Apps are just as nicely designed and colorful and coordinated as the main SmartPlanner. Along with the SmartPlanner Levenger also sent me the LTG 7-App Sampler Pack. Each “app” pad has 25 sheets and is made with 100gsm paper.

The “LTG 7-App Pack” is named so because it contains three LIST “apps” (To-Do, Take-With Lists, and Keep & Share Notes), one TASK “app” (Meeting Notes), and three GO “apps” (Travel Tamer, Ideation Station, and Doodler). I myself didn’t have an immediate work use for all of these apps right now, but took lots of pics to show them in their full-size glory.
1. To Do app
From the Levenger website: “Five color blocks give you more manageability—make one long list or five different ones, for daily or recurring tasks. Each color block can be for a different kind of To Do—work, home, fitness, and so on. Or assign different colors to various family or team members. With a column for prioritizing, plus a date and check-off box for marking progress.”

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2. Take-With Lists app (perforated)
From the Levenger website: “Vertically perforated sheets mean you can keep separate lists for work and home, or for different projects. Keep these multiple lists in your Master Agenda till you’re ready to perf and take with.”

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3. Keep & Share Notes app (semi-perforated)
From the Levenger website: “A delegator’s dream: give the perf’d side of the color block (5 per sheet) to the doer, and keep a record of your directions on the other. Or make it the traffic manager for items you lend, with a note to whom and when on the Keep side and a gentle reminder about returning on the Share side. You can also use the two sides independently, jotting flashes of inspiration on the Keep sheets and making notes to yourself on the Share sheets. (Place them where they’re most likely to jog your memory.) Let this app do the work for your memory, which you can put to better use.

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4. Meeting Notes app
From the Levenger website: “This app helps you turn notes into useful references and action points. On the front, use separate sections for concepts, key points and action steps.  On the back, use the ruled white sheet for taking longer notes. A pagination line keeps track of multiple pages on the same topic.”

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5. Travel Tamer app
From the Levenger website: “Consolidate info for each trip onto one simple sheet—flights on front; hotels, cars and sights on back. Use completed sheets as reference for repeat trips. They’re also a helpful record for expense

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6. Ideation Station app
From the Levenger website: “Find a creative solution to a problem using different words to connect concepts. The Ideation Station app adapts the effective method that Todd Henry, the author of The Accidental Creative, has designed for starting with a challenge and ending up with possible—and often surprising—solutions. You can do all this on one sheet of paper (take some with you on the plane).

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7. Doodler app
From the Levenger website: “Soft colors and different shapes (vertical blocks on back) just may help you doodle your way to ingenious new thoughts. Not a doodler? Use as a sketch pad or to jot notes.”

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Conclusions

I really enjoyed testing out the Levenger SmartPlanner Agenda – many thanks to Levenger for the opportunity to see if it’d work for my work Circa. I became a fan of the overall look and style of the SmartPlanner – the soft colors, the tabs, everything looks fantastic! And overall the agenda, like everything Levenger, screams high quality. That all being said, since I was testing this planner out for my work Circa, the horizontal weekly layout just wasn’t fitting my needs. In my job, I do a lot of database testing, and keep track of my time on various projects by the hour. So while I don’t have many pre-scheduled appointments, a vertical weekly planner layout serves my needs much better than the horizontal daily boxes of the SmartPlanner. So I’ve passed it on to my husband who is really excited to give it a shot for his work planning needs. I really hope that in the future, Levenger expands its layout to incorporate other formats – I’d love to see a vertical layout in the same SmartPlanner style.