In this hobby hack, I’m going to share a few ideas to organise your paint collection by creating a self-made paint swatch. I made one for the 500+ colours I own and it has become an invaluable asset for paint scheme planning and visual referencing. Find out more in this ToP Tip.

The more paints you own, the harder it will become to keep track of your collection, especially if you can’t arrange all your paint pots in sight. Also, dried paints can look noticeably different than wet paint in a pot or bottle, so keeping a hand-painted colour swatch for visual reference is a great idea. Mine has become an invaluable tool to plan my paint schemes, and I also use them to photograph the colour comparisons for our paint reviews.

When I see people make paint swatches, they often use a notebook with plain white (artist) paper. Well, it’s an option, and better than nothing, but paper is open porous and the paint will soak in, resulting in a different finish than painted over a smooth coat of primer. On the other hand, paper makes it easy to make additional notes like adding your favourite paint mixes and recipes.

ToP Tip: Hand-painted colour swatches featured image

For my paint swatches I wanted a more realistic feel. After some brainstorming and research I ended up buying several sheets of A4 sized plasticard with a 4 mm grid structure. I bought mine from Green Stuff World, but there are other manufacturers if you don’t like the company for their antics.

Next, I primed these sheets with Uniform Grey primer from The Army Painter (affiliate link, thank you for your support 🙂, but feel free to use your favourite primer instead. A mid grey primer makes an excellent neutral base colour, but if you mainly use black primer for example, then go for black. I also primed one sheet with Corax White from Games Workshop, which is an almost white light grey. This sheet will be reserved for washes, shades, and Contrast Paints.

With a water-proof thin Micron pen I made three markings: The small box at the top has the initials for the paint range (GW = Games Workshop, AP = The Army Painter, and so on). The box in the middle has the initials for the specific paint, and in the box at the bottom, I keep a tally sheet for how many coats I had to apply for a perfect coverage.

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The 3 x 3 boxes next to these markings are then painted in the corresponding paint. The grid will help to keep everything neatly lined up and the plasticard’s structure will help you estimate how a specific paint looks on a textured surface with natural light and shadow.

So how do you like my self-made paint swatch and how do you keep track of your paint collection? I’m open for ideas, so let us know in the comment section below.


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