Swatching Colorways - from guest blogger McKenzie Hilscher

Swatching Colorways - from guest blogger McKenzie Hilscher

Hey there! 

My name is McKenzie, and I am the owner of @happihippishop, a company I curated with my Mom in the summer of 2020.  We travel all over Michigan for Craft and Artisan shows as well as maintain an online presence.  

Some things to know about me: I have quite the “green thumb”, and oftentimes focus my watercolor art on houseplants, gardens, wildflowers, and mushrooms because they are what I connect most to.  I specialize in abstract, using outlining to emphasize my art. I also would like to mention that I have no formal art training, and choose to watercolor simply for the fun of it!  

 Here are a few other philosophies that I run on in my business and in my personal life:

  1. Simplify the situation
  2. If it’s hard, you probably aren't adding enough water… (ha ha, get it)
  3. There is NOTHING wrong with throwing it in the trash…not all things are meant to be! Oftentimes my trash can is more colorful than what I end up with at the end of the day!

You will notice throughout my partnership with TheSmilingHippo that I oftentimes have a simple craft, creation, or addition I am focusing on, this is because I am a busy college student at the University of Michigan.  I enjoy 5-minute ideas and crafts and will display ideas that are easy and quick.

With this, the first thing I would like to introduce you to is my “Swatch Book”, in which I put all of my favorite watercolor paints, pallets, and samples.  Having everything in one place is a lifesaver when I am curating art! By curating a simplified version of what I have to offer, customers and myself can directly source a color instead of searching through my collection of paints! 

Here is what I use:

  1. A blank notebook (can be spiral bound, a bound book, etc)
  2. A few sheets of watercolor paper
  3. A watercolor brush (any paint brush works, I choose a thicker one to do them faster, but that’s just me)
  4. Watercolor pallets that you have, in this specific post, I focused on the amazing metallics and glitter paints by TheSmilingHippo…I was given some sample colors within my package, and I swatched those as well because I plan on using them in my art!
  5. A glass of clean water
  6. Paper towell sheets
  7. A pen (I choose a black fine-point Sharpie)
  8. A one-inch paper puncher (once again, use anything that you like/have on hand)
  9. Some glue that works “paper-to-paper”

I go about my swatching a bit differently than most! I use a one-inch circle punch, as well as some glue to individually paint and adhere my colors to my book.  This omits the pressure to do a perfect swatch every time in my book! I often times will do three or four circles of swatching before I choose the “right one”! 

How to:

  1. I write at the top of the page which pallet I am working with, the company I am working with, and the date that I am swatching or bought the pallet.
  2. I punch out a BUNCH of circles of watercolor paper! (the satisfying punching is a boost of serotonin, in my opinion)
  3. I then paint the circles using one color for one circle…an example would be when I am swatching TheSmilingHippo’s watercolor “Flower Palet”, I plan to have 6 different circles with 6 different paints! (I paint multiple circles using the same paints in hopes to be able to pick out my favorite swatch of that color)
    1. It is important to note that you should paint the swatch in the exact way that you would normally paint, changing things around might cause a difference in your result going forward, and it might be hard to keep up with the changes when you are painting naturally.)
  4. Wait until the circles are dry, and adhere to the “Swatch Book” in an order that makes sense to you! Examples of this could be how they fall naturally within the pallet, by color, by type of paint, or by your favorite to least favorite. 
  5. If the paint colors have specific names, I write the name of the paint color underneath my swatch.
  6. OPTIONAL ADDITION: I choose to star my favorite paints within the collection…I do this because I like the little boost of decision-making that comes with noting your interests and favorite colors!

I personally add the circle swatches into the book in the order they are presented within the pallet, and those singletons (as seen in the photos) are set in their own area of the page! I would highly recommend keeping each page to each set of watercolors.  For example, I have a “Flower Pallet” from The Smiling Hippo, as well as a singleton “Hippo” paint, and three sample colors on one page because they are what I am focusing on for January! 

REMINDER: The book is FOR YOU! Do it as YOU wish, what works for you, what makes you happy, and how you will best use it! There are countless options on how to design and layout your book! I am only here to spark the idea! 

I would LOVE to see what you do for “swatching”, and hope this post helped point you in an easy direction on how to organize your amazing paints!  

Please share what you come up with with myself @happihippishop OR @thesmilinghippo on Instagram! 

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