I used to like Copic markers. That was before I discovered watercolour. It's really affordable for beginners to get started on learning colours. Affordable is an understatement when you begin to discover all sorts of watercolour boxes that are available.
Compiled on this page are some of the more portable watercolour box sets suitable for travel and carrying around. I've some. Not that much to call myself a fanatic yet, thankfully. The rest are ones that I've came across.
Some empty metal boxes can be expensive, so be careful.
This is the old style Bijou box with 4 mixing wells. This model has been discontinued in favor of the one with two mixing wells. The box is usually sold with 8 half pans (UK) and also as an empty box (UK).
That's how my Bijou box looks like. It's really small and light. About the size of my wallet.
Or get the empty one (UK).
This is the set I use most often. I bought it as a 16 half-pan heavy enamel watercolour box. In the middle row, you can add in 8 more half pans or 4 full pans. For the top and bottom rows, there are separators so you can only fit half pans and not full pans.
I usually put brushes and pens in the middle row.
This is the Winsor & Newton 12 full-pan heavy enamel watercolour box (UK). You can replace the full pans with half pans. Note that there are separators between the pans. The middle row is too big to fit in extra half and full pans, unless you can to stick them down.
The heavy enamel boxes are also available for sale as empty boxes. But it's usually more economical to buy them with the pans included.
It might not be obvious to beginners but 12 colours are more than sufficient to learning watercolour. Full pans are more suitable for painting bigger pieces.
These big boxes are capable of hold longer brushes.
This is an interesting variation of the heavyweight enamel box. This is branded Fome. It's only sold in Europe. It's a big box but it has really large mixing areas.
Here's another model with fold-out mixing wells. You might see them being branded as Kremer Pigments but the box design is actually used by other brands as well. It comes in 12 half-pans and 24 half pans (US) design.
It usually comes with pan holders fixed to the bottom plate. The plate is not fixed onto the bottom of the box so you can actually remove the plate easily to clean the box. This particular watercolour box has 3 mixing wells on the cover. Usually these type of boxes either come with two or three mixing wells on the cover. Schmincke uses this box for their 12-half pan set.
This is how my friend Don Low's box looks like.
Generally speaking, it's cheaper to buy empty boxes and pans, and then buy the colours that you need. There's no difference between the quality of pan colours vs tube colours. Difference is only in application. Dried tube colours are easier to wet and apply.
This is the 24 full-pan Cotman set (UK).
This is the insane 45 half pan Cotman watercolour set (Amazon UK).
Most watercolour brands come with student and artist grade. Winsor & Newton's student grade are branded Cotman. If you're interested in watercolour, it's advisable to get the artist quality.
Same box but with 24 full pans (US).
Schmincke watercolour box that can fit in 18 half pans (US). I like this set for the rather large mixing areas. It's sold as an empty box too.
I've a friend who uses this and he said the white turns yellow with usage.
Sakura Field Sketch Box (US) with 24 less common sized pans. If you take out everything inside, you can fit in 20 half pans and 4 full pans.
This is the Deluxe Sketchers' Pocket Box (UK). It's not small enough to fit in a pocket. It sells with either 16 or 24 half pans. The 16 half-pan set has two separator and is missing a piece of plastic separator that you need to hold down another 8 pans.
There's also the Deluxe Box with 12 full pans (UK).
If you like the box, I recommend getting the 12 full pan set because it comes with that extra separator that's missing from the 16-half-pan set.
This is the Winsor and Newton Metal Sketchers' Box (UK). You can put a long brush in the space between the rows.
The Sketcher Box with 12 pans (UK).
The Winsor Newton Field Box (UK) comes with a bottle, water tray and brush. The bottle is quite small but the water tray is delightfully large.
This is an interesting design for a watercolour box. There's no brand and this one cost less than £6 on Amazon UK.
Here's a custom made 'Winged Palette' by SHYsArt
And this is a cloverleaf paint box.
This elegant brass palette is from House of Hoffman. It cost USD $495.
The Pocket Palette is one of the smallest palette that I've seen, and personally own. It's thinner than my wallet which is already quite thin. It's the perfect palette for daily sketchers who want to pack light.
This is one of the most expensive boxes around at USD $450. It's supposedly handmade by Craig Young. It's well priced to separate enthusiasts from enthusiasts with deep pockets.
There are also those who like to improvise and make their own watercolour boxes. The main problem I have with those is sometimes the mixing area isn't white, so it's hard to gauge accurately the colour you're mixing.
There are too many to choose from. Have fun choosing.