Whet The Palette Shall We?

I thought I would discuss something that was a complete eye opener for me; the wet palette.

Back in the day, when I was beginning my painting hobby, I used many things to mix my paint onto. At first it seemed a ceramic plate was a great way to go about thinning and mixing my colours, I soon realised that I needed more of a flat surface, so I moved up to a kitchen tile. That worked for a while, actually for the longest time that’s what I relied upon and only that. I tried other things like paint extender medium, and using mixing pots (which became VERY expensive). I am happy to say I have now seen the light; wet palettes.

As I traveled the Golden Demon award circuits, year after year I witnessed the painters that were on show there using a wet palette. I know the theory; you need to keep the paint moist so you can blend two or more colours on the miniature. It’s just, well, I wasn’t into blending on the model. Maybe I was just stubborn, but I would be the type of painter that used lots of colour gradations on any one space to achieve my desired effect, and would also utilise feathering of my colour(s).That worked for me for a very long time until I realised that wet palettes can serve another purpose entirely.

If anyone has ever experienced the pain in the neck of just how tedious a tile is to mix their paints on and then work against the clock to get that mix used for all your painting, before it dries up and then having to clean it off, know probably just how useful a wet palette is.

For those of you who have no idea what a wet palette is, its basically a shallow container that contains something that soaks up water, but on top of this material, whether it be a sponge, or kitchen towel, you lay your actual palette. This palette is made from a material that through a capillary action, draws water up from the sponge below and keeps the paint you are using most and the best thing, is that it reduces evaporation of your mix. You can get acrylic paper from any art store or you can even use parchment paper, but I have has more success with acrylic paper. It has worked wonders for me and if you have a container that comes with a lid of some sort, then you are able to seal out the outside environment, preserving the paint in a useable form.

It is just so freeing to know that you can work with a colour for as long as you need to, seal it up and then come back after lunch and pick up where you left off.

The wet palette is super easy to make. It doesn’t need to be overly expensive and the cost saving in dried up paints comes back to you very soon.

There are a few things you will need:

  1. A container that has a depth of 1″ to 2″ and can be as wide as you want. Make sure it has a lid that encloses firmly. Mine is about 7″ long, 5′ wide and 1.5″ deep This can be found at a “dollar store” or type of equivalent near to where you live. Usual cost is $1
  2. Cheap kitchen sponges. The thick kind. These can also be found at the same place as the container, so you can easily judge on the quantity of sponges needed. A bag of them should also cost you around $1. Try to find sponges that come to just below the height of the container you will purchase.
  3. “Handy Palette” acrylic paper.The one I found was made by a company named Masterson. This was the most expensive item at round $5.09. This is a little harder to find, but any quality art supply store will stock these.
  4. 5 minutes to construct the palette (time is priceless, so this may cost you more than you were bargaining for)

How to make the palette;

  1. Gather all components (see above) and firstly look at how many sponges you may need.
  2. Place the sponges in the container and cut any to size, to ensure that the entire container has a layer of sponge and leave them in the container.
  3. Take out a sheet of acrylic paper and cut to size to fit on top of the sponges. I like to cut a few at a time as extras for later. Set them all aside, but one.
  4. Take that one sheet of paper run it under HOT water and soak it for about 1- 2 minutes. The paper should become semi-transparent.
  5. Wet the sponges until they are completely soaked.
  6. Take the semi-transparent sheet of acrylic paper and lay it onto the sponges. It needs to stay moist (thanks to the sponges), but not saturated all the time (thanks to the sponges). Initially, if there are large pools of water, just soak them up a little with a paper towel.
  7. THAT’S IT!

You should be able to now place your paints onto the paper that’s moist and you can paint with this same colour, blending  and mixing your heart away for hours and hours. When you need to leave, just seal the container with the lid and NEVER let the paper dry out. just keep adding water to the sponges and keep the level topped up. You can also get more life out of the paper, but washing it off and then flipping it over to use the other side.

Happy painting! Feel free to post you experiences with wet palettes in the comments section below.

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2 thoughts on “Whet The Palette Shall We?

  1. A wet palette is invaluable for doing smooth blends of skin or anything delicate and organic where you may have to work the surface for a few sessions and won’t want to try to mix the right colors each time!

    • Absolutely Zab. I am finding it especially useful for working on my current project, an Eldar Farseer from Iyanden Craftworld. Getting the yellow just right is helped by the qualities of the wet palette.

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