Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The palette

It's very common for newbies starting in miniature painting to try dipping the brush directly into the paint pot and then apply it to the miniature. I can't think of a less efficient and improper way of painting. Paint in the pot is too thick to use, it nearly always needs some watering down. Also, using just colours out of the pot will limit our range of colours to use since we won't be mixing them together. So to water and mix colours we use an auxiliary surface which we call palette.

The palette is the left hand of a painter.

Any surface may be useful to serve as a palette for the painter (could be a plate, a tile, or a plastic egg container), but it is always convenient to find a material which is able to prevent colour mixes from drying. In the case of acrylic paints, this is especially important because they dry easily when exposed, especially in dry environments (sometimes even inside the paint pot). To prevent this from happening we use the wet palette.

Wet palette.

The wet palette is composed of a material which lets moisture pass through, but not paint. Thus, paint on the palette takes a long time to dry because paint is constantly wet. To make a wet palette we just use a flat container (a dish or similar) where we make a bed of absorbent paper (paper towels or toilet paper). We wet this layer of paper thoroughly with water, and then, on top of this we will place a piece of baking paper, which is the material that allows moisture to pass through but not paint. This surface will be our wet palette.

Layers of a wet palette.

The wet palette needs to be renewed when the paper towel has dried. You will notice that this is happening because the baking paper will start to separate from the paper towel and the paint will dry fast. Before that happens we have to add more water, simply removing the baking paper and pouring water on the paper towel. Also, there may be times when the baking paper will be saturated of paint mixes. In that case we just have to replace the baking paper. The wet palette can be stored in the refrigerator, where it is able to maintain the paint wet even longer. This allows us to have our mixes on the palette for a long time, and save our colours from one painting session to another, even when some time passes between them. However, it is advisable to change the palette from time to time as prolonged moisture can lead to mould growth, and weird unpleasant smells.

My typical painting stand.

When painting in humid climates we will be lucky because acrylics will stay wet longer, even if we don't use a wet palette. In these cases, we will have more options to choose from. A very interesting one is using a palette which would have different pots where we can store considerable amounts of paint. We can use the pots to organize series of colours which will be useful when painting gradients.

Palette made from a pill container.

Without a doubt, it is advisable to try out as much palettes as possible and stick to that which we find the most adequate for our way of painting.


Ubique Matt said...

Very useful article, using the old pill container is an interesting idea I'll try.


Zaphod Beeblebrox said...

The palette is the left hand of the painter?

I have two left hands - should I go for two palettes then? :D

No, seriously, sweet article :D