Friday, December 31, 2010

Making a wet palette.....and why.

I am going to start this article with a few simple questions that I hope to answer for you. What is a wet palette? What does it do? How does it work? Why do I need one? Finally where can I get one or how can I make one?
My completed and used wet palette

What is a wet palette? Well, a wet palette is a painting palette made from a porous material that extends the amount of time paint stays wet and workable.

What does it do? Simply put, it extends the amount of time that paint stays "wet" or workable on a palette. In my experience, paint on a wet palette can stay workable for several hours to several days if handled properly.

How does it work? A wet palette is normally made with some type of porous material that allows water to soak into the paint from below. This in turn keeps the paint workable and extends the amount of time you hae to use it (on the palette, it has no effect once the paint is on the model).

Why do I need one? You probably don't. For most painters some simple plastic palette that they can thin and mix paint on will suffice. If you are working with extremely thin paint as well as a lot of glazes then it will help those thinned paints stay wet longer. This will in turn mean you don't have to constantly re-thin paint. It can also allow you time to work with several colors at once.

The final question is a two part one and probably the most important of all. Where can I get one or how can I make one. The first part of that question is easy. Most art supply stores or web sites should stock a wet palette in some form. I also think that several of the mini companies may make them. I believe Privateer Press does but I am not sure of any others. Regardless they are fairly easy to find if you don't want to take the time to make one. I did not want to spend the money for one as I knew after reading about them that it would be easy and fairly inexpensive to make one. The second part of this question is how do I make one? Well I will walk you through how I made mine, and I will try to discuss some of the options that I know of. 

The first thing you are going to need to make a wet palette is some sort of container. For obvious reasons the container needs to be some sort of bowl or box that will hold water without leaking or falling apart. It also helps if it has a lid. Even more helpful is if that lid and container make a air tight seal when closed. I chose a small plastic bowl with a lid that I had laying around the house.
 EDIT**Something to keep in mind. You want the thinnest bowl/container you can find. Anything too thin/deep and it can feel in the way. You really only need something deep enough to hold one layer of sponge and the paper.

Next you are going to need something to actually hold the water.I know what you are thinking....isn't the bowl going to hold the water? Well yes, but you can't just lay the palette material in the water and hope for the best. you need something like a sponge or paper towels that can give the palette substance as well as hold and release water into the palette. For the last couple palettes I have made I used blister foam. Blister foam is the small rectangles of foam that you commonly find tucked into a blister pack that a miniature is packaged in. You can also use paper towels, but when I did so in the past they tended to dry out a bit too fast. Plus, who in this hobby does not have a pile of blister foam laying around somewhere. If you don't a few purchases from you or your friends will get you what you need.
Finally you will need the actual palette. I use what you see above. It is an acrylic palette paper. It is actually the refill paper for a store bought wet palette. Since my palette is significantly smaller than the one this paper is made for, I cut the sheet down and I actually get three pieces to each sheet. Any type of wet palette paper will suffice. I have seen tutorials where some people have used parchment paper you might find in a grocery store. I have never tried this and of the people I know who have they reported that prolong use caused the paper to start to come apart and leave small paper fibers in the paint. I am unsure of this since I have not used it myself, but it is a possible alternative and your experience may vary.

 Now that we have the material lets get to building the thing. This is extremely easy but I will give you a quick step by step for those that need it. These steps are for the one I have made, but the substitutions I mentioned above should just be worked in at the appropriate time.

I start off by filling the bowl with my blister foam. I have several pieces from Infinity miniature boxes and they make it easy as I only need two pieces to fill this container. Once I have filled the bowl it is time to cut the paper. The important thing to remember here is that you want to make sure that the paper is just a tad bit smaller than the sponge. If not, the paper on the edges will dry out and the paper will start to curl up. As long as the sponge reaches all the way to the edge of the paper you should not have any problem. After this, fill the bowl with water. You may need to give it time for the water to soak into the sponges, or squeeze the sponges so they fill up with water. You just need to make sure the sponge is saturated with water, and you may even have some water around the sponge in the bowl. With the paper I am using you have to prep the paper before you can use it. Simply hold the paper under running warm/hot water for one to two minutes. You will know when it is ready because the paper starts to become somewhat transparent. After this, put the paper on the sponges and have a go at it.

Here is my finished pallete with the paper (used) added

An extra tip for you. If you are the type that carry paint around and want something more portable. I have made one of these out of a two part blister pact that worked extremely well "on the go".

Hopefully this will help you.


Max said...

Thanks- bookmarked!

IDICBeer said...

Great article, many thanks for sharing

Brent said...

Simply awesome - I've got everything but the acrylic topper.

I've got to try this out!

Master Manipulator (every store needs one) said...

As often as you paint Brent I think you will really like it. Some thing I forgot to add but will edit. When picking a bowl/container..keep in mind how tall the sides are. The slimmer the better. You really only need enough room for one layer of sponges if you have a container that thin.

Evil Homer said...

I've got both an art store one and a home made one. Of the two I prefer the home made one.

One thing I struggle with and other should be aware of is the water content in the sponge itself. In my experience i've found that if I think I have enough I need a little more. You don't want the paper floating but almost floating if that makes sense. At least that's my experience and I go back and forth as to whether I like the wet pallete more or my ceramic tile.

Master Manipulator (every store needs one) said...

If you leave a bit of space beside the foam in the bowl/container I have found the best level is just shy of the top of the foam/sponge. This keeps the sponge wet, but does not cause water to pool on the paper.

Anonymous said...

...and I go back and forth as to whether I like the wet pallete more or my ceramic tile.

I couldn't agree more with this statement. Right now, with the winter being here in NC, I'm finding the Ceramic tile (cold from the fridge) a happy medium to the wet pallet.