Basics Child Category

The Essential Palette

Palette Artists
The palette of artist Nelson Shank

The kidney shaped wooden palette has become the universal symbol of the “painter” and is essential to any artist using pigment.

A palette is defined as, “a thin and usually oval or oblong tablet usually made from wood,glass,etc., and used by painters for holding and mixing colors.”

There are several types of palettes. The type of palette to choose depends upon the art that you create.


  • Decide, if you want to be able to hold your palette in your hand. Does your art form require that you have mobility and need to move around?
  • Is it preferred that your palette is stationary on your desk or worktop? In the studio, choose the largest comfortable size to give you as much mixing area as possible.
  • Plastic & turpentine don’t mix! So choose accordingly.
  • White or gray palettes make it somewhat easier to judge the color value of your paints when mixing.



Glass Artist PaletteGlass Artist Palettes are intended to rest on a table surface rather than be held. It’s excellent for mixing large areas of color. The palette is perfectly smooth, easy on brushes, and non-porous. It cleans up with very little effort. The glass palettes are made from a very strong, a very breakable resistant safety tempered glass.

PROS: heavy duty and versatile, this palette is recommended for any artist looking for the most durable and all-purpose palette there is. Recommend for any painters, rolling printing ink, print-makers, etc.,

CONS: not recommended for travel, or when portability is required

TIP: To clean glass surfaces easy, use a heave duty razor blade glass surface scraper.



Clear Acrylic Artist PaletteClear Acrylic Palette‘s are great for artists that require portability. These palettes are sturdy, durable, and ideal for thick media mixing purposes. Acrylic palettes are nonstaining and scratch resistant.

Clear acrylic palettes are shaped like the traditional artists palette, while, plexiglass will be more of a rectangular and tablet like.

PROS: mobile and portable, these palettes are great for studio, field or class work. Designed for true color evaluation.

CONS: more difficult to clean, not meant for large amounts of paint medium.


DISPOSABLE ARTIST PALETTESCleanup is quick and easy with Disposable Palette Pads — just tear off a sheet, use it for your painting session, then throw it away.

Great for use with acrylics, casein, and oils, the palette paper pads are available in a variety of sizes, each containing multiple sheets.

Parchment palettes may also be used.

PROS: portable, quick easy cleanup,

CONS: expensive & wasteful long term option. Also wasteful of paint if you don’t use all paint on sheet.


Stay-Wet Artist PaletteStay-Wet Artist Palette‘s are excellent for artists whose medium dries quickly (i.e. acrylics) Sta-Wet Premier Palette saves you paint, money, and time by preserving the freshness of acrylics and other waterbased paints, both while you are painting and between painting sessions. Paints will stay moist on the open palette for hours. Once the lid is closed, the paints will stay in workable condition for days, even weeks.

The Premier Palette features a patented sponge insert and special permeable palette paper. Together they provide acrylic paints with a constant source of moisture. Simply moisten the sponge and lay it inside the tray, then place the palette paper on top. When the lid is open, your paints will have an extended open time. When the lid is snapped shut, the Premier Palette will maintain a moist atmosphere that preserves acrylic paints amazingly well.

PROS: keeps paints fresh and wet, especially valuable for artists who work with mediums that harden quickly like acrylics.

CONS: once the paints dry & harden it is very difficult to clean.


The wooden palette is traditional, but rarely used but was the favorite of the great masters.

The weight of the palette is essential, since you should be able to hold it for hours on end. The oval thumbhole should be sanded so it doesn’t scratch the skin.

Wooden palettes can be made from: birch, plywood, mahogany

PROS: lightweight, traditional

CONS: once paint dries, it becomes VERY difficult to remove


GLAZED PORCELAIN & ENAMEL PALETTESGlazed porcelain is a great material for artists’ palettes for several reasons. A brilliant, classic white surface ensures perfect color mixing since you are able to see the hue against a pristine, reflective background. The weight of porcelain palettes make them great for the studio since they don’t slide around or shift if accidentally bumped. The smooth surface makes for easy clean-up too.

PROS: easy to clean, great for mixing colors, great for watercolors

CONS: heavy, breakable, pricey


Plastic Palettes & Mixing TraysThese plastic palettes are lightweight and portable. Often shaped like the traditional palette. Typically plastic palettes are made of white plastic and contains a number of small convex “mixing wells.”

PROS: economical, portable

CONS: small, difficult to clean once paint dry, not very versatile


Atomizer Bottle: fill an atomizer bottle with distilled water. Lightly mist your palette with water when necessary to keep paints fresh and moist.

Liquitex Palette Weting Spray: Liquitex Palette Wetting Spray is an innovative, fluid acrylic resin that slows the drying time of acrylic color. It also improves color blending. Use it to keep colors fresh on the palette, and stop the paint film from “skinning over.”

Simply spray and re-spray as needed. Palette Wetting Spray thins color while maintaining film integrity. It is formulated with an anti-microbial agent to prevent mold. Use it repeatedly to re-wet the palette, or spray it sparingly on the canvas to increase open time.

FREEZE YOUR PALETTE: You will be shocked at how well this works. If you will be gone for a while and want to keep your paint fresh, put your palettes in a freezer. Paints can stay wet indefinitely (up to a few months). Just make sure to put the palette in an area in your freezer where it won’t get disturbed. It is wet paint after all.

QUICK FIX PALETTE: if you are in need of a temporary solution, you can use common items from around your house.  Old Magazines (The heavy plastic coated paper won’t let the paint bleed through), ceramic tiles, cookie sheet, board, or glass plate.

-article compiled & written by Lyrica Glory, founder of Patron of the Arts