Let’s Get Wet

For quite some time I’ve been meaning to experiment with the use of a wet palette. Finally last night I got around to it, and of course I am now wondering why I waited so long!

What is a wet palette, I hear some of you ask.

Well, basically it’s a means to keep the paint on your palette perpetually damp so it doesn’t dry out. Certainly within an evening’s work it will stay wet the whole time, and assuming the palette is sealed airtight somehow then it should remain damp for weeks.

How to construct a wet palette

It’s actually pretty simple to do. I made one up in a few minutes by folding some kitchen towel in the bottom of a sealable takeaway food container – which had previously contained a tasty Thai curry. The kitchen towel was then soaked with water, with the excess being poured out, before pressing a sheet of baking parchment on top.

Et voila, a wet palette.

Wet Palette

My take on the science is that the water in the tissue paper (or sponge) “reservoir” is slowly drawn through the semi-permeable surface of the baking paper, just enough that it stays slightly damp and the paint remains hydrated.

Wet PaletteSo that’s all well and good, but what are the benefits of having the palette forever damp?

For me, it means that I can mix up my range of colours and then step back and forth between them with ease. Make a slight mistake, or feel a tiny area needs darkening/lightening, and the exact colour is waiting for use.

I can therefore step away from my defined process of basecoat->highlight->shade->glaze and do just what is required for a small area. It also means that I have a wider range of tones available and that helps with smoother blends without the need of quite so many glazes.

There’s a further bonus in that I can quickly pick up where I left off in a session without having to re-mix and match colours. This is especially useful mid week where I don’t have a great deal of painting time before my self-imposed creative “curfew”.

Putting the theory into practice

I played about with the new wet palette techniques on Sebastian, working on the reds of his gloves and boots.

Sebastian WiP

Really pleased with the results I achieved and will probably be using the wet palette for the rest of him I think.

Thing is, I now think I will need to re-work some of the apron and particularly his smock, in order to level the contrast across the whole figure.

~ by Max Von Deadlock on October 5, 2011.

3 Responses to “Let’s Get Wet”

  1. Nice article on the use and some benefits to the wet palette. I tried using one last year and don’t remember why I got away from it. I may have to give it another shot this weekend when I pick up the brush again.

    Thanks for sharing!


    • Thanks Chad. It turned out to be easier than I was expecting, though I think there’s room for improvement through experience – in terms of getting the dilution right on the palette, etc.

      Good luck with the wet palette if you do give it another go.


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