What Kind Of Palette Do You Choose?

I have – and use – several palettes for my oil paintings. Palettes come in many styles and brands; can be handmade or purchased; and are composed of diverse materials, such as wood, paper, glass, plastic, and ceramic.

Different palettes have different uses. My favorite is the traditional wooden palette, primed with linseed oil. I prefer its neutral smooth surface for the activity of mixing oil or acrylic paint. Artists have used wooden palettes for centuries. In general, they are conveniently lightweight and easily made and are constructed with much varience in shapes and styles. There are even folding wooden palettes available to use for the half-French easel.

Disposable paper palettes come in white or neutral grey. These are impermeable pads of coated paper and good for most paint media. These do not need any cleanup: the top paper on the pad is simply removed and thrown away, and the next page is ready to be used for another project.

Glass palettes are fragile, but they are easily cleaned. These can be set upon toned paper for an easier effort in matching paint color when paint mixing. Any small plate of clear glass can serve the role of a glass palette.

Plastic palettes are made in a wide variety of shapes and styles to suite a range of different artists’ preferences. Some of them come with lids for storing mixed paints and for humidity control. Plastic palettes can be used for oil, acrylic, and watercolor paints.

Ceramic palettes, such as the Butcher’s Plate, are good for oil, acrylic and watercolor, and they clean up well. They are fragile, but not as fragile as glass plate palettes. These can be purchased from an art materials supplier, although some artists use a ceramic plate for the same result.

It is better to have more than one palette when painting. Each travel easel and pochade should have its own palette, and it is a good idea not to use one palette for two mediums (such as oil paint and watercolor) to prevent contamination of media.

Charity Goodwin, Artist


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