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Acrylic Palette Tutorial



Palette Tutorial Extravaganza!!!

For all 3 of you who may actually give a shit, this is how I set up my palette to paint in acrylics. By following these steps you can get your acrylics to last on your palette for weeks instead of minutes. What sort of magic is this? Witchcraft you say? Nah it’s just one of the few useful things I actually picked up in art school so I’d thought I’d save you all some big tuition cash, and just post it here.

Step #1. Stop! Palette Time! Get yourself a nice 11”x15” ceramic palette like this one. These things are made of metal and have a super durable ceramic shell. I’ve beaten the hell out of this thing and it’s still no worse for wear. Do you REALLY need one of these to proceed with this tutorial? Hell no. Just get yourself some type of flat container with a decent lip of about a one inch deep. Tupperware, cookie sheets, hell even a lasagna dish will work just as well.

Step #2. Build the foundation. Fill the base of your palette with paper towels. I use about 6 or so overlapping paper towels and that works well for me. Try to keep the surface fairly flat so if you’re building too much thickness in the center of your palette from the towels overlapping, fold a few more paper towels in half and put them on the ends to even it out.

Step #3. Drown it! Fill the palette with water until the towels are soaking wet. Hold the towels in place and drain the palette of any excess water. We want the towels to hold as much water as they possibly can but we’re not making a bowl of soup here. If your palette is too wet, it’ll backfire on you later and your paints will end up getting all soupy from absorbing too much water. Keep reading, it will all make sense it a minute…

Step #4. All air bubbles must die!!! Place your hands in the center of the palette, and working outwards, smooth out the paper towels and try to force any air bubbles that may be in there out to the sides of the palette. It may take a few passes, but you want to end up with a nice flat base of wet paper towels.

Step #5. My pad or yours? Get yourself a nice pad a tracing paper that’s close in size to the palette you’ve selected. Unless you work purely digitally (in which case you probably ain't reading this tutorial), you should have some tracing paper in your art arsenal at all times. It has a plethora (yes jefe, I said “plethora”) of uses. For my palette-making purposes I use Clearprint Vellum. It’s not cheap, but it’s thick and durable so it’s well worth the extra dough.

Step #.6 Tracing paper is not just for tracing. Take a sheet of tracing paper and lay it down over your bed of wet paper towels. . This tracing paper is going to be the actual usable surface our palette. You’ll notice that the paper starts to wrinkle as it soaks up some of the water from the towels. This is normal. Just like in step #4, use your hands to smooth out the tracing paper and rid your self of any air bubbles.

Step #7. Isn’t she lovely? This is our completed and ready to use acrylic-friendly palette. The bed of wet towels underneath the surface will actually re-hydrate the paint as it loses its moisture from being out in the air. Ain’t science cool? Every few days or so you may have to add some more water to the towels underneath to keep them wet and keep the palette going. Just pull up a corner of the tracing paper and pour in the water as needed.

Step #8. Now go paint bitches!!! Since I’m such a detail driven psycho, I find that it helps to do all of my color mixing on the palette before I ever start painting. So here’s an example of the simple grayscale palette I set up to make the Two-Face painting in my gallery. I started with a middle gray tone and I mixed up towards white, and down towards black.

When you’re not using your paints I’d suggest covering the palette with plastic wrap and throwing it the refrigerator. Just because your paints won’t dry out for months doesn’t mean that having a bunch of wet paper towels hanging out in your room forever won’t still grow mold.

I hope that helped! =D
Image size
1051x3220px 1.78 MB
Shutter Speed
10/400 second
Focal Length
8 mm
ISO Speed
Date Taken
Jan 19, 2006, 2:59:45 PM
© 2006 - 2024 No-Sign-of-Sanity
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paramount99's avatar

Handy tips/s indeed. I find that my acrylics have dried well before I finish a painting session, which could be 2 or 4 hours. I've been using W&N promarker paper as a paint pallet surface as it stops the bleeding through onto study desk - but wonder if it is somehow drying the paints faster than usual? I use slow drying and floating mediums which helps to a degree - but still find sizeable (over 8X10 inch) canvas' can be a fight for survival when, say, sky blending or such, when the paints are all the time crying out to freeze (dry) over... ... good for building arm muscles though...