There are many options when it comes to choosing a palette for acrylic painting, there are also a few types of palettes that you should steer clear of.
There are palettes that make the cleaning process feel like a breeze and you can even get palettes that make acrylic paint stay wet for much longer.
Palettes come in all manner of shapes, materials, sizes and price points, so it’s worth learning about the options available to help you choose what’s best for your painting practice.
Before we drill down and find out more about the best options for acrylic painters, it’s important to note that the one material that isn’t compatible with acrylic is wood. Acrylic paint binds to wood, so when dry, it can’t be peeled or scraped off without damaging the palette.
Benefits: Easiest surface to clean, large durable surface for mixing
Tempered glass palettes are those that have been treated to be shatterproof. You can drop it onto a hard surface and it won’t shatter into thousands of tiny pieces. It doesn’t mean it won’t break, however, just that it won’t shatter. For this reason tempered glass is also called safety glass.
Glass makes the best mixing surface for acrylic. It’s smooth and sturdy, allowing you to apply some pressure when mixing colour with a palette knife.
Safety glass is easy to clean. Acrylic paint will peel straight off of the surface. To quicken up the cleaning process, get a razor scraper and scrape all the paint off in one go.
You can also use the transparency of glass to your advantage and place a piece of coloured card or paper underneath. Many artists do this, as it can be easier to work from a mid tone, then establish values.
Glass is heavier than all other materials on this list and glass palettes you find in art stores are generally large in size. For this reason, glass is suitable for studio use, but it wouldn’t suit you if you like to carry your palette around or take it out painting plein air. That said, Richeson’s Sienna pochade box contains a tempered glass palette insert.
Our product picks
The glass is tempered for strength and safety. It comes with corner guards for surface grip. The grey tone helps with determining the relationship between colours when mixing.
New Wave’s glass palette is the best you can get. The white underside is solvent and water resistant. White could be more suitable to mix on if you paint on a white surface.
Stay wet palettes
Benefits: Keeps colours on the palette wet for weeks
This is the ultimate solution for those artists who like to keep working from their acrylic colours for longer than 30 minutes at a time.
You will find that you waste much less paint using this type of palette.
The palette is composed of a lidded tray, with an absorbent layer at the base. It comes with disposable paper palettes, upon which you squeeze your colours. To use the palette, simply soak the absorbent layer in water and place one of the membrane sheets on top. When you’ve finished with your painting session, put the lid on and store until you pick up your brushes again.
You will have to replace the parts (i.e. the disposable palette sheets and the reservoir sheets). Palettes come with refills, and if the palette keeps your paint wet for weeks, the amount you save in paint that you would have otherwise wasted, makes it an economical option. The palette sheets will last a long time too.
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Daler Rowney’s stay wet palette in large is 20 x 11″, giving you lots of space to mix colour. It comes with 3 sheets of reservoir paper and 12 membrane sheets.
Benefits: Makes clean up much quicker
Tear off palettes come in books of coated paper that can be held in your hand whilst painting.
This type of palette involves the least maintenance. However, it’s not as sturdy as glass and also not brilliant for the environment.
The surface of each sheet will have been treated to prevent the sheets below from getting wet.
The sheets are thick and heavy, so you can use them to paint outside without them blowing in the wind.
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50 grey sheets that have been coated so the pad stays dry. Each sheet is glued on 3 edges for stability whilst working. Patented ergonomic design. The size is large, at 11 x 16″.
Benefits: Lightweight, cheap
Plastic palettes are usually fairly inexpensive. Many plastic palettes will be resistant to solvent and have a non-stick coating. This means that dried acrylic will just peel off.
Plastic palettes come in many different shapes. Some will come with wells so that you can separate colours, others will be flat for ease of mixing and some will come with a thumb hole for moving around the studio.
These palettes are the most lightweight, making them easy to transport.
11 x 15″ solid plastic palette tray. The palette is neutral grey colour to reduce glare when outdoors painting. Dried acrylic that hasn’t been thinned with water will peel off the surface, making it easy to clean.
How to keep colours wet on the palette
For some artists, the drying time of acrylics can be frustrating. Especially when they have spent time and effort mixing the perfect colours for their painting.
Even if you don’t opt to get a stay wet palette, or slow dry paints, you can still keep your acrylic colours wet for hours at a time.
The first thing you can do to prevent your paint from drying up ultra quickly, is put your palette in a container and seal it. The Masterson Palette seal—is an airtight container that any palette up to 16×12” can fit into. This way you can prevent the paint from hardening and even keep them overnight.
The next thing to do is get some palette wetting medium from Liquitex. It’s a fluid acrylic resin that you spray onto your palette to keep your colours from drying quickly. Note that the medium reduces the viscosity of paint too, but maintains durability and adhesion of the paint film.
Finally, which palettes are best for acrylic painting?
The answer to this question will reflect your personal needs as an artist and your budget. Regardless of material, there are high quality options made by some of the best art supply manufacturers.
If you work in a studio, have room to lay down a palette and don’t mind it being heavy, glass may be the best option.
Need your colours to stay wet? Get a stay wet palette, or a palette container and medium.
If you need a lightweight palette that you can move around and take outdoors when you’re painting plein air, then consider plastic or tear off sheets.
If you want to stock up on some more acrylic painting supplies, check out our art shop.
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