How to choose your painting palettes? It’s a good question!

When it comes to paint palette, everyone has their preference. If you paint with oil, gouache, acrylic or watercolor, you’ll find some useful tips here.

Here are some materials you can use for your palette, with pro and cons for each one.

WOOD

PRO

CON

It’s easy to find. They sell some ready made palettes in art stores.

If you do it yourself, you must varnish the wood with a heavy varnish, like the one used on boats.

It’s light enough to be portable

It comes in different sizes so you can really go big

The best one if you like to work standing, with your palette in your hand

 

Not always easy to clean.

After some time the color will bleed in the wood and leave stains. 

The color of the wood may be disturbing when mixing paints

Doesn’t work for watercolor

Ceramic

PRO

CON

It’s sold in art supplies stores, with different shapes, including small buckets to mix your paint. Great for watercolor!

You can use a plate as well, so it cost nothing

Very easy to clean!

It’s quite heavy

It’s small so if you need a large mixing area it’s not the best one

Might be too slippery for some paints

It may break

Cardboard

PRO

CON

It’s free, so to speak

Works for acrylic

You don’t need to clean it, just throw it away after use!

Very portable

Great for last minute painting emergency!

It’s not suitable for oil painting and gouache as the paint will bleed inside.

Doesn’t work for watercolor

The color may be disturbing for mixing paints

Paper(s)

PRO

CON

You can buy disposable paper palettes in art supplies stores. It comes in different sizes, and with a hole for your thumb as well, if you like to hold your palette.

You can also use Tyvek enveloppes that you cut and open

Regular paper can be fine for acrylic

Very light, so very portable

 

Not very eco-friendly if you throw it away each time

Might be expensive in the long run if you buy disposable palettes

Doesn’t work for watercolor

Glass

PRO

CON

Transparent, so you can place a grey or white paper under for mixing paints

Very easy to clean

Suitable for oil, gouache and acrylic

You may look for heat-tempered glass in the hardware store, so it’s (almost) impossible to break. And edges will be soft too.

Heavy, not portable

May break

Edges can be really sharp and cut!

Doesn’t work for watercolor

 

Floor tile

PRO

CON

You can select a light color like white, cream or grey

Cost almost nothing if you use one from your home work or you can get one at a very low price in hardware store

Easy to clean, if you get a varnished one

 

Heavy, not portable

May break

Doesn’t work for watercolor

Plastic

PRO

CON

Comes in a large variety of shapes and sizes

Light, very portable

Easy to clean

Great for watercolor

Not very expensive

Some colors will stain the plastic, for ever!

Not great for mixing oil, gouache or acrylic

Enamel tray

PRO

CON

White background, great for mixing

Won’t break

Light, portable

Comes in different sizes

Not very expensive

Doesn’t work for watercolor

Limited size

And I add from my Instagram followers:

  • your hand or your legs, for gouache I assume
  • oven paper taped on a hard surface that you can throw away after painting (great for oil painting)
  • plexiglass for plein air
  • Sta-Wet palette that I forgot, ideal for acrylics

Here are some examples of palettes, I’m sure there is more out there!

But what I know is that you’ll certainly need several palettes, as a single can’t solve all the problems. I do have three:

– a floor tile for gouache, it’s heavy but steady and I can place it in the sink to wash it

– a large heat-tempered glass with rounded edges for oil painting so I have a lot of space for mixing colors. I clean it with a scraper.

– the lid of my tinbox for watercolor when I paint plein air