There is yet another option when deciding how to manage your paints during a session. The Wet Palette. Basically what it does is keep your paints moist for a long time, so you no longer have to worry about the biggest downside of a dry palette – paint drying out and changing consistency mid-session.
They’re easy to construct and can be made with just a few cheap things from around the kitchen. You just need some sort of plastic tray or re-sealable container (not too deep though). Put a thin kitchen sponge or even some soaked paper towels in the bottom, with a sheet of parchment paper on top. The bottom layer slowly feeds water to the drier top layer which in turn feeds the water to the paint sitting on it.
You get all the benefits of a dry palette, then add easier cleanup since you just toss the little paper top layer from the palette. Extended painting sessions on the same mix of paint. You can get up and go do something for a few minutes without fear of your mixed paint drying out. Some people have even been able to keep paint good for days and sometimes week if the palette is sealed and stored in the fridge, making it possible to mix one large batch of color to use on an entire set of models.
The chief downside is that it does cost a little more money. The parchment paper will also get used up, but not quickly making the cost practically incidental for maintaining the palette. It can also be a little tricky at first getting the right amount of water in the palette so your paints don’t get dry or gummy while not turning them into a diluted muddy mess.
Wet Palettes are the most difficult to learn to use, but once you get the feel of it the benefits are very nice indeed.
So we’re back with another round, this time going over dry palettes. These come in all sorts of varieties, but basically you’re looking for a smooth flat surface to mix paint on. I like to use ceramic tiles like you can buy at any home improvement store for about $1. The sealed ceramic surface means you can scrape off dried paint easily, or soak it in hot water and just brush it off.
Lots of bonuses to using a dry palette. You can mix different paints to get just the color you want with ease, which is the main reason to use these. You also keep the bulk of your paint from drying out since you only have it open just long enough to get a little on the palette.
On the downside you do have some extra cleanup here. If you don’t get to it quickly you’ll have a dried up mess. You also have to keep an eye on the paint as you use it and either add a little medium / water to keep it from drying while you paint, or just work really quickly.
There is another common type of dry palette that uses color wells instead of a flat surface. This has the added benefit of making the mixing easier because the paint doesn’t get spread around in the process. The well also slows the paint’s tendency to dry out since it’s kept concentrated with less surface area. Of course, cleaning out a color well is a good bit more labor some then a flat palette.
For a lot of people, myself included, the up sides of mixing your colors for better shading effects makes it all worth it to go ahead and use these options over the painting right from the pot.
One of the first things a new painter is faced with is the choice to use the paint straight from the paint pot, or to use a painting palette. For a great many years I actually went straight from the pot.
Painting from the pot has a few nice things going for it. It’s easier for one, as you just open the pot up and go at it. You don’t need to worry about your paint drying out enough to change consistency in a single session either (though I do recommend adding a drop or two of water or medium now and then). You don’t wind up leaving a dried flap of paint on a palette if you don’t use it up in one go, either.
But there are some down sides, too. Screw-cap pots will get paint gumming up their threading eventually, no matter how careful you are. That will make the lid stick like the dickens and can also leave enough of a gap to let the paint inside dry out. Flip-top lids fix that, but you still get some issues with a little ring of paint scraping off when you close the lid and it dries out leaving you dried paint donuts next time you open the pot. It also makes it rather a bother to attempt to mix any colors and I found myself just using whatever shades were available for purchase rather then mixing my own.
You can get some very nice table-top quality models this way, though, so it’s a good quick painting option and a good choice for beginers. Of the various paint producers I’ve used this technique with I’ve found that Citadel paints seem to work very well with it. Flip-top lids keep the paints good for ages, it’s easy to add a little agitator if you need, and a snap to just add a couple drops of distilled water now and again to keep them from drying out real bad.