Painting palettes have been used since the 15th century, though since then they have evolved in both shape and composition. Originally, palettes were rather small, square or paddle-shaped wooden plates for paint with a thumb-hole. By the 19th century, large oval or kidney-shaped palettes were fashionable. Made of wood, they were soaked in linseed oil and allowed to dry hard before use, to prevent oil from the paint being absorbed into the wood. Nowadays, wood palettes are sealed with polyurethane varnishes or lacquer. When large wooden palettes were most popular, people often painted on canvases prepared with a red or brown ground. A mahogany or mahogany-stained palette showed how colors would look against this color ground. Most artists prefer a white palette when painting against a white ground.
Palettes (shop palettes)
are available in different shapes and sizes and are made from a wide range of materials including: wood, plexi-glass, acrylic, plastic, glass, aluminum and disposable paper palettes. There are also paint mixing trays and cups for watercolors. Choosing a palette that’s best for you is a matter of personal preference. When using your palettes for painting consider the paints you use and how large a mixing area you need. Consider also whether or not you want to hold your palette while you work, the classic kidney shaped palette with a thumbhole is made specifically for artists that desire to hold the paints close. Some artists prefer to keep their hands free and work with a flat lying palette stationed at the proper height on a studio table. One advantage of a hand-held palette is it allows you to move about the studio and view your artwork from different angles while continuing to mix paint. An enameled butcher’s tray palette makes for easy clean-up, a good palette that has a hard smooth surface that is easily cleaned.
Paints on Palettes
Oil and acrylic paint can be used successfully on any palette surface. If covered with plastic wrap, oil paints can stay wet for a few days. When out of their tubes, acrylic paints have a relatively short life span. Acrylic Paints can be covered in wrap as well, and sprayed with a water bottle for a not-so-long, but longer life. Sta-Wet palettes are an alternative type palette that help acrylic (or other paints) last longer. This palette includes the use of a sponge-like material. When wet and covered by a palette film, where the paints are placed, can substantially increase the longevity of your paints. You can make a cheaper version of a Sta-Wet palette with wax paper. Traditionally, watercolors work best on palettes that have slanted wells, shallow dishes and/or mixing areas. Some watercolor artists prefer a palette with one large mixing area surrounded by little compartments. Others prefer to have several small wells for each pure color, and adjacent to each well, a larger one for mixing a fluid version of that color.