It might not look like it, but the humble art palette is a crucial tool for artists. Most painters will need some kind of surface to put their paint on and mix them before applying it to the canvas.
Although traditional art palettes use to be made out of wood with a hole for your thumb, nowadays they are come in all kinds of shapes made from different materials.
Deciding which palette to choose for painting depends to a certain extent on your personal preferences. However, each type of palette has pros and cons and can therefore be better suited for a specific types of paint. Let’s take a look at the most common palettes one by one to help you choose the best one.
You can skip to the end to read about our recommended palettes for acrylics and oil painting.
1.Wooden Painting Palettes
As mentioned above, the wooden palette is the most well-known and has been used by painters for centuries. They were traditionally held in one hand while painting with the other hand. But nowadays tabletop palettes made out of wood are available as well.
The wood is normally sanded down and treated with linseed oil or a varnish. This prevents the paint from penetrating the wood and makes it easier to clean them.
Keep in mind that these wooden art palettes can be a little on the heavy side. So if you want to use a traditional palette, I recommend starting with a smaller sized one to prevent a sore arm or cramping thumb.
Palettes made out of glass are smooth to the touch, don’t damage your brushes and are super easy to clean. Unsurprisingly, these palettes have become quite popular recently. Since glass is transparent, these palettes often come with a vinyl backing to make it easier to distinguish colors but it’s not absolutely necessary.
A glass palette is normally rectangular shaped and placed next to your canvas. So you won’t be holding it while painting.
You might be worried about safety issues when it comes to working with glass palettes. Fortunately glass palettes are made using safety glass and as a result don’t break as easily as a tea cup for example. That being said, it’s better to handle these types of palettes with a little more caution.
Some people also use regular glass as a palette. But I wouldn’t recommend this since the glass is too fragile and will shatter into a thousand pieces if you drop it.
3.Plastic Painting Palettes
There are many different plastics out there. So when you mention plastic palettes, you are talking about a huge collection of different palettes. Some common examples are palettes made from plexiglass or acrylic. They are normally shaped similar to traditional handheld palettes, and sometimes come with little mixing wells.
Normally these plastic palettes are geared towards beginners due to their lower price point. They are lightweight, smooth and easy to hold. But if you don’t clean them right after you finish, the dried paint is very difficult to remove.
The use of paper palettes, also known as disposable palettes, is a little controversial. These are basically notepads with thick paper with a special coating that prevents them from becoming soggy when they get in contact with paint.
The obvious advantage is that once you are done painting you can simply tear of a page and throw it away. And if you have any paint left you can simply transfer it to the next sheet of paper.
On the flip side, it’s not a very environmentally friendly option because it creates a lot of waste. Additionally, the paper is not completely flat and smooth, which might feel natural when mixing colors together.
These paper palettes might be cheapest of all the different types. But since regular palettes can last for a long time, using disposable paper might be more expensive in the long run.
5.Stay Wet Palette
Stay wet palettes are a special type of palette for acrylic painting. One of the strugges of working with acrylic paint is that they can dry out quickly. So you either have to finish your entire painting all at once, or you will have to try to mix the exact same color a second time which is not as easy as it might sound.
A stay wet palette consists out of palette paper, a sponge and a lid. By wetting the sponge before closing, you can prevent your paint from drying for several days. This is a great option for artists using with acrylic paint that can only work for small amounts of time.
Note: you probably realized this already but these stay wet palettes only work with water-based paints such as acrylics. They don’t work for oil paints.
Most covered palettes are made out of plastic, but I gave it a different section because they are quite different. They are normally rectangular shaped with separate areas for holding paint and mixing, and can be closed using a lid.
The addition of a lid makes these palettes great for travel, especially the high quality ones that are airtight and leak proof. Additionally, the lid can slow the drying of your paints a little as well.
Below we have listed a few of our favourite palettes if you still have trouble finding the right type of palette, or if you decided on a specific type but get confused amongst the many models and brands to choose from.
Best Oil Painting Palette
Personally I would say that a glass palette is definitely the way to go when you are doing oil painting. The smooth glass surface makes it easy to mix different colors and clean the surface with a razor or knife. Which is a huge plus because remove oil paint from most other surfaces is a lot of work.
The glass palette by New Wave (check on Amazon) is great for painting indoors and comes in 3 different sizes: 9″ x 12″, 12″ x 16″, and 16″ x 20″.
This gives plenty of room for many colors and a large mixing area. However, since it is pretty big and heavy it’s not suitable for travel or plein air painting.
If you are looking for a palette that is light enough to hold and travel with, I recommend their maple wood palette (check on Amazon).
The shape might look like a little funny, but it actually balances the palette much better which makes it more comfortable to hold.
Best Palettes For Acrylic Painting
When it comes to palettes for acrylic painting you can choose from a lot of good options. First of all, the glass palette by New Wave recommended above for acrylic painting also works great for acrylics. Even dried acrylic paint can normally be peeled off pretty easily.
However, if you are like me and need several sessions to finish a single painting, a stay wet palette like the one by Masterson (check on Amazon) might be the better option. Not only does it reduce paint waste, you also won’t have to face the mighty challenge of mixing the same color a second time.