What is a Wet Palette Used For?

Wet Palette with acrylic paints

A Wet Palette is a Game Changer for Miniature Painting.

Plain and simple it’s one of a very few tools that will immediately improve your painting skills.  It keeps your paints hydrated and flowing.  It allows you to mix paints and have them available for days, ready for your next paint session.  It helps with a variety of techniques like wet blending.

What is a wet palette used for? A wet palette usually consists of a small container with some form of a sponge or paper towel in the bottom. This will be covered with a paper that allows water to pass through, and the water based paint is placed on top.

Using a paper that allows water to pass through means your acrylic paint on top will stay moist for longer, keeping it fresh and ready to use. This keeps paint from drying out quickly, perfect for miniature painting.

This also increases the flow of the paint and ensures it remains useable. 

Benefits of Using a Wet Palette

For those who paint often, there are numerous benefits of using a wet palette. When you load paint onto the wet palette, it will suck up some extra water through the paper, thinning out the paint slightly.

For those who use acrylic regularly, you know how quickly it thickens and dries and how important it is to keep the paint thinned enough for smooth application.

By using the wet palette at the start of your project, you will have a better base form the start and can work on improving consistency. For many paints, this is the only thinning you will need to do. Of course, this added layer of moisture can also keep your paint wet and useable for far longer.

When you use a dry palette, you will have to use the paint that day, but a wet palette can last for days. We will further discuss how to best store your paints in a wet palette, but they are great for creating mixtures you want to last.

If you find the perfect mixture of paint shades but do not have time to finish painting the miniature in that sitting, the wet palette is a great storage option. 

In many cases, if your paint has sat in the palette for some time, it can be stirred or mixed to moisturize it. Though this may not always bring it back to life, it can help rejuvenate some paints.

To learn more about the ins and outs of wet palettes and how they can work for you, check out the video below.

When to Use a Wet Palette?

In many cases, a basic dry palette will work for your painting. However, when you paint miniatures, you need to take certain precautions to guarantee you are getting the results you had hoped for.

For example, if you are hoping to simply glaze the piece, a wet palette is an excellent option for you. 

Using a wet palette to store or mix your paint is a great way to get smooth color transition. The ability to thin your mixture can give your paint a softer look that a dry palette simply cannot achieve.

Using a dry palette offers less flexibility than using a wet palette, but most serious painters use a combination of the two. 

Another important time to use a wet palette is if it is abnormally hot in the area. If you are painting outdoors or in a very hot climate, your paint may dry out before you have time to finish your piece.

Having the added layer of moisture under your paints can help keep them workable. 

What Kinds of Paper Can I Use for a Wet Palette?

We will go into detail about purchasing a wet palette versus making your own, but either way, you need to replace the paper used regularly. 

You will use the paper to mix your paints or hold them, which will need to be replaced often for proper usage. However, not all papers will work for this process. You need something that is able to pass water through without falling apart. 

Avoid papers like wax paper and tracing paper. Wax paper isn’t porous, so it prevents dampness from passing through. So, it’s not going to help in keeping your paints wet. Tracing paper allows water through, but it’s flimsy and can fall apart over time. 

The best paper option for wet palettes are:

  • Baking Parchment – Can be very easy to find at most supermarkets and stores while also readily available online (get on Amazon). Reynolds is a commonly used brand of parchment that stands up against usage in the wet palette. This is a great paper for passing through a proper amount of water and yet remaining durable. 
  • Greaseproof Paper – This can also be found relatively easily around most supermarkets and can be used in your wet palette. It is also a super inexpensive option and is relatively durable. 
  • Sta-Wet Acrylic Paper – Sold for commercial wet palettes, this paper was designed for using while painting. However, many painters do not enjoy this style of paper and find it does not work well for them.
    If you do purchase your wet palette from Sta-Wet, this may be a good choice for you. 

How Long do Paints Last on a Wet Palette?

This is a hard question to answer because different paints, papers, palettes, sponges, etc. can affect the overall lifetime of the paint. However, for many, the paint will at least last a few days with the lid shut properly.

This also depends on how long you leave the palette open while you are using the paints; this can cause it to dry out. 

To extend the life of your paint a little further, put your palette in the refrigerator. The moisture from the fridge and the sponge will keep the paint good for closer to a week. 

How to Build Your Own Wet Palette?

You can buy a wet palette at most craft and paint stores for around $15, and they are easily found online for this cost.

You can read about my favorite wet palette in this article.

On the other hand, you can make your own palette for about $6 or even less, as you may have the materials laying around your home. 

To make your own wet palette, you should follow these steps:

1. Pick a container that is airtight and plastic.

There are several storage containers available for cheap that can be used, or you may even recycle a container that you already have around your home. There are disposable food containers on Amazon for only a few dollars that work amazingly well.

Note:  You do not want it to be too deep as it can make getting your paint out of the container more difficult. 

2. Decide if you would like to use a sponge or paper towels in the bottom of your container. Both work well, but a sponge may hold moisture for longer and can be reused for an extended period of time. 

  • If you pick a sponge, you will want to trim it to fit into the container perfectly so that it is not bunched up in the bottom. You can find quality sponges for around $1 and simply trim it down. You do not want it to be overly thick as this will completely fill the container and leave little room for the paint. 
  • If you choose not to use a sponge, you can use a few paper towels stacked on top of each other. These can be folded to a thicker size and then trimmed to fit the container. 

Simply place whichever material you decide to use for holding moisture in the bottom of the container. 

3. Next, you will pick the paper you want to use and trim it to fit the top of the sponge.

As we have already discussed, there are a few options out there, but basic parchment paper is great and super cheap. You will trim down the parchment paper to fit the size of the container and place it on top of the sponge inside. 

4. Time to add water.

Now that you have a basic set up of container with sponge and paper, you will want to add your water and allow the sponge to soak it up. 

  • Some soak the parchment paper before placing it on top of the sponge, making it easier to smooth down on the top of the sponge. However, this is up to preference, and you can pour the water over the top of the parchment paper wetting it and the sponge. 

Now your DIY wet palette is ready to use, and you can begin adding paint on the top. To watch someone make a DIY wet palette from start to finish, check out this video.

Maintaining Your Wet Palette 

To maintain your wet palette, you will want to care for it properly and wash the container regularly. You will want to wring out the sponge and rinse the container out with hot soapy water regularly.

Rewet the sponge properly and place it back into the container, of course, replacing the paper as needed. 

Some even boil the sponge regularly to guarantee they are removing any impurities. This also reduces the chance of any mold building up. To further protect the palette, you can use distilled water inside. 

Purchasing a Wet Palette 

Of course, if you are not the DIY type, it’s easy enough to order your wet palette. The most notable choice is Sta-Wet Palette, which is sold for around $10 online and in most craft stores.

You can keep your paint workable for days or even weeks with this palette, which you can purchase on Amazon.