Because acrylic colour dries quickly you can build up many layers without having to wait long for each to dry. The fast-drying nature of acrylic is one of its favourite characteristics for many painters. That same speed is less helpful when it comes to paint drying in your brush or on your palette. Most acrylic painters leave their brushes in a pot of water when not in use and that works well for keeping the paint from drying in your brushes. But what is a good solution to keep acrylic paint wet on your palette, especially if you want to come back to it another day?
Keeping Acrylic Wet while Working
Spraying regularly with water or palette wetting spray will keep the acrylic paint on the palette wet while you are painting. I like the fine mist sprayer for its tiny drop size, but any spray bottle will do.
Then if you wish to keep your paint wet after you have stopped painting, so you can come back next time to the same paints and any mixes you have made, then either of the two palettes with covers, mentioned in this post, work great. When you are finished painting for the day, simply give your paint a final spray of water and put the lid on. You will have your mixes still ready to use the next time you paint and you also don’t waste paint as it all stays fresh.
Some acrylic painters that are concerned about wasting paint put very little out on the palette and that can hinder their creativity, as they end up being stingy with the paint on the canvas. That method also backfires a bit, because as soon as you have just a small amount left on the palette, then the acrylic dries even faster.
A better approach might be to put out more paint so the mass dries slower and make sure it doesn’t form a skin by regularly misting it with water or palette wetting spray, and then covering or closing the palette when you stop painting. Then your paint will also be already laid out when you come back, so you can jump right into painting.
These are my two favourite palettes for acrylics: the airtight plastic palette by Mijello and the heavyweight ceramic palette with a cover by Jackson’s, which is available in two sizes. They are a pleasure to use while painting and can also be used to keep acrylic paint wet until the next time you paint.
I prefer them to the traditional sponge-and-membrane style stay-wet palettes because the surface doesn’t wrinkle up, no refill parts are needed and they have compartments to keep the colours separate so I can add water or acrylic medium to make the colours more fluid, without them running all over the flat palette surface and mixing with the other colours.
It seems like the wells also help keep the paint wet a bit longer than on a flat palette, perhaps because there is less surface area exposed. The wells of both the plastic and the porcelain palettes are easy to clean, they wipe out when wet or peel off when dry.
There is a good amount of mixing area in the centre. Both palettes are rated 5-stars in our customer reviews – by artists who use them for watercolour, gouache, acrylic and oil.
Mijello 24-Well Plastic Palette with Airtight Lid The Mijello seals completely – simply give the paints a mist of water and then seal the lid. The paints will stay wet indefinitely. Adding a piece of wet sponge can help keep the humidity up inside, if you don’t want to spray a lot of water on your paints.
Ceramic Palette with Dust Cover
Jackson’s Covered Porcelain Palette – available in 2 sizes: 19-well medium or 32-well large. Using the ceramic palette with a lid as a stay-wet palette is really a painting “hack”, the lid is meant to be a dust cover for watercolours, it doesn’t seal completely. So it helps to fill one or two of the corner wells with clean water or a piece of sponge with water. This keeps the humidity up and the cover acts as a greenhouse and it will stay wet inside for a week or more if you fit the lid carefully on. If it will be longer than a few days you may wish to check your paints occasionally and give them a mist of water if they need it.
Keeping the Palettes Flat on the Table
The Mijello is very lightweight, so be aware if you use very fluid paint, tilting it will cause this paint to mix internally in the palette. However, the palette is airtight so no liquid will spill out of the palette. If you use thicker paints it’s great for taking around as it stays sealed without leaking and thicker colours will remain separate inside.
The ceramic palette is quite heavy and the top is clear so you will be less likely to tilt it and mix your paints in with each other if they are fluid. But it is not sealed so it would spill if you did tilt it a lot.
The Two Acrylic Palettes with Lids on the Jackson’s website
More acrylic painting articles on the Jackson’s Art Blog:
Postage on orders shipped standard to mainland UK addresses from jacksonsart.com is free for orders of £39.