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 droplet 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
You can view the Mijello 24-Well Plastic Palette with Airtight Lid and both sizes of the Jackson’s Covered Porcelain Palette on the Jackson’s website.
More acrylic painting articles on the Jackson’s Art Blog:
Golden Acrylic Mediums Comparison
Sealing Your Masking Tape for Better Hard Edges in Acrylic Painting
Acrylic Paint Guide
Postage on orders shipped standard to mainland UK addresses from jacksonsart.com is free for orders of £39.
Can I buy a stay wet acrylic palette on
Yes, they are here:
There is a product called The Acryla
Miser which is a compact sealed palette
with several smaller containers that
really works keeping acrylic paints
moist for a long time. Thus, solving the
problem of acrylic paint drying in the
palette. Jackson’s Art Supply would do
well to offer this product for sale.
Thank you for your suggestion. We will take a look!
I’m going to try painting with water
mixable oils and using the Mijello 24
palette, do I put a piece of wet sponge in
one of the paint wells before I close it?
Or is this not necessary.
Water-mixable oils do not actually contain any water so the sponge of water to keep it humid inside the sealed palette wouldn’t prevent water evaporating from the paints as it does in acrylics. The oil is modified not to repel water, but it is the same as any other oil paint in every other way. The sealed palette would slow down the oil absorbing oxygen to dry, so it should help some to keep your paints wet a few days longer.
My comment is rather a question. Would the
palette be usefull for watercolor? My
problem is beading on plastic and even on
Unfortunately this plastic palette also beads up for watercolour when it is new. A light rubbing with toothpaste will solve that, though. It should work on the palette you already have, too. Maybe even the metal one.
The ceramic palettes work well for
Yes, they do. Thanks Susan.
I wanna ask which one is easier to clean between the two palettes?
They are equally good at releasing a dried acrylic puddle by peeling off the layer.
I think the porcelain palette is a bit easier to clean when you have a thin layer that has dried, where there is not enough binder to create a layer to peel away and you have to rub it with a scrub sponge. And the porcelain is a bit easier to clean the wet paint off of, as well. On the other hand, it is a bit harder to keep the paints wet with the porcelain palette because using it as an acrylic stay-wet palette is a bit of a hack, it doesn’t seal as well as the plastic one so you have to keep some water or wet sponges in it and re-dampen them from time to time.
Or, simply use two cookie sheets. One
inverted as a lid.
How do you keep the air out? None of my baking sheets meet with a tight enough seal to prevent evaporation.