Wednesday, 29 April 2020

Using a wet palette

Too wet and the colours run. Too dry and the
colours dry out. But it's still a great idea.
While painting my 6mm Thirty Years War armies, I've been experimenting with a Redgrass wet palette.

I've never used a traditional artist's palette of any type to paint miniatures. I've used paints singly straight out of the bottles, or, rather, I've used a cocktail-stick or coffee-stirrer to transfer dollops of each paint onto old jar lids.

Using a 'mixing' palette encourages a dirtier approach, intentionally or just inevitably. This hasn't made much difference to the Thirty Years War armies which are block painted with dabs of bright colour, but I'm wondering if the increased spectrum of tone will add to realism when painting larger figures.

The wet palette can't be used for washes or metallics. Obtaining the right degree of wetness is tricky,  not least because the paints themselves vary in their wetness. I therefore still keep old lids (my dry palettes) and a little dish of water next to the wet palette for dealing with watery or overly dry paints.

With the right wetness paints will last quite a few days and I can quickly return to painting in an odd moment of opportunity which is very handy for fitting in my painting around other commitments. While I haven't yet optimised my use of a wet palette, it’s become central to my current painting.


  1. A handy thing. I've just made a mini one from the lid of a cotton bud tub, a small circle of kitchen towel and then a small circle of baking paper on top.

    I am painting in a room full of glass, so it gets hot and this little thing just stops the paint drying out while I'm using it.

    1. I just went straight to a commercial solution. I learnt about these only recently and this was the one recommended. It has a top which helps to keep it moist and reduces the danger of accidental contact with the paint. I'm now using very small drops of paint so it should prove economical in the long run.

  2. That's an interesting post. I've also been trying out the wet palette idea for a few months now and I've come to roughly the same conclusions as you. On the whole I think I'm pretty convinced and unlikely to switch back. The biggest advantages for me are the convenience of simply cutting myself a fresh palette from a sheet of baking paper every now and again and the much improved longevity of the decanted paint even if only during a single painting session. On the other hand, I do agree that the effectiveness of the whole system is very sensitive to how wet the palette is. If too wet then the paint overdilutes to the point of unuseability faster than it would have dried out. Consequently I tend to err on the side of keeping the palette 'moist' rather than 'wet'. Interestingly, reading around the wargaming blogosphere it's amazing how this idea seems to be catching on. All my best to you all in these difficult times, Chris

    1. Hi Chris, It's always reassuring to hear from someone who has come to the same comclusions...

      I did think of leaving the lids off some very wet acrylics, but decided it would be too dangerous!


  3. Interesting to hear how you're getting on with this.

    I purchased an Army Painter Wet Palette a month ago and I'm still not entirely sold on the idea.

    On one hand it's very good for storing my Army Painter brushes, on the other I find it doesn't suit all the materials I use.

    For Vallejo Acrylics it's very good.

    Vallejo washes & contrast paints a non-starter but it does works with army painter washes (which are actually quite thick straight from the bottle).

    This palette came with 50 sheets of paper to start you off and a spare pad so should keep me going for a while.

    1. I use washes on all 28mm figures and on 20thC 15mm figures, but only as the base coat. I do these in large batches so make up quite a lot of wash in a large plastic lid or bottle top. After that it's straight block painting for secondary colours and other detail. This looks pretty flat until the final shading.