One of the biggest things I ever did to improve my painting was to make a DIY wet palette to use. Not only does it keep your paints from drying out, which alone is a time and money saver, it also keeps the paint wet.
That seems obvious of course. It’s called a wet palette after all, but what it does is allow for smoother layers of paint, and also makes blending really simple. I never thin out my paint for normal use because of the palette; well, unless I’m creating a glaze or something.
So, I’ll show you how to make your own DIY wet palette. It’s simple to do and cheap.
Oh, it’s worth noting that the wet palette is for acrylic paints.
Making a DIY Wet Palette
Making a DIY wet palette is really easy. You can find tutorials on a completely DIY wet palette where you use household items: kitchen/bath sponges & parchment paper. That’s all well and good, but from experience I prefer to spend a little for a better quality palette. It’s still cheap to do as well.
Also, the problem I have with using parchment paper is that is tears more easily than the acrylic paper I recommend using, and also it’s not as absorbent.
Plus, parchment it’s not reusable. You can get quite a bit of use out of it, and it’s not expensive or anything. However, the thing I like about the acrylic paper is that you can just soak it in hot water to reactivate it as needed. Simple.
Now, there are times when I use parchment paper instead of the acrylic paper. The thing parchment paper is great at is keeping the paints wet for longer. It’s a mixed result though because it also separates the paint. So, I tend to only do this when I’m doing a lot of blending.
The Materials You Need
The wet palette acrylic paper and sponges are by Masterson, and you can even buy a kit from the same company, which was what I did the first time.
The problem for me with the premade kit is the palette is enormous. The palette size is what you would use for acrylics if you’re painting on canvas, not for miniatures. It just took up too much space on my paint desk.
Of course, that’s an easy fix!
A Sponge Container
So, the first thing I did was to buy a smaller container, as you’ll see here.
Oh, I ordered the above supplies off Amazon, but you may find them at a local art store. There’s a local store in my area that carries both the sponge and acrylic paper.
I got this container at Jo-Ann Fabrics (art supply chain store in the US) for a few bucks. It’s intended as a photo container.
You can use anything that’s the right size for you, but I suggest you get something that has a lid so you can close it when you’re done painting to help keep things moist. Otherwise, your sponge will dry out, and in turn the acrylic paper.
As I mentioned earlier though, the paper can be reactivated with warm water, so it’s not a big deal, but who wants to wait to do that when you’re all ready to paint?
Oh, old Tupperware would work well here as well. If it’s got a cover you’re good to go. Again, anything works as long as it’s the right size. No need to spend big money here.
Putting the DIY Wet Palette Together
Once you have your container, you just need to cut things to size. The sponge and wet palette paper are huge for this container, so I measure it out and cut the sponge to size while it’s dry – far easier to cut of course.
I then place the sponge on the acrylic paper as a template, and cut the acrylic paper to the same size.
It’s worth mentioning that doing a few of these ahead of time is worthwhile. If you’re already cutting stuff, you may as well cut a few more to have on hand for when you need a replacement. That’s a lesson I’ve learned the hard way ;)
The sponges and sheets are so big that I’ll get about 6-8 uses out of one acrylic sheet, and around 4 smaller sponges per-sponge. Of course, that really depends on the size of the container you’re using.
Some people like having a very large wet palette. I went the other way and did smaller for space constraints.
The Final Step
Once things are cut, you need to get them wet. The acrylic sheet needs to soak in warm water for 10 minutes to activate.
What I do is place the sheet on the bottom of the container, and put the sponge on top of it. I then put in the hot water. I just use the facet, and then close the lid. The sponge keeps the sheet at the bottom and fully submerged.
Once the paper is activated you remove the sponge, and paper, and pour out the excess water. I then soak the sponge in cold water and ring it out.
I soak it again in cold water, but don’t ring it out this time, and let the excess water drain off it naturally. Put the sponge in the container, paper on that, and wipe off excess water from the paper.
Now it’s ready to use.
That’s it! It’s cheap, easy to set up and will greatly improve your painting.
The paper will eventually dry out. How quickly it dries out will depend on how often you paint, and whether you remember to close the lid on your container.
I probably reactivate the paper every few weeks, same with the sponge, during the summer. In the winter I can go months sometimes, but I live in a place where we have cold winters.
When the paper dries out you just soak it in hot water again for 10 minutes, and it’s as good as new. It’s multiple use, same with the sponge. I just follow the same process I used above when I originally activated it. That’s it.
When I remember, I pour some cold water around the sides of the sponge in the container. This helps everything stay wet and prevent drying out. The problem is I never remember.
Having used the completely home DIY wet palette before and this hybrid (I guess?) that I use, I can say that this works much better for me.
If you’re on a budget then by all means use house sponges and parchment paper. It does work, it’s effective, and it’s cheap; I’m not knocking it. However, if you do have a few dollars then consider this method as well.
In the end though, do whatever works for you. The point is to get yourself using a wet palette either way. It really will change your life.
Speaking of simple and affordable changes for better painting, you should check out the Citadel painting handle as well if you haven’t.
Also, be sure to see our list of essential painting supplies every hobbyist needs.