If you are into miniature painting or acrylic painting in general then you might have heard of a wet palette before but what is it used for and what makes it so good for painting with acrylic paints?
As a whole, a wet palette is a palette that keeps acrylic paints from drying up too quickly, and using one makes it easier to mix them and work with them over longer periods of time. A wet palette consists of a sponge and parchment paper inside a container that can be sealed airtight for storing.
Wet palettes are especially useful if you are painting miniatures as the acrylic paint can be thinned and mixed on the run without worrying about the paint drying up while you paint.
I personally use the wet palette from Army Painter but you could easily make your own by following this guide.
What is the Point of a Wet Palette?
It is a little hard to describe why a wet palette is so great if you never tried one yourself. So I will try to tell you as best as I can why a wet palette is worth using and what makes it so good.
The point of using a wet palette is to keep acrylic paints workable for longer periods of time by supplying them with a constant source of water without diluting them too much. This will make it easier to work with acrylic paints and it makes it easier to mix and dilute them quickly.
While using a wet palette for miniature painting or acrylic painting isn´t really necessary it will make it so much easier and faster to paint if you use a wet palette to mix and dilute your paints.
Most miniature painting pros use a wet palette and you can make your own relatively cheap if you want to try one out!
How Does a Wet Palette Work?
Before we talk about how to use a wet palette we should first take a look at how a wet palette actually works.
A wet palette works because acrylic paint likes water and absorbs it when it starts to dry out. A wet palette separates a wet sponge and the acrylic paint with parchment paper that allows the paint to absorb water if it starts to dry up. This keeps the acrylic paint wet and in perfect working condition.
This is also the reason why wet palettes only work with acrylic water-based paints. Oil paints, for example, would simply dispel the water as they are hydrophobic (they don´t mix with water).
How to Use a Wet Palette
When I first started using a wet palette I wasn´t convinced at all. But that was mainly because I did not use it correctly and I could not get the water amount in the sponge right. So, to save you some headaches I will tell you exactly how to use a wet palette and how much water you really need!
To use a wet palette put the sponge in the container first and dampen it with water. Spread the water evenly and then press the parchment paper on the damp sponge. Finally, put the acrylic paints on the paper. Paints can be thinned and mixed directly on the wet palette by spreading them on the paper’s surface.
If you want to thin a certain paint then simply spread the paint with a brush on the wet palette and the paint will get mixed with more and more water the more you spread it, thinning it in the process.
If you want to mix two paints with each other then just pick a little bit of both paints with your paintbrush and mix them directly on the surface of the wet palette. Make sure that you don´t spread the paint too much or you might thin the mixed paint too much.
Make sure that the sponge is only damp and not wet or the paint will dilute too much. If you add too much water to the sponge then you might even see some “puddles” forming on the surface of the parchment paper.
If that happens then simply remove the parchment paper and remove some of the water from the sponge before assembling the wet palette again.
If you are done with painting for now then you can simply close the wet palette and because it is airtight the paint won´t dry out and you can continue painting another day.
Even though you can store the paint in your wet palette for a while you won´t be able to store it for longer than three or four days. The paint will dry up eventually!
What Kind of Paints to Use on a Wet Palette
You might be wondering if you can use other types of paints than acrylic paints for your wet palette, so let me make it easy for you by answering this question as clearly as I possibly can.
Only acrylic paints can be used on a wet palette. Other water-based paints would dilute too much and oil-based paints are hydrophobic which means they won´t mix with water at all.
What Kind of Paints Not to Use on a Wet Palette
You can´t use every type of paint on a wet palette so make sure to read this section before you start painting with a wet palette.
Oil paints, enamel paints, and similar kinds of paints can´t be used on a wet palette as they will repel the water. If you put them on a wet palette then they might also seep through the parchment paper and contaminate the sponge underneath.
So don´t use these kinds of paints and stick to acrylic paints if you don´t want to ruin the sponge of your wet palette.
Are Wet Palettes Worth it?
I often get asked if wet palettes are worth it or if they are just hyped up too much and I honestly can´t answer this question definitively because it is opinion-based.
As a whole, wet palettes are worth it, or at least it is worth trying them out. They make it very easy to work with acrylic paints and wet palettes can be made quite easily and cheaply by using a sponge, some parchment paper, and an air-tight container.
In my opinion, wet palettes are worth it. I love painting with one and I would not want to miss it.
But if you are still on the fence about them then why not simply build your own for a couple of bucks and try it out? It will only cost you around 3 or 4 dollars to make a wet palette!
How to Make a Wet Palette Quick and Cheap
Making your own wet palette is very easy, quick, and surprisingly cheap.
To make a wet palette a sponge, some parchment paper, and an airtight container is needed. Cut the sponge to size so that it fits in the container and cut the parchment paper to the same size. Then dampen the sponge and place it in the container put the parchment paper on top and that’s it.
I have a full guide on how to make your own wet palette in less than 5 minutes that you can read right here. But I will give you the sort version as well.
It really is as easy as that.
A few things should be considered though. First, the sponge should be very thin.
I usually use sponge cloth as it is quite thin and holds water very well. It is also easy to cut to size.
For the parchment paper, I usually use those that you can find in the baking section of your local supermarket.
Finally, the container.
The container can be any container you like as long as you can close it airtight. Make sure that the container is quite shallow. This will make it easier to use as you don´t have to navigate around any high walls of the container with your brush.