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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Moisture, the Essence of Wetness: Wet Palettes, What They Are and How to Make One

Here is an oldie but a goodie from the old LRDG website that we thought you guys might enjoy. I have found this tutorial invaluable when creating a wet palette, which is necessary when I am blending endless shades of white on my Finns. - Old Man Morin

Hey guys and gals, Tobu here.

Today I’m going to go through the positives and negatives of using a Wet Palette and show you how I make mine. First off, we all know how frustrating painting models can be. We’ve all got horror stories of how we ruined hours of work by using the wrong colour, forgetting an important step or not waiting until a coat was completely dry. For me, my main problem was I was rushing which meant these type of problems occurred more often than they should. Whenever I’d put a colour on my palette, or especially, whenever I mixed a colour up out of a couple of paints, I felt like I was racing against the clock to try and get my work done before the damn paint dried up. This led to sloppy painting on my behalf and I wanted to fix it. I heard on the internet tubes that there was a thing called a Wet Palette, that could solve all my woes – so I went about making one for myself. First, an explanation of what a Wet Palette is: basically, a source of moisture is placed below a permeable surface which is drawn up into the paint on top of it to keep it in a workable state. Below is a (very) rough diagram of how it works:

I’m no physicist, but I believe the pressure of the paint holding its form is enough to draw water up through the permeable surface (baking paper) and into the paint.

The primary benefit of using a Wet Palette is fairly obvious: your paint does not dry out, it will remain workable for weeks provided you cover the palette in between sessions. However, this had a number of extremely positive consequences for my painting: I could now create big batches of mixed paint – enough to paint a whole unit or even army – without having to worry about colour-matching that mix in the future; I was saving paint because I wasn’t losing any to drying out; and, most importantly, I was enjoying my painting time so much more! For me, removing that feeling of racing to beat the drying paint made my painting sessions so much more relaxing. I could now take my time, safe in the knowledge that more paint was just a dip of the brush away. My painting improved as well, as I was spending less time getting paints out of the pot and more time actually putting brush to model. Thinning paints to a good consistency for blending was no longer arduous as I knew I would only have to do it once!

So sounds great right? Here’s how I make mine:

This is what you’ll need. (L to R) Absorbent paper towel, Grease free (very important) Baking Paper and a sealable container like Tupperware or a used take-away container (must be cleaned of any oil).

Fold or cut sections of paper towel so they fit into the bottom of your container. Try to keep it as even as possible.

Repeat the above step until you’ve got several layers of paper towel. You can’t really have too much, so I build it up until it’s at a decent height so that it’s easy to put your hand holding a brush in there.

Fill that sucker with water so the paper towel is completely submerged.

Drain off the excess water so you’re just left with damp paper towel.

Drained and ready for a painting surface.

Cut a piece of baking paper a little smaller than the size of your container. You want to avoid the edges, as the water curls up there (meniscus effect? Something like that…) and you don’t want it to flow over the top of the baking paper.

Place the baking paper on top of the paper towel and smooth out to a relatively flat surface. As above, you don’t want water flowing over the top of the baking paper. If it does, you’ve got too much water in the palette – drain some more off.

You’re ready to go!

Obviously, paint goes on the baking paper – keep it away from the edges as if it touches the baking paper itself it will get sucked up!

Put the lid on your container between sessions and your paint will last for a long time! Ages in fact – I once went on overseas for nearly a month only to come back to my paints, almost as good as I left them!
There are a few negatives to using a wet palette. First, it takes a little time to set it up – around 5 minutes or so – which if you are time-poor I guess could be valuable painting time. I’m confident you would save time in the long run but for a one off session maybe this is a factor. Second, you have to clean it semi-regularly – after about a month it can start to get a bit moldy – mine has never got gross, but if I notice little spots on the paper towel I know it’s time for a clean. The palette is also only suitable for water-based paints – although oil-based paints typically dry much slower so you probably wouldn’t need try and find ways to extend it. Finally, it’s not that suited to mixing very thin washes, as the wash will flow over the whole thing so these are better suited to small well-type palette. Indeed be careful when moving the palette around as tipping can result in the paint running where you don’t want it to go.

So that’s it guys – I personally believe the positives greatly outweigh the negatives when it comes to using a Wet Palette and if you haven’t done so, you owe it to yourself to give it a go. The materials are cheap (you’ve probably got everything you need in your house already) and it really changed my painting sessions for the better. On a final note, you can also buy Wet Palettes from art stores and some hobby stores. I’ve tried a couple of these but don’t think they really work any better or worse than my DIY job. However, I do prefer the parchment paper that these use instead of baking paper (slightly better feel). You can buy the paper separately from art stores, but it is a little pricey so I just stick to baking paper. I hope this has been helpful and happy painting! 

Tobu out.

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