Wet Palette Tutorial

Ever since I first read about and tried a wet palette, I’ve been evangelizing them to anyone who’ll listen (including my long-suffering spouse!). Things have now reached the point where quite a few people have asked me where to get one / how to make one. This simple tutorial shows you how to make your own wet palette, using simple and cheap materials. It will take less then five minutes to make one and cost only a couple of dollars to make one, so don’t panic.

What’s a wet palette?

Quite simply, a wet palette is a place for you to mix your paints to the color and consistency that you want (like any other palette). The neat part about it is that the paint does not dry out while on your wet palette, and maintains the consistency that you mix it too for several hours.

“How does this work?” I hear you say. A layer of parchment paper forms a semi-permeable barrier between a wet layer of absorbent material (in this case, toilet paper) and your paint. It lets just enough moisture through to replenish the water lost from evaporation.

The end result is that you waste less paint and stop getting frustrated because you’ve run out of the color you just mixed, or because someone interrupted you for 20 minutes and now your paint has dried out. A nice side benefit is that the wet palette is quite soft, when compared to a dry palette like a tile or one of those pre-made painting palettes. This means less inadvertent damage to your expensive brushes, prolonging their lifespan.

Now, on to the tutorial!

What you will need

From left to right: a plate that curves up around the outside (most do, but it needs to be a plate rather than a tile for this reason, and square works best because of the shape of the toilet paper); two segments of toilet paper used to hold the water; a piece of parchment paper cut to the same size as one of the segments of toilet paper, which is your palette.

Parchment paper is something you likely already have if you or someone in your household likes to cook. It’s imperative that you use parchment paper and not butcher paper or wax paper as these don’t have the absorbent properties needed for a wet palette. The type you see here is from PaperChef, which (I’m told) is best for the awesome treats my wife likes to bake. It is also awesome for wet palettes, so life is good 🙂

Stage 1 – The Toilet Paper

Fold the piece of toilet paper at the join and put it in the middle of your plate.

Thoroughly soak the toilet paper with whatever water you use to mix your paints. Some people use distilled water here, but I’ve yet to see a real advantage in doing this (I reserve the right to edit this in the future if I ever become a distilled water convert!), so for me I just put this under the tap and turn it on very gently. You want enough water that the toilet paper is thoroughly soaked, but not so much that it’s swimming. A little excess in the plate is fine.

Stage 2 – The Parchment Paper

Take your pre-cut piece of parchment paper and place it directly on top of the wet toilet paper. As you can see, the dry parchment paper curls in the direction it was rolled. Don’t worry about this.

Wet Palette Tutorial - Stage 2a

Once the parchment paper starts to absorb a little of the water, the curl should naturally flatten out. If it doesn’t, just use your finger to gently flatten it down.

Wet Palette Tutorial - Stage 2b

Once it’s completely flat, it often starts to curl in a transverse direction to how it was curled on the roll. Just leave it alone for a few seconds and those curls should also flatten down of their own accord.

Wet Palette Tutorial - Stage 2c

Stage 3 – The Flip

Pick up one corner of the parchment paper and peel it off the toilet paper.

Wet Palette Tutorial - Stage 3

Flip it over and put the dry side down on top of the toilet paper. There will be two things you’ll notice. The first is that there are water droplets on the top of the parchment paper now. These are fine, just ignore them – I usually use them to thin down the paint as I put it on the palette, but you can remove them with a gentle dab from kitchen paper if you so desire.

Wet Palette Tutorial - Stage 3b

The second thing you’ll notice (seen above) is that there are air bubbles underneath your parchment paper. Use your finger to gently push those toward the edge of the parchment paper such that as much of the paper as possible is in direct contact with the toilet paper underneath. This ensures the continuous transfer of moisture from underneath the parchment, and allows your palette to be the full size of the parchment paper.

Wet Palette – Complete

Wet Palette Tutorial - Complete

And that’s it! You now use the surface of the parchment paper in the same way as you’ve used your tile/plate/plastic tray up until this point.

Generally, I paint for 3-4 hours at a time and I use just one piece of parchment in that time. If I know I’m going to paint the next day, I’ll store this away somewhere airtight (in a tupperware container usually) and then bring it out again the next day – the paint will still be wet. I generally toss the whole lot after two sessions though, just to stop any unexpected side effects like mold.

Hope this helps you in your painting!

Cloak Tutorial

This tutorial was originally written by me for The Leaf on Asrai.org, but I’ve reproduced it here as a starting point for my new blog.

Tutorial for Cloaks

The main core unit that seems to be used in every Wood Elf army list is the Glade Guard, and about a third of that model’s visible surface is the cloak. I’ll be using a Glade Guard cloak for the photos and painting it to look like leather, but this same technique can be used for any type of cloak or folded cloth, and virtually any color scheme. I assume that you are starting with a prepared and primed cloak. You may not want to go to this level of detail for every miniature, but the painting is the relaxing and creative part of the hobby for me. Painting a cloak like this will probably take 2-3 hours once you’ve practiced it. (In the example, I also base-coated and shaded the musician and it took me 4 hours – I estimate 50-75% of that time was on the cloak).

This technique works best with a wet palette. If you don’t know what that is, take a look at this excellent article. It will make you a better painter.

Stage 1 – Basecoat

First paint a base coat on your miniature. I’ve used Privateer Press’ Bootstrap Leather, but that’s only because it was what was available from my local game store. Here’s the miniature, with the cloak beside it (yes, I paint the cloaks separately). Make sure you thin the paint at roughly 50/50 with water. The paint should be thick enough just to cover the white primer with one brush stroke, and no more.

Glade Guard Musician Basecoat by godswearhats, on Flickr

Stage 2 – Wash

Mix some darker brown with a roughly 1:3 or 1:4 ratio with water. In this case, I’ve used Rhinox Hide from Citadel. There should be enough liquid that it flows into the cracks, but not so much that it forms in pools. If you make a pool, dry your brush on a paper towel and then absorb the pool with the brush. Cover the whole cloak. You can see I’ve accidentally painted a part on the cloak brown that should be green – don’t worry, I fix that up shortly. Note that in the image, the deeper crevices look darker and the most raised parts are lighter, which is exactly what you’re looking for.

Glade Guard Cloak – Stage 2 by godswearhats, on Flickr

Stage 3 – Layer

Go back to your original leather color, with the same mix (if you’ve got a wet palette, you’ll just be able to use what you already mixed) and paint over all the raised surfaces. This brings the leather color back, but leaves you with some depth in the crevices. Also, because your wash from above is thin and your paint here is reasonably thin, you’ll get a nice blending without having to wet-blend. (And look, I noticed my mistake and painted the left edges green).

Glade Guard Cloak – Stage 3 by godswearhats, on Flickr

Stage 4 – Highlights

Mix your original leather color with some white, keeping it nice and thin – usually at a 1:1 mix with water, maybe a little thinner depending on your white (some whites are quite thick). Your actual mix may be 1 part leather, 1 part white, 2 to 3 parts water. Put some of this paint on your brush and let your brush rest on the paper towel so that the excess flows off and is absorbed. This stage is going to use a pretty light touch.

Take the side of your brush point (not the tip) and run it along the ridges. In particular, you want to focus on those areas that stick up a lot or are very straight edged. I’ve put some arrows on this one so you can see what I’m talking about. The trick here is to mimic the areas that are really going to catch the light and those are the stiff folds and very high areas.

Glade Guard Cloak – Highlights by godswearhats, on Flickr

And here it is without the arrows.

Glade Guard Cloak – Stage 4 by godswearhats, on Flickr

Stage 5 – Depth

This is the final stage and for me it’s what makes a good cloak look great. Take some black, and really thin it down to the point where it’s almost like dirty water. I’d estimate that to be something along the lines of 1:8 ratio. You then paint that into the deepest areas of the cloak – you can see I’ve indicated those with the blue arrows.

Depth by godswearhats, on Flickr

As you can see in the final thing, this gives a three-dimensional richness. You can paint along those lines several times with your “dirty water” mix until you’re happy with the depth – for the rightmost crevice here, I probably painted it four or five times.

Here’s a key point – if you find that you’ve painted a line with your black, or that the paint has dried in a line, you can easily just take some of your original (stage 1) leather paint and paint over the line with it. Just take care not to paint over your highlights or down into your crevice or you’ll have to do it all again. Once you’ve done that, you can just put your very thin black over it again and it will blend nicely as show.

Glade Guard Cloak – Stage 5 by godswearhats, on Flickr

And that’s it! Hope you found this helpful.