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!