DIY Wet Paint Palette

Why?

The type of paint palette a Warhammer painter uses may seem like a trivial matter, simply pick a clean piece of plastic and go at it.  Indeed, this is usually sufficient for most painters… until they try a wet palette.  A normal dry palette’s job is to simply hold paint temporarily for mixing a custom color or getting the consistency just right.  The bad part is that, over time, some of the water in the paints evaporate.  This means the painter has to constantly keep adding more thinner to the paint to keep the desired properties.  This added burden can make for inconsistent painting.

The miracle cure for this problem is called a wet palette.  A wet palette slowly adds water back to the paint mixture at the same rate as water leaves through evaporation.  This means the painter only has to mix the color once and leave it alone until the mixture runs out no matter how long it takes the painter to lay down the color.  Another great thing about a wet palette is it will keep the paint wet for weeks and even months.  That way the painter can jump right back in where he/she left off and not have to worry about remixing the perfect shade or hue again to match previous work.

Where?

Now that we know the benefits, how much do these wet palettes cost?  The good news is that most hobby stores carry wet palettes, and they are not very expensive at all.  The problem comes from the fact most wet palettes use proprietary pads and covers.  When the pad becomes fully used then it may be hard to find that exact part again, or worse, they could no longer be in business!  Also, most cheaper wet palettes are made out of hard plastic without a tight fitting lid.  Simply put, they are cheaply made and if dropped, they will break.  I know I’ve blundered about my work area before, as we all have.

Store bought wet palette. Proprietary paper, brittle plastic, and more expensive than DIY.

The obvious answer to this is doing what we model makers do best, make it ourselves with cheap-ass parts.

How?

I went to Hobby Lobby and studied a few designs.  A wet palette is just a short sided container with a lid and some absorbing material.  Using my in-store research and some pointers from other painters, the following is what I did to make a wonderful wet palette that I have been using for over a year.

Buying the right container for your needs is the most important step.  I decided on a rather large container from Rubbermaid.  It is a short sided, 1 gallon, rectangular container that cost me roughly 4 dollars at the local WalMart.  For those that want the exact name: Rubbermaid TakeAlongs Large Rectangular.  The container is made of the signature Rubbermaid durable plastic and has an air tight lid.  It is quite big for a smaller workspace, so be sure to keep that in mind.

The exact model of Rubbermaid I purchased.

The next step is to buy some parchment paper (NOT wax paper and NOT cooking sheets.)  Parchment paper has a special property in that it lets on a very small amount of moisture cross its barrier.  The last thing needed is a roll of paper towels.

Parchment paper, sometimes called baking paper.

Shopping list:

  • Rubbermaid or like container (short sided)
  • Parchment paper
  • Paper towels
  • Distilled water
Tool list:
  • Scissors
  • Ruler/measuring tape
Putting It Together:
The first task is to measure the length and width of the container about 1/4 the way up from the bottom of the container.  Use these measurements to cut out a piece of parchment paper.  Take paper towels and line the bottom of the container until it reaches about 1/4 the way to the top of the container.  Pour the distilled water onto the paper towels until the surface of the water is slightly below the top of the paper towel stack.  Lay the parchment paper over the towels and make sure it seals to the surface.  The parchment paper should be in direct contact with the towels, not hovering.  
The parchment paper can be changed without changing the towels if you need a fresh surface.  I would recommend changing the towels every two-three weeks to keep bacteria from forming inside the container.  Using distilled water helps keep contamination to a minimum.
There you have it!  For less than 10 dollars, you now have the same type of palette professional painters use.  You also have one less thing to worry about while enjoying the art of painting mini-figs.  Good luck!
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5 Responses to DIY Wet Paint Palette

  1. Glenn Oberlander says:

    This is brilliant! Thank you. I was looking all over the internets for something like this.

    Quick question, do you put the cover on when you are done? Also, will keeping the paints in the fridge help keep them wet? I live in Florida so the humidity here probably helps keep them wet.

    Cheers,

    Glenn

    • subyman says:

      Yes, put the cover on the container when you are stepping out for the day. I’ve never put the container in the fridge, but I would make sure it isn’t in a very hot place. Heat can cause a perfect environment for things to grow. Some containers are “anti-microbial” which would probably be good to look for. I’ve kept paint for several months in the container without any issues.

  2. David Jackson says:

    Glenn, putting in the fridge would be ruinous – one of the primary components in the inner workings of a fridge is a device which dries the air.

  3. subyman says:

    The compressor on the air conditioner unit does pull humidity out of the air. However, if you seal the container well (such as using a rubber maid container), there shouldn’t be a problem.

  4. Kevin says:

    Nice thing about this I’ve made one using a smaller container, works very well!

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