When you start painting you can have just one palette or even use a ceramic dish but once you get into the media that you like you should get the right sort of palette. Different palettes are designed for each type of paint, I explain the differences.
Generally watercolour paints are used with washes. Washes are very diluted water paint mixes, read my post on What are Washes? if you would like to know more. As these watery mixes take up lots of space you need a palette with large areas called wells. Look for a palette with these large wells you can choose plastic or tin metal. The tin metal palettes are better quality and more durable.
Acrylic paints dry very quickly so the best palette to have is a stay wet palette. This a palette with ‘stay wet paper’ in it and a lid to keep the paints moist. These palettes are worth it because you can waste so much paint when it dries on an ordinary palette. I have ruined many plastic palettes because acrylic paint has dried to the palette, once dry it is almost impossible to remove!
The ‘Stay-Wet’ palette (below) consists of a blotting paper which is very absorbent which you wet and holds water. One top of the blotting paper you put the stay wet paper which has a shiny feel a bit like greaseproof paper. Between painting sessions you can put a lid on your palette and the paints will stay moist.
You can also buy tear-off palettes in a type of sketchpad which are a cheaper option if you don’t want to buy the palette. These stay-wet sheets have a shiny surface so that the acrylic paint doesn’t sink into it and dry out.
The traditional palette for oil is a flat wooden kidney shaped palette (see below). These palettes last forever if you look after them properly. These palettes are designed to be held in the hand while standing or you can place them on a surface.
To look after the surface of a wooden palette you should coat it with linseed oil and wiped dry again.
Your size of palette should be based on the size of work you create. A painter who creates small paintings will only need a small to medium sized palette, if you paint big you will need a bigger palette. Generally it is best to give yourself space with a palette as there is nothing more frustrating than running out of space on a palette while painting.