Acrylics · Beginner Art · Oils · Painting · Watercolours

Which Palette for Which Paint?

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.

The watercolour palette
The watercolour palette


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!

Acrylic paint used on a plastic palette is very difficult to remove once dry!
Acrylic paint used on a plastic palette is very difficult to remove once dry!

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.

The 'Stay Wet' Palette
The ‘Stay Wet’ Palette

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.

'Stay Wet' Tear Off Palette
‘Stay Wet’ Tear Off Palette


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.

Traditional palette for oils
Traditional palette for oils


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.

2 thoughts on “Which Palette for Which Paint?

    1. Hello, yes you can although it is not as bad as a plastic palette the paint will dry quickly on wood. A ‘Stay Wet’ palette is the better option for keeping the paints going a bit longer.

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