Just a Reminder: Clean Palette vs. Dirty Palette

July 8, 2011

Above: Image A—Dirty palette, well used, colors mixed together (gouache). Paints rewetted numerous times.

Above: Image B—Clean palette (well cleaner anyway). The mixed color has been wet and then lifted away with a rag. (Note: I inadvertently flipped the palette when I took this photo. What was in the top right of Image A is now in the bottom left of Image B, it is the same palette.)

This is just another reminder that "waste" is in the mind. Or that you do not have to be ultra careful and keep all your paints segregated. You will not explode if your colors blend a bit on your palette. (Though you do want to keep your white paint away from your pure pigments.)

It is easy to go from Image A to Image B. Simply wet the palette and wipe off the "contaminated" and overly homogenized mixes, gathering in the seas between the islands of pure pigment. (I couldn't resist.)

Let go of those thoughts of waste (which people have been asking me about a lot lately).

Getting to Image A is where all the fun is. Don't miss out. Creation is messy.

  1. Reply

    I could still never waste … 😉

    Since I read about mouldy watercolours somewhere (can that really happen? – anyway, whether it could or not, I am afraid of that) I try to clean my palettes (watercolour and gouache) from time to time. Wiping away is still something I could never ever do (this is the RAIN Man-part of me), so I use this paint up for backgrounds. It feels good to have a clean base again to start from on one hand and to be able to work on prepainted pages on the other hand. Winwin-situation for me.

  2. Reply

    Yes, paints can get moldy. It happened to me one time when I covered up a damp palette and didn’t use it for a few weeks. It was a shock to lift the cover off and behold layers of green fuzz! Yech!

    I love a dirty palette for the life of one painting because there are some neat mixtures in there somewhere that I’ll never get back (I always think) if I clean if off. However, I clean it off when I start a new painting. If I have two paintings going at once, then the palette stays dirty. White paint has its own pan, away from the regular palette altogether, because I’m a klutz and will accidentally mix them up.

    There is something nice about a dirty palette while working on a painting – sometimes it’s just as interesting as the painting, if not more so!

    • Miss T
    • July 8, 2011

    Roz, I love that. I’ve always found that I can get some interesting colors I might not otherwise have thought about (since we all get into ruts, even with color mixing) if I work with what’s in front of me. A good mess is a great starting point.

  3. Reply

    Julie and Bea, since I use plates for palettes the mold issue isn’t one that I encounter often. On rare occasions if I don’t finish a painting and want to keep the colors fresh I’ll put a bit of wet paper towel on the plate and wrap the plate with plastic wrap to seal in the moisture. Then when I start up again in the morning the paints are still fresh and wonderful. But since I only do this overnight I’ve never had any issues.

    I do however, leave my travel palettes open at night if I used them during the day.

    I use a Sta-wet (sp? it’s not in front of me) palette for my acrylics and have saved colors up to two weeks in that sealed system, but for other reasons (the paint gets a bit runny) I haven’t gone beyond that. Mold would not be fun.

  4. Reply

    Bea, a dirty palette is interesting as an artifact of the painting, I agree. I also love looking at my paper towels (on which I clean my brush) after I finish a painting. I can see right away where I might need to adjust my ideas on color theory! And there are new discoveries.

  5. Reply

    Miss T. I agree a mess can be a good starting point. The three spatter dogs you like so much all came from a used palette of contaminated colors like this one, and I just knew I could get a little bit more out of the paints.

    • Cate
    • July 8, 2011

    I love a juicy colouful mess on my palette, but when I do eventually get around to cleaning it up, I keep the paper towels and tissue papers for collage.

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