Friday, September 17, 2010

Making/Using a Wet Palette and Painting Efficiently

My makeshift paint station

After seeing so many guys painting nice models on their blogs recently, I have become inspired to do more painting.  My painting has been almost non-existent for about 5 years now.  I have amassed great armies of nicely built plastics/metals in this time, but put paint to few.  As most people that are finished with college know, life takes a lot of time, especially with a more than full-time job, wife, 2 year old, 2 month old and a new house to settle into.  With all of this going on I thought painting was impossible for now, so I just keep putting it off.  Until now that is, I have come up with a few things that will maximize my efforts in the time alotted.

First thing I did was to drag out everything I need for painting and put in one large plastic drawer that I have a stack of in my closet.  You can't just leave all this stuff out on a desk with a 2 year old on the loose.  I then primed up a few models to have in the drawer for next up.  I also tried out a Wet Palette, which I will go into more detail below.  After the first session I did during naptime, I painted more models than I had in two years.  This was great inspiration, but also showed me how useful an airbrush would be, while basecoating.  So, as I posted earlier I purchased one and I think it is a great investment for painting armies quickly.

The star of the show was the Wet Palette though.  I don't know why I never used one before in my painting.  It was so easy to make.  I just used an old plastic storage container, putting a 1/4" of water into the bottom and placed a piece of parchment paper into it.  It really was that easy.  Even with all my paints being at least five years old, I was able to keep wet paint for my entire painting session.  I am reviving these paints as I use them now, putting a stainless steel nut into each one and adding a few drops of water mixed with Future Floor wax.

 The wet palette is so effective for many reasons.  For me, I like to use a base color and a lighter shade and just mix up several stages of highlight.  When doing this on the parchment paper I am able to start with a blob of basecoat and mix only one end of this making a line of paint that transitions from dark to light.  Who cares right?  Well an hour later when I have moved on from the jacket of a model to his gunbarrel and my brush slips and spooges his jacket, the paint that I did this with is still completely usable.  I do not have to go back and mix or pull pots, anything.  Even if I don't slip with the brush it is nice to be able to get up and stretch, or get some water, or change a baby diaper at any point during my painting without having to finish this last highlight before my custom mix dries.  The wife appreciates this also, as I don't have to say, "Hold on I gotta finish this highlight before I help you."

My old tile palettes are now a thing of the past.  I doubt I'll ever use them again.  With the wet palette it doesn't matter if I used the paint an hour ago or just pulled it from the pot, it is the same.  I haven't pulled any several hour paint sessions, but for 1-2 hour sessions it has been working great.

Well, I'll stop blabbing about how great I think wet palettes are.  Even ones as simple as the one I made up.  So if you have been hesitant about trying one out, stop and go get one or make one yourself.  You won't regret the few bucks it costs(read free if you just take it from the wife's things like I did).

If you think you don't have time to paint, try a few of those things to help you get more out of your next session.  Here's the quick list:
Get your stuff together in one area or drawer like me for a quick setup and takedown.
If painting models with 90% one color basecoat, get an airbrush to do it quickly, then black out small stuff.
Batch prime models in between other chores for family.
Use a wet palette, seriously, do it.


  1. Now this rings true. Life can be chaotic and its hard to find time. Iv jus togt back into painting and thought id do a blog (more for myself than anything) havent done anything for years - but iv been organised... got myself an airbrush... set up a space with a good daylight light and just do a little bit when i can. Some tims half and hours - some times a couple. By blog is - im not going to win any awards but its great fun and there so many good hints out there - im going to give this wet pallet thing a go for sure. Nice blog... keep up the good work :)

  2. Excellent! I'm looking forward to "making" a wet palette for similar reasons - hopefully it will help my painting, but the real reason is that life gets so in the way with work, wife, kids, etc. - your post gave me a good laugh! I'm looking forward to throwing out the plastic tray. Question for you on the water/future - what's your combo mix and how much do you add? - I have the same, a few years away from paint table and some pots of in bad shape paint - you can see more of the story at - you can e-mail me at rickajr at gmail dot com. Love the nut idea as well - will give that a try too!