A wet palette is a device that keeps your acrylic model paint “wet” for a near-indefinite amount of time. Just add water to the sponge material in a wet palette, and your paints won’t dry out, ever. A potential limitation with using a wet palette over a long period of time is mold and bacterial growth. An advantage for using a wet palette is that it can improve the way you paint miniatures with acrylic paint. Glazing and other advanced paint blending techniques are easier to learn when your paint doesn’t dry up on your palette. You can buy commercially available wet palettes on the market. Or, you can make your own wet palette, the DIY (do-it-yourself) way.
In this article, Gabe Posadas, an avid miniature painter, shares how to make a quick, easy, and inexpensive DIY wet palette for less than $8.
Continue reading to learn how to make a low-cost DIY wet palette that works great for painting miniatures and models! Skip to the instructions.
Do You Need a Wet Palette to Paint Miniatures?
No, you don’t need a wet palette to paint miniatures really well. I would even argue that if you’re not ready, a wet palette will make you a worse miniature painter. A wet palette will also slow down your miniature painting. So, if you’re looking to paint a lot of models quickly, don’t use a wet palette.
READ MORE: IS A DRY PALETTE BETTER THAN A WET PALETTE?
On the other hand, if you’re painting miniatures for Games Workshop Warhammer 40k, Warmachine/Hordes, or Infinity the Game, which have models that look amazing with smooth color blends and shading, a wet palette could be a very useful tool. You can make a wet palette without a lot of effort or cost (see below).
Historical scale modelers or model railroad enthusiasts who want to realistically weather their miniatures will find that a wet palette also helps for keeping your acrylic glazes thin until you’re ready to apply them.
The great thing about a homemade wet palette for miniature painting is that they are easy to make and inexpensive. If you decide this isn’t for you, no matter, you learned a lot and lost nothing.
What is the Best Wet Palette?
What you’re really asking is more about value.
Are you getting the best wet palette for your money? Well, you can spend a lot of money on an Everlasting Wet Palette, or go with my favorite durable and long-lasting Masterson’s Sta-Wet Palette, trusted by artists (not just miniature painters) everywhere!
To save even more money, try using what I think is the best paper for any wet palette. To make a wet palette all you need is a water proof container and good palette paper.
DIY or Commercial Wet Palette?
There are many good reasons to make your own wet palette.
A good wet palette is a great way to get kids into the miniature painting hobby. Acrylic paints won’t dry. This lets children learn at a reasonable pace without wasting paint (e.g., leaving paint pots open). Again, a homemade wet palette is cheap so if it breaks or whatever, no problem!
If you’re running a mini painting class or crafting get-together, you will find these DIY wet palettes are….well, easy and cheap to make. At the end of a painting session, you can toss the palette(s) in the trash.
When should you buy a wet palette?
When you make a DIY wet palette it tends to be hobbled together with found items. So, oftentimes, there are certainly things that could be frustrating. Using a tray that is too deep is a problem for getting paint on your brush. Paper towels or sponges may not hold the water properly and dry out too quickly. Or they made have a texture that makes the paint behave and creep across your wet palette in unexpected and annoying ways.
Although mold and bacteria growth happens on any wet palette, a commercially available wet palette may be easier to clean because the parts all go together properly. Disassembly and assembly is easy.
Pro tip: To prevent mold growing in your wet palette, put a few drops of hydrogen peroxide into your wet palette. Hydrogen peroxide will kill many of the microbes and fungi that thrive in the humid environment of a wet palette.
You can use the same tip to keep your DIY wet palette free of mold and bacterial growth. Of course, nothing beats tossing out your old wet palette paper and washing out the sponge on a regular basis. If you’re using paper towels as your absorbent material, then replace it as often as you can. This will stop nasty bugs and mold from growing in your wet palette.
How to Make a Wet Palette (3 Steps)
This following DIY homemade wet palette is a quick, 3 minute project that is multi-purpose for many crafting and painting styles. For miniature painters, the total cost for materials is less than $10. The cool part about this DIY material is that you’ll have surplus, so you can make many wet palettes for diminishing cost.
When I’ve run miniature painting panels or group demonstrations at conventions, I had a limited budget. By saving money with a DIY wet palette option, I had enough money leftover to buy actual minis and paint for the students and trainees.
Something like this will definitely help, PLUS it makes things portable, AND a standard miniature or two can fit inside! It isn’t a palette that I’m going to stick with for the long haul, but for my first wet palette that I’ve ever made, I’m pretty darn proud.
Step 1: Use a shallow airtight tray
The reason you want a shallow tray is that you’ll have better access with your brush to the paint on the palette.
The idea here is to ensure that the paper on top stays damp (not dripping wet). There is an art here to making sure you don’t flood your wet palette. This is true for commercially available wet palettes, too. Even the best wet palettes have this achilles heel. Don’t flood your sponges/paper towels.
Step 3: Use parchment paper
Flatten a piece of parchment paper onto the dampened sponge or paper towels. The parchment paper must not have any hydrophobic coating (e.g., no wax or other water-blocking coat). The paper should hold your paint on it, while allowing some water to seep from below, upwards to keep the paint wet. Make sure there are no air bubbles or wrinkles in the paper. If you need to, cut the paper to fit the size of the tray.
Make Sure You Test Your DIY Wet Palette
How do you use your wet palette?
It’s simple. Add some paint with a color of your choice to the parchment paper. You can place multiple paints down on the same paper. This will save you time from going to the paint pot or bottle each time you need another color.
The wet palette will also aid you when you’re mixing paint. Your new mixed color will stay wet as long as you need it.
Your wet palette should allow any acrylic paint (the thicker paints are usually better, like Scale 75 or Citadel Paints) to rest on the baking parchment paper and not dry out. In my testing, paint should last at least two days without refilling water or adding more paint.
If your wet palette can last a week (like mine did), then your design is probably on par with any other wet palette on the market.
You may find that over time that your acrylic paint will thin and get runny on the wet palette paper. Even the best wet palettes will have this problem. It’s likely due to having too much water seep upwards into the paper.
There isn’t much you can do to avoid this other than adding more paint to your palette, or trying to soak up the excess water from the sponge/paper towel. There is a balance between how much water should be in the wet palette below the paper and the evaporation or drying rate of the acrylic paint.
Too little water and your paint will dry out in your wet palette. Too much water and your palette paper gets flooded with runny paint colors.
Either way, a freshly loaded wet palette will let you paint your models and miniatures without worrying about wasting paint or having custom paint mixes dry out before you’re done.
If you’re looking for a way to change up your miniature painting style (always a good thing to experiment), and you haven’t tried a wet palette, maybe this article gave you an easy way to get started. A DIY wet palette is easy and inexpensive, but best of all, using a homemade wet palette is effective.
You’ll save paint, give yourself time to try new color mixtures without worrying about drying acrylic model paint, and avoid the hassle of cleaning a regular dry palette (just throw out your used parchment paper when you’re done).
I hope this was helpful! Happy painting!