A word all visual artists will come across at some point is the word palette.This can be a little confusing in the beginning as it has two very distinct meanings, which are:
Palette: A board, typically with a hole for the thumb, which an artist can hold while painting and on which colors are mixed.

Palette: The range of colors used in a particular painting or by a particular artist: a limited palette. (definitions from Free online dictionary )

This post takes a look at the first definition and analyzes the best type of Palette for paint mixing. The answer to this question will of course vary depending on which medium you are currently using. There are however some common characteristics that you will need to look for regardless of your medium, so lets begin with those.

a. you need a place to put the paints

b. a firm surface to mix the paint on

c. a means to access the palette

d. an easy way to clean the palette.

So let’s have a look at these things and how different mediums have different requirements and what solutions there are.

One of the first questions a beginner will always ask is what size palette should I get and left to their own devices they will invariably come back with the cheapest, smallest one the person in the art shop could find to sell them. My answer to this question is always get the biggest you can find or afford as even though you may begin painting with few colours and not need much space, you will very quickly outgrow a small palette.

So lets look at how we solve these problems medium by medium. This week we will take a look at what is needed for oil painting.

Oils

  • The best palette traditionally was a wooden one, with a hole in one end for the thumb. It was seasoned with linseed oil to protect the wood and if you kept it well oiled and cleaned it after each use, it was easy to clean.It also had the advantage of being a mid tone in terms of the colour you were mixing, which helps with the accuracy of your tonal colour mixing.
  • Now there are a variety of palettes available on the market. Some have a white laminated top, which arguably matches the white tone of your canvas and therefore makes tonal matching easier when you are miking paint. This however is not very helpful if you under-paint your works. I find the white actually makes it some what more difficult and these type of palettes don’t seem to be much easier to clean than the traditional wooden ones.
  • Another option that some artists use is a sheet of heavy glass. Obviously this won’t have a hole for holding it in the traditional manner, which means you then need something to rest the palette on. I find a bar stool is good for this, being just the right height.  However because the glass is transparent, it means you can put a sheet of paper of any colour underneath it and this gives you a much greater flexibility for ease of getting your tones right.
  • Also available today are disposable paper palettes, which come in a couple of sizes and are great if you are travelling or just really want a no mess cleanup. The other thing you can do with them is keep the tear offs and once dry put them in a loose leaf binder and slowly compile your own colour mixing record book.  This can come in really handy later on, particularly if you put notes on the page reminding yourself which colours you used.

Artists Palette

 

Next week: I look at water colour and acrylic palettes.

This Week’s Question: What type of palette are you using and is it the best one for your current medium of choice?