Here are some of my palettes. I also have several DIY palettes, a few wood ones. There are other alternatives which I’ll get into in a minute.
Let’s review each of these options so you have a good idea of the pros and cons of each type. Most of the palettes are being used for watercolor paints, although there are a couple acrylic/oil options as well.
#1. Masterson’s Sta-Wet Palette: This is a palette I use for acrylic painting. This palette has not impressed me. While I like the stay-wet idea, the reality is far from pleasant. I find the paint becomes runny on the paper, it often smells really bad really quickly, the area to mix colors is smaller than I’d like. But the good news is I have been thrilled with the penny’s beneath the sponge cutting down on the smell of the palette. There is very little smell now, which is a tremendous improvement for me. Odor’s bother me, so this penny thing has been a real blessing. Now that I know the penny’s will work, I actually prefer my DIY stay-wet palette over the much more expensive Masterson’s.
#2. Blick’s covered palette: This is a nice palette, although a bit flimsy. I added four more wells with my glue gun. The mixing area is alright and you can use the cover as a mixing area as well. All in all a good palette for the price.
#3. Master’s Touch 45 well palette: I don’t care for this palette at all. I put my Mission Gold watercolor paints in here and I really regret it. The palette is not sturdy, there is no place to mix color, the wells are very deep which makes seeing what is inside them difficult. I did like the cover having very distinct places for labeling the paints, but since I don’t like anything else about this palette that’s not saying much. I really don’t know what I was thinking by putting the paints in this particular palette. I plan to remove all the paints and put them into another John Pike palette, if that is even possible at this point.
#4. John Pike Palette: This is the John Pike Original Palette with 20 wells. It is very sturdy and well made. I absolutely love this palette! The top is another mixing area if desired and the wells are large enough for my biggest brushes. I love everything about this palette and cannot recommend it enough.
#5. Plastic Folding Palettes: I use these palettes all the time. They fit easily on my work table or I can use the thumb holes. These are very inexpensive, easy to use, easy to travel with-which is why I bought them in the first place-and really my most used palettes. These are perfect for Plein Air painting with waterbrushes, thus limiting your supplies even more. I love these palettes and have several filled with different brands of watercolor paints. I use a thin piece of tape or just write the name of the paints within the wells right on the palette. I have used these smaller palettes for adding different colors to my usual watercolor palette. This gives me an opportunity to use colors I don’t normally use to see if I like them.
#6. Master’s Touch Sealable Paint Palette: This is another favorite of mine. This palette is sold at Hobby Lobby and has three parts. The top closes tightly with snap closures on each side. When you open it there is a large mixing tray which comes out and beneath that is your paint wells. The wells are large enough for my largest brushes, there is plenty of area for mixing paint on the palette, on the tray and also the cover. The entire palette is very sturdy and well made. This one and the John Pike are my two absolute favorite palettes. This particular palette is $20 bucks, but with the 40% off coupon it is a steal of a deal.
#7. Plastic Paint Palettes: These are the paint palettes I use when teaching a class. I have tons of these and they work well for my students. I just put a drop of paint from the tubes into the wells and the class is good to go. When teaching I use inexpensive watercolor paints, my personal preference is Marie’s. They are really spectacular color for not much money. Another choice is the Reeve’s brand of watercolors. The problem with these palettes is they have no cover. You can let the paints dry in them, which we did do for the 8 week class I was teaching, but you run the risk of the paints getting dirty. I just put the paint in the wells and set them out on shelves following each class. They dried without problem and were good to go the following week. When the class was finished I rinsed them out and they are ready for another group of students.
#8. DIY Palettes: Although I haven’t included pictures of these, I have made several DIY palettes. Some I made from empty eye shadow cases, some from bottle tops. These work well for Plein Air painting, using up small amounts of paint, are terrific for classes and perfect for children’s art supplies. These palettes are made from recyclable materials for the most part and are very handy.
Just remember to use student grade for all children’s art materials. Student paints are non-toxic (but check each tube to make sure) and less expensive than artist quality paints. When teaching a children’s class, make sure they wash their hands frequently. Stress the importance of keeping your hands and brushes out of your mouth. Seriously.
# 9. The wood palette: works for acrylics, but is really meant for oils I think. I have used one several times, but I really don’t care for it. It’s to heavy for me to hold for any length of time. I prefer to have my paints sitting beside me at the easel which would work for this palette if you have a table at the right height. You could use clamps to secure it to the tabletop, if you are concerned the wood palette could flip off. Another wood option is an old drawer. I have seen these used, but have never tried it. Again, just throwing another idea out there for you.
#10. Styrofoam plates: great acrylic palette. I use these often. I lay out my paint along the rim of the plate and use the center for mixing. While the plates are very small in comparison to other palettes you can purchase, they work well for smaller paintings or using only one color family per plate. These are very cost-effective.
#11. Glass: This is a wonderful option if you have a dedicated place to keep it. You can get tempered glass, but I bought a cheap frame at Goodwill and took the glass out of that. I wrapped the edges with tape and use it that way. One of the advantages of using a glass palette is you can lay a paper beneath it with your colors written out. That way you know exactly what colors are where. I like to lay my acrylic palette out the same way every time so I always know where my paints are on every palette. For new painters or those making changes to their usual palette, this can be very helpful. Mine is quite large, which makes storage a bit of a challenge.
#12. Metal Trays: I have seen several artists using enamel baked shallow metal trays for their paint palettes. I do not have any of these. Although I can’t give a review of them, I did want to let you know this is an option.
#13. Porcelain Palettes: Another option I don’t have is porcelain palettes. Many, many watercolorists use porcelain palettes. I have noticed them most often used by Chinese watercolor artists. I am studying these techniques and will let you know how a porcelain palette works for me as soon as I have the funds to purchase one.
#14. Disposable Paint Palettes: Here is another of my most used palettes. I really like these. A pad of disposable paint palette sheets is inexpensive. If you’re really frugal you can let your paints dry on them, wash the dried paint off and reuse them. They come in both white and gray. This is my most used acrylic paint palette and my favorite for that medium.
I know this was a longer post, but I hope this gave you an idea of some palette options. There are far more than I have listed here, but I think this gives you a fairly complete review of paint palettes for both watercolors and acrylics.