Wet Paint

March 23, 2013 | 6 Comments

Those of you that advocate using tube paint rather than pans…. I would like advice on:
1. what type of palette do you use
2.how much paint do you squeeze out
3. does it run/go all over the place when you put the palette in your bag
4. how long does the paint last- how often do you refill

I would really like to use juicy paint straight out of the tube but do wonder how much maintenance it needs and how handy for daily on-location painting- throwing a paint tin in your handbag (purse)
This is a palette I bought in NYC last year. I can see that having small dabs of paint that I can re-fill regularly could work…. but I would be afraid to close this up right now and take out with me – paint would go everywhere.

Like many other people I read this great post by Brenda on how she sets her palette up
it is similar to what I do now but in a palette rather than in pans- maybe that makes a difference. The wells are easier to clean out and refresh. I find that my tube paint in the pans dries out and sticks in the corners.
I want to use WET paint and not let it dry…
I am getting some interesting comments on Facebook, but for those that comment on my stuff here, would be very interested in your thoughts…and I will do a follow-up with my findings.


  • Liz, the hard truth is that the only way to work with truly wet paint is to squeeze it out of the tube each time. I've made many portable palettes from eye shadow boxes, mint tins, CD boxes, and commercially produced plastic palettes. Until the paint develops at least a skin on top, you can't tilt newly squeezed paint. And though it will soften quickly (W&N and Daniel Smith do best for me), no paint is as wonderfully intense and smooth to dip into as wet tube paint. A huge disappointment I've learned to live with . . .

  • Hi Liz, All I can say is what I find…everyone has their own likes and dislikes on palettes.
    First, although I do use plastic palettes, I do find that the mixed paint 'spreads' across the mixing-well area too much rather than 'staying' in one place! So I tend to reserve my plastic palette for travel (they are lightweight and that is such an advantage).

    Secondly, I would say the 'areas for the paint' in plastic palettes is quite 'shallow', hence you are finding exactly that, as you say you are not keen to close the lid…you are right, with freshly squeezed paint, closing the lid means that paint ends up On the lid!…grrr.

    Thirdly, in general I prefer to use a metal palette, bought with no paint included, I add the little plastic insets that fit and add my own colours from the tube…and yes I prefer squeezed from the tube paint rather than pans. (With both tube and pans you do end up having to spray with clear water to activate anyway as you know, but even then the tube paint revives much better with a stronger pigment). Anyway, I can 'remove' these little insets and replace with another colour choice depending on what I am painting at that time…varies with the time of year of course, but quite a versatile and useful advantage.

    Plus, with the metal palette you can close the lid virtually straight away. Of course, if you have put paint into the insets it means you are about to do some painting…once you have finished, even a small sketch, you can then close the lid without worrying about it (I would say, just dab out with a tissue any extra Water of course)…and No, the paint does not ooze out of the palette, I keep it laying flat as best I can anyway, but that's not a bother is it.

    Sorry to ramble a bit, but as I said to start with, everyone has their own likes and dislikes on the subject…..ann.

  • Liz, I would recommend you purchase a Martin Universal Airtight peel off palette. The mixing space is excellent and the paint banks are just the right size. I've been using mines for almost two years, the airtight seal allows you to keep your watercolor paints fresh for about 10 to 12 days. It's great for traveling and you don't have to worry about the paint spilling over each other or any left over mixes. I load about two to three pea-sized drops of paint per color. Honestly, I use the loaded wet paint before it even dries so I assume you would be fine and wouldn't waste much paint. If you have any issues purchasing the palette please feel free to contact me. I'd be more than glad to help! ([email protected])

  • First off I had a plastic palette like the one you bought in NY and It was totally useless… those paints in the 'lid' fall out when dry or ooze out when the lid is closed. I also prefer metal palettes… although I've been quite pleased with a compact plastic palette from Ken Bromley in England… format same as those expensive hand made metal boxes Craig makes. I think Anita Davies has one too and likes it. There are pictures in my Flickr Art Supplies set. Basically I load the paint like Brenda suggests… and use a toothpick to stir it and settle it smoothly into the pan or well… so there is a depression for the water … not a mound where the water ends up on the bottom of the well to loosen the glob of paint and cause you grief.

  • Liz Steel says:

    thanks all for the comments… I will do a follow up post. Really helpful thoughts here- really appreciate it!!!

  • Rui says:

    Hi Liz,

    For travelling (I have just been to New Zealand and Hong Kong) I use a plastic palette from which I removed the original pans and added loose plastic full size pans (it does leave a bit of spaces here and there as the pans are not quite the same size).

    As to paint I either add any paints from manufacturers which use honey in the manufacturing of their paints, e.g. Sennelier, Maimeri Blu, Blockx, or paint that I made from powder pigments (also using binders that include honey) which are mostly earth colours and a couple of others. The honey in the paint allows me to pick paint straight off the palette without having to prewet or spray it water beforehand.

    I also have a couple of metal palettes which were bought empty and I added the paints afterwards but these palettes are a bit heavier which might be a weight consideration in plane flights.

    Hopefully this helps you with your decision of which type to use.

    Kind regards,


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