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More Oil Painting Tips: How to Clean & Organize your Painting Palette in Seconds

Published Apr. 13th 2007


When I first started painting there was one thing I really hated about it—scraping old paint off of my palette. (Well, besides cleaning oil paints out of my paint brushes, but I learned to deal with that.)

I originally used a durable glass palette which I’d clean off with a flat razor blade. Unfortunately, the process seemed to take forever. This being back in college, I usually left that task until right before my painting class started, and then tried to quietly clean it (and not cut myself) while the professor was demonstrating his painting lesson for the day.

But luckily that’s all in the past, and these days cleaning up is a breeze. My secret? I ditched the palette.

What I do now is take roll of wax paper, purchased at my local supermarket, and roll out a couple of sheets before painting.

For example, in my studio I have a tray/small table that I use as an oversize palette. After covering that with wax paper (using tape to hold the edges down) I just start to paint. The beauty of this is that when my “palette” gets cluttered and full of paint, I just roll out a new sheet and keep going.

palette with wax paper

My painting sessions tend to be long—there was a time when I’d go for 8-12 hours, not that I’d recommend that to anyone else. But at least during those marathon sessions there was no need to waste ten minutes scraping off paint and losing focus.

Plus, while I’m painting, the wax paper will stick to the wet layer of paint beneath it, which means I don’t have to fiddle with tape or anything else. It’s just a really quick fix.

Then when I’m finished I peel up all the layers of wax paper at once and throw it away.

palette in trash

No mess, no fuss. Plus, wax paper doesn’t cost much—I’m pretty sure it’s the cheapest item on my list of oil painting supplies for beginning oil painters.

And here’s another palette tip, for those of you trying to organize even further. Each time you paint, arrange your oils by placing them in order via the color wheel.

I go from left to right across the top, starting with Cadmium Yellow Light and ending with Pthalo Blue. Ivory Black and Titanium White go in the opposite corner.

Organized Palette

By always putting your paint colors in the same spots, you won’t have to think about where a color is when you need it. Within a few weeks you’ll be mixing paint colors much more confidently and painting a whole lot faster.

The differences between organic and inorganic oil paints is something most artists probably don't know enough about. I only found out myself less than five or six years ago, but once I did it completely changed my palette and lowered my frustration level in. . . read more

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