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How to Keep Your Acrylic Paints Wet on the Palette

Published Aug. 11th 2009

Every panting medium has its own issues with how you must handle your palette. Beyond the usual concerns (how to arrange your paints, which paint colors to use, etc) acrylic paints have a few special concerns.

Since acrylics dry quickly, you will need a strategy to keep your piles of paint wet and workable during a painting session. In addition, you also need to think about how to store your palette between sessions.

There are several solutions to both problems:

How to keep your acrylic paint wet

1. Masterson makes a range of Sta-Wet palettes that have a special sponge in them—the sponge keeps the palette paper wet, thereby keeping the paint workable.

2. There are a number of homemade alternatives to the above product, but they all follow the same idea of keeping the palette surface wet. If you construct your own, you will need to be careful that the surface is not too wet, otherwise the paint will absorb too much water and become runny.

3. Another common alternative is to spray the palette periodically with a spray bottle. This sort of misting approach will keep the paints workable, but again, one needs a bit of experience to judge how much spraying is enough.

4. Finally, some of the newer acrylics have a longer opening time—anywhere from a day to a week, depending on the brand and working conditions. Check out my other acrylic painting article to learn more about those.

How to store acrylic paint between painting sessions

1. Some acrylic painters don’t bother to store paint between sessions, they just get a fresh start with each session. Although this might initially mean a great waste of paint, eventually one learns how to keep the waste to a minimum.

2. The “sponge-type” palettes will keep your paints workable for up to a week.

3. Personally, I use Golden Open Acrylics on a Masterson Palette with the thick tight-fitting rubber lid. The paints stay workable for several days using this method.

Acrylic Palette

Running out of room?

I’ve recently started mixing my paints on a separate palette from my covered palette (it’s actually just a flexible cutting mat like you’d use in a kitchen). This allows me a larger area for mixing paints.

Acrylic Palette 2

I used to run out of mixing room before my paint piles were used up, but now I can mix on a large surface—taking from my paint piles whenever necessary, and wiping down the larger paint palette when I’m finished.

Do you have any techniques for keeping your paint wet? Feel free to send them in. We’ll add them to this list here.

After publishing Rose Welty's original article on keeping acrylic paints wet, several readers wrote in with their own tips and techniques for avoiding prematurely dry acrylic paint. Here they are:

1. Plastic pots and tin foil

"I like to mix my basic colors (usually 2-3 reds,. . . read more

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