So, I’ve been preaching the gospel of the wet palette for a little while now to anyone who will listen. It’s an amazing tool that had in a short time really improved my painting, and now I don’t go painting without it.
For the uninitiated, a wet palette basically consists of a container, a sponge-like material to absorb moisture, and a semi-permeable membrane. You put the sponge in the bottom of the container, add some water, and put the membrane on top. You can put acrylic paints on top of the membrane, and the small amounts of water that permeate through will keep the paints nice and fresh throughout a painting session and beyond, which allows you to mix paints and keep the colour on your palette for more than a few minutes, or utilize advanced techniques such as blending.
Various art stores and game companies have been selling them for a number of years, and you can make one yourself out of a sandwich container, paper towel, and baking parchment, but last year, Redgrass Games put out a kickstarter that got a lot of people’s attention, claiming to have come up with “the Best Wet Palette for miniature painting.” I, of course, was not immune to this hype and went in for the Painter version.
This product consists of a few pieces. First, there is the top and the bottom of the palette, made out of sturdy ABS plastic and sporting a rubber watertight seal between the two pieces. The studio version is about the size of a piece of paper, while the painter size which I have is about half that. Together, they are about 1″ thick and held together for travel by an included elastic band.
The foam on the inside is the most interesting part. It’s only a few millimetres thick, and claims to be mold-resistant, though I haven’t had it long enough to test that claim. The palette actually comes with two pieces of foam, so in a pinch, you can use the lid as a second palette. They also include the. Initially, the company wanted to produce a reusable piece of paper, but that didn’t pan out, so instead they’ve provided 100 pre-cut sheets in the box, which fit over the sponge nicely. Simply hold the paper down on each corner for a few seconds and spread it flat; it will want to curl initially, but as the paper absorbs the water, it will stick to the foam.
Finally, there is the “Wavy” attachment, which is a small plastic piece with five paint wells which magnetically attaches to the side of the palette. This is used for anything that you don’t want to get onto your palette, such as metallic paints or inks. I’ve found it to be a useful addition, though I often find myself bringing an additional dry palette with me as five wells often just aren’t enough, especially if I’m working with metallics and inks.
First, any wet palette is good. If you are painting with acrylics and you don’t have one, get one now. Whether it is this one, one of its competitors, or a sandwich container with paper towel and baking parchment, there are a myriad of reasons why you should be using a wet palette. While it does help save paint, the real reason you want it is because it makes advanced painting techniques that much easier.
This is a well-designed and well-made product, and it’s clear that the people behind it have put a lot of thought into the various features to make it the perfect tool for miniature painters. The case feels sturdy, and the two halves are held tightly in place with the elastic band. With the elastic on, it seems to seal quite nicely. The foam spreads out nice and flat, which makes it easy to lay down the paper on top without many air bubbles.
The palette is also pretty close to the perfect size for me. It’s a got a little more surface area than the P3 wet palette (which I’ve shied away from as I’ve heard mixed reviews on it), and is not as big as the Mastersons brand that I’ve seen in art stores which would just take over my entire painting desk. Further, the slim design allows it to easily fit in a backpack or a bag if you want to paint somewhere outside your home base, and the low profile of the sides make it a little more ergonomic to move the brush between paint and model as you aren’t reaching with your brush down into a deep container.
Most fascinating, you can actually close the lid, put the elastic on, and turn the palette upside down and the foam will stick to the bottom, the paper will stick to the foam, and your paint will stick to the paper. As such, so long as you don’t have too much or too little water, you can probably even take your palette on the go and open it up and start painting again. Further, with the elastic band holding it closed, you could easily tuck a couple brushes or some other tools (I usually bring a slim dry palette for inks and certain metallics) under the elastic and be ready to go.
The only actual flaw I’ve found with this product is that the paper is a little fragile. Now, I may have been a little rough with it, using some large, cheap synthetic brushes to get large amounts of paint for things like painting the rims of bases, but I had noticed small tears beginning to develop underneath my paint, which in turn caused paint to leak down through the paper into the sponge. After a few sheets, I’ve personally switched back to baking parchment, which is still better than any wet palette paper I’ve tried.
Beyond that, there is the question of value. Yes, this is a good product, but 37€ retail (Don’t worry, mom, I didn’t spend that much — I got it on kickstarter) is a steep price to pay for just a better version of something you can more or less make for free out of a sandwich container and some paper towel. On the other hand, given the amount of time I spend painting, I’ll probably get that down to a few cents an hour in no time, but not everyone has the same hobby budget as I have.
At the end of the day, this is a well-designed product with a lot of thought put into making it perfect for miniature painters. However, the price tag is the biggest issue, and whether it is right for you is going to depend on how well a sandwich container and some paper towel meets your needs and how well it can fit into your hobby budget.
For me, as someone who has a small painting desk and who regularly takes my painting supplies halfway across town to paint at local museums and game stores, one of the things I’m always looking for is a way to improve the efficiency of both my painting space and the space in my backpack. This product succeeds on both counts, and while the price is a little steep in comparison to its main competitor, it lives up to its tagline.