Clean up a contaminated palette

Q. As I’m painting, the colors on my palette contaminate each other, resulting in messy grays in each well. Is there anything I can do to save the clean color underneath?

A. It depends on how much color you’ve squeezed into your wells to begin with. I’ve found that the paints in your palette last longer when you completely fill each well with paint. Once the well is full, level the paint off with a palette knife to keep it from sticking to the lid of your palette. Now let the paint sit for a couple of days so it can settle and dry.

When your paints get contaminated, hold your palette in a vertical position under a stream of cold water and gently lift off the dirty colors with a clean sponge. Yes, the colors will run all over the place and into each other, but once the dirty colors are gone, just turn the palette upside down until the colors in each well are clean. If there are still dirty colors left in some of the wells, just wipe off the dirty paints very gently with the wet sponge until each color is clean.

This cleaning method will not work if you only squeeze out paint the size of a pea into each well. Your paint will dry up before they even get a chance to get contaminated! If you fill each well to the top, your paints will last for a very long time. They’ll look hard when you open up your palette, but to loosen them up, spritz them with water. As each color gets low, refill each well by squeezing fresh paint right on top of the old paint.

After an award-winning career as a graphic designer and illustrator that included operating his own firm, Michael David Brown turned his attention to fine-art collage. His works have garnered top awards in juried professional graphics shows and have appeared in exhibitions around the world. Greg Schaber is a freelance writer living in Erlanger, Kentucky.

You may also like these articles:

COMMENT