Customizing Tips from the Buzzy Cave: Making Your Own Wet Palette

Welcome to Customizing Tips from the Buzzy Cave! Hopefully I’ll pass on some tips, tricks or minutiae that will help make action figure customizing easier for someone out there.

I’m always getting asked… well a lot of people have asked… um… okay,  a couple guys have commented in the past that my paint apps are pretty smooth and they asked; “How does a ham-fisted idiot like you do that?”

Very simply, I use a wet palette.

But Buzzy, what the hell is a wet palette and why would I need one?

According to Wikipedia–  a wet palette is especially useful with acrylics that dry quickly on a dry palette. A wet palette is a sealable container with a layer of absorbent material (such as tissue paper) that can be soaked with water and a semi-permeable membrane over that. The paint sits on the membrane and is kept wet by osmosis. Wet palettes can be bought, but are easily made.

Basically the benefits from using a wet palette for your paints are your paints are going to last a lot longer (which will save you money), you’re going to get much smoother paint applications and your muss and fuss is going to be drastically decreased. I always hated having to stop in the middle of painting to clean my palette because the paint dried out, then put more paint on it, add a drop of water, mix it, radda, radda… It really made painting a whole lot of not fun. Especially when I was first starting out and already had the stress of worrying about just trying to paint well. When I found out about wet palettes and made one of my own, my painting sessions became fun, hassle free and much more productive.

But Buzzy, why don’t I just buy one of them fancy, schmancy wet palettes at the local arts n’ crafts store?

Well you could do that. It’ll probably cost you $20+. Or you could make your own for around $6 or less.

The Materials

  1. A sealable container
  2. Parchment Paper
  3. Paper Towels
  4. Water

Tip: I prefer to use Viva Paper Towels because they don’t have embossed designs that can trap air bubbles under the parchment paper which will cause your paint to dry out. In the pic below you can see what I’m talking about. The pic on the right is the Viva paper towel.

First you make sure your container is nice and clean, probably best to use a new one that hasn’t had food stored in it and even better not to use your new one for storing food between painting sessions.

Fold 3 paper towels so that they will lay as flat as possible in the container.

Then add water. Pour in enough to fully saturate the paper towels. You don’t want them floating, you just want them good and damp, glistening with moisture.

Tip: I use distilled water versus straight tap water which can have minerals and stuff in it that will affect your paints.

Next you cut a stip of parchment paper and lay it down on the damp paper towels. It will wrinkle and try to curl up on the corners at first, so smooth it out with your fingers until it lays flat and you have pressed out any air bubbles that were trapped under the parchment paper.

Now your wet palette is ready for paints! One or 2 drops will go amazingly far on a 6 inch scale figure when using a wet palette.

Tips: Be careful moving your wet palette when it has paint in it, if you tip it the paints will run all over. Also it’s a good idea to change out the paper towels every once in a while so they don’t develop mildew and mold. Plus they’re going to stain from the paints. And remember to put the top on when you’re not painting so your paper towels and paint don’t dry out!

And there you have it, one handy, dandy custom made wet palette! If you make one you’re going to be amazed at how much easier, cleaner and more fun this is going to make your painting sessions.


10 thoughts on “Customizing Tips from the Buzzy Cave: Making Your Own Wet Palette”

  1. Thx for this!
    I’m just wondering if I still have to dillute my paints with the usual ratio of water:paint or will the water poured into the wet palette serve as the dilluter?

  2. Buzzy, thanks for this. I never knew that wet palettes existed before reading your write-up. quick questions for you – how long can you actually keep paint “alive” in one of these?

    if it’s a long time, do you have to refresh it by adding more distilled water periodically?

    does this setup allow you to mix colors on the palette, or do you want to mix elsewhere before adding the custom color?

  3. thanx for the comments Hagop & BS! I’m glad this was helpful.

    BS; the water in the palette is usually enough for thinning most paints. every once in a while I’ve had to add a little extra water (no more than a drop) to paints that are really thick like Citadel Foundation Paints.

  4. thanx Ron! I knew I shoulda waited a bit before answering the other 2 posts! LOL

    depending on how thick the paints are and how saturated your paper towels are paint life can last a couple hours or more. another customizer friend of mine said he has sealed up his palette and come back several hours later and been able to go right back to painting. after a while the paints will start to get thin but you can add a drop of paint to refresh and thicken them up. it’s something you’ll have to experiment with to find what works best for you.

    if the paper towels are drying out you can rewet them but you’ll probably have to change out the parchment paper before being able to rewet the towels. I don’t think you’d be able to avoid spilling water onto the parchment paper.

    as for mixing paints – yes you can do that right on the palette. if you just need to mix a small amount, you can put the paints you want to mix in close proximity on the palette and then pull beads of both together. for larger amounts you can mix just like you did on your dry palette.

    hope that all helped!

  5. Or……even easier, I use old film canisters. They seal so well I’ve had colors last months and months. As for a palette surface, I’ve always used either wax paper, then throw them away, or glass, then scrape the excess paint off and start again.

  6. This is excellent Buzzy. Thanks a ton. I’ll be giving this a try for sure the next time I pick up the paint brush. Like Ron I’d never heard of this wet palette before your write up. I’ve had problems in the past with paint starting to dry too fast, I add water, paint dries, I add water. Soon enough your paint is garbage anyways. So I really look forward to testing this out.


  7. Hey Buzzy, that looks neat.
    The pain in the butt about painting is having to make several coats in a thin color to make it nice. And sure enough keeping the paints from drying out is part of the problem. I’ve done various things to keep that from happening, like taking my little plastic palette and covering it with plastic wrap when I’m not using it, but this looks really neat.
    So if the water gets drawn up through the parchment paper, does the paper eventually start to break down and end up as little bits in your paint? Does that only happen after several hours and I shouldn’t worry about it? I’m gonna go try it out. Thanks a bunch!

  8. thanx for the comments, guys!

    StrangePlanet > I have never had the parchment paper breakdown from the moisture and I have gone several weeks in between changing out the parchment paper.

  9. Hey Buzzy, I want to mention that using a wet palette would also lower the adhesion of the paint to the toy’s surface, assuming the paint lasts longer because the water is keeping it moist (thinning paints with water is the problem). That’s why artists recommend you thin your paints with the official mediums sold in stores, so your paint retains all its durability.

    Point is, if the paint is getting doused by the wet palette, then people are definitely going to want to seal their customs with Dullcote or whatever to avoid rubbing the paint off when handling. But if the paint in the wet palette is being kept useful in a different way, then there shouldn’t be a problem with the paint’s adhesion.

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