Notebook, 1993-

MATERIALS & METHODS - Painting - Oil Painting

Characteristics - Painting Methods & Techniques - Materials and Equipment - Work Space & Storage - Manufacture of Pigments - Protection of the Picture

Oil Painting - The Palette and
Palette Cups

The lists of colors that artists use are sometimes referred to as their palettes. In this section, however, the word palette denotes the surface on which piles of paint are set out to have them ready for application to the canvas.

The palette may be the conventional wooden one, made of thin wood [about 3/16" thick], carried on the artist's arm. Small sketching palettes are usually about 10" by 14". Large studio palettes come in many shapes and may range in size up to 17" by 27". The size and shape will vary according to the personal preference of the artist, but there should always be sufficient area for free uncramped mixing and handling of color. If the palette is to be held on the arm, it must balance well. A new wooden palette should be rubbed with linseed oil and any excess oil wiped off with a dry rag. When the oil dries, the wood will be less absorbent and will serve better as a mixing surface. The colors are squeezed from tubes onto the palette, usually close to the outer edges, leaving a large area free in the center for mixing. At the end of a day's work, the center area is cleared of unused paint with a scraper or palette knife and is wiped with a rag moistened with turpentine. Some painters prefer to leave a trace of paint rubbed over the mixing area, which will eventually develop a hard glassy surface with a middle gray tone.

Instead of wooden palettes, slabs of glass or marble may be used. These are kept on a table top near the easel. If glass is used, it should be 1/4" plate, the sharp edges and corners should be rounded by grinding [any glass-cutting shop can furnish such a slab ], and the edges should be taped with surgical adhesive tape, so that they do not chip and cause injury. Some painters prefer to coat the underside of such palettes with white paint, in order to judge their colors on a surface that is the same color as their white canvas.

Hardened paint may be more easily removed from the glass or marble surface than from the wooden palette. One uses a razor blade fastened in a holder--the same tool that is used to scrape window glass. On the other hand, the wooden palette has the advantage of being more portable.

Palettes made of pads of treated paper are also available. At the end of a work session the top sheet, on which the colors have been mixed, is peeled off and discarded, making it unnecessary to clean the surface. Such disposable paper palettes are considered a convenience and can be purchased in several sizes. Painters who mix very large amounts of colors in a vigorous way may find that the surface rumples. [Kay, Reed. The Painters Guide to Studio Methods and Materials. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1983. p. 68-69]

Palette Cups
Palette cups are small metal containers used to keep a quantity of diluent within easy reach. They usually have a spring clip of some sort to attach them to the palette. Some are fitted with plastic "friction" covers or metal screw-on caps, which effectively prevent the diluent from drying up between working periods. [Kay, Reed. The Painters Guide to Studio Methods and Materials. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1983. p. 74]

[Kay, Reed. The Painter's Guide to Studio Methods and Materials. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1983.]



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