A palette is an indispensable tool in oil painting. It offers a convenient surface for mixing colors and keeping them within easy reach while painting.
If you are familiar with oil paints, you know that they are more complicated than watercolors, gouache, or acrylic paint. Oil paints are relatively thick and demand more work to thin, mix, blend colors, and clean off of surfaces.
Therefore, you need an efficient surface for paint mixing before transferring the final paint onto your canvas and post painting clean-up. Only the best oil painting palette can provide that.
What is the best palette for oil painting? Glass palettes are the best for oil painting because glass does not react to solvents in oil paints. Glass palettes are non-porous, sturdy, and easier to clean compared to wood and plastic palettes.
A glass palette is not necessarily a good fit for every artist’s specific needs. It is important to consider certain factors before settling for a palette. Wood and plastic palettes are lighter and sturdier, while palette paper is disposable.
This article is all about palettes for oil painting. We will guide you through the steps of choosing one and also recommend the 9 best palettes for oil painting. Let’s get started.
How To Choose Palettes For Oil Painting
Palettes come in all sorts of sizes, styles, and materials, but not just any palettes will do. When it comes to oil painting, you must consider certain things before deciding which palette proceeds to check out. Here are the essential things to consider.
When shopping for palettes, material choice is critical because it determines the suitability of the palette for oil painting. The material affects three significant aspects of the palette.
The first one is its compatibility with oil paints. Oil paint contains solvents that are pretty harsh on some surfaces. Some materials cannot withstand these solvents. So before you invest a fortune on an expensive palette only to ruin it with corrosion, check that the material doesn’t react badly with oil paints.
The second matter of interest when it comes to the material of the palette is durability. Different materials have ranging degrees of hardness or softness. Some are rigid and fragile, while others are tougher. Some are flexible yet strong. There’s also porosity which affects durability.
A palette will undergo many things that can potentially damage it, primarily moisture and mechanical damage from scraping, falls, and bumps.
Therefore, opt for water-resistant materials that will not absorb moisture during cleaning. You also want some resilience to everyday wear and tear and accidental drops, especially if you’ve got butterfingers.
After dedicating a reasonable amount of time painting a piece, the last thing you want is to end up with an infuriating clean-up session. When you choose your material right, cleaning paint off of the palette is such a breeze. Smooth, non-porous non-staining materials are easiest to clean.
Oil paint takes a long time to dry, so cleaning your palette as soon as possible helps. You’ll simply wipe the paint off with a towel or cloth dipped in thinner. Once dry, oil paint is removable by scraping using a razor, paint scraper, or knife.
You can also skip the entire palette cleaning process with disposable palettes, but if you’re more interested in reusable and environmentally safe palettes, disposable ones may not be for you.
Glass is many artist’s go-to material for oil painting palettes. It is non-porous and smooth, creating a perfect mixing surface for oil paints.
Another reason glass is a favorite is its non-reactive nature. It is compatible with oil paints and is not corroded by solvents.
Because of its slick texture, glass makes the best oil painting palettes for effortless cleaning. Wet paint literally slides off when wiped. As for dried paint, you can scrape it off gently. Despite being strong, glass is very fragile and takes one fall to break. To make your glass palette durable, you must handle it with extra care.
When choosing a glass palette for oil painting, go for a shatterproof model. This is often made of solid glass-like tempered glass with some form of protective features. It could be something as simple as rubber cushions at the edges to absorb shock.
Some have a cling film that prevents the glass from shattering into a million pieces when it falls and breaks inadvertently. You end up with a smaller and safer mess. Glass is also heavier than most materials. If too thick, it may quickly cause fatigue for those who prefer to hold their palette.
Authentic wood palettes are great if you are after a natural material. Depending on the type of wood and width, they can be pretty light in weight and affordably priced too.
Wood makes some of the most robust and durable oil painting palettes. The biggest downside with a wood palette is its porosity. Open grain unfinished wood readily absorbs paint and is extremely difficult to clean. It will also soak up with water when washed, causing it to warp.
The best wood palettes for oil painting have tight grains and are sealed. If you happen to buy an unfinished palette, you can finish it yourself with some linseed oil to seal the surface prior to use. We’ve included a handy video tutorial for preparing wood palettes at the bottom of this article.
Plastic palettes are the most ubiquitous kind of palettes. They are the cheapest palettes for oil painting. Plastic offers a smooth and non-absorbent surface for oil paint mixing. It is ultralight and gives standing artists who like to carry their palettes an easy time.
Cleaning oil paint off of plastic is not very hard if still wet. You can wipe it out. Dried oil paint removal is, however, tricky on plastic, and you might end up severely scratching your palette. Also, plastic develops an unremovable patina with oil paints regardless of how much you clean it.
Oil paints and ceramic palettes are not a good match. The solvents in oil paints can quickly corrode and ruin ceramic surfaces. Though beautiful and classy, it is better to reserve porcelain and other ceramic palettes for less harsh watercolor, gouache, or water-based paints like acrylic.
Paper isn’t the strongest material out there, nor is it usually impermeable. Surprisingly, it is not as terrible as one would think when built for oil painting.
Paper pad palettes hold up really well for oil painting. They are made with a glossy impermeable film that makes oil paint mixing possible without soaking through.
However, they are one-time use palettes that you discard after you are done with them. They are the perfect choice for artists who would rather not clean after palettes, but not the most environmentally safe choice. The paper itself is recyclable, but oil paint is not.
Though expensive in the long run when used frequently, it is worth escaping the tedious process of cleaning oil paints off of palettes.
Size is another consideration when picking an oil painting palette. The manufacturer will often indicate the dimensions in the description, so you must pay attention to them.
There are small, medium, and large palettes. The larger the size, the more color mixing you can do. But it also depends on whether you are a messy color mixer or not.
If you are painting with three or fewer colors, you can utilize a small palette. It’s easier to carry too. For three to six colors or even more, you’ll have to resort to a medium or oversized palette.
When gauging the size you require, you have to think about the edges where you’ll be placing a dollop of paint and the middle space left for mixing.
3. Style and Shape
There are two popular shapes of palettes, the kidney shape, also known as oval shape, and the rectangular shape. Does it really matter what shape you choose for oil painting? Not at all. It is the artist’s preference whether they like the palette laying on a flat tabletop or holding it in their hand.
Kidney or oval-shaped palettes with a thumb hole, sometimes two, are meant for carrying while painting, though you can lay it down if you want to. The same way a few rectangular palettes have a thumb hole, though most are built for tabletops.
When it comes to the style of the palette, there are flat and welled designs. Here, the style does matter for oil painting. Flat models are the best palettes for oil painting. It is easier to clean and scrap a flat surface if the oil paint dries on the palette.
Removing dried oil paints from well or pan palettes is painfully hard due to the depth and corners in its form. This style is suitable for watercolors or gouache.
Most artists agree that a grey colored background gives the most accurate visual of the colors. Others, however, prefer white or colorless palettes.
If the background color matters to you, go for the exact color you want, and if unavailable, opt for a see-through palette or one with a removable background that you can replace.
Not sure what color works for you? Opt for a transparent palette like glass or plastic. You can add your backdrop and switch colors by placing it against different colored papers till you discover what works.
The 9 Best Palettes For Oil Painting – Ranked and Reviewed
When it comes to choosing a palette for oil painting, the available choices are overwhelmingly huge. Luckily, we already researched for you and narrowed them to just 9 of the best oil painting palettes. Let’s find out which ones made the list.
|1.||New Wave POSH Glass Artist Palette||Tempered glass, 3 sizes, rubber corners|
|2.||Paragona Oval Glass Palette||Tempered glass, white vinyl backing|
|3.||Strathmore Palette Pad||Poly-coated paper, disposable, 40 sheets|
|4.||Mr. Pen- Wooden Paint Palette||Unfinished wood, suitable for large hands|
|5.||Jack Richeson Grey Matters Paper Palette||Grey-toned, 50 sheets, disposable|
|6.||Artlicious - Over-Sized Oval Shaped Wooden Palette||Unfinished wood, thumb hole, durable|
|7.||Art Advantage Non-Stick Plastic Palette||Plastic, thumb hole, lightweight|
|8.||AIEX Clear Acrylic Paint Palette||Plexiglass, thumb hole, clear|
|9.||Arteza Disposable Palette Paper Pad||Disposable, 40 sheets, thumb hole|
1. New Wave POSH Glass Artist Palette
This glass palette takes the sweet spot of the best palette for oil painting overall. It is built of strong, smooth, and lightweight tempered glass measuring 1/8 of an inch.
The rectangular palette is designed to lie flat on a tabletop and comes in three convenient sizes: 9 by 12 inches, 12 by 16 inches, and 16 by 20 inches.
What we loved most about this brand is that it takes artist safety and product durability seriously.
The edges have been filed smooth to prevent cuts. There are also four rubber cushions at each corner to act as shock absorbers during falls or collisions with other hard surfaces.
These rubber cushions also provide traction such that the palette does not slide and move around during oil paint mixing. There are three color choices for the backdrop. You can choose one with a white, grey, or transparent underside.
The smooth glass is a breeze to clean. Wet paint wipes off with ease. However, it is not recommended to let the oil paint dry.
On the downside, the New wave glass palette is prone to scratches during scrapping. You need to be extra careful with razors or use a plastic or silicone scraper. Notwithstanding, it is a well-made, sturdy palette that provides a perfect mixing surface for oil paints. It is a worthy investment for serious oil painting artists.
2. Paragona Oval Glass Palette
This one is another premium glass palette for professional oil painting artists. The oval-shaped palette with a thumb hole measures 11 by 14 inches in size, which offers plenty of space for your color mixing needs.
Made from heavy-duty tempered glass, the palette is solid and heavy but not too much to tire you out. All its edges have been rounded and softened for comfort, including the thumb hole.
There’s a white vinyl backing on the underside for color accuracy, but you can remove it if you need to. The non-porous, pristine quality surface is easy to clean and resilient against scratches.
Paragona oval glass palette is a true beauty and will be the envy of your colleagues in your art class or your source of pride at the studio. It is a premium quality oil painting palette built to last a long time.
3. Strathmore Palette Pad
Whether you want to eliminate the hassle of cleaning palettes, save time, or dislike using turpentine to clean your palettes, the Strathmore palette pad is exactly what you need.
This is a high-performing poly-coated paper that provides a perfect surface for mixing oil paints. It is a mess-free palette cleaning alternative, and you only need to tear off and dispose of used sheets in a bin.
You get 40 9 by 12-inch sheets of white 41 lbs paper that is non-porous and smooth.
The pages are so slick. You can wipe off some of the wet paint if you need to create more space, but eventually toss it once you’re done painting.
The sheets are double-bound by tape on both the top and the bottom sides. Therefore, the palette remains steady on the pad while you’re mixing your oil paints.
There are no leaks or blotting to the pages beneath because it is non-absorbent. Afterward, you can tear the top sheet to reveal a fresh one. If you are inclined to squeeze lots of paint on your palette, this sheet allows you to store leftover paint in an airtight container in the fridge.
For the artist looking for something disposable that works as good as a solid palette, the Strathmore palette pad is it.
4. Mr. Pen- Wooden Paint Palette
If you can’t restrain yourself from the appeal of an authentic wooden palette, this is an all-natural wood palette that comes unfinished.
You need to rub it with some linseed oil or cover it with resin or other appropriate wood sealers to perfect it for oil painting. Sealing transforms it into a non-porous and easy-to-clean surface.
The palette measures 10 by 14 inches providing ample working space, especially if you’re a messy artist.
You’ll appreciate that it has an extra-large hole that allows you to insert more than one finger for enhanced stability. This palette is actually adult-sized and a good fit for anyone who has large hands. They can hold it better and comfortably without tiring.
5. Jack Richeson Grey Matters Paper Palette
Another disposable option is the Jack Richardson grey matter paper palette. Unlike the Strathmore, this is a grey-colored paper for a more accurate perspective of the blended colors.
There are 50 sheets of 9 by 12 inches 35lbs disposable paper palettes packed into a tablet. You can use the paper palette on the tablet or tear it and transfer it onto a hard surface like a tabletop.
The smooth, non-absorbent, and glossy paper provides a nice mixing surface for oil paints. If you’re a beginner, you’ll appreciate that they included a color mixing guide as well.
This is excellent quality paper, but it could be better if it were glued on two sides because it tears quickly and gets loose as you mix paint. Otherwise, it is very effective as a palette.
6. Artlicious Over-Sized Oval Shaped Wooden Palette
Are you an enthusiastic artist? Well, you don’t have to work in a limited space. The Artlicious wooden palette offers ample room for you to get messy with plenty of colors. It measures 11.75 by 15.75 inches.
The palette is made of unfinished wood and, like many other wooden palettes, needs to be sealed first before use. You have to wipe it several times with linseed oil to make it non-porous and usable with oil paints.
The traditional oval-shaped palette has a hole and can be held on either hand side. Its edges may need a little bit of sanding to get rid of ridges and burs. Nonetheless, this is a solid and durable palette for oil painting that is fairly easy to clean.
7. Art Advantage Non-Stick Plastic Palette
This pallet from Art Advantage is our first noteworthy plastic palette. It measures 11 by 15 inches which is ample surface area for all your color mixing needs.
The palette is white in color, which will delight you if that’s your background preference. It is kidney-shaped with a thumb hole, and you can flip it to use the other side depending on your dominant hand.
The best thing about this palette is that it is light in weight, so you can hold it in your hands for long periods without experiencing any discomfort.
It is also sturdy with a reasonable amount of flex, non-stick, and resistant to the solvents in oil paints. The smooth slick surface enables one wipe of wet paints with so much ease. And although not difficult to clean, the plastic gets stained and will not be 100% clean as if new.
8. AIEX Clear Acrylic Paint Palette
Plexiglass is a clear cheaper alternative to actual glass, the reason we thought the AIEX paint palette would be a good fit in the 9 best palettes for oil painting list.
The palette measures 10 by 6 inches which is rather small, especially for an inexperienced painter.
As a consolation, you get two pieces per purchase which are okay for the price. They have a bigger size measuring 7.9 by 11.8 inches which is still considered small.
Despite the size, this palette is smooth and easy to clean, crystal clear, and strong. It is kidney-shaped with a thumb hole, and you can switch sides.
To maintain the flawless slickness and quality of the surface, this palette comes lined with a brown paper backing which you must remove.
We thought we must mention this as most negative reviewers were unaware of it and felt that they had actually received a porous paper/wooden palette when the plexiglass was, in fact, beneath.
So before using this palette and thinking that it is misadvertised, remove the brown backing using a knife. Warming it up with a hairdryer helps hasten the removal process.
9. Arteza Disposable Palette Paper Pad
Arteza is an industry leader in providing innovative and effective art solutions, and this disposable pad is just one of the many.
This paper palette, unlike others, replicates the traditional palettes and comes with a finger hole. So if you’re a fan of the traditional palette but want a disposable option, this is the right choice for you.
There are 40 sheets, each measuring 9 by 12 inches and adhesive bound at the top for easy detaching.
The hole enhances comfort if you want to hold the palette by hand, but you can also place it flat on a table.
The top surface is really smooth and waxy, which is perfect for mixing oil paints without any bloating or bleeding through. Painting on the go is a reality with this disposable paper paint palette pad.
How to Prepare a Wood Palette
Before you go, if you’re considering buying an unfinished wood palette, it’s important to know how to seal and prepare your wood surface so that the paint doesn’t seep in and stain, warp, and ruin your palette. We’ve found a handy tutorial from the HelloArtsy channel on YouTube explaining how to do it properly.