10 Types of Palettes for Acrylic Painting

The 10 best types of palettes you can use for your acrylic painting

Every artist needs a working surface onto which they can grab acrylic paint with brushes, mix their colors, and test out colors before doing the final transfer onto canvas. This working surface is known as an artist’s palette.

And the most ideal palettes are sturdy, large, easy to clean, and – most importantly – will not absorb much of the paint it has on it.

Over the years, I have graduated from using the most simple type of palettes to more sophisticated ones. And have developed quite an opinion on the types of palettes I prefer to use when acrylic painting.

So with that being said, let’s take a look at the various types of palettes you can use as an acrylic painter, starting with the best palette choices down to the -ahem- least desirable choices.

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Palette Paper

This by far is my favorite choice for palettes.

It meets all the criteria for an ideal palette with a large working surface giving me ample room to mix my colors and organize my paint pigments accordingly.

The Canson palette paper itself has a smooth, poly-coated surface to allow for easy mixing without pilling or color absorption as well as finger holes for holding your canvas.

I also love the Strathmore palette paper as another palette option, with an even bigger 12″x16″ working surface!

Plus, when you are done with your painting, you can simply tear out the paper and throw it in the trash. No clean up necessary!

Of course, unlike the more permanent palettes out there, you will eventually run out of this stuff, and will need to purchase more. Just something to consider!

  • Advantages: Easy clean up, large working surface, great for mixing
  • Disadvantages: more waste, not reusable

Plastic Hard Palette

A lot of artists recommend that if you are in the market for a new permanent palette, the best kind of material would be plastic – the main reason being the clean up is fairly simple and the plastic material will not absorb the paint.

I recommend looking for palettes that have a broad surface for mixing, as opposed to the “dollar store” round palettes that have a tiny mixing surface. You will not have a good time with those, trust me.

Plus the advantage of plastic palettes is the clean up – simply wait for your paint to dry and then peel it right off!

A great palette option in this category is the Art Advantage Plastic non-stick palette for its large non-stick working surface (11″x15″), and the added advantage of a thumb and finger holes for easy handling.

  • Advantages: Large working surface, will not absorb paint, easy clean up, reusable
  • Disadvantage: Does require a bit of cleanup

Glass Palette

A glass palette has its own various advantages. On top of being able to resist pigment absorption and promote optimal color mixing, this material also allows for very easy clean up. If some acrylic is still wet, a quick wipe with a damp cloth or under running water will remove the acrylic. If the acrylic is dry, simply using a scraper will get the paint right off.

This particular glass palette from Paragona features the classic palette shape with a large working surface (11″x14″) and finger holes for easy holding.

The one disadvantage that has been reported is the weight. If you happen to struggle with upper body strength, it can be a bit of a challenge to hold for long periods of time (unless of course you are looking for a good workout!).

>>>> Want to make your own? Check out my DIY glass palette tutorial here!

  • Advantages: Durable, relatively easy clean up, no color absorption, good color-mixing surface, reusable
  • Disadvantages: involves some clean up, may be a bit heavy for some, greater price

Ceramic/Porcelain Palette

In the same way as glass palettes, ceramic palettes are great for color mixing, great at preventing color absorption, good for relatively easy cleanup, but can be a more heavy, expensive option.

This particular ceramic palette from ProArt is more like a tray, featuring various sizes ranging from 7.5″x11″ to 13″x17″, which can hold a decent amount of paint pigments.

  • Advantages: Durable, relatively easy clean up, no color absorption, good color-mixing surface, reusable
  • Disadvantages: involves some clean up, may be a bit heavy for some, greater price

Plastic/Foam Plate

When I first started painting, I began with plastic plates. These were easy to find around the house and relatively cheap since they come in large packs.

It is important to stick with disposable plates that are either plastic or foam since both these materials are sturdy enough to withstand brush friction, won’t allow for colors to absorb through, and prevents pilling (as opposed to paper plates which are not good options!).

You will however be constrained in terms of space, depending on the size plate you get (I always recommend bigger, oval plates if you can find them!).

Plus, when you are done with your painting, you can simply throw the plate away!

  • Advantages: Durable, very easy clean up
  • Disadvantages: non-reusable, smaller working space

Tray with Tracing/Parchment Paper

This palette option is part product, part DIY, but a worthy one!

Trays are a popular palette option I am seeing artists use lately, mainly due to its nice walled borders, giving artists the ability to add wet towels topped with parchment or tracing paper to help make your acrylic paint stay wet longer.

The Masterson Sta-Wet Tray palette is a great tray wet palette that also comes with a cover for easier transport and to keep your paints wet for longer periods of time.

Plus, you can’t beat the larger working surface and it’s reliable sturdiness. On top of all that, once you are done with your paints, you can simply throw away the tracing or parchment paper and start fresh with a clean set of paper!

  • Advantages: Durable, large working surface, ability to keep acrylics wet longer (if desired), partly re-useuable, very easy clean up
  • Disadvantages: need to replace paper after every use

Cellophane Palette

from Chuck Black’s Youtube Video: The Best Palette Ever!!!

This was a really cool palette idea I found from artist, Chuck Black, who uses particle board cut to size and cellophane tightly taped onto its surface with painter’s tape.

The cellophane paper itself is a sturdy option, can withstand the constant brush friction while color mixing, and can be cut to size to suit whatever sturdy surface it will be taped to. Plus, once you are finished with a piece, you can simply remove the cellophane and throw it away!

  • Advantages: Durable, large working surface, cheap, partly re-useuable, very easy clean up
  • Disadvantages: need to replace cellophane after every use

Aluminum Foil

This one is more of a DIY approach to palettes, but one that I sometimes have used in the past.

You simply take aluminum foil and wrap it tightly around a sturdy, wooden surface (you can also tape the edges for added security). Then once you are done, you can remove it and throw it away.

The one thing that can be a pain is the metallic nature of foil. It can throw you slightly off when it comes to creating different color tones, so watch out for that.

  • Advantages: cheap, easy clean up
  • Disadvantages: more waste, some may not like the metallic shininess

Wooden Palette

Artilicious Wooden Palette (11.75″x15.75″)

Wooden palettes are probably the stereotype everyone goes to about when thinking about palettes.

It truly is a classic used by many famous painters, including the late Bob Ross. And it has remained a good option for many acrylic artists, obviously with a few setbacks. Wooden palettes typically feature the oval shape with finger holes for easy, comfortable handling and they are great for color mixing.

However, wooden palettes can have their challenges, particularly with some paint absorbing through the wood (albeit minimal), and the clean-up process being very involved. You’ll definitely need strong scrubbing, scraping skills to remove paint (this of course is based on what others have said about using wooden palettes with acrylics).

  • Advantages: Great for color mixing, more traditional “artist” palette aesthetic
  • Disadvantages: paint may have some absorption, involves more clean-up time

Paper Plates

This option has been placed last on the list, and here is why…

While paper plates are a great affordable solution to painting, color mixing on them will prove to be a bit difficult.

Since these plates are not properly coated to handle acrylic polymer and the friction of brushes, you will usually find the paper will begin to deteriorate with more use. There may even be pilling inside the paint mixture itself, which can just lead to more complications down the road.

There may even be pilling inside the paint mixture itself, which can just lead to more complications down the road.

So do yourself a favor and make paper plates your last resort if all else fails you. Heck, even using a plastic lid from a yogurt container can handle paint better than paper plates can!

  • Advantages: very cheap
  • Disadvantages: absorbs paint, causes pilling and residue, non-reusable

These are just a few examples of different types of palettes you can use for your acrylic paintings, but these are the ones I personally love or have used in the past in my art adventures.

No matter what palette you choose, just remember to choose something that works best for you!

What is your favorite type of palette you like to use for acrylic paintings? Comment below and let me know!

10 Types of Palettes for Acrylic Painting

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