Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Watercolor Palette Cleaning Tips

Today I'm sharing a few tips with my artist friends,
mostly learned through trial and error.

I've learned the hard way, that sometimes there's a reason that I'm not getting the results I am seeking when my painting looks like crap is not so successful.

A less than ideal working palette is a definite hinderance. Especially when it is as disgustingly crusty, globbed up, dry and dirty as mine was.

Case in point.

When using a covered palette with tube watercolors,
if you don't let it get this badfresh pigment can be added to the semi-hardened paint. Then the two consistencies can be stirred together with a smidgen of water to reconstitute it.

However, I have been neglecting my palette for months and there was not much I could salvage!

I had to scrape out the old stuff that was inundated with hard globs, brush hairs and dirt. Then scrub the crust from the wells and start with fresh squeezed pigment.

I used a butter knife, bristle brush, water and lots
of paper towels to accomplish the job.

When I finally got all the wells clean, I squeezed out new pigment using my Tube-Wringer which helps you get every possible drop out of the tube. As you probably already know, if you are still reading this, pigments can get expensive.

It's a real money saver and a big thumbs up from me.

Ah, now doesn't that look totally inviting?

Palette Colors from top left clockwise.....

Cobalt Blue - Nice medium blue - has white in it
Cobalt Violet - Nice non-staining violet - has white in it
*Cadmium Red
*Alizarin Crimson
*Ivory Black
*Burnt Sienna
*Yellow Ochre
*Naples Yellow - love this color, use it often
*Titanium White - just started using this with my Yupos
*Lemon Yellow
*Gamboge - nice bright color - instead of Cadmium Yellow
*Olive Green - Lukas - love this - color varies by maker
Hooker's Green Dark
Phthalo Green
*Turquoise - American Journey or DaVinci- love this!
Turquoise - Lukas - color varies by maker
*Phthalo Blue
*Ultramarine Blue
* Colors most used

(*Update - 2017 - See the small limited palette I am currently using here.)
The supplies shown above are my current choice for a thorough cleaning and a total palette makeover. They are a paint tube wringer, bristle brush, butter knife, water and pliers (to pry off caps and squeeze the very last splotch of paint from tube). You will also need plenty of paper towels, water and a spray bottle.

My palette is a covered Robert E. Wood. When not painting for a couple of days, I uncover, spritz the paint with water, let it breathe for a while, respritz then recover. 

My color choices have changed recently due to working on Yupo paper. I am now using more pigments with white in them as they seem to bind to the synthetic paper better. 

I prefer DaVinci and Utrecht brand tube watercolors for their consistency, quality and price but I have also used Windsor and Newton, American Journey and Lukas.

See some tips on working on Yupo paper here.


The idea in my approach is to use the biggest brush you can and still get the job done. The bristle fan brush is occasionally used for texture and spattering. For my rounds, I use a lower quality synthetic brush that comes to a good point, but doesn't lose it's hairs.

A word of advice
don't let your palette get so grungy.
This project took me hours!

I hope you found a tip or two here
that may be of some use to you.
Happy creating!


  1. Very useful tips...I just need to put the cleaning part into practice!

    1. I am glad you found this post helpful Ann. Don't wait as long as I did. :-D Thanks for replying.


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