Laying Out a Palette for Painting

by pamneely on November 10, 2010

Whichever way you look at it, oil painting can be a messy business. Because of its nature, oil paint isn’t so easily removed as watercolor.

If you spill or splash oil color over your clothing or the furniture or floor, it may ruin it. It is advisable then to have plenty of clean rags handy. Wear an overall, smock or an old shirt. Anything to protect your clothing in fact. If you aren’t able to have a studio or room set aside just for painting in, and have to use the living room or a bedroom, protect the floors with newspaper and cover up any furniture near by.

Good, clean habits are essential when using oil paint. Brushes and palette should always be cleaned ready for use. Tubes should always have their tops on. They will harden and spoil otherwise. Have plenty of clean turps handy. You can buy it quite cheaply at any builders’ supplier. It isn’t absolutely necessary to use the highly refined turps that is rather expensive and only comes in small bottles. You can also buy a good purified turpentine at your drug store.


Cleanliness and order are vital. It is half the craft of
painting. You will obviously get some paint on your hands, it can’t be avoided, but don’t let it get anywhere else. Bearing these gentle warnings in mind, let us start laying out our palette.

LAYING OUT A PALETTE FOR PAINTING

When laying out the palette, whether you are going to hold “it or not, always keep the paint well away from the center which should be kept clear for mixing only. Never put a dob of color in the center of the palette. Always place it at the edges. I cannot stress this enough. As colors are mixed, they lose a little of their brilliance. If they pick up any color that is near but not wanted, they will make the color to be mixed grey and muddy.

It is a good rule, therefore, to group your colors from light to dark. The blues come first, then the browns, then the red and finally the yellow. The white comes last and should be kept well away from all the other colors as it is easily adulterated. And because it is easily adulterated it is a good idea to put out two lots of white so that whatever happens to one lot, the other remains clean.

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