5 Squeeze Your Paint Out Onto a Wet Paper Towel
One trick that artists often employ to keep acrylics wet on the palette is to squeeze them out onto a wet, folded up paper towel. This is like an improvised stay wet palette that’s inexpensive and easy to set up.
You may waste some of the paint because some of it will be absorbed by the paper towel. Another concern is that you don’t want to disturb the paper towel too much with your brush or palette knife. Wet paper towels tend to disintegrate easily, and you don’t want to get any of the pulp into your paint or on the canvas.
However, once you get used to this technique, you’ll know not to dig into the paper towel with your brush. It’s a simple setup for keeping your paints wet while you paint outdoors.
6 Protect the Palette From Excessive Heat and Air Currents
Any variable that makes water evaporate faster will make acrylics dry faster. So if you work indoors, you don’t want to set up your palette near a vent for heating or air conditioning.
It’s tempting to set up your easel next to an air conditioner if you live in a hot climate. However, the cool air from the air conditioner is very dry so it will make your paints dry faster. Air conditioners lower the humidity levels in addition to lowering the temperature.
Painting outdoors in a hot and dry climate can be a challenge with acrylics. You don’t want to work in direct sunlight because that will make your paints dry out very quickly on the palette. So, you’ll want to set up your easel in the shade. Not only will your paints stay wet longer, but your values will turn out better. The painting may look too dark when you bring it indoors if you match colors in direct sunlight.
Try to find a wind block where you can set up your easel. A building or a tall structure such as a wood fence may provide some protection from the wind.
7 How to Keep Acrylic Paint Wet Overnight
Many times you won’t be able to finish a painting in one sitting so you’ll have to find a way to keep the paints on your palette from drying out overnight. Otherwise, you’ll have to scrape it off your palette and squeeze out fresh paint.
Not only is this a waste of time but it wastes a lot of paint. Acrylic paint is expensive. According to my calculations, acrylic paint can cost up to $900 per gallon. It’s like throwing money in the garbage when you allow paint to dry on your palette.
You’ll want to mist the palette with water and cover it to keep them from drying out when you take a break from painting. The cover will keep the moisture inside the palette and it will protect it from the sun and wind. If you’re only taking a break for a few minutes, then the lid doesn’t have to be air tight. A loose fitting lid is better than nothing.
You can cover the acrylic paint on your palette with plastic wrap if you’re in a pinch. Some of the paint will stick to the plastic wrap when you pull it off, but it’s a lot less waste than letting all of the paint dry overnight. Look for a palette that has sides that are tall enough to keep the plastic wrap from touching the paint.
When I paint with regular acrylics, I like to mist the palette with water before I replace the cover. The increased humidity will keep them workable.
8 Combine Multiple Strategies to Keep Your Paints Wet
The best way to prevent your paints from drying out on the palette is to combine multiple strategies.
For instance, you can use a nonabsorbent plastic palette, mist your paints with water, and paint in the shade. Or you can switch to OPEN acrylics and then use a palette with a tight fitting lid to keep the paint wet for extended periods.
You can use a wet palette and remember to set your easel up in the shade away from the wind. If you don’t care for wet palettes, then at least use a palette made from a nonabsorbent material instead of using a pad of paper palette.
When you combine multiple strategies, you should be able to keep your acrylic paint wet on palette for days or even weeks. This will save you time and money. It also makes color mixing simpler because it’s easier to match a color by comparing it to a wet sample.
How Long Will Acrylic Paint Stay Wet on a Palette?
Acrylic paint left uncovered on a palette will start to form a skin within 10-20 minutes. It may take a day or two to dry completely, but it depends upon how thick the layer is.
OPEN acrylics, or acrylic paints with retarders, can stay wet for at least a month if stored under the proper conditions. I use the peelable palette to mix my colors and then I store it in a stay wet palette without the sponge and palette paper. The Sta-Wet palette just functions as an air tight container. I usually place a small wet foam sponge inside to increase the humidity. I’ve had my paints last for a month using this method, and that’s without misting them with water.
You can keep regular acrylics wet for weeks in a wet palette. It’s best to rinse out the sponge once per week so mold doesn’t have a chance to develop. I usually just lift the palette paper off, rinse the sponge out, and then place the palette paper back on top of the sponge.
Placing plastic wrap over acrylic paint on a regular palette may keep it wet for a few days, but it will eventually dry out. It works better on a plastic palette. Palette paper is somewhat absorbent, so it will dry out faster.