Video: Acrylic Painting Tip - Keep Paint from Drying Out

I made this short video for Instagram so I thought I would share it on my blog.

I've never taken an acrylic painting class so I was working in this medium for quite a while before I stumbled upon "stay-wet palettes". I was living outside the US, in a remote area, and wasn't able to buy one so I read about how to make one.

The first one I made was very small and crude but it worked. I used a small rectangular lid from a gelato container (you can guess where I was living). The other 2 materials were the same: paper towels and parchment paper.

The basic idea is to have a flat, non-porous container (with low sides so you can get in there with a palette knife to mix your paints), lined with a soft absorbent material (soaked with water) which is then topped by a paper that will allow a very small of moisture to penetrate, keeping your paint wet.

It worked so well, I was astounded. After using it the first time, I didn't clean up and when I went back to the table the following morning, the paint was actually still wet.

While the paint will stay wet for a couple of days - providing that the paper towels are kept damp and depending on the air conditions - I prefer to use the paint for just 1 day if I'm working on canvas or wood panel. The reason is that after a day, I find that the paint absorbs too much water.

I've done some research about acrylic paint and water and my limited understanding is that too much water can compromise the binding strength of the polymers (plastic) in the paint. Perhaps I'm too cautious but I tend to use what I've put out within a day anyway.

If I am working on paper, I'll go ahead and use the more soupy paint that's been sitting for a day or two. That's because the paper can absorb the pigment. I do exercise caution here too and use the thinned out paint for the layers that go directly on the paper. Once I've got a layer of paint down, I go back to full strength acrylics.

The materials needed (as mentioned in the video) are:

  • Sheet pan / Cookie Sheet / Butcher's Tray / Plastic Tray
  • Paper towels
  • Parchment paper

Place 2 or 3 layers of paper towels in your tray. Saturate with water. Pour off excess. Top with parchment (cut to size). You don't want water on top of the parchment paper so if it overlaps the paper towels a little, that's ok. Put acrylic paints on top as you would any palette


  • Add water as needed by lifting a corner of the parchment (if you already have a palette going)
  • Change the paper towels every so often as they can start to smell and even get moldy (it takes a while but it does eventually happen)
  • Some artists use a tray they can cover which probably keeps the paint even longer (I don't find this to be necessary since I use it in a day or two)



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