The Cold Palette

Most miniature painters have heard of a wet palette, and generally understand its purpose: to help keep the paint “open” so that your working time is greatly extended. With wet palettes, you can even close the lid on them and keep you paint open and workable for days, which can be great if you do a little painting each night during the week.

But if you’ve used wet palettes, you may have found that they don’t work very well for very thin paints. Since they’re flat, thin paints, like the consistency you might use for glazing or “juicing,” tend to go all over the place. I heard about a solution online not too long ago, and decided to give it a try. The Cold Palette.

Metal palette with wellsA cold palette is pretty simple to make. All you need are two things:

  1. A metal, welled palette like the one shown to the right, which you can typically find at any art store.
  2. A freezer cold pack, like the kind used in lunch boxes or as cold-presses for first aid.

Using a cold palette is straightforward enough. Just freeze your cold pack, then once you’re ready to paint, take it out of the freezer and place it on a towel on your desk to soak up the condensation that will be created as the pack comes up to room temperature over the next few hours. Then simply set the metal palette on top of the cold pack, and wait a couple of minutes. Voila!

Now, what this does is two things as far as I can tell. First, it does cause moisture in the air to be drawn to the palette itself, much like a cold glass will collect condensation. Second, once you put your paint in the wells, it is kept at a cooler temperature, which acts to keep it at (or closer to) the dew-point of water, preventing the water present in acrylics from evaporating. Both of these things have the net effect of keeping your paint open longer. This is especially great for thin paints and glazes and washes, which would otherwise run all over a traditional wet palette.

Cold PacksI’ve been using a cold palette for a couple of weeks now, and because I’ve been doing a lot of juicing lately, it’s been fantastic. My glazes will stay open in the wells for several hours. I find this is plenty of time for me. Once I’m done with my painting session, I’ll wash off the palette and throw the cold pack back in the freezer. If you plan on doing sessions longer than about 4 hours at a stretch, it might be worth grabbing a couple of the cold packs and rotate them in and out of the freezer, switching them out once they’ve reached much closer to room temperature.

So if you find that a wet palette is too much hassle, or that it doesn’t work well for you because you use thinner paints, it might be worth giving a cold palette a shot.

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3 thoughts on “The Cold Palette

  1. Wow, what a great idea. I’ve been doing some painting in the Texas heat, and between the AC, the fans, and the heat, my paints have been drying at an astonishing rate. Perhaps this will help me. I’ll have to find a metal welled palette.


    • I bet it will. I’ve had to keep the fan on in my studio, and the extra air flow really dries out paint a lot faster. This has kept it open on the palette a lot longer for sure. Let me know how it works out for you!


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