Saving Acrylics on your palette
Use science to keep your water-based paints fresh for weeks and more.
There you are, putting down your phone after being told you’re needed somewhere. You look down at your palette and the huge gobs of paints you’ve put out and mixed up. Plans change – you’re used to that – but what’s the best way to save all that paint?
Some people use those big plastic palettes with a sponge in it, and a lid. You almost bought one recently… but regrets won’t save these paints today.
You don’t need a fancy palette.
They work because they take advantage of a simple bit of science: if the humidity is 100%, no moisture can evaporate from the paints.
You can use the same principle and save your paints with disposable plastics you probably already have. Here’s what you need.
- Water (spray bottle helps a lot)
- Plastic product of your choice:
- Regular plastic wrap
- Press n seal wrap
- Gallon freezer zip bag
- Small disposable food tubs
- Sponge is optional
I use each of these in various situations, but the sticky feature of press n seal wrap is far better than regular wraps.
These various methods will save paints for a few days to up to a year.
Squirt some water on the palette or make a few puddles. If there is space, you can cut a couple of strips off of a sponge, soak them and place on the palette too. It doesn’t have to be on the paints to make this work.
Cover the whole thing in regular wrap. One layer of wrap will work for 2 days. If you need a week, spray the first layer a bit and add a second layer of wrap.
EDGES are important. One tiny hole and the humidity falls letting your paints begin to lose moisture. Run your finger all around and let water become a seal.
Use sticky press n seal wrap. For this method, keep the water spray away from the edges so its dry enough to stick. Run a finger all around the perimeter – twice – making sure to seal a complete unbroken edge. Adding layers of wrap will extend the paint from a few days to a couple of weeks.
Freezer bags are les permeable, and you can slide a piece of palette paper into one if its small enough or if you cut a piece off.
Make sure to get a lot of water in there but not so much it puddles and makes the paint liquify. Blow air into the bag as you seal it to make a large pillow/bubble to keep the plastic off of the paint.
Lasts at least a week or two, and can go for a month when two bags are used. To get one bag into another use less air inside it.
When you have a large mix of paint and need a long term solution, use disposable plastic food containers with sealing lids. These come in many sizes and some are quite small.
When painting murals, I mix all my colors right in these.
To keep fresh, spray the inside of the lid, making sure to really we the seal around the edge. The water makes the air-tight seal last longer and with the moisture inside, the paint won’t even film over. I’ve kept these for over a year.
Extra tip: student-grade acrylics bought in large containers are as nearly as cheap as house paints and have many advantages:
1. They last far longer
2. Healthier with no fumes
3. Much better colors
4. Stronger pigments
That’s my Thanksgiving Day tip. Enjoy your long weekend and make some art!
The world needs happy artists.