When I first started painting I used old plates, boards, whatever I could find and it worked ok except for one problem; acrylic paint will dry within hours when exposed to the air. Since I was always trying to find two dimes to rub together I was always concerned about "wasting" paint. This led to me squeezing out tiny little drabs of paint. Tiny little drabs of paint lead to stingy little paintings. The discovery of the sta-wet system changed all of that for me.
You can purchase a fancy store bought sta-wet palette for about $30, or you can construct one for next to nothing. Until 2011 when I earned a scholarship to the Toni Onley Artists Project (that's another blog entry) and decided to reward myself with a real sta-wet system, the homemade variety was all I used. Many workshop participants are new to painting and are unsure about sinking extra money into something they are just trying out. So, these are the instructions I give them:
You will need a plastic lidded container. You can use an old tupperware cake container or one of those rectangular margarine containers (remove the margarine, make me a cake and invite me over). It needs to at least 8"x10" - larger is better.
Wet your cloth. You will learn the correct level of water by experimentation. Too wet and your paints will run. Too dry and the paper will dry out.
Place your prepped palette paper on your cloth and you are done! Squeeze out LARGE AMOUNTS! Big pools of paint lead to full expressive FUN paintings. When you are done painting for the day, use the bottom of your container as a lid. The paint will stay moist and useable for weeks.
Occasionally I have had trouble with paint becoming moldy. A simple solution to this is to add a little vinegar to the water you wet your cloth with. Also, if you go a few days without painting it's a good idea to burp the container. Let some fresh air in now and then.
Ok, you are done. A big beautiful bountiful painting is about to emerge! HAVE FUN!