Leaving Your Palette Tidy – An Experiment

This will save you time and money

You know how we recommend you paint with a lump of glass paint (not a teaspoonful) because that way you can just cut off a slice or two at a time and dilute it to any consistency and density you want?

OK, so let’s spend time today considering your whole palette and how to care for it.

Specifically, how to leave it when you’ve finished painting for the day.

And pay attention here because if you’re not doing what I’m going to suggest you do, then you’re wasting time and/or money.

Yes. You’ll waste time – or money – unless …

Now I’ve got your absolute attention, examine this here photograph:

Two palettes at the end of a day's painting

Two palettes at the end of a day’s painting

OK, so here you see two palettes at the end of a long day’s painting.

Top-left is palette A.

Bottom right is palette B.

My question to you is: when I cover up both lumps of paint, which palette will be easier for me to work with tomorrow morning?

Remember: we’re talking time and money here.

If I spend unnecessary time cleaning my palette and re-mixing paint etc. etc., that will cost me time.

Also, if my paint dries out, it’s inevitable that, when I re-grind it, I’ll lose some because it flies off around the studio.

Maybe even worse, it will also distract my attention from what I really want to be getting on with: tracing and shading and so forth. And one thing a glass painter – any crafts-person – hates, is … wasting their attention.

It’s not what your life is meant to be about.

Is it palette A?

So now, to help you choose, here’s a close-up of palette A:

Palette A: uncovered

Palette A: uncovered

And here it is again, covered as I will leave it for the night:

Palette A: covered

Palette A: covered

Or is it palette B?

And here’s palette B:

Palette B: uncovered

Palette B: uncovered

And here it is, covered, as I will leave it for the night:

Palette B: covered

Palette B: covered

You choose: which palette will be easier to work with tomorrow morning?

And remember, over a month, the wrong decision might waste an hour or two of your life. Over a year, you could be talking about a wasted day: a whole day. Think about it. It’s important.

It’s your life, your time, your money.

And the answer is …

The result

Well, here are both palettes the next day:

The next day - which one will be easier and quicker to work with?

The next day – which palette do you think it will be easier and quicker to work with?

It’s not palette A because, although the palette itself is clean, the paint beneath the lid has dried out:

Palette A: the morning after

Palette A: the morning after

This lump will need a thorough mixing. This will take 5 minutes or more. It’s a messy, thankless, pointless job – pointless in the sense of avoidable.

Here’s palette B:

Palette B: the morning after

Palette B: the morning after

See how the lump of paint is still moist and glistening? You can see with your own eyes it won’t take long to get going with your day’s work. No fuss. No mess. No wasted time.

Quickly back to work.


Palette A looked tidy – indeed it was tidy: far tidier than palette B – but there was a bed of paint around the lump. The paint is porous. Overnight, air seeped through and “attacked” the lump.

Result: a dried out lump of glass paint, needing time and work to bring it back to life.

Palette B looked relatively untidy. But … the lump was sealed with water and just a tiny bit of paint whose gum Arabic then sealed the lid and palette together, keeping the lump as airtight as possible in the circumstances.

Result: a most and glistening lump next day, just needing a little bit of care to get things going again.

DavidP.S. Save time and money: leave your palette as tidy as palette A and leave your lump as tidy as palette B. That make sense to you? Great!

14 thoughts on “Leaving Your Palette Tidy – An Experiment

  1. That is an interesting looking cover you used. Please tell me: is it a jar lid? I have been scraping my palette and putting the lump in a small seal-able jar, and the lump dries out. Plastic wrap doesn’t work, either.

    • They’re clay pigeons as used by would-be hunters for their target-practice. I found them out walking one day. And rather than leave them lying in the middle of a field, I took them to the studio and put them to good use.

      All the same, we prefer ordinary, white-glazed kitchen ramekins. They’re about twice the height of a clay pigeon, so there’s plenty of room for a larger lump. Also, because they’re glazed, they make an excellent seal.

  2. You are so right! I’m not sure anything takes more time than trying to restore my lump. I just bought a small refrigerator which I keep at 50 degrees Fahrenheit to store my paint. I’ve only had it for about a week, but it seems to work great. My lump maintains the same marvellous consistency as when I first mixed it.

    • Great idea, thank you. We don’t usually get it that hot here, especially not at nights, but this tip of yours will be extremely helpful to glass painters who are blessed with more sunshine than we are.

  3. Yay, I chose correctly!

    Not having access to a supply of clay pigeons, which is what Stephen and David use, I made a cover for my lump using a cheap old faux cut crystal bowl from a secondhand shop, and spent ten minutes grinding the rim down perfectly flat on a sheet of carborundum paper laid onto a square of 5mm clear float. And yes, a splash of lubricating water helps.

    • Good tip. And I imagine it’s also helpful, being able to see through to the lump beneath (which we can’t do with clay pigeons or kitchen ramekins). Main lesson: do what works best.

  4. Excellent point, gentlemen, and it’s such a simple thing, you’d think it would be a no-brainer, but not so. The simple and obvious do tend to trip us up.

  5. Dear David,

    I am somewhat confused. As I look at the page showing the side-by-side lion heads as well as king heads, I notice that both consist of water-based tracing, followed by oil-based shading. I thought that you were going oil all the way? What is the advantage of using water-based paint first? Does ‘flooding’ work better with water?

    I have tried the reverse, tracing with oil and then shading with water. The only problem I encountered was too much gum Arabic. It made the surface too hard for effective shading.


    • Hello Rolf,

      OK, so you’re asking why we usually paint with water-based glass paint before we paint with oil.

      The answer is, water and oil are very different media, each with their own strengths and defects. If we were to only paint with oil, we could only do those things which oil allows. Now you can’t paint with water-based glass paint on top of oil – leastways, not if you want it to look good and do it in a single firing – therefore we paint with water first, and use the oil to increase the subtlety and range of shading.

      Please remember that we’re talking about just one firing here, water and oil at the same time.


  6. Hello David, Stephen and every one.

    Nice to hear from you. It’s right. Taking care of a palette for us, as painters, is very important. A good light box, a tidy palette, a nice lump of paint. These are very important to have good work.

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge: we always enjoy reading your and Stephen’s posts.

    Regards to every one,

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