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View Full Version : keeping the palette "clean"?


Keith
08-21-2001, 03:58 AM
Okay, so I've started painting again (for the first time in years), and I am remembering something that drives me totally bonkers. How do you keep the paints relatively clean on the palette? I have (unfortunately) adopted the habit of only squeezing minute amounts of paint out because I know I will dirty them up in a hurry and will want to squeeze out more clean paint. I know this isn't the way to do it. Do you all perpetually thoroughly clean your brushes? It doesn't seem to be that way. If I watch those kooky painting shows on PBS it looks like those guys just take their brush and start dipping it in all the various pats of paints all over the place. I don't get it! I'm very confused.

cuttlefish
08-21-2001, 04:54 PM
Actually you're doing it the right way. Because of the quick-drying nature of acrylics you shouldn't dispense more paint than you can use in about 30 minutes or it will harden on the pallette. This time will vary depending on the heat and humidity of your local environment. Where I'm at, it's almost always warm and very, very dry.

You can extend this time by using a Stay-Wet pallette, or by transfering your working supply of paint from the tubes or jars into small containers. I use 1 oz. plastic "souffle" cups from the Smart & Final for when I need to store a mixture or mix airbrush colors. The lids aren't very good, but they'll keep paint from drying out for a couple weeks.

As for keeping your paints clean, just remember to wash your brush before dipping into a new color.

As for those kooky PBS painting shows, only one that I'm aware of works in acrylic, and there's the Chinese watercolor guy. The rest use oil paint, which you can leave on an open pallette for weeks and still be able to use it.

Einion
08-21-2001, 05:41 PM
One thing that might help you is to not mix paint with your brushes! If at all possible you should mix paint with a palette or painting knife. Mixing with a brush drastically shortens its life - it wears out the bristles and also forces paint into the ferrule, causing them to splay.

Einion

VictoriaS
08-21-2001, 05:59 PM
Keith, the PBS guy I figure you're talking about is Jerry Yarnell. He uses acrylics. (Cuttlefish: doesn't the Chinese watercolor guy use watercolors?) But you're asking a question that applies to oil painting also. I have the same problem, and have been watching those shows. It looks to me like they drag paint from the very edge of the pile into the mixing area, so it doesn't muddy the whole pile. They put a whole lot of paint out, and they sure don't wash their brushes between each move they make. I'm guessing it just takes practice, and some effort at first. This is the kind of thing books never tell you.

Keith
08-21-2001, 06:17 PM
Yeah, him and that hippy-nut Bob Ross, who definitely uses oils. I'll just have to keep at it. I wish I could just watch over someone's shoulder or something. What are you thoughts on palette knives? I presently don't own one.

Keith Russell
08-21-2001, 08:01 PM
Greetings:

about a year ago, I bought a 'Fresh Water Rinse-Well', from (I think) Dick Blick's. I'll try to post the address for the mfr., if anyone's interested.

It's a large plastic jar inverted over a shallow, ridged reserviour, which drains at the touch of a button (it's all mechanical, no batteries or cords) into another, larger reserviour below.

It says you can only fill the thing with water, but I fill mine with 1/4 ammonia and 3/4 water (the same solution I use to clean my airbrushes) and it's worked great for a year so far.

Anyway, you wash your brushes out in the basin, and then push the button. The old, nasty cleaner (or water) drops into the bottom reserviour, and then the shallow brush cleaning refills refills.

It's almost all plastic, so it cleans up nicely. I imagine oil paint or enamel paint solvents would totally ruin the thing, but it's perfect for water-based paints and cleaners.

Keith.

cuttlefish
08-22-2001, 03:03 AM
Originally posted by VictoriaS
(Cuttlefish: doesn't the Chinese watercolor guy use watercolors?)
He does indeed, except for the black which is usually a type of lampblack ink for his style of painting. Only mentioned him because he's not an oil painter.

cuttlefish
08-22-2001, 03:11 AM
Originally posted by Einion
One thing that might help you is to not mix paint with your brushes! If at all possible you should mix paint with a palette or painting knife. Mixing with a brush drastically shortens its life - it wears out the bristles and also forces paint into the ferrule, causing them to splay.

Einion

That's fine if you're mixing largish amounts of heavy-body paint, but it's awful tough to mix fluid colors with a knife. You may want to reserve an old brush exclusively for mixing your washes, glazes, and low viscosity colors, thus limiting wear on your other brushes.

Einion
08-22-2001, 03:34 PM
Actually I work very thin (like non-fat milk thin) almost all the time and I always use a painting knife to mix my colours. Of course I start with thick tube paint so I pretty much have to use a palette knife to start with :)

After the colour is mixed I add water in dropwise (another good thing about painting knives is they can be used to measure in a crude way - they pick up a fairly consistent amount of water when you dip them) reducing them to near the right thinness. Then I use my sables to get the paint to the final application consistency by rolling them into the edge of the puddle. Works a treat and my Series 7s last longer than my oil painting buddies'... actually, come to think of it they last longer than any of my acrylic buddies' too! ;)

Einion

VictoriaS
08-22-2001, 05:36 PM
Einion, you are very brave to use Series 7 brushes in acrylics! I wouldn't dare.

Victoria

Midwest Painter
08-22-2001, 05:52 PM
Originally posted by VictoriaS
Einion, you are very brave to use Series 7 brushes in acrylics! I wouldn't dare.

Victoria

I use Robert Simmons Sienna's. Work great.

LDianeJohnson
08-23-2001, 06:24 PM
Hi Keith,

Welcome to WetCanvas' Acrylics Forum!

Ahh, the ole "keeping the paint clean" dilemma...

Many great tips here. I'd like to add just two thoughts. One, try limiting your colors to 3, plus white for a few weeks (Cobalt Blue, Alizarin Crimson, & Cad Yellow Medium). This will force you to use and explore these three and help with keeping your colors clean. Once you master what can be done (and not be done) with these, add back in another blue (Ultramarine), red (Cad Red Medium) and yellow (Cad Yellow Lt.). Only lighten with the next lighter color and use white when you have to.

Secondly, practice - practice - practice. It takes some time and lots of trial and error and you'll master the "mud". :)

Diane

VictoriaS
08-24-2001, 12:45 PM
Originally posted by Keith
What are you thoughts on palette knives? I presently don't own one.

Keith: It is easier to keep your colors clean using a knife, because it is a simple matter to wipe off the paint before dipping into the next color. Also, a knife is a very useful piece of equipment for applying paint, scratching or scraping into the wet paint to reveal the color beneath, etc. Some people (you probably know) paint entire pictures with a knife. I can't imagine not having one because at some point in almost every painting I use it.

Victoria

Keith
08-24-2001, 12:50 PM
I'm not the least but interested in impasto work, so I don't need a knife in that respect. I have bought some cheap plastic ones though, and I do find it easier to mix the paint. I can cut pieces of paint from a source pile and add it to the mixture without dirtying the source, and I can use the knife to smash, weaken, and dice really thick paint as I try to water it down (like white for example).

Thanks all.

VictoriaS
08-24-2001, 01:02 PM
Keith: I use the knife for putting on straight lines (easier than with a brush), not necessarily for doing impasto.

Victoria

ThinkSeeDraw
08-24-2001, 09:10 PM
I can tell yous omething incredible that i learned from the golden website... I have learned to put conditioner in my brushes... it makes them smoother and not so brittle, like your own hair!! I use this pantene light spray conditioner spray, and it is so incredible... it preserves the brushes as well as helps to keep the paint from sticking to the bristles when u clean it....

to condition your brushes, just take any old conditioner, and put a drop in your brushes... (while they are dry) then, just wipe the brush with a rag until there is no residue coming off... u should see an incredible improvement with your brushes preformance :D

Hope this helps ;)

LDianeJohnson
08-25-2001, 12:43 AM
Great tip Darcy, thanks.

Diane

featherlady
08-28-2001, 12:22 PM
<i>***mind boggling at the influx of information***</i>
<br>
Jeez, just from the bit I've read here, I can see I've got a *lot* to learn! I've been using Liquitex acrylics in jars, dipping my brushes in the small amounts in their caps, and with water, blending the colours on my painting surface. I work small, though... either on the surface of a peafowl feather or on watercolour paper, but occasionally on canvas. It keeps things nice and clean, but plenty of rinsing invoved, and I certainly have to work fast!:rolleyes:
<br>
I look forward to reading on and learning from all of you. There's a lot I need to learn!

~~Julie~~