Painting Tip r Tool

This week’s Painting Tip ‘r Tool comes from a question asked by dozens of our members.

Q: Do you use all the paint on your palette for each painting? If you leave it on for a day or two how do you keep paint from drying out?

Painting Palette not Drying Out

A: “That’s a horrible waste of oil paint on a palette!”

I hear that often in emails or comments sent by artists from our community who would like to know how to keep paint from drying out.

The title of the video below is ‘See How to Remove the Dried Skin and Keep Painting’ because I don’t bother with fancy systems to preserve my paint like putting it in the freezer, covering it with plastic wrap, or keeping my paints in a sealed container with clove oil (clove oil slows the drying of oil paints).

Cerulean blue was on my palette for many years, but Manganese is slightly warmer and richer. It works beautifully for sunny skies.

Adding a bit of Ultramarine to the top portion of the sky can increase both the color temperature range and value contrasts which creates a fantastic darker lead-in to guide the viewer down to the center of interest.

 tried some of those ideas in the 90’s, but the paint became gummy and difficult to mix when I took them out of the freezer until they thawed; plastic wrap wasted more paint than my dry skin method; and I would rather paint than move each color on my palette to a container with clove oil each day.

The small amount of waste that comes from the paints skinning over is minimal enough that I would rather skip the systems and use that time to paint. I can quickly remove the dried skin when needed.

I don’t use all of the paint with each painting session, but I still have very little waste.

Sometimes a color like Alizarin Crimson or Titanium White runs out and needs replenishing during a painting, but I use large piles of paint and most of those piles have paint left over at the end of a painting.

If it goes too long between painting sessions and a thin skin forms, I just peel it off with a palette knife and start painting! And if the paint gets overly dry and stiff, I scrape it off and squeeze out a new pile of paint.

Everything is an opportunity cost. My time painting is more important than the few dollars I would save each year trying to keep my paints from drying out.

However, if you’re especially budget conscious, or you go a month or two between painting sessions, then the freezer method may be worth trying out. Just keep your paints on a portable palette that will slide easily in and out of your freezer and they will last longer for you. You’ll likely need to let them warm up a bit, but that might not bother you.

Camille Przewodek designed a palette for plein air painting that might help if you want to use the freezer method. It’s $69 and you can find it here:

Nope, I don’t get a kickback. It’s just a product I saw at the Plein Air Convention that I thought might be a good fit for some artists.

The most important thing is to keep painting, so continue testing different styles and methods to see what helps you best reach that goal. And have fun with it!


Do you have a question or tool you’re wondering about? Comment below and it might just end up as our next Painting Tip ‘r Tool!

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