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How to keep your acrylic paints from drying and make them last longer

Best palette for acrylic paint

How to extend the drying time of acrylic paint on your palette.

How to reduce waste on the palette.

How to delay the drying of acrylic paint.

Masterson “Sta-Wet” Wet Palette for Acrylic Paint

Masterson Sta-Wet Palette


Acrylic paint dries very quickly. This is one of its best qualities, but it can also be its biggest flaw! We can feel rushed when painting with acrylics since we must not forget to regularly spray a little water on our palette to prevent our paint from drying.


Masterson Wet Palette for Acrylic Paint - The “Sta-Wet”


To avoid this problem, there are palettes like those offered by the Masterson company. The “Sta-Wet” is an airtight plastic container that is used with a sponge sheet and a sheet of acrylic paper, both specially designed for the “Sta-Wet”. You will be able to deposit your acrylic paint directly on the sheet of acrylic paper which sits on top of the sponge. Your paint remains moistened throughout your painting session so you don’t have to worry about spraying it regularly with water.


Your paint will keep for several weeks in the fridge.


The other advantage of this type of palette is that once you are done, you can close the container with the airtight lid and put it in the fridge. Your painting will keep for up to several weeks. Finally, it is also a way to avoid throwing away acrylic paint at the end of a painting session.



Available models Masterson “Sta-Wet” palette


Two models are available,

  1. the small (8”x12”) including 6 small cups, and a

  2. larger version (16”x12”) which has no cups.


Both palette models come with a sponge and a few sheets of paper.


You can also buy the sheets and the sponge separately. These products are available at most art supply stores.



How does it work?


Nothing very complicated. You put the sponge in the bottom, you add a certain amount of water, just enough for the sponge to absorb it all. Next, you take a sheet of paper designed for the palette, and soak it for a few minutes in fairly hot water. Then, you let your sheet drain a little and you put it on the sponge.

Make sure you have no water buildup on the sheet, just a wet sheet. You are now ready to start painting by depositing your acrylic paint on the sheet of paper. The sponge will slowly release the water which will keep the sheet of paper wet and the paint moistened at the same time.

 

Any time you need to take a break, just close the lid. This prevents the water from evaporating unnecessarily. You have to stop painting for longer? No problem: make sure you close the lid tightly and put your palette in the fridge. Let me explain the precautions you need to take in a little more detail to ensure that your paint remains in good condition.

 

The sheet of paper is very resistant, you can mix your paint in it with a spatula without the risk of removing the paper fiber from the sheet. The paint remains on the surface of the paper. The sheet can be used for several painting sessions and can be used on both sides. As for the sponge, if you take a few precautions, it is possible to use it for a very long time.



Usage tips


1. Carefully dose the amount of water needed


When you start using this palette, the first thing to learn is to dose the right amount of water so that the sponge does not get soaked with water, but that there is enough so that it can be effective. I recommend this little trick.


  • First place your sponge in the bottom of the container and pour water to wet it over its entire surface.

  • Then, remove the sponge and empty the excess water left in the container.

  • Finally, twist the sponge very lightly to remove excess water while ensuring that it retains water throughout, with no dry spots, and place it back into the container.

If after a while you notice that certain colors start to become more liquid or that after a stay in the refrigerator your paint on the palette looks more like watercolors, this is a sign that you’ve left too much water to your sponge. Don't worry. With experience, you’ll no longer have this kind of problem and you will be able to gauge the amount of water needed. If, on the contrary, the paper begins to dry out in places, or the corners of the sheet are no longer stuck to the sponge, it is a sign that your sponge lacks water.



2. Your painting will keep for several weeks in the refrigerator


On the other hand, when you take your palette out of the refrigerator, it is possible that you have water that has evaporated from the sponge and you find it accumulated inside your lid, over the paper instead of under it! Open the lid slowly and remove the water with a cloth to prevent drops from falling on the palette, and thus ending up with paint that is too liquid.

Finally, it is possible that after a long period in the refrigerator, the pigments of certain colors have passed through the paper and stained the sponge. Again, no problem: just remove the sheet, rinse the sponge, add water to the sponge and put your sheet back containing the paint.


3. Prevent the corners of the sheet from curling with small weights


To prevent the corners of the sheet from curling up, place small weights –- coins will do -- at the 4 corners of the sheet. Since the paper is damp, the sheet will not move if you accidentally tilt the palette a little.


4. Use distilled water


You can use distilled water if you plan to store your palette in the refrigerator. Distilled water is readily available and inexpensive. Its use can help prevent the growth of bacteria in the sponge. With plain tap water,  it sometimes happens that when you open the container after several days in the refrigerator a certain odor may be apparent. This is an indicator that the water is starting to get slightly corrupted by bacterial activity. I have found that using distilled water decreases the risk.

5. Add a little ammonia to the sponge water.


Unfortunately, sooner or later, bacteria may develop. This is explained by the fact that your palette remains open during your painting session, therefore in contact with the air, or by the pot of water you use to rinse your brushes. All of these are likely to add those little mischief-makers to your painting! It's normal, it's part of our environment and the palette is not aseptic. So, if you find yourself with a certain smell, you will have to remove your sheet of paper containing the paint by taking it carefully by the corners, then place it on the lid that you have cleaned beforehand, and clean your container, paying special attention to the sponge. Do not use strong products like bleach. These will damage the sponge and reduce its lifespan.

To avoid this problem, the manufacturer, Masterson, recommends adding a little ammonia to the sponge water. I can confirm that it works very well and extends the life of your palette in the refrigerator quite a bit. Ammonia can be purchased without too much difficulty in supermarkets in the cleaning products section, as with bleach. The ammonia does not seem to react with the acrylic paint and therefore it remains intact. It takes very little to remain effective for a few weeks. Simply add about a quarter of a teaspoon to the water. Obviously, for the first few hours, your palette will offer you a fine bouquet ammonia odors, but the scent will dissipate almost completely.


About ammonia

Ammonia has been used for a long time as a cleaning product, it is present in such familiar products as the original Windex. It has a rather unpleasant smell, like chlorine. However, ammonia has become less popular due to the bad reputation it has acquired. Indeed, it is important to never mix ammonia and bleach! It may be tempting to create a super cleaner, but be aware that the mixture of these two products causes a chemical reaction that releases a toxic gas, chloramine. Obviously here, we are talking about a high concentration and not about putting ammonia in drinking water that has been treated with chlorine. The concentration of the latter is not sufficient to cause problems. So, like any chemical product, exercise caution!


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