How to Hold a Painter's Palette

By John DeMerceau
Hand-held artist palettes are easy to use and comfortable even for the youngest painters.

A traditional painter's palette, whether made of wood or a more modern material such as melamine plastic, enables you to hold your paints and brushes in your weaker hand while you paint with your dominant hand. This type of palette is ideal when you are painting outdoors or in other situations where you do not have a table or stand to rest your paints and brushes. Holding it correctly is essential for comfortable and easy access to your painting supplies, and to keep the palette from slipping. You use your inner arm for support when you hold your painter's palette.

Wear a smock or other protective clothing that fully covers your arms.

Select a palette that is designed for painters who use the same dominant hand as you do. A palette for left-handed painters is designed to be held with the right arm and hand and therefore has its hand slot and thumb hole positioned oppositely to the slot and hole of a standard palette for right-handed painters.

Clip a separate well onto your palette to hold turpentine for cleaning your brushes while you work.

Grasp the palette by its holding slot, making sure that the long end of the palette faces you. Flex your elbow so that your arm forms an angle that is comfortable for you to hold and rest the palette squarely across your forearm and upper arm. The proper angle differs depending upon the length of both your palette and your arm.

Position your thumb in the thumb hole if there is one. If not, curl it around the inner edge of the holding slot.

Use your dominant hand to squeeze paint onto the palette or into any paint wells that your palette may have built into it.

Free the fingers of your weaker hand from the slot if you wish and use them to hold your brushes so that you can access them through the slot. Otherwise, you can curl your fingers over the slot to provide extra support for your palette.

Hold your palette firmly while you dip a brush or palette knife into the paint on your palette or into the turpentine well as desired. Exchange brushes by taking them out of and putting them into your weaker hand through the slot in your palette.

Clean your palette and brushes with the appropriate solvent cleaner that is recommended for your paint.

Tip

Some palette materials are impossible to clean fully, but the remaining paint will eventually form a pattern that is often a work of art in and of itself. Save your palette to preserve the memories of the art that you created with it, or you can even deliberately paint a pattern on it before you retire it and start using a new palette.

About the Author

John DeMerceau is an American expatriate entrepreneur, marketing analyst and Web developer. He now lives and works in southeast Asia, where he creates websites and branding/marketing reports for international clients. DeMerceau graduated from Columbia University with a Bachelor of Arts in history.