How To Clean an Oil Paint Palette

As a hobby, painting with oil paints is fun, satisfying, and more than a little rewarding. Cleaning up afterward, however, not so much. If you’re one of those artists who hates cleaning their palette, don’t fret. We’ve collected tips on how to clean an oil paint palette just for you!

We’ve included what products to use, how to do it, and advice on when to clean your palette too! So if cleaning your oily palette after a painting session makes you cringe, read on! We’ve got the top tips to make it easy, fast and straightforward. Enjoy!

Clean Your Oil Paint Palette Right Away After Each Use

Like cleaning the dishes right away after every meal, cleaning your pallet right away simply makes sense. Yes, you might want to relax and enjoy your painting, but this is one habit you should definitely start. Leaving oil paint to dry on your pallet makes the job of cleaning it much more difficult. If you’re using a wood pallet, it’s even more difficult. The reason why is that oil paint gets down into the wood’s pores and sticks like glue! In some situations, it could ruin your pallet also. So, again, make a habit of cleaning your oil paint palette right away. It’s the easiest, fastest way to get it done. Plus, when you’re ready to paint again, your palette will be ready to go!

Season a Wood Palette Before Its First Use

If you use top-quality frying pans in your kitchen, you know that seasoning them first is an excellent idea. The same for an oil paint palette, especially one made out of wood. Not only will seasoning your palette make it easier to clean, but it will also last much longer. Here’s how:

  • Purchase a high-quality oil made for wood. We recommend linseed oil. It’s inexpensive, easy to find, and gives the wood a beautiful glow.
  • Make sure your new palette is completely clean and dust-free.
  • Lightly sand the palette with 180-grit sandpaper.
  • Pour about 1 tablespoon of the oil on the center of the palette.
  • Use a lint-free cloth to rub the oil onto the entire surface of the palette.
  • If there’s any residue, wipe it away completely.
  • Set your palette aside to let it dry thoroughly. (It may take a few days.)
  • Repeat the process two or three times, making sure to let the palette dry thoroughly between coats.

How To Clean Your Oil Paint Palette After Each Use

As we mentioned earlier, it’s best to clean your oil paint palette directly after using it. That way, the paint won’t dry and cause a mess the next time you want to create a masterpiece. It’s an easy process, to be sure, and only takes a few minutes. Here’s a quick list of the steps to take:

  • Remove the excess oil paint and either toss it or store it for next time. (See Tip #4 below.)
  • Wipe the palette with a lint-free cloth to remove any paint that remains. (A paper towel also works in a pinch.)
  • Wipe the palette again with a lint-free cloth and some solvent.
  • Oil your palette to make sure it doesn’t dry out. (See Tip #1, above.)
  • Place your palette in a safe place where it can dry thoroughly.

The nice thing about cleaning your oil paint palette this way is that, each time, it adds another protective layer. After a few years, your palette will take on a beautiful color and an attractive finish. Indeed, a well-cared-for oil paint palette becomes almost glass-like after a few years.

Make a ‘Palette Painting’ With Leftover Paint

If you’re like most artists, your pallet will have some paint left on it when you finish your painting. You can certainly wash that off if you’d like but, if there’s a lot, some prefer making a “palette painting” instead. They use a leftover piece of canvas and just have fun. (The resulting paintings can sometimes be amazing, by the way.) Other artists collect all the excess paint and mix them together. Then, they use the resulting mix to tone their next canvas.

Purchase Disposable Paint Palettes

This is, we admit, a bit of a cheat. But, if you seriously hate cleaning your paint palette, a disposable is a great option. Most are paper or cardboard, making them very lightweight. You can use them several times if you like, of course. The main attraction, though, is that you can simply toss them out when you’re done. (It’s a bit wasteful, however, in our humble opinion.)

How To Store Your Oil Paint Palette

Depending on how often you paint, you might consider purchasing a sealed palette box. One of the main reasons why is that a preserves the freshness of your paints. That way, you can store them without having to clean them first. (Aha!) There are several different types of pallet boxes to be sure. Here’s one that’s relatively inexpensive and gets high reviews. One interesting bit of advice is to store your pallet box in the freezer. That will slow down the oxidation of the paint and keep things fresh for your next painting session.

Brought To You By Your Friends at Storage Solutions

We hope you enjoyed this list and that it gave you the answers you were looking for. Your art will be safe with us in a storage unit until it’s time to sell or display in a gallery. Until then, remember to take good care of your palette.

Read more painting storage tips on our blog: