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How To Prepare A Ceramic Plate For Watercolor Paint

Before And After Preparing Plate For Watercolor Paint

There are often two extremes when it comes to buying palettes for watercolor painting; spend a fortune or repurpose an old and unused plate. I have done both, and prefer the plate option. This is a tutorial about how to prepare a ceramic or porcelain plate so that you can easily mix colors without any beading up of paint.

A lot of artists suggest using ceramic plates (or specially designed palettes) as your watercolor pallet. This is a great idea since ceramic:

  • Doesn’t stain, which is common with the cheap but popular plastic palettes.
  • Doesn’t bead; it spreads evenly across the surface so you know exactly what your paint color looks like.

What many artists forget to mention is that store bought ceramic plates may bead when you first buy them! In the picture below you can see how paint reacts on a brand new plate (I purchased mine from Muji) and on a plate ready for watercolor paint.

Before And After Preparing Plate For Watercolor Paint
Before And After Preparing Plate For Watercolor Paint

I’ve used two paint colours, showing what happens when you mix the two colors and how they interact on the plate. The unprepared plate is much harder to see the density of the paint, and thus the colours can look much darker than they are (see the grey mix). The prepared plate however spreads quite evenly, showing you almost exactly what that color will look like once placed upon your paper. Useful!

To Prepare Your Plate

  1. Fetch a standard kitchen sponge (with the scrubby rough side) and Jif with Micro-beads. Any grease removing washing soap should work; I had best results with Jif.
  2. Scrub with the rough side of your sponge for a few minutes. You don’t need to put too much pressure onto the sponge, but you want to make sure you are fairly thorough. Don’t forget the corners (like I did above)!
  3. Rinse your plate thoroughly. You don’t want to get those harsh chemicals on your brushes (especially if you use high quality and expensive brushes).
  4. Test with a small dot of paint. It can be fairly watery, you just need enough to see if the paint handles as expected.
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