I have been making models for most of my childhood and adult life and for the most part have used the venerable Humbrol enamels. While I am still a fan of these paints and have almost every colour in the entire catalogue of their paints I have recently began using acrylic paints more and more in making my scale models. The main reason for the switch over is their ease of use in airbrushing being as they are water soluble and have very little to no smell when using them (Vallejo paints). Now when it comes to adding colour variation and additional details to the models I of course have to revert back to the good old brush. The one draw back to this is that acrylic paints have a surprisingly short drying time and this is an issue when I'm painting for a number of hours. While there is of course retarder agents that can be added to the paint to extend their drying time there is another option; the Wet Palette.
I have seen many references over the years on using a wet palette for acrylic painting that also includes how to make a DIY version but in all honesty this seemed like a bit of a faff so I didn't really bother with it. A little while later I saw an advert for AK interactive's wet palette and while it seemed a little expensive for what it was I decided to give it a go. This I must say has completely transformed the way in which I use acrylics for model making but more on that in a little while. First lets talk about the palette itself: Its essentially a two piece plastic what I would call "waterproof camping box"; now I don't want to suggest that that's all this is as there is also some supplied inner material as well. The box itself is of very good quality and will last a very long time even in constant use. The addition of the air tight rubber seal in the lid will also add to the paint lasting for longer periods of time. The interior of the palette has three layers; a lower sponge to hold water, a fabric inter-layer that resembles fleece and a top layer that is similar to cooking grease-proof paper. Each is cut to size and replaceable from AK if required. The Palette is approximately 160 x 130 mm in size.
There is of course always some downsides and this is what I can see at the moment. The first is cost; it is expensive for what it is. Its not a custom designed box; as I said there are plenty of this style of box in various sizes out there that can be bought and then easily adapted for use as a palette. Over time the snap shut locks on the box will snap off from constant use and this will of course depend upon the environment and amount of use. The sponge and inter-layer are again relatively expensive to replace but this should not be needed as long as they are rinsed thoroughly between uses and then thoroughly dried before placing back in the box (to prevent mould growing). The highest cost for this is the paper itself as this will need to be changed after every use. Although AK sell these in pack of 40 for £7 you can (as I do) buy a roll of good quality white baking paper for £2 and you have a number of years supply instead. There is also another popular make of palette out there from a company called "Army painter". This box is larger, cheaper and is actually custom made instead of custom adapted. This box also comes with additional brush rests and I have seen additions that can be bought at extra cost to accompany this palette. If I were to make this purchase again I will have to say that I would buy the Army Painter palette over the AK version (sorry AK I love your products but in this instance I'd buy the competition). The plus points; and this is for every wet palette is that it allows blending of colours on the palette, storing of colours on the palette and if sealed in between painting sessions will keep the paint wet and usable for a number of days (I've only tested up to 3 days) as long as you keep the sponge underneath wet. Apparently if you refrigerate in between using the time to keep the paints wet is extended even further. From a model making point of view the ability to keep the colours that I have mixed for an extended period of time is brilliant; especially when I'm weathering. Being able to retain the paint taken from the bottle also cuts down drastically on waste as well.
I won't turn this into a tutorial on how to use a wet palette because there's already some fantastic information out there for this. What I will say is that the AK palette is good quality and does exactly what it has been designed for. If your an AK fan then this is as good a product as any other they produce. If its just a wet palette that your thinking of getting then there other options that you should also consider before buying one.
Until next time.........