The Pros, Cons and Care of Glass Palettes

By Alina Bradford

table paletteMy first paint palette was the door of an old toaster oven, so I’d guess you’d say that I have been using glass palettes since the beginning of my career as an artist. I’ve found that they have some definite benefits, with a few shortfalls that artists should consider.

Pros of Glass Palettes

The one reason to use this type of paint palette is its easy cleanup. In fact, Georgia O’Keeffe used a glass palette because she liked how easy it was to clean, according to an exhibit at the Denver Art Museum. In the book “Georgia O’Keeffe: The Poetry of Things,” Elizabeth Hutton Turner and Marjorie P. Balge-Crozier write that Frances O’Brien told of how O’Keeffe would stand next to her tidy glass pallet, cleaning it methodically after she used each color as she painted.

Another pro of using this type of art palette is that paint glides over its smooth surface. This makes mixing paints much easier because there is no resistance as you pull them across to the mixing area.

The best reason to use glass palettes is that it saves money. There’s no need to buy one from an art supply shop. For example, you can make your own palette out of an old appliance window, like I did when I first became an artist. You can also use old, framed mirrors, glass table tops and the glass from picture frames. You can use any piece of glass, in fact, as long as it doesn’t have sharp edges.

Cons of Glass Palettes

Glass paint palettes only have one major flaw: they break. If your pallet is made from tempered glass, it can break quite dramatically. For instance, one time my husband bumped my pallet with a hard object as he walked by and the whole thing burst into a million pieces all over my studio.How to Clean Glass Palettes

The easiest way to clean a glass palette is the Georgia O’Keeffe way, which was scraping dry paint from the surface. This can be done with a razor blade or any straight-edge blade.

For safety reasons, I prefer to use a pocket knife so that my hand is nowhere near the blade.

Here is my process:

  1. Use this process for the best results:
  2. Sit in a low chair.
  3. Position a small trash basket between your knees.
  4. Brace the palette against one of your knees and hold the palette at an angle.
  5. With the other hand, push the blade across the surface, wedging it underneath paint globs as you go.

Now that you know how many pros and few cons this type of art palette has, give glass palettes a try and you may be hooked just like O’Keeffe.