Choosing the Best Oil Paint Palette in 2022

By Iva Mikles •  Updated: Apr 07, 2022 •  Guides

When you’re painting with oils, choosing and using the right palette board can make a huge difference – a good palette can make using and mixing paint much easier and can help you see the colors – how they look, how they combine, and how they will work – more accurately. So, let’s have a look at which oil paint palette you should choose!

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If you’re in a hurry or just board (see what I did there? :)), here is my top pick for the best oil painting palette:

  1. New Wave POSH Glass Artist Palette - Available in 3 Sizes, 3 Colors
  2. New Wave POSH Glass Artist Palette - Available in 3 Sizes, 3 Colors

    Best Glass Painting Palette for Oils

    12 x 16 inches, Paint Palette, Painting Palette, Glass Palette, for Use with All Art Media, Oil Paint Palette

    Buy Now on Amazon

Table of Contents

So let’s talk about the best palette boards for oil paints and painting. We’ll get into the different types of palettes available and their advantages and disadvantages, and then recommend a few of the best palettes on the market today. We’ll even talk about how to use a palette for oil painting.

What Are the Different Kinds of Palettes?

Basically, the differences in palettes come down to the material from which they are made.

Glass Palettes

The glass palette is actually my favorite for oil painting for a lot of reasons.

The smooth, non-porous surface makes mixing paints, and cleanly getting them onto a brush or palette knife, simple and effective.

And since it is not absorptive, the glass palette will not pull oils out of the paints, and lets them stay wet and usable longer – even over a marathon painting session. In fact, you can put your palette in a fridge, or even a freezer, and keep your oils usable for days.

The smooth and non-porous surface is also super-easy to clean.

Another great thing about a glass palette, which is also nice for acrylic paints, BTW, is that you can see through the palette. For example, you can hold it up to a canvas to see what certain colors will look like against the ground (foundation color) or the painting in progress – or you can put the palette against a piece of paper the same color as the ground and have a similar (if slightly less accurate and reliable) result.

Just make sure you get a real glass palette, which will be tempered glass, hard and strong – using a sheet of glass made for other purposes is a bad idea, because they can be fragile and break easily, when you are scraping, cleaning or even just using them – dangerous!

Wood Palettes

Wood palettes are also nice, and probably would be my second choice.

The big advantage of a wood palette is that it is very light, especially compared to a glass palette. If you plan to hold the palette, a wood board makes this much easier, and so is great for outdoor painting where you may not have a work surface or stand to lay it down on.

Wood palettes absorb more oil – even treated or cured palettes – and so oil paints will not stay wet and usable for quite as long, but this is not a huge issue, and only really makes a difference for very long sessions, or if you want to keep oil paints on the palette for future use, which doesn’t really work well with wood.

Another big plus for the wood palette is that it is cheap!

Plastic Palettes

Plastic palettes seem like a good idea, and they too can be cheap and light, so they do have some advantages.

The problem seems to be that even nicer plastic palettes, and ones which are designed for oil painting – or say that they are – tend to be pretty soft, which makes cleaning them difficult, especially if the oil paint has dried. A nice, neutral color or clear plastic palette becomes less neutral, and it’s more difficult to accurately see and assess colors, when there is paint from previous sessions staining the surface.

If that happens, razor blades and scraping don’t work well, since you can scratch and gouge the surface, making the palette less usable for smooth mixing and transfer. And, no matter what the manufacturer says, most often dried oils will not peel off easily!

Furthermore, though many people don’t talk about this, a cheaper acrylic or plastic palette can be a bit porous, and can permanently bond to dried oil paint, making it near impossible to really and completely clean. The more absorptive surface also means paints will dry more quickly, although again that’s not necessarily a big deal unless you paint for hours and hours, or try to keep paint on the plastic palette for future use.

In fact, I just watched a video of a lovely artist who has a “quick and easy” method for cleaning dried oil paint from a plastic palette, which involved at least three different tools, two solvents, paper towels and cling film – and it still took overnight, and involved scraping with a razor blade!

Again, though, the best plastic palettes for oil painting tend to be inexpensive, light and easy to hold, and they can also be gotten in either white or other neutral tones, to best match and work with the ground color you use.

Tear-Off / Disposable Palettes

This is simply a pad of wax paper sheets, and you use a single sheet for each painting session.

It’s really a good idea, at least in theory, since there is no clean-up, the whole pad is pretty light and easy to hold, and the individual sheets have a nice, smooth surface for mixing and scraping.

Still, the sheets are not always so secure, so sometimes they can move, come up or even tear or tear off when you are working.

Plus, this is not the most environmentally friendly option, to be honest, and if you paint a lot it can end up being a bit pricey – on both counts a good, long lasting glass palette may well be a better choice.

And while people say these palette pads are a good choice for students, and especially for art school or painting classes, it’s my belief that part of learning to paint is learning to really use a high quality paint palette correctly.

All that said, disposable palette pads are quite popular, and many oil painters love using them.

Ceramic Palettes

Ceramic palettes are not really suitable for oil painting, and are designed in size and shape mostly for watercolors anyway. They are not really smooth enough for working oils, and can corrode and get damaged with some of the solvents and thinners an oil artist uses.

Other Things to Consider When Choosing the Best Oil Painting Palette

I would not get a palette with indentations or reservoirs for the paints – this can be great for runny watercolors, but oils won’t run, and will stand and stay separate until you mix – which mixing can be more difficult with reservoirs, and flows easily and naturally with a nice, flat, smooth surface.

Other than that, you probably want to think about size and weight.

Again, a glass palette is fabulous on almost every count, but they can be a bit heavy, and if you want to hold your palette when painting – and especially if you’re worried that your arm may get tired – a wood or even a plastic palette may be a better idea.

As far as size goes, there are trade-offs both ways – a larger palette gives you lots of room for laying down, displaying and organizing lots of colors, and for mixing, but a smaller palette is lighter and easier to hold.

I tend to like medium sized palette boards, which offer a bit of the best of both worlds, but if I am going to be painting in my studio, and it is easy enough to lay the palette down and work with it that way – and only hold it up to show colors against the canvas and the painting itself – I like a big surface.

How to Find the Best Palette for Oil Painting

I will organize my picks by material:

The Best Glass Palettes for Oil Painting

The Best Wood Palettes for Oil Painting

The Best Plastic Palettes for Oil Painting

The Best Disposable Palette Pads for Oil Painting

And in each case offer one or more choices for the best and most recommendable palette of that type. In this way I hope it will be as easy as possible for you to find the best oil palette for you and your needs!

And at the end of the article, in the Bonus section, I will talk a bit about how to best use, clean and care for your new painting palette. 

But for now, let’s get right to the recommendations!

Best Art Palettes for Oil Painting

Best Glass Painting Palette for Oils

Glass Palette
New Wave POSH Glass Artist Palette - Available in 3 Sizes, 3 Colors

Best Glass Painting Palette for Oils

12 x 16 inches, Paint Palette, Painting Palette, Glass Palette, for Use with All Art Media, Oil Paint Palette

Buy Now on Amazon
Masterson Artist Palette Seal 16x12"

Great for keeping paints on your palette for subsequent painting sessions, and keeping them nicely wet and usable

Buy Now on Amazon

Since glass palettes are my favorite for oil painting, it seems like I should have several different recommendations for the best glass palettes for oils – but in fact it all comes down to the Posh!

The New Wave Posh tempered glass paint palette board is everything you need for oil painting, and given the several varieties in size and finish their range of palettes really does nicely meet the needs and usage requirements of any oil painter.

The tempered glass is strong and durable, and can withstand not just vigorous use, but scraping and cleaning, and should last for many years. And it has a perfectly optimized surface for mixing and using oil paints (though it works equally well for acrylics and other paints).

The corners of this near-perfect palette are protected from chipping by silicone corner guards, which also make the corners softer and the board nicer to hold and use, and offer great traction when you lay the Posh down on a table or work stand.

The New Wave Posh glass palette board comes in three colors – either a white palette, gray or clear. The white is great if you tend to start paintings on a white ground, the gray offers maybe the best overall neutrality in seeing and mixing colors, and the clear is, again, great for holding up to the canvas and assessing colors on the board.

The Posh also comes in three sizes, and I would say that the small is great for plein aire painting (outdoor) and is light and easy to hold, the medium is also pretty light, but still gives you a lot of working room, and is probably the most popular choice among artists, and the big palette is fantastic for studio work, especially if you will mainly be keeping it lying on a surface.

For me, the best choices would be a gray large palette for studio work, and a medium clear for outside and/or hand-held painting and for travel.

But whichever you choose, the New Wave Posh tempered glass paint palette is not just the best glass palette, it is the best paint palette on the market today for oil paints and painting. It is also an affordable and beautifully made product, and highly recommended.

And while I will mention this again below, in the Bonus section, if you want to keep paints on your palette for subsequent painting sessions, and keep them nicely wet and usable, a palette safe, or wet box, is one of the best investments you can make – though as cheap as they are the work “investment” is a bit overdramatic! The Masterson Artist Palette Seal works beautifully, and is perfect for the 12 x 16 inch Posh glass palette.

Best Wood Painting Palettes for Oils

Best Wooden Palette Overall / Best Handheld Wooden Palette

With wooden palettes I will offer a few alternatives, but we still go to New Wave for the best of the best.

And for sure my top pick overall for a wooden palette for oil painting would be the beautifully hand-crafted New Wave Grand View Confidant – a hard, strong and rigid maple palette board finished with the perfect shade of neutral gray.

Although the Confidant is incredibly strong and durable, it is at the same time remarkably light, and easy to hold even during long painting sessions, especially with the brilliant three-point carrying system, which distributes weight and reduces fatigue.

The graceful and organic curve of its edges not only look beautiful, they seem perfect for actual painting, and the surface is covered with a satin finish that is ideally non-porous and absolutely perfect for oil paints.

There are definitely less expensive wood paint palettes available, and many of them are quite nice, but for a palette board that is itself a bit of a work of art, and is in every way ideal for oil paints and painting – not to mention a truly premium product that will last for many years – the New Wave Grand View Confidant is the best choice I know, and the best wooden palette overall for oil painting.

Best Wooden Tabletop Palette / Studio Palette

New Wave POSH Wood Table Top Artist Palette - Neutral Gray, 16 x 20

Best Wooden Tabletop Palette / Studio Palette

Fits in Masterson Sta-Wet Premier and Artist Palette Seal

Buy Now on Amazon

If you are working mostly or exclusively in the studio, or simply don’t hand-hold your palette when painting, then there is no better choice for a wooden artist palette than the New Wave Posh.

With the same shape as the glass New Wave Posh above, and coming in the same three sizes, there’s a perfect wooden Posh for any artist or use, and the ideally neutral gray color makes it perfect for accurately and effectively assessing and mixing colors.

Another premium product from New Wave, hand made in the United States, the wooden table-top Posh palette is made from superbly hard, rigid and non-warping maple hardwood, with a durable and non-absorptive finish that is wonderfully smooth – perfect for oils in every way, and just as good for acrylics and other heavy body paints.

The best wooden studio palette for oil painting I’ve ever used, the New Wave Posh is made by painters for painters, and is not just a great palette, but one that will last for many years to come.

The Posh wooden tabletop palette is available in three sizes:

And while I will mention this again below, in the Bonus section, if you want to keep paints on your palette for subsequent painting sessions, and keep them nicely wet and usable, a palette safe, or wet box, is one of the best investments you can make – though as cheap as they are the work “investment” is a bit overdramatic! The Masterson Artist Palette Seal works beautifully, and is perfect for the 12 x 16 inch New Wave Posh tabletop palette.

Masterson Artist Palette Seal 16x12"

Great for keeping paints on your palette for subsequent painting sessions, and keeping them nicely wet and usable

Buy Now on Amazon

Best Affordable Wooden Palette

There are a ton of really inexpensive wooden palettes out there, and most of them are perfectly serviceable – some rough edges here and there, and not the last word in rigidity or long term durability, but usable. If I were going to (somewhat arbitrarily, I admit) recommend one, it would be the Mr Pen Wooden Palette 2 Pack, based mostly on popularity.

But for oil paints they all have a tragic flaw – ok, maybe “tragic” is a bit of a strong word, but for me it’s a deal-breaker – they are all unfinished. So you have two choices:

Either use them as is, meaning they will sop up oil and make your paints dry out much faster, will be really hard to clean, and will never really come back to a new, neutrally colorless appearance.

Or go through the time-consuming process of finishing them with good linseed oil, like the excellent Gamblin Stand Oil, to make the palettes less absorptive and more appropriate for use with oil paints.

But luckily there is a third option – a really affordable and attractive fully finished wooden handheld palette which is perfect for oil painting as it comes – the Creative Mark Feather’s Touch lightweight oval artist palette.

Yes, the Creative Mark Feather’s Touch is maybe two or three times the price of the cheap options, but is still quite inexpensive, and considering you not only save tons of time and effort in finishing, but also that you are absolutely certain that it is finished the right way, it’s a real bargain.

Anyway, the Feather’s Touch is a very rigid, strong and durable palette, made in Italy  from Poplar. It is much lighter than you’d expect, and designed – like the substantially more expensive New Wave palettes above – to be easy to hold for a long time, without stress or fatigue. Perfect for plein air painting (painting outdoors), or for extended painting sessions anywhere.

A very nice, basic and traditional brown wooden palette, the Creative Mark Feather’s Touch is well made and should last for a long time, and has a surface that is not just finished, but finished beautifully, with attractive grain and a consistently smooth surface that’s just perfect for standing, moving and mixing oil paints.

A great choice, and highly recommended!

The Creative Mark is available in two sizes:

Best Plastic Painting Palettes

  1. US At Supply Clear Oval Acrylic Painting Palette 2 Pack
  2. US At Supply Clear Oval Acrylic Painting Palette 2 Pack

    9" x 11.8" Clear Oval-Shaped Acrylic & Oil Painting Palette (Pack of 2) - Transparent Plastic Artist Paint Color Mixing Trays - Non-Stick, Easy Clean, Mix Acrylic, Oil

    Buy Now on Amazon

Plastic painting easels are hyper-popular these days, and yet they definitely wouldn’t be my first, or second or third, choice for oil paints, and are not really used by serious oil artists.

Again, as we covered above, they are simply too soft, and can be a lot more porous than you’d imagine, making them dry out your paints fairly quickly and also making them a bear to clean. They are also not the last word in stability or rigidity, durability or long life.

Still, plastic palettes are cheap and light, and are often clear, making them nice for holding up to a canvas to see the colors on the palette in relation to the painting’s colors.

So, pluses and minuses pretty clearly spelled out, I won’t get into a lot of detail here, but simply recommend a couple of high quality palettes. I will warn you, though, that I have used both of these palettes for other types of paint, and recommend them not specifically for their behavior with oils but for their overall quality, lightness and holdability (is that a word?), and their excellent clarity and seethroughablity (definitely not a word!).

A large but very light plastic palette that is strong and durable, and also nicely neutral and transparent, and with a very smooth surface that’s great to work on and less absorptive than most. Beautifully finished, stable and long lasting, and probably the best plastic palette I’ve ever used.

US At Supply Clear Oval Acrylic Painting Palette 2 Pack

9" x 11.8" Clear Oval-Shaped Acrylic & Oil Painting Palette (Pack of 2) - Transparent Plastic Artist Paint Color Mixing Trays - Non-Stick, Easy Clean, Mix Acrylic, Oil

Buy Now on Amazon

Cheap and cheerful, these popular acrylic palettes are very clear and transparent – at least when new – and less porous than most bargain-basement choices. Not as strong or stable as the more premium Jack Richeson palette above, these are still very usable, and light and easy to hold, and available in 3 sizes.

Best Disposable Painting Palettes

This is in so many ways a great idea – a disposable palette pad that holds a few dozen sheets of waxy palette paper so you can simply tear off the top layer when you’re done painting and throw it away!

Palette pads are designed to be easy to hold, but some people do have trouble using them, since the surface itself isn’t as well secured or stable as a solid glass or wood palette, and can move a bit when you’re mixing, scraping or even dabbing wet paint.

And, again, they can be a bit pricey, and maybe not as good for the environment, but they are undeniably easy, convenient and highly effective oil painting palettes. You can use them on the pad, or rip one sheet off and put it on a table or clipboard, or even on an old, stained art palette – you just may want to tape down the corners to make it more usable.

The best white palette paper pads I’ve found are from Strathmore, because they have a nice weight and a beautiful surface to mix on, and they keep oils and other paints nice and wet while I’m working.

And the best gray paper palettes I know are from Jack Richeson, whose Gray Matters pads are a perfectly neutral shade, and again have a wonderfully smooth and non-absorptive working surface which, like the Strathmore paper, helps keep oils nice and wet during even long painting sessions.

How to Use and Care For Your New Art Palette

Now that you’ve (hopefully) found the perfect new palette for oil painting, let’s close by talking a little about how to best use and take care of a painting palette.

We’ll try to answer a few basic questions, like:

How do you use a paint palette?

How do you mix paint on a palette?

How do you clean a paint palette?

Can you clean a palette with a palette knife?

Can you store oil paints on a palette?

Is it harder to clean a wooden palette?

This is not meant to be any kind of complete tutorial on using a palette board for painting, but I would like to go over at least the basics, and maybe offer a couple of helpful hints along the way.

Basic Use of an Art Palette for Painting

As you probably already know, you use a palette board for laying out, seeing, mixing and using your paints – in the case of this article, oil paints, but this is true for any kind of paint, and any palette.

So, just as you may picture it, you lay our individual, unmixed colors along the perimeter of the palette, with enough space between them so that they don’t accidentally mix, and you leave most of the space in the middle clear for mixing.

You can use a paintbrush or palette knife for mixing colors, or even a stick or something similar – some artists don’t like to use their brush for mixing, preferring to keep it clean and empty until the color is ready, but just using the paintbrush is the most common way.

You can hold your palette up to the canvas to see how the colors you’ve mixed will look, and make adjustments if necessary, and then you simply use your brush, palette knife or, again, any tool you like to lay the paint onto the canvas.

A couple of tips:

  1. Although you often see pictures of palettes with a dozen or so blobs of bright and attractive paint colors around the edge, it is far better – more effective and focused and less confusing – to just put out and use the colors you think you are going to need, rather than overwhelming yourself with such a huge choice. It’s less wasteful and more economical as well.
  2. It is a good idea to mix paint colors in a controlled and mindful way, really noting exactly the amounts of which colors you are using so that you can repeat the process and achieve the same color in the future.

At the same time, you don’t want to be too careful – some of the best and most exciting colors I’ve ever come up with were, I admit, by accident. And anyway, while care and repeatability are definitely important, mixing and creating colors should be a joyous experiment!

Storing Paint on a Palette Board

I often get asked if it is ok, or even possible, to store paints on a palette board. It is, and especially with oils, which stay wet and workable longer than other paints, it’s pretty easy.

One simple way is to wrap your palette board in plastic – like a plastic shopping bag from the supermarket – and tie it so it is pretty air-tight, and then put your palette in the fridge, or even the freezer, for future use. Done correctly, oil paints can last in a workable state for even a couple of weeks.

This is especially nice if you have been successfully mixing colors that are just right for your painting, and want to have just those colors available for your next session. That said, it should be noted that mixed colors are often thinner on the palette board’s surface than globs of unmixed paint, and even if you store them just right still may dry out.

If oil paint is a little drier, you can often revive it with oil, but if it gets too dry it will ever look or act the same no matter what you do to it.

A couple of tips:

  1. If you regularly keep your paints on the palette for the next session, rather than wrapping and refrigerating them I would recommend a sealed stay-wet palette box, like the highly effective Masterson Artist Palette Seal. This is an air-tight palette box for 16×20 (or smaller, if they’re not moved around) palettes which will not only keep oils fresh and usable for days, or even weeks, but at room temperature as well, making them even better to work with.
  2. And, not to nag, but if you want to keep your paint on your palette to save time and effort – that is, not because you’ve finally mixed that perfect shade of toad green, but because you are, uhm, maybe being a tad bit lazy, just get to it. Cleaning your palette every single time will keep it fresh and new, spotless and neutral, and let you start with a fresh eye and a good attitude every session. And it’s a good habit and a good ritual that even shows respect for the creative process.

Cleaning a Palette Board

Which leads us directly into what may be the most important topic of all – cleaning your painting palette.

And actually, though some artists dread this regular task, it is not really that difficult or time-consuming – especially if you do it right away! That is, don’t let the paint dry and clean your palette as soon as you’re finished, and everything will be so much quicker and easier.

The process is simple:

A couple of tips:

  1. Don’t wait – really, cleaning your palette immediately is such good practice, makes the task much easier and faster, and will make your palette work better and last longer.
  2. Save your paint! First of all, don’t put out too much unmixed paint to begin with (oil paints are expensive!) and have small air-tight containers to keep unused paint in. And even the mixed paints can be put together and used later, and you can end up with some pretty outrageous and unexpectedly beautiful colors over time!
  3. Wear plastic gloves when cleaning your palette and brushes. Even if you don’t wear gloves when painting, and don’t mind a few splatters or spots of paint, your hands can get pretty deeply stained when you’re cleaning up!
  4. Don’t wait! Clean your palette as soon as you’re done painting. I guess I’ve already said this a few times? Ok, I’ll stop now!

Bonus: Evolve Artist Program

I would also like to recommend that if you are new to oil painting, and want a great way to learn everything from the basics to the most advanced techniques – and also get a great overall art education while you’re at it – you check out the Evolve Artist Program.

Possibly the best online learning platform I know, for its amazingly complete curriculum, its great teachers and one-on-one feedback, and the ingenious and highly effective overall plan, Evolve is fun, fast and surprisingly affordable.

And, quite brilliantly, the Evolve Artist Program uses oil painting as its primary focus and medium – not just for learning how to paint with oils, but for pretty much everything, including basic skills, composition, color theory, perspective and relationship, light, range and value, all of it.

If you’d like to find out more, you can go to their website – Evolve Artist Program – or find out more on my site, at my Evolve Artist Information Page.

Either way, I really hope you visit our website – Art Side of Life –  for more articles, buyer’s guides, fascinating interviews, tutorials and lots of other resources for artists, crafters and all kinds of creative folk!

 Thanks so much for reading this  article – Choosing the Best Oil Paint Palette – and again please check out the other articles in this series on oil painting:

Hi, I am Iva (rhymes with “viva”). I am an artist, illustrator, founder of Art Side of Life®, and Top Teacher on Skillshare. Since 2009 I've worked as an illustrator, character designer, art director, and branding specialist focusing on illustration, storytelling, concepts, and animation. I believe that we are all creative in infinite numbers of ways, so I've made it my mission to teach you everything I know and help either wake up or develop your creative genius. Learn more about me.