How To Remove Dried Watercolor Paint From the Palette

Watercolors are versatile, quick drying, and easy to use. Depending on the look you want to achieve, you can add as much or as little water as you want to create the desired level of vibrancy. Luckily for artists, watercolors can easily be cleaned from the palette. 

To remove dried watercolor paint from the palette, start by soaking it in hot/boiling water. You can quickly rinse away the paints with warm water, then dry the palette with a cloth or paper towel. Polymer erasers or toothpaste with baking soda work well to remove dried paint from plastic palettes.

This article covers everything you need to know to remove dried watercolors from your palette so that you can start fresh with your next painting. Read on to learn more!

Soak Your Palette in Boiling Hot Water

Butcher Tray Palettes are a standard tool among artists who use dry brush techniquesOpens in a new tab.. These palettes have a special water-resistant enamel coating, protecting them from watercolor stains. But if you leave paint for a long time, it will harden and can become difficult to remove. 

If you are using non-toxic watercolors, washing your Butcher Tray palette in your kitchen sink or any basin in your home is perfectly safe. However, you shouldn’t clean your palette in your sink if you have toxic paints. 

Using a separate container to clean off your watercolors is safer to keep the chemicals away from where you wash your dishes.

  1. Fill up your chosen container with very hot or boiling water. You should wear gloves to protect your hands.
  2. Submerge the Butcher Tray and leave it to soak for a few minutes. 
  3. Wipe off the Butcher Tray with a cloth. The color should immediately lift off the palette.

Run the Palette Under Tap Water

If you have left your Butcher’s Tray submerged in the scalding water for quite some time and notice that some stubborn paint will not move, you should try using more hot water over those areas, but with added pressure. 

  1. Pull the Butcher’s Tray from the hot water using your gloves, and aim more hot water over the stubborn paint.
  2. Using a sink or basin will be relatively easy; simply turn on the tap and pour water over these areas. If you use a bucket, you can either use a kettle with boiling water to pour over the paint or a jug filled with hot or boiling water.
  3. Leave to soak a little longer if the stains remain. 

Be careful not to spray the hot water on yourself! Angle the palette away from you so you don’t accidentally splash yourself with hot water and burn yourself. 

Use a Sponge to Scrub at Stubborn Paint

Keep a small amount of water in the tray and use a small kitchen sponge to rub off any paint left on the palette. Using a sponge with a scourer on one side is best to help scrub off the dried paint more easily.

You can sdd some dish soap to clean more thoroughly. Repeat this process of soaking and scrubbing your palette a few times to remove all the dried watercolor paint from the palette. 

Scrape Dried Paint Away With a Palette Knife

If you have not cleaned your palette for quite some time, you may have more difficulty removing the watercolors. If this is the case, you can use a palette knife to help you. 

  1. Gently use the palette knife to scrape away the stubborn paint. Make sure you do this carefully, or you might scratch your palette.
  2. Once you have scraped away what you can, soak the tray again and repeat the scrubbing and scraping process till you have a clean palette. 

Let Your Palette Dry Completely

You shouldn’t try using the palette again until it’s completely dry. They’ll run and make a mess if it’s still damp when you add your paints. The easiest way to dry it is to simply wipe it with a clean rag, although you can also leave it to air dry for about an hour or so.

If you do not dry your palette thoroughly, you may encounter a mold problem in the future, resulting in you having to buy a new one. It is recommended that you clean your palette every few weeks/ few months. 

Use a Polymer Eraser

Plastic watercolor palettes are widely used by artists of all levels, whether you’re a beginner or a professional. However, plastic is porous and can hold onto the pigments easily, leading to more stains

Using a polymer eraser is a very affordable method to remove stains on plastic palettes. Before you start erasing, ensure your palette is clean and dry— you’ll only smear the colors across your palette if it’s wet.

There is no right or wrong way to do this; simply rub your eraser over the watercolor stains. You will notice the color slowly lessening as you go. 

VIDEO. Here is a great video showing you exactly how to use a polymer eraser. WATCH – Tip – Cleaning a stained watercolor plastic palette

Eve Bolt – Art & Cats

Use Toothpaste and Baking Soda

This combination has long been used to clean stubborn stains around the house and is a great way to remove stains on your plastic palette.

Again, ensure your palette is properly clean and dry before starting. 

  1. Combine one part of baking soda and one part of toothpaste on the palette to make a paste mixture.
  2. Pick up some paste with a toothbrush or cloth and gently rub the stained area.
  3. Gently scrub in circular motions.
  4. The color should lift immediately. If not, you may want to soak the palette in warm water.

Final Thoughts

Watercolors are reusable once dried; adding some water will reactivate them, so washing your palette after every use is unnecessary. 

However, after some time, you will need to give your palette a good clean to remove the built-up dried paint, prevent mold, and remove any staining from the dried paint.  I hope the above steps help you clean dried watercolors off your palette. Happy painting!

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Ines

Ines is a self-taught artist based in the UK. Originally from Caracas, she has dabbled in the world of arts and crafts in a diversity of ways participating in city intervention projects, sustainable practices’ open exhibitions, and her illustrations being featured in anniversary editions of literary magazines.

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