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Art Encyclopedia - Palette

Art information > Art Encyclopedia > P > Palette

Palette
Palette is a surface on which an artist sets out and mixes colours. It is usually a flat wooden plate, usually oval or rectangular with a hole for the thumb. Some palletes are of dark wood because they are based on old-master habits of painting on darkened canvasses. These dark wood palettes should be given three coats of smooth white paint so that the colours can be seen as on the clean white canvas. In art the term palette can also mean the range of colours used by an artist.

Palettes first appeared c.1400; before then individual containers were used for mixing colours. For oil painting, mahogany is traditionally considered the best material for palettes, although other close-grained hardwoods have been used. Materials such as porcelain or ivory have been used by watercolour or miniature painters and also sometimes by oil painters. For many artists, choice of their pigments and the order in which they are arranged on the palette is a very important and personal matter; instructional manuals of the 18th and 19th centuries published much advice on how to ‘set’ a palette, and Baudelaire describes Delacroix placing the pigments on his palette with the fastidious care of a woman arranging a bouquet of flowers.






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