The 3 filled syringes with 3 values of paint

WHAT DO YOU DO WITH LEFTOVER PAINT?

 

I normally subscribe to the adage ‘shortcuts make long journeys’.  However, there are some tips and tricks I’ve picked up over the last 30 years that I have found hugely helpful.   Maybe this one will help you too.

OK, so you’re painting a grisaille and using 5 values to create form.   You are taking your time with this painting over several sessions but you don’t want to spend an enormous amount of time mixing up those 5 same values at the beginning of every painting session.

 

What do you do?

I have heard that you can submerge a glass palette with the mixed paint in a tray of water.  The paint shouldn’t be affected by this but I would certainly use the paint within a couple of days.  You might also have mould problems if left in the water for too long.

You can buy a covered palette that will protect the paint from drying out.  You should keep your mixtures in piles of paint because flat little mixtures will dry out more quickly. Then you could put the covered palette into a plastic bag (with as much of the air squeezed out as you can).  After that put your palette-in-a-bag in the fridge or freezer   It’s a bit bulky and you have to be oh so careful that it’s nowhere near food.   When you’ve removed it from the cold it’s important to wait for the palette to reach room temperature before unwrapping your ‘parcel’ this is to avoid condensation problems.

The paint will usually be as fresh as the day you mixed it but it’s a bit of a palaver, isn’t it?

I have been using another method.

An ingenious idea was passed onto me a few years ago and although I don’t use it often it has been a huge help especially if I’m working to deadlines.  My students have found it great too in a busy workshop studio because once the correct values have been previously mixed they can get on with the business of painting, saving time and paint!

This is how I do it 

The first thing is to head down to the pharmacy and buy 3 syringes (I buy the small 5ml ones). I haven’t had a problem buying them yet but I always show a photo of my filled syringes to the pharmacist so that there isn’t a suspicion of dodgy doings!

Mix your values.  Paint like a rich man and so you shouldn’t skimp on the amount of paint used.  Only mixing a small amount is a false economy, wastes time and can have an effect on paint application.

For a 5 value grisaille, you will actually only be mixing 3 values because the darkest value and the lightest value will usually be pure paint. It’s important not to add any liquin or calcium carbonate at this stage as this will affect drying time.

Now take your 3 syringes and snap off the needles and carefully throw them away.

Take the plunger out of one of the syringes and scoop one of the mixed values into the well of the syringe with a palette knife.    Do this a little at a time and knock the syringe down on your palette in between scoops so that the paint falls into the well.  Put the plunger back into the syringe and the cap back on the needle end.  Repeat this with the other values into the syringes.  Finally, number each syringe with a permanent marker.

How do I store the syringes?

I keep the syringes in a jar in the fridge or freezer.  It takes up less room than a palette and less time to reach room temperature when removed from the cold.  Also, you will be surprised at how little paint needs to be put onto your palette on your next painting session.

 

Please note that I only use this method with an underpainting.  When I am mixing colour I make fresh batches every time.  I clean my palette frequently and remix more paint if and when it is needed.

What do you do?  I’d love to know.

16 Comments

    • Judy

      Thank you, Erin. I’ve found it especially useful during workshops when students don’t want to spend the session mixing.

      Reply
  1. Louise

    Absolutely brilliant idea Judy,, thanks so much for the hint,,I do know that you can purchase empty tubes in the states and that’s what they would use,,but not so available here.
    Thanks for sharing your great tip!!!

    Reply
    • Judy

      Hi Louise, Thanks for that. Yes, I would use the tubes too if they were available. I know that one can also buy Munsell Neutrals from Williamsburg but for workshops, the syringes are practical and less expensive.

      Reply
  2. Dee shanny

    Super idea judy, tks for sharing.

    Reply
    • Judy

      Thank you Dee, yes – it saves a huge amount of ‘mixing values’ time

      Reply
  3. Utta Hogan

    I usually cover my palette with cling film making it last for quite a few days

    Reply
    • Judy

      Hi Utta, Thanks for your tip. I’ve seen that done too and also with wax paper.

      Reply
  4. Shadis

    Wonderful, thank you Judy

    Reply
    • Judy

      Thank you for taking the time to comment Shadia. I’ll be posting more tips that I’ve found useful.

      Reply
  5. Ursula Garrow-Kennedy

    Thanks for this tip Judy. I always seem to waste paint. Tried the covered palette too. Off to the pharmacy in rainy Devon for syringes. Not too sure of their reaction !

    Reply
    • Judy

      You’re welcome Ursula. I haven’t tried to buy them in Europe but if you bring the photograph of the syringe into the pharmacy they should be ok. Here it’s no problem as you know. I’m back to rainy Ireland in a couple of weeks – can’t wait!!

      Reply
  6. Niall O’Neill

    I use aluminum foil to wrap leftover paint in tiny parcels and pop them in the fridge.

    Reply
    • Judy

      Another great tip Niall, thank you.

      Reply
  7. Shelley

    Hi, Judy-ingenious tip! And your site & blog look fabulous! Re the paint tubes—I use them sometimes, but they are a lot bigger—best for purpose-made mixtures, in my opinion, than for leftover paint!

    Reply
    • Judy

      Thank you, Shelley. Yes, I agree about the tubes great for purpose mixes. I bought a couple of Munsell Neutrals from Williamsburg, expensive but I wanted to try. They’ll be in the case when I fly home next week!

      Reply

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