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Casein Palette

August 30, 2008

This picture shows my working setup for painting in casein. On the left side are small 1 ounce jars containing premixed paint of casein medium and pigment that I’ve made myself. Each one is labeled with the pigments I use most often, and I’ve glued a small color swatch on them so I can easily spot the colors I reach for. The small squeeze bottle holds casein medium that I’ve also mixed up.

Painting Palette

Painting Palette

My “palette” is on the right side. It’s just a scrap piece of white plastic, roughly 6 x 8 inches, where I place my dabs of paint. The mixing plate is a 12 inch pizza pan. You may notice plastic wrap covering the pan and the palette. That’s Glad’s “Press-N-Seal” plastic wrap. It sticks on one side to just about anything, and the other side has a non-stick pebbled surface.

I had been using the pan as a direct mixing surface for a long time before evolving into this plastic wrap system. I used to dab out my paint on the outer rim, much as I do on a wooden palette when oil painting. Typically I dip into the paint dabs for fresh paint with a palette knife or rubber tipped shaper, and mix it on the pan. The mixed paint ranges from dark to light values with different color tones on the outside of it, all blending together. The mixed area will move to an empty spot when I switch to a different base color, such as a red shirt to green grass or whatever.

I found that as my mixing area grew it often contaminated my paint dabs, which annoyed me, especially if I was using a wet wash mixture. One particular aspect of casein paint is that it dries rather quickly. It can be re-wetted with water or medium, but that just dilutes the dried paint. I’ve tried “wet palettes” sold for acrylic paint, but they made the paint too watery. Watercolor palettes with their small compartments I found too awkward to use. Instead of liquifying the dried casein, I prefer adding more fresh paint. Physically separating the palette from the mixing area made the mixing process and adding more paint easier for me.

With the wrap, clean up is very simple. Just peel it and throw away, or clean and reuse. The paint mixes on this surface rather well when it’s wet, and it’s not slippery like other plastic wraps. I can save the peeled off wrap to record what paints were used in the last session. The palette holds about 12 colors which is plenty for me in one sitting, and I can get about 4 – 5 rows before tossing it. The 12 inch pan has enough space for about 3 different mixing areas, or can be wiped clean with a wet rag. If I’d like something other than the gray color of the pan to mix on, I can place white or colored paper under the wrap.

As for the medium, I squirt that into a small watercolor tin, and use as needed. Slightly less than a tablespoon of medium will last for several hours.

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