Quick Tips on How to Clean Oil Paint Palette

As a hobbyist or artist that loves using oil paint, the way the colors pop once the painting is finally done is a rewarding experience.

However, the cleanup session afterward can be very hectic if you don’t know the right way to do that. If you are an artist that loathes cleaning the palettes, don’t worry! You don’t always have to scrub hard and fast to get rid of the oil paints from your palette. There are tips that you can follow to the T to get the paint out of your oil pain palette.

But, before you do that, let us check out the types of oil painting palettes available in the market.

Clean Oil Paint Palette

Popular Types of Oil Painting Palettes

Whether you use an acrylic paint palette for acrylic paint or an oil paint palette for oil painting, cleaning a stubborn paint could be particularly exhausting, especially if it has dried out. However, the methods you implement during the cleaning process can vary depending on the paint pallet type you use.

Wooden Palette

If you happen to use toned ground or dark paint-set for your paintings, it is better to opt for an artist wood paint palette. This is due to the fact that the classic brown color allows you the foresight to how the colors appear on a medium-tone backdrop as opposed to white.

While wooden paint palette is known to be absorbent, if your palette hasn’t been conditioned, you need to do that yourself. This ensures that the wood doesn’t absorb the oil from the paint. The right way for this to be done is to make use of paper towels or a small rag that is dipped into linseed oil.

Simply rub this wet rag onto the raw wood palette and let the piece sit on each part of the surface for as long as the oil gets absorbed into the wood. Keep repeating this in layers until you see that oil doesn’t get absorbed into the wooden paint palette anymore. The ultimate result should be a smooth surface.

Plastic Palette

Plastic palettes are of two types. There are ones that can be disposed of after few uses and the ones that are designed to be durable for long-term usage. They are perfect for entry-level artists that don’t plan on investing a lot of cash on expensive painting equipment.

However, most of these palettes could be flimsy in make and might not provide you a pleasurable experience as you paint. With the affordability they bring, they could surely be used for the entry-level stages in your painting journey.

Glass Palette

Glass palettes are an amazing option to be used as both acrylic paint palettes as well as an oil paint palette. You can simply keep it in your workspace as it can be wiped away with ease.

And, you can place a colored sheet of paper underneath the palette to represent your canvas and check how the colors look in a backdrop of your choice. If you feel that glass palettes are a tad vulnerable, you can opt for a clear acrylic paint palette that doesn’t break up easily.

Moreover, the glass/acrylic paint palette doesn’t absorb oil from the paint that generally makes the paint dry out faster during the painting process.


Oil paints tend to take longer to dry out completely, but once they have dried, it can be pretty hard to remove them from your paint palette. So the first thing you need to keep in mind is not to allow your oil paint to dry out in the palette itself.

You have enough time to clean your palette once you are done painting your masterpiece. First, scrape off the colors with the help of a palette knife and store the scrapes inside a can to use in the future.

Finally, wipe off the colors remaining in the palette with the help of a rag or dry towel, and then give it a last wipe with the help of a citrus thinner.

Remember, the type of palette you use can make a massive difference in the cleaning process. Most painters favor the use of glass or acrylic palettes to ensure easy cleaning.

However, to each their own. If you use a wooden or plastic palette, you need to follow the guide below for proper cleaning without destroying the palette in the process.

Cleaning oil paint requires patience as the process and time can vary depending on whether it is fresh paint or a dried one. So, to avoid unnecessary effort, it is important to clean your palettes right away, especially when using wood or plastic variants.

So, without further ado, let us check out the proper cleaning processes in detail below!

Things You Will Need to Clean Oil Palettes

When using an oil paint palette or an acrylic paint palette, there are some basic oil painting supplies that you should always have by your side. Here are the important ones listed out for you:

  • Palette Knives

When painting with oil paint, it is important to have a palette knife by your side. If your paint starts to dry out mid painting, you can simply use these oil paint metal knives to scrape off the paint once you have completed the painting session.

  • Razor/Scraper

Razors or scrapers must be used only with glass palettes. If you happen to use it on other variants, such as wood paint trays or plastic paint trays, it could cause irreversible damage to the palette.

  • Sponge

When scraping off the oil paint from your palette, you will find that the palette still has some remnants left over. This can be wiped off with the help of a sponge.

  • Spray Bottle

With the help of a spray bottle, you can spray any solution to dry paint that cannot easily be scraped off.

  • Alcohol/Paint Thinner/Turpenoid

The type of cleaning agent you use for cleaning your oil paint palette would vary depending on the palette variant you plan on using. We will explain this in our next segment.

Best Ways to Clean Oil Paint Palette

When cleaning oil paint from your paint tray, it is important to follow certain steps in order to achieve perfection in the cleaning process.

So, let us take a look at each of these steps in a step-by-step motion.

Step 1: Prepare the Working Space

In order to clean your oil paint palette the right way, you first need to prepare your workspace to ensure it doesn’t get ruined in the process.

First, you need to layout an old cloth on the table.

Now, you also need to ensure that the palette is set to secure on the cloth so that it doesn’t slide around during the cleaning process.

The key is to fix a large glass or wooden piece below the board with the help of duct tape to ensure it doesn’t move around. You also need to ensure that the palette is kept on a dry surface to allow dry scraping if required.

Step 2: Scrape Off the Paint

Before you scrape off the oil paint from your palette, you need to check whether the paint is completely dry or wet. If it is wet, you can easily scrape it off. However, dry paint needs to be diluted with a solution in order to be cleaned off properly.

If you happen to use an acrylic paint palette, it just needs water for loosening the colors. However, when using oil paint, you would have to spray it with a solution such as rubbing alcohol, turpenoid, gamsol, or similar products to soften up its hold on the palette.

Let this solution sit on the palette for a few minutes. Use your palette knife or razor to slowly scrape off the paint until it has come off completely.

Step 3: Cleaning Your Palettes (Different Surface)

Once you are done scraping off the paint from the palette, you can simply wipe off the remnants with the help of a towel or sponge. However, the process can slightly vary depending on the type of palette you are using. So, let us check them out one by one.

1. How to Clean Oil Paint from a Wooden Palette

The right way to keep your palette clean is not to let the paint dry in the first place. If you don’t plan on resuming painting in a couple of days, it is better to clean the complete palette. Among the types of palettes available in the market, the wooden palette can be highly vulnerable to damage.

When paint hardens on the wooden palette, it can damage the material as you would have to scrape it heavily to get rid of the oil paint. You might also have to sand it down to refinish it to a smooth surface.

In order to avoid the unnecessary damage that happens with dry oil paint on a wooden palette, it is important to use solvents that help soften the paint.

However, you have to use specific solvents or alternative paint thinners such as Turpenoid or Gamsol that is designed for a wooden oil paint palette. They do not corrode the palette and helps remove the paint the right way.

Depending on the amount of paint on the palette, simply dab the solvents onto the palette and let it sit for some time. Once the paint feels soft, use your palette knife and start by gently scrubbing off the paint.

Once you are done, wipe it off with a cloth. If the palette has developed inconsistencies due to the scrubbing action, you can sand down the palette to the desired smoothness.

Finally, condition the wooden palette following the method described earlier in the article.

2. How to Clean Oil Paint from a Plastic Palette

While a plastic palette is ideal for acrylic paint, gouache, or watercolor paint, it might not be the right fit for oil paint.

However, if you don’t have the budget to get a wooden or glass oil paint palette, the key is to clean them right away. Letting the colors dry on the palette would only lead to a messy cleaning cycle that takes up a lot of time. In addition, plastic palettes, when scraped, can get dents or cuts that tend to mess up the palette and could be very hard to clean.

So, the scraping technique might not always work in this case. The right way to go about it is to use a paint thinner or all-purpose cleaner that does not corrode the palette while softening the paint for easier scraping.

3. How to Clean Oil Paint from a Glass Palette

Cleaning paint from the glass palette is easier as compared to the wooden ones. If your palette currently has wet paint, you simply need to wipe it off with the help of a rag, paper towel, or sponge. You can also use a soapy water solution for deeper cleaning.

However, if the paint in the glass palette is dry, you can make use of a scraper in order to get rid of the dried paint. Although this might get rid of most of the paint, it might not get rid of it completely. The key is to use alcohol or rubbing spirit in order to soften the colors.

Let the solution sit on the palette for a few minutes and wipe it off. Finally, rinse it with fresh water. Scraping colors from the palette on a regular basis can create dents and cuts in the palette. This is where the colors might sit and would be difficult to remove with the scraping action.

So, it mandates the use of alcohol solvents.

Step-4: Dry it Off

When drying off any oil paint palette, it is ideal to dab some oil onto the surface before you keep it away. This ensures the next time you use your palette, the oil paint can be cleaned with ease. Regular cleaning and scrubbing can leave your palette discolored with scratches here and there.

So, it is better to nourish it with oil before storing it, especially if you happen to use a wooden palette.


  • The palettes that you use for the purpose of oil painting must be flat palettes. There should be no well-like structure in the palette as it could be uneven for the painters and turn out difficult for cleaning.
  • If you are right-handed or left-handed, always opt for a palette that is designed for your dominant hand.
  • It is better to use a palette with a larger surface area. Oil paint is known to stay wet and usable for days. So, you can reuse and remix the colors with ease which requires a larger surface area.
  • Don’t use ceramic palettes with watercolor. The harsh chemicals used for cleaning oil paint can corrode the ceramics and render them unusable.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q: How do you clean oil paintbrushes?

The easiest way to clean oil paint on your paintbrush is to use warm water and prepare a soapy solution out of it. Alternatively, you can use an appropriate solvent to soften the paint and wipe it off with a towel or paper. Generally, solutions such as turpentine or mineral spirits are helpful in this case.

Q: How do you clean a glass palette?

Glass palettes are easier to clean as opposed to plastic or wooden palette. Using alcohol-based solvents helps loosen the hold of the colors on the palette and allows for easier removal of colors.

Q: How do you clean a glass palette?

Glass palettes are easier to clean as opposed to plastic or wooden palette. Using alcohol-based solvents helps loosen the hold of the colors on the palette and allows for easier removal of colors.

Q: How do you keep an oil painting clean?

In order to keep your oil paint clean, stick to the basics. Oil paint doesn’t dissolve in water, and you can use it to your advantage. Simply prepare a soapy solution and dip a cotton cloth in it. Gently wipe the surface, and it will remove any dirt or dust accumulated on top. For better results, use soap with an olive oil base.

Final Words

That said, keep in mind not to throw away the scraped paint as it can be re-used in several ways. Oil paint tends to be costly, and we should keep in mind to avoid oil paint waste during the painting and cleaning process.

With the right palette in hand, you can create some amazing portraits that define the artist in you. The key is to clean the palette sooner than later to avoid any unwanted hard work.

Maria Tanish

Hello World! Tanish here, a student of Fine Arts. Drawing was my passion from an early age but I also love to do some DIY projects to spend my leisure. Even I work as a writer, to share my knowledge about the ins and outs of drawing and the art industry itself. As an artist, I always wanna share my experiences with you all.

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