Palette paper is a disposable substitute for the thin board or tablet that a painter uses for mixing colors. The smooth, white-surfaced — often poly-coated — paper is often designed to be placed on top of an artist's palette to provide a surface for the paint to rest on. Other pads feature a thumbhole, so the thick backing of the palette pad provides the hard surface, and the paint can be placed on the top sheet of the pad. In either case, when the work is done, the paper is thrown away, thereby eliminating the need to scrape and scrub a permanent palette.
Artist’s palettes can be made of plastic, glass, wood, porcelain, aluminum, or acrylic. Some are smooth and flat, and others have mixing wells and cups for turpentine or mineral spirit solvents. Many palettes are meant to rest on a flat surface, while others have thumbholes for the artist to hold them. Many types of palette paper are designed to fit on top of these hard surfaces, and it can be used for acrylics, alkyds, casein, oils, and watercolors. There are usually 40 or 50 sheets per pad.
Palette paper comes in an array of rectangular sizes:
- 9 × 12 inches (~229 mm × ~305 mm)
- 12 × 16 inches (~305 mm × ~406 mm)
- 16 × 20 inches (~406 mm × ~508 mm)
- 18 × 24 inches (~457 mm × ~610 mm)
Some specialized paper is treated to handle particular paint styles, such as acrylics or oils. Other varieties are specially made for particular palettes. For example, one covered palette features a sponge, and a special kind of permeable paper is used to keep the paint moist. This kind of paper is rinsable, so it can be reused, and both sides can be used as well.
Artists have found other uses for this paper. It can serve as a good base on which to apply glue to collage pieces, for example. It also serves as a good base for mixing paste food colorings to be used for painting cookies or coloring icing. In addition, works of art have been created by painting with, for example, acrylics on a “canvas” of palette paper.