How to Clean Acrylic Paint Palette

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Painting is so much fun. Cleaning up after you finish painting…not so much!

But, the cleanup is all part of the process and it needs to be done. If you are anything like me, you will likely end up with paint all over your clothing, your hands and arms, and even your face. I’ve even spilled paint on carpeting and furniture!

The thing I hate cleaning the most though is the paint palette I used for acrylic paints. I will fully admit to being guilty of throwing away a palette or two just to avoid cleaning it!

These days I prefer to save money, so I clean my palette after every acrylic painting session. The sooner I can get to it, the easier it is to clean.

In this post, you will learn about how to clean an acrylic palette and a few alternatives to palettes that you can throw away without having to clean. Let’s get started.

Cleaning Wet Paint a Palette

As I mentioned in the introduction, it is best to clean a palette while most of the paint is still somewhat wet. The sooner you clean it, the better.

The first thing you will need to do is use your palette knife to get rid of any excess paint. Wipe the palette knife clean on a damp cloth or paper towel.

Once you have removed the excess paint you can then wash the palette with a soft cloth using soap and hot water. Scrub away any leftover paint.

So, what do you do with the paint you removed with the palette knife? It is never a good idea to wash it in the sink. The paint can contaminate the water supply. The best way to get rid of that paint is to throw the paper towel or cloth right into the garbage.

How to Remove Dried Acrylic Paint Off a Palette

When you let acrylic paint dry onto your plastic palette or other types of paint palettes, it is going to be a lot more difficult to clean the palette. But, there are several ways to accomplish this task without breaking into a sweat.

#1. Peel Off Big Pieces of Paint

If there are large gobs of dried or semi-dried paint on the palette, you can simply peel them off in many cases. The thicker the paint glob, the easier it is to remove it from a palette.

I often soak the palette in hot water to soften the paint a little bit before I try to remove it. Then, you can slide your palette knife right under the glob and peel it away. This method works best with plastic and glass palettes.

It is much more difficult to peel paint from a wooden palette. I don’t recommend using a wooden palette. The plastic and glass palettes work better, at least for me. They are less expensive, and they are easier to clean.

#2. Use an Acrylic Medium Gel

Another option is to use an acrylic medium gel. Apply this gel right over the top of the paint that is dried onto the palette.

Brush a thin layer of the gel onto the palette. Allow it to completely dry. At this point, you should be able to grab a corner of the paint and peel it off the palette.

Again, this method works best with plastic or glass palettes.

#3. Clean a Palette with Acetone

You can use everyday nail polish remover to clean an acrylic paint palette. Just make sure that the polish remover contains acetone.

This may not be ideal if you have any sensitivities to scents. Acetone stinks!

I do like to use acetone when the other methods don’t get all of the excess paint off my palette. It is easy to use acetone for this purpose.

All you need to do is dip a piece of cloth or a cotton swab into the acetone. Then, rub the cloth or cotton swab over the surface of the palette until the paint comes off. It’s as simple as that!

#4. Scrape Away the Paint

Finally, you can scrape the paint off an acrylic paint palette. This is not the best choice if your palette is made of wood, but it works well for plastic and glass palettes.

This technique works best when combined with some of the other techniques, such as using acetone or hot water. You will need a putty knife or a straight razor for this cleaning job.

Place the edge of the blade against the edge of the paint. Using light, even pressure, push the blade beneath the paint and scrape it off. Continue doing this until all of the paint has been cleaned from the palette.

Alternatives to Traditional Painting Palettes

You don’t necessarily need to use a traditional palette when working with acrylic paints. There are many other options that you don’t even have to worry about cleaning!

For instance, I often use heavy paper plates as palettes, especially if I am working outside of my studio and don’t want to carry around a lot of heavy art supplies.

I don’t recommend using cheap, dollar store plates for this purpose, because they just aren’t strong enough. Go with plates that are made of heavier materials, or even Styrofoam plates. Otherwise, you may end up with pilling that will get stuck in your paint and then on the painting itself.

Here are a couple of other options to consider.

#1. Palette Paper

Most art supply stores carry books of palette paper. The surface of this paper is smooth because it is poly-coated. Some palette paper even has finger holes, just like a traditional painting palette!

You can easily mix paints on palette paper. Once you are finished painting, simply crumple up the paper and throw it away.

#2. Plastic Wrap

I have also been known to cover my palette with plastic wrap just to avoid having to clean the palette later on. Just like the palette paper, the plastic wrap can be thrown away when you are finished painting.

If you are going to try this, I recommend using enough plastic wrap to cover the front and wrap around the back. Then you can tape the plastic wrap to the back of the palette, which will keep it from moving around while you are mixing paint colors.


Cleaning an acrylic paint palette can be a tough job, but someone has to do it. Since you are the artist, that someone would be you!

As I mentioned, it is a good idea to get into the habit of cleaning the palette while the paint is still wet. That requires the least amount of elbow grease.

If you do let the paint dry onto the palette, any of the methods I mentioned today should work for you.

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*image by reewungjunerr/depositphotos