As a painter who spends hours every day at the easel, I have learned that no single fixed palette setup is perfect for all situations. Sometimes I am standing, painting at the top of a large surface, sometimes I’m sitting, crouched over, painting by the bottom edge. A fixed system leaves my mixing surface off to one side, unable to adapt to the current circumstances without stopping and going through a lengthy readjustment process. If I switch positions or change what section I am working on, the palette is no longer where I need it to be. This problem is magnified as paintings get larger too.
If I use a hand-held palette, my left arm is no longer free to operate my mahl stick, I have to keep my arm constantly locked in a 90 degree position holding the palette, and I have to fight the glare from overhead lights, shifting around to get a clear view of the colors I am mixing. The semi-horizontal nature of a hand-held system also means that my mixing surface is getting more light than the vertical painting surface, which distorts value relationships.
My DIY ergonomic vertical palette eliminates all these problems.
The vertical surface means that the palette is getting the exact same light as the painting, so paints aren’t darker on the canvas than on the palette. Unlike with the warm brown of a traditional wooden palette, which can cause the colors to appear cooler due to relative color effect, the neutral gray background aids in accurate color mixing, letting me more readily see the true chroma, hue, and value. The removable glass palette is easier to clean, and I can store it in the fridge between sessions to save paint and start up again with minimal setup time.
Both hands are free and everything adjusts quickly with minimal effort, keeping the palette at eye level at all times. The monitor arm is tuned to the weight of the palette so that it can be positioned using touch alone, tilting easily to horizontal to refresh the paint piles, and then back down to vertical for painting. Between the monitor arm and the overbed table, the palette can be set as low as three feet off the ground and as high as five feet, a comfortable shoulder-level for many. The footprint is solely the dimensions of the table, and with sandbags or water jugs used as ballast, the ergonomic arm can swing fully away from the table, positioning the palette immediately next to the area being worked on. Set up like this, everything is in the same field of view with minimal eye-travel time between surface and palette.
Ultimately the ergonomic vertical palette system allows the painter, painting, and palette to operate together more harmoniously than any other traditional setup.