palette - A slab of wood, metal, marble, ceramic, plastic, glass, or paper, sometimes with a hole for the thumb, which an artist can hold while painting and on which the artist mixes paint. Anything from ice trays to disposable paper or Styrofoam plates might be used as a palette. A pane of glass with a white piece of paper attached to its underside makes a fine palette. It's especially versatile because the color of the paper back can be made to match a painting's ground, making colors easier to choose.
Clean up of dried paints on such a palette can be done easily with a razor knife.
The term "palette" may also refer to the range of colors used in a particular painting or by a particular artist.
In digital imaging, "palette" might refer to a color look-up table (CLUT), or the set of colors appearing in a specific digital image. One such color look-up table is this 8-bit one having 256 colors, designed for Apple's Macintosh computers.
In Egyptian art, a "palette" was slate slab, often decorated with sculpture in low relief. The largest ones were commemorative objects. Small ones, like the examples shown below, are thought to have been used for eye makeup.
Examples of palettes:
Egypt (Predynastic, c. 3500 BCE), Palette in the Form of a Fish, mudstone, length 9 1/4 inches, Cleveland Museum of Art. In ancient Egypt, both men and women wore eye makeup, and to manufacture it they ground up mineral pigments on a palette. Such palettes were often put into graves, perhaps to ensure that the deceased had the means to grind eye makeup in the next world. See cosmetic and kohl.
Theodore Henry Adolphus Fielding (British, 1781-1851), author; London: published for the author by Ackermann and Co., publisher, On Painting in Oil and Water Colours, Landscape and Portraits Including the Preparation of Colours, Vehicles, Oils, etc., Method of Painting in Wax, or Encaustic, 1839, printed book; viii, 159 pages, 10 leaves of plates: illustrations (some colored); 28 cm, Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY.
Illustrated: hand-colored frontispiece and title page from Fielding's treatise on painting.
Rosa Bonheur (French, 1822-1899), Palette, 19th century, oil on wood palette, 20 3/16 x 18 1/2 inches, Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Most well known for her realistic paintings of animals, Bonheur painted an picture of a deer in the center of this palette.
A molded plastic tray with 10 individual compartments (shaped like the end of an egg) for mixing or holding small amounts of dye or paint while working. This could be a particularly good palette for a fabric artist.
Don't confuse the word palette
with the identically pronounced word pallet!
Also see color wheel, cool and warm colors, diffraction grating, easel, eyedropper, local color, palette, palette knife, saturation, and spectrum.