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My Favorite Tools

Tar gel

Insiders secret. The texture on my paintings? It mostly comes from the clear tar gel medium from Golden. It’s 100% acrylic and dries to a transparent gloss. Using a thin tipped palette knife, I dip it into the tar gel, shake it off a little, then quickly drizzle it over my gessoed painting surface. Once the surface has been painted, one of the last things that I do is to lightly sand the texture, removing some paint and the gloss, and bringing the texture forward.


After I gesso, drizzle the canvas or board with tar gel and let dry, I lay various stencils across the surface until it’s covered. Then I spray lightly with black spray paint. This is my first layer. Only little bits of the mystery of that layer will show through in the finished painting.

There are lots of wonderful stencil companies available to us, but two of my favorites are and

Liquitex black spray paint

My favorite little black spray paint is rich and dark and goes on evenly. I always begin spraying on a piece of cardboard first to avoid drips. It’s nice to purchase the extra set of Liquitex spray paint caps for different effects if you want to experiment. The set of six includes a standard, fat and super skinny cap, as well as fine, medium and thick lines. They’re fun to play with.

Masterson Sta-Wet Palette

For years I struggled with wasted paint as it dried up on my palette before a painting was finished. When I discovered this palette, that problem was solved. The Sta-Wet comes with a thin sponge and special palette paper. I fold both sponge and paper into quarters, place in a big bowl of cold water, weigh it down with a can or two, and soak for 15 minutes. Squeeze excess water out of the sponge and fit into the palette, top with the paper and blot lightly with a paper towel. Now it’s ready for paint. Kept covered when not in use, the paint stays moist for 2 to 3 weeks. Keep out of the sun.

There are lots of videos on YouTube about making your own wet palette, but mine haven’t been very successful. The Sta-Wet ranges in price from about $16 to $22; you’ll make that up in the paint you save.

Messermeister silicone bowl scraper

This 6-inch orange tool has a stainless steel core while still remaining flexible. Originally made to keep bowls and counters clean, it’s the perfect tool for spreading paint across a surface in thick or thin layers. This is my favorite painting tool. Unfortunately, it may be difficult to find. I’ve checked the websites of Bed, Bath & Beyond, Martha Stewart and even Amazon with no luck. If you find something similar, try it out.

Thanks to Pam Caughey, whose fabulous painting course, Personal Design, Personal Color, introduced me to several of these tools.

Photos taken by Patty Boyle.


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