I have found that I like to have my palette very close to my paintings and under the same light that my painting is under. A couple of years ago, my friend Bryan Mark Taylor showed me a new product that he was developing for Strada and gave me one of his early prototypes to test out. He calls it the Strada Pad. You can use it as a palette as is and also as a laptop stand, a pad for a watercolor palette (it is designed to fit a John Pike palette perfectly, or a tripod mountable stand for just about anything. I’ve used mine to hold a book or reference while I’m painting.

This is what the Strada Pad looks like. It’s a very simple piece of hardware, but very useful!

But… then I had the idea to mount it on a lateral tripod arm and put a piece of glass on it. This lets me cantilever it out over my legs (if painting while sitting down) and also rotate the palette so that it is close to the plane of the painting, like a vertical palette.

Here is what that setup looks like:

That’s my messy palette, rotated to almost vertical. I can rotate it on both axes if needed as well as raise it up and down on the tripod to keep it at the best height ergonomically.

I also clip on a 1/4 square of a paper towel to the edge of the palette with a binder clip. That keeps the paper towel of my hands which keeps them clean and away from solvents and paint.

Above is a shot of the back of the Strada Pad so that you can see how it mounts. Again, mine is a prototype, so the weld is a little rougher and it isn’t painted. The commercial version has a very hard grey enamel paint coat and a nice tripod mount plate on the back that has a standard 4/20 thread for attaching a plate or to a tripod directly.

I don’t know if I am a lazy artist, or efficient… but I really like to minimize the repetitive tasks if possible, and if not to make them as ergonomic as possible. I’ve loved this setup and I can get it just where I need depending on my setup and the lighting around me. I don’t travel with it much, but I have. The glass makes it less travel friendly, but I know several artists that just work right on the metal with no problems.

When I put paint on it, it can slide down if the paint is oily. Sometimes I will mush it down with a palette knife and that does the trick. If the paint happens to be very oily, I will squeeze some out onto a piece of paper (I use old phone books so I can just tear the page out when it’s soiled up) and soak some oil out and then the paint is sticky enough to stay in place.

Here are links if you’re interested:

Strada Pad

Strada Tripod

Lateral Tripod Arm at B&H (This has gone up in price, so you might want to do some price shopping on this)

Another option would be to go with a tripod that already has a lateral arm built into it. I haven’t used this tripod, but it has good reviews:

Tripod with horizontal arm

The whole setup was a bit expensive, but the hardware is built to last a lifetime. The Strad Pad is literally a plate of metal with a lip and folded edges for strength and finish. It can take a real beating, though barring an accident it probably won’t. So, it will outlast us all! Investing in a good tripod when you’re able will also prove useful if you do photography, plein air work or want to use this setup.

Good luck and I hope that this was useful!