Review: Reusable membranes for Wet Palette (Redgrass Creative)
RedGrass Creative (the new name for RedGrass Games) has been offering dedicated tools for miniature artists and painters for several years now. The "Everlasting Wet Palettes", a handle for miniatures, brushes, and lots of other nice things: cutting pliers, cutting mat, glass palette, lamp (see the RedGrass website).
For the release of their new "V2" range of wet pallets, RedGrass have developed new reusable membranes. It's already been a while (2022). At the time, they graciously sent me a pack of these reusable membranes (thanks!), and I've been testing them ever since. This review comes a little late, but better late than never, and what's interesting is that it's not a hot-off-the-press feedback, but after about 1 year of use.
Disclaimer: The following is my point of view and therefore does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the rest of the universe.
Their 1st range of wet palettes ("V1") came with disposable membranes. That is, once the membrane is full of paint and you need to switch to another color scheme, you just throw it away and replace it with a new one. RedGrass disposable membranes are super practical, pre-cut to the right size, with good porosity, they're the only ones I use.
With its "V2" range of pallets, RedGrass has come out with reusable membranes. That is, the membrane can be washed and reused a number of times (at least 4 uses, according to RedGrass).
Unpacking the stuff:
The packaging is the same as for disposable membranes (a resealable bag), except that it's marked "reusable" on it. There are 15 membranes per pack.
Reusable membranes are a little whiter and more matt than disposable membranes. They also have a specific direction of use (see below).
Perceived quality is fine. It's in line with RedGrass standards.
Note: There are several membrane sizes, corresponding to the various sizes of existing RedGrass pallets. The package I received was for a pallet slightly larger than mine, so I have to cut the membranes to fit. But that doesn't change anything in the test below.
Using the stuff:
Set-up is almost identical to that of a disposable membrane. Almost, because you just have to be careful to place the membrane correctly, there's a direction of use: the coating that makes it reusable is on one side only. Easy, the direction is printed on the membrane. The printed side is placed on the sponge side, with the blank white side on the paint side.
In practice, it works well.
Porosity is virtually identical to that of disposable membranes. So, in terms of dilution, it's the same. As with disposable membranes, the water diffuses constantly (slowly but surely), so you need to reload a little with paint between sessions to keep the same dilution ratio.
Reusable membranes have a whiter color than disposables, so visually the paint hues stand out a little better on the palette. It's not life-changing when you're used to painting, but it can help a little for those who find it hard to tell the difference between very similar hues.
Once the job is done, you run the membrane under water (taking care not to fold it). It takes 30 seconds, the paint is washed off and you're ready to go again. Possibly, you can gently wipe the membrane with a kitchen sponge (but gently, see below). Sometimes the membrane remains slightly stained in places (depending on the pigment), but that's no problem at all.
And now you'll say "OK, but how many times can you use it?”
RedGrass say "at least 4 times". My experience after about 1 year of use tells me this is true. My minimum use is 2 times; when I combined two “don'ts” (see below). My maximum use is 6 times, but it's certainly possible to push it further, by being more careful. [edit: 10 times is doable]
Because reusing the membrane "quite a few times" requires following the instructions (on the back of the pouch). It goes without saying, but it's better when you say it.
In particular, if the paint is left to dry completely in the pallet, it will stick to the membrane, of course (this may take days or even weeks or months, but it's possible). You can still remove the paint, but you'll have to rub quite hard, and this will damage the coating on the white side. Likewise, if you stir the paint like a brute on the palette, it can also damage the membrane (with a stiff drybrush and some rough handling, it's also possible). In short, it's exactly the same as with a disposable membrane, except that the idea here is not to throw it away each time.
Where the membrane coating is damaged, porosity is affected: paint will migrate to the sponge underneath, and water will migrate faster to the paint side. This is inevitable over time, as only diamonds are eternal. This doesn't pose a major problem as long as it's limited/localized, but when the membrane is well worn all over, it's time to throw it away.
So just follow the instructions. Don't forget to add water to the palette from time to time when you're not using it, so that the paint never dries out. Considering that reusable membrane pouches are almost the same price as disposable ones, but there are fewer in them, a quick calculation shows that if you use each membrane less than 4 times, it's more cost-effective to use disposable membranes. If you're a bit careful, reusable membranes quickly become cost-effective, even very cost-effective. I won't go into environmental impact considerations, as it's impossible to say which option is "greener" than the other without life-cycle analysis data (which I don't have).
Photo of the thing at the end of a painting session (the membrane has already been used & washed 2 or 3 times, I can't remember). You'll note the immaculate workspace, a testament to the meticulous care I take with my gear:
Photo of the same thing just after I've washed it one more time. If you look closely, you can see that the fluorescent orange of the last few sessions has left a slight stain, and you can also see a few dark gray areas where the coating has worn over time. It still looks good enough:
RedGrass reusable membranes work very well.
The plus side is that they're very white and opaque.
The downside (so to speak) is that you need to properly care for your material (mostly, maintain humidity) if you want to reuse them enough times. In this case, it can be very cost-effective, especially if you paint a lot.
Thanks for your time.