Game Envy Exemplar Wet Palette Review — Gamerfuel.

Product was not provided by the manufacturer for this review.

“For thinning my paints, I use ordinary tap water…. [My] palette is anything but hi-tech. I use a cutting mat covered with strips of masking tape. That’s it! (When I grow up and become wiser, I might want to try one of those new and trendy wet-palettes!).”

That’s from Colour Harmony: Inside the Artist’s Palette. Its author, Mike Blank, is a Swedish painter whose career in minis reaches back to 1996. Apart from my Scythe factory at the top of this page, which I present as a product of my time with the Game Envy palette, he’s responsible for the gorgeous work you see here. Cutting tape and tap water.

Painter: Mike Blank. Image taken from my personal copy, so forgive the glare.

No tool can replace technique.

Granted, Game Envy’s Exemplar Palette improves substantially on my existing setup, the $15 Sta-wet palette. A Sta-wet represents the rock-bottom basics: a sponge, durable wax paper, and a plastic chassis to store it in.

The Exemplar stores a plastic dry palette in a compartment embedded in its lid. That compartment can also hold a handful of brushes and, as its promotional images show, prop up a postcard-sized reference picture (so many references come in a much larger rulebook, but a nice feature nonetheless). By use of a rubber stopper, a painter can cover none, one, or two air holes in the lid to adjust the humidity inside the palette.

Notoriously, the Exemplar’s palette paper loves to curl. I purchased my set discreetly on the Pax Unplugged convention floor and Game Envy’s sales associate assured me (without any prompting) that their show painter had been working for hours “without any curling.” It’s rare to hear a sales pitch mention product flaws before the customer does. Despite their show painter’s example, they upsold me to a set of brass weights for $16 to compensate for curling. Shaped like little boomerangs, they’re supposed to hold the paper flat by sitting on the corners.

Those weights turned out to be useless; they’re more of a fix for human error than anything else.

Painter: Mike Blank. From Fernando Ruiz Miniatures’ Signature Series.

Error number one: to prepare the Exemplar, you insert the sponge, then enough distilled water to form a thin layer atop said sponge. The water must be distilled, which means neither tap water nor filtered water will do the trick. Anyone with sleep apnea and a CPAP machine can explain the difference this can make when it comes to contaminants or residue. The broader public struggles with the distinction. I have no doubt that pairing palette paper this delicate with a bottle of Aquafina has inadvertently created some origami sculptures.

Error number two: customers panicking when the paper curls, and the paper will curl. It will curl like the Grinch’s red slippers. It will curl like a pillbug. The words “violently,” “alarming,” and “Oh my God!” will come to mind. Despite steeling myself for this spectacle, I still wanted to fuss and flatten the paper into submission. On the sole occasion when I indulged this urge, the bronze weights did, indeed, salvage my paper.

When left alone, this same paper will self-correct and behave. Resist the temptation to intervene or swap tap water for distilled and…

…you’ll have a perfectly average palette.

I have given it more than its due.

Look, most “gamer” products exist to declare allegiance to a subculture. They don’t have much else to offer. Most wet palettes come with a dry palette. Most have attachments for brush storage. Many have easels because, believe it or not, traditional painters practice with references, albeit real-world references rather than game art.

The needs of a miniatures painter reflect those of a good painter: composition, color theory, brush control, anatomy, awareness of lighting, and patience, patience, patience. Better tools can only enhance what you already do.

But that’s cold comfort, so companies oversell. For the baby boomer generation, a common butt of a sitcom was a papa’s rationalizations for expensive golf clubs. “The Big Bertha’ll take three strokes off my game,” he says. Oh Dagwood, you scoundrel. In the present day, influencers replaced on-site salesmen and golf’s passé, yet the cycle of rationalizations and promises continue.

Now, I always recommend a brick-and-mortar store. I recommend that for practical reasons, not political ones. Tools don’t provide skill. They do, however, provide comfort, and comfort varies so widely between individuals that an in-person demo becomes invaluable. You have itches and requirements you can’t consider without seeing the goods. For instance, I bought an Exemplar for my wife and the minimalism of her Sta-wet palette won—the peripherals and features complicated her relationship to painting instead of enriching it.

That said, a cursory glance on Amazon reveals cheaper (or at least cost-competitive) options. Most have the benefits of an Exemplar: dry palette; brush storage; a stand-up surface. If you find something even more expensive than the Exemplar, it will probably carry a marquee of its own (e.g. Army Painter). The cost difference extends to resupply, too: $13 for an Exemplar “recharge pack” when the industry standard hovers around $8.

Pick a cheaper, equally effective palette and you can buy a Lethal Shadows reusable brush, something with provable, tangible value.

Tape and tap water.


Tabletop Editor | [email protected]

Sean Weeks fell in love with the modern tabletop scene in 2004 with Tom Lehmann's Race for the Galaxy, but his chief passions are writing, antiquity, and anthropology. You can read his work in Paste Magazine, Dicebreaker, or on his own website,


Below Average


Review Guidelines

Asks for an above-average price in exchange for an average product. It uses influencers and the perception of gaming as a “lifestyle choice” to distract from a naked emperor. I will continue to use the palette because I enjoy added features, but none of those features are exclusive to the Exemplar.

Sean Weeks

Unless otherwise stated, the product in this article was provided for review purposes.

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