It’s a darned shame when good art supplies go bad. If you are new to oils, you are probably wondering ‘Does Oil Paint Go Bad / Expire / Out of date?” and I’ve got some good news for you.
While oil paints can indeed go bad, they have one of the longest shelf-life periods of any paint medium. If you take good care of your oil paints, they can last around 30 to 40 years! Even if they dry out, you can often save them by mixing the powder in a clear medium. Think about that the next time you are considering some expensive oils – you really get a lot of mileage out of your investment.
Today we’ll talk about the longevity of oils, their storage, and how long you can reasonably expect to keep your prepared paints on your palette. Without further ado, let’s talk about the staying power of your oil paints!
How long can oil paint be stored?
Well, it depends. If you are talking about latex or oil-based house paints, then these are purported to have a shelf life of approximately 2 years – provided that you don’t open them up. The artsy variety, however, is a whole different animal.
If you store them away in a cool, dry place, then you can store those paints away for 30 – 40 years and still get some good use out of them. This is great news for oil painting aficionados like you and I, as it means you can save up and get the occasional expensive pigment to use from time to time when you are painting something really special and want to give your work a little ‘oomf!’.
So, invest in more paints and just store them away carefully and they’ll be there for you when you need them. You can stock up spare paint and special paints with full confidence!
Can you store oil paint in glass jars?
You can certainly store oil paint in glass jars, but you might want to consider plastic containers instead. The reason for this is that glass is both breakable and heavier than plastics, so if you fumble that mason jar then you’ve got some nasty cleanup ahead and it’s not going to do anything for your morale to have your expensive paints decorating the floor.
With plastic containers you’ll have less weight to deal with and a fighting chance that a dropped container will bounce and if the pressure pops off the lid, there’s still a good chance to save most of the precious paint inside. That said, I understand the appeal of glass from an aesthetics standpoint. It’s shiny and looks solid and a bunch of glass jars arranged on your workspace really looks sharp but it’s better to be practical.
Limit the aesthetics to decorating your space and to your painting on canvas and store that extra paint in a plastic jar. You might not drop a glass one anytime soon, but it’ll eventually happen, and wouldn’t it be nice to keep your paints afterwards?
Just a little food for thought!
How long can you keep oil paint on a palette?
That’s going to depend on the material of the palette itself. On average, your oil paints are going to last about 16 to 18 hours if they’re sitting atop a plastic palette. With a glass palette, that time is reduced, and you’ll get about 12 hours before they dry out.
That said, there’s a little trick you can use if you’ve finished painting for the day and don’t want to waste any paint. Invest in a little plastic wrap for your art room and when you finish for the day, wrap that palette up and stick it in your freezer (and prepare for criticism if you’ve got roommates!).
When you stick your palette in the freezer, it’s going to slow down the evaporation rate and the rate of oxidation, keeping your paints wet and relatively fresh for anywhere from 3 to 5 days. It’s a great way to avoid wasting oil paint and if you use this method, you can stock that palette up properly instead of constantly having to stop and mix up more in an effort not to use too much paint.
Give it a try and you can see for yourself. You’re welcome!
Some closing words
In this article I’ve answered the question ‘does oil paint go bad/expire/out of date?’ and the good news is that it has an extremely long shelf life. With proper storage in a cool, dry place, your paints can last anywhere from 30 to 40 years and still look great when you slap it onto that canvas. It’s one of the longest-lasting paints so if you want to invest in a few expensive pigments then you can do so with confidence – it’ll be there when you need it.
Since we are on the subject of paints and their expiration, I’m including a 3rd party link for those of you out there who also dabble in watercolors. Click here if you want to check it out. It will tell you how to fix expired watercolors so that you can get a little more mileage out of them instead of simply having to buy new paints! Have fun with that and until next time, happy painting!