How Long Do Oil Paints Last In The Tube?

How Long Do Oil Paints Last In The TubeLet’s face it, some oil paints are a little on the pricey side. While you might want to play with some fancy pigments, it’s easy to put off the purchase because you’re afraid that by the time you use it, it will have gone bad. So, how long do oil paints last in the tube?

You don’t have to worry about them going bad anytime soon. Oil paints have one of the best shelf lives of all art supplies and if you store them properly, they’ll be good for 30 or even 40 years! That means you can slowly add those fancy pigments to your collection without worry that they’ll go bad before you can use them.

Today I’ll tell you a little about shelf life and storage of your oils so that you have a more complete picture of what to expect. Let’s talk about the longevity of Da Vinci’s favorite medium!

How do you store oil paint tubes?How do you store oil paint tubes

Storing tubes of oil paint is easy, you just need to follow one simple rule – always store them with the cap down. This can be done easily one of two ways. You can either set some nails in corkboard or plywood and hang clip binders from them, so that you can clip the bottom of the tube and hang it cap-down, or you can simply get a door-hanging plastic ‘shoe holder’ and set the tubes cap-down into the sleeves.


The reason that you want to hang them cap down is because if you don’t, the pigment will settle at the bottom of the tube and when you go to get some paint, you’ll be getting mostly oil. Not only will your colors be thin, but eventually the actual oil will run out and you’ll have to cut open the tube to get at the pigment so that you can attempt to save it (by mixing it into a clear medium).

So, store those tubes cap down and voila! Problem solved.

Does sealed oil paint go bad?

Does sealed oil paint go badNot for a very long time. Even the cheap oils should last up to 15 years in that tube, while the higher end oils are going to last for 30 to 40 years – provided that you store them in a cool, dry place. Oil is a superior suspension medium and the tube is airtight, so by design they are pretty efficient at lasting.

You can even store leftover oils in glass jars, though plastic coffee containers are going to be a better fit. Once the tubes have been opened, however, that storage ‘lifespan’ will be much shorter, so if you do store some paint in a coffee can then make a mental note to use it soon.

As long as the container is airtight, you should have a nice window of 2 -3 years to use it, you’ll just want to make sure that you mix it up a bit first as the pigment will certainly have settled at the bottom by then. The best way to remember to use them is to mark the storage date on your can with a marker, along with the name of the color, and that should keep you out of the fresh tubes until you can use that extra stored oil paint.

How can you tell if oil paint is bad?How can you tell if oil paint is bad

You should be able to tell by the look of the paint itself. When the oil separates from the pigment it is going to start to look rather gooey and gunky. Sometimes you can ‘mix it back to health’, but if the pigment has been separated long enough then it might well be a solid chunk.

That doesn’t mean that you can’t save it. In some cases, you can grind up the pigment and use it to mix new paint, but keep in mind that this will not always be the case. It’s better just to get in the habit of storing your oil paints properly, tubes with the cap down and in a cool, dry place.

If you develop this habit early on, then it will save you a lot of money on replacement paint and you’ll never have to experience the terror of accidentally destroying an expensive paint that you purchased for eventual use on your ‘masterpiece’.

In conclusion

In today’s article, I’ve answered the question ‘how long do oil paints last in the tube’. Provided that you store them properly, cap down and in a cool and dry place, even the cheap oil paints should last 15 years, while the higher-end variety may last as much as 30 to 40 years. That gives you plenty of time to use them and so it’s okay to invest in the occasional ‘fancy’ paint – you’ll have a long time to make use of it!

Before I conclude today’s article, I have a great link for you that will tell you how to translate all that shorthand code on a paint tube. You can check it out by clicking this 3rd party link here. It tells you all sorts of interesting info that you can use the next time you are at an art supply house and want to know exactly what you are buying.

I hope that you enjoy the article and I’ll see you again soon!