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How to Properly Store and Maintain Your Oil Paints

Oil painting is an art form that has withstood the test of time, cherished by artists for its versatility and durability. However, maintaining the quality of oil paints requires careful storage and proper handling. Whether you are a seasoned painter or a beginner, understanding how to store and maintain your oil paints can significantly extend their lifespan, ensuring that your creative endeavors remain vibrant and enjoyable for years to come.

Store and Maintain Your Oil Paints - paints and palettes

The Importance of Proper Storage

Proper storage of oil paints is essential to preserve their quality and usability. Exposure to air, extreme temperatures, and improper handling can cause oil paints to dry out, separate, or become unusable. Here’s what you need to consider:

1. Temperature Control

Oil paints are sensitive to temperature fluctuations. Extreme heat can cause the oil to separate from the pigment, while cold can make the paint too thick to use. Ideally, oil paints should be stored at room temperature, around 18-24°C (65-75°F). Avoid storing them in places that experience drastic temperature changes, such as garages or attics.

2. Avoiding Air Exposure

Air exposure is a common enemy of oil paints. Once the paint comes into contact with air, it begins to oxidize and dry out. To prevent this, always ensure that the caps of your paint tubes are tightly sealed after each use. For added protection, you can store your tubes in airtight containers or plastic bags with a zip lock.

3. Protection from Light

Direct sunlight and artificial light can affect the integrity of oil paints. Prolonged exposure to UV rays can cause the pigments to fade or change color. Store your oil paints in a dark, cool place, such as a drawer or a closed cabinet, to protect them from light exposure.

Maintaining Your Oil Paints

Maintaining your oil paints involves more than just proper storage. Regularly checking their condition and knowing how to rejuvenate them if they start to dry out are crucial steps in ensuring their longevity.

1. Regular Inspection

Regularly inspect your oil paint tubes for any signs of drying or separation. Gently knead the tubes to mix the pigment and oil, which can help maintain a consistent texture. If you notice any hardening or crust around the cap, remove it carefully to prevent contamination.

2. Rehydrating Dry Paints

If your oil paints start to dry out, don’t throw them away just yet. You can often rejuvenate them by adding a small amount of linseed oil or another compatible medium. Mix thoroughly until the paint reaches the desired consistency. This method can breathe new life into your old paints, saving you money and reducing waste.

3. Using Paint Mediums

Incorporating mediums into your oil painting practice can help maintain the flow and consistency of your paints. Mediums like linseed oil, walnut oil, and turpentine can extend the working time of your paints and improve their application. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions to avoid adverse effects when using these products.

Storing Painting Supplies

Proper storage of your painting supplies is just as important as storing the paints themselves. Brushes, palettes, and other tools require careful handling to ensure they remain in good condition.

1. Cleaning Brushes Thoroughly

After each painting session, clean your brushes thoroughly with a solvent such as turpentine or mineral spirits. Follow up with soap and water to remove any remaining residue. Store your brushes horizontally or with the bristles facing up to prevent damage.

2. Organising Your Workspace

An organized workspace can make a significant difference in the longevity of your supplies. Use containers and storage solutions to keep your paints, brushes, and other tools neatly arranged. This not only protects your supplies but also makes it easier to find what you need when inspiration strikes.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Storing Oil Paints

Exposing Paints to Extreme TemperaturesCauses paint separation or thickening.Store at stable room temperature.
Leaving Caps Off or LooseLeads to drying out and oxidation.Ensure caps are tightly sealed after use.
Storing in Direct SunlightUV light degrades pigments, causing fading.Store in a dark, cool place.
Improperly Sealing ContainersAllows air exposure, drying out the paint.Use airtight containers.
Neglecting Regular InspectionDrying out or separation can go unnoticed.Regularly inspect and knead paint tubes.
Not Using Paint Mediums CorrectlyIncorrect use can alter paint consistency and drying time.Follow manufacturer’s guidelines.
Storing Brushes and Tools ImproperlyDirty or improperly stored brushes get damaged.Clean thoroughly and store properly.
Ignoring Expiry DatesUsing expired paints affects quality.Check dates and use older paints first.
OverstockingBulk buying can lead to expired paints.Buy what you need and use regularly.
Using Improper Storage ContainersCan lead to contamination or improper sealing.Invest in quality storage solutions.


Proper storage and maintenance of oil paints are crucial for any artist. By controlling temperature, minimizing air exposure, and protecting your paints from light, you can significantly extend their lifespan. Regular inspection and rehydration can keep your paints in top condition, while organized storage of your supplies ensures a smooth and enjoyable painting experience. With these practices, your oil paints will remain vibrant and workable, allowing your creativity to flourish for years to come.

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