Why Are My Paints Drying Out?

Dried out paints is a frustrating problem it can be avoided with a few basic painting care tips.  In this post I discuss how the problem can be avoided.

The Type of Paint

Dried out paints are mostly a problem with watercolour and acrylic paint, oil paints are quite oily which protects them from drying out. Oil paints have been known to last for over 10 years if stored correctly and looked after well.


Dried out watercolour paint can be avoided by purchasing pans of colour rather than tubes of paint. The small tubes of watercolour paint are very prone to drying out.  The small tops are fiddly and can break making sealing the paint difficult. I’ve known small tubes of watercolour paint to dry out within a year of buying them if I’ve not been careful to replace the tops well enough.

Watercolour paints
These types of watercolour paints in tubes dry out fast.
Acrylic Paints
Acrylics in tubes dry out fast if not looked after

Acrylic paints are known for their drying qualities so dried out paint tubes are often an issue. A ‘Stay-Wet’ palette is the answer for making the paint last longer once it is on the palette, however the paint often dries out in the tubes.

In order to prevent dried out acrylic paint tubes, clean the thread of the neck of the tube and remove any excess paint from the tube after use. You should also replace the lid tightly and make sure it is fitted correctly, storing the paints at room temperature also helps. 

When All Else Fails…

You can sometimes bring dry paints to life by running them under a warm tap for a few minutes.  You can also cut out the tube in the middle and there is often some workable paint to scrape out.  Another trick is to turn dried up tube paint into pans.  All these tips are worth trying, it is surprising how much paint you can waste by throwing out dried up tubes only to realise there was workable paint still left.

Do you have any tips for the age-old problem of dried out paint? Share in the comment box below

2 thoughts on “Why Are My Paints Drying Out?

  1. With tubes of dried watercolors, I peel away the tube covering and then remove the entire dried watercolor bulk and place it into an empty plastic ice cube tray. That worked so well for me I decided to empty all the other usable tubes into the other cups in the ice cube tray. I’ve been using the same watercolors for several years and take the trays with me when painting out of my studio.

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